Metal Chick of the Month – Haydee Irizarry

Blame the witch! Shame the witch! Hang the witch!

As the days are getting shorter and colder in the Northern Hemisphere, let’s warm things up here at The Headbanging Moose this November with the incendiary vocals and performance of our metal lady of the month, the multi-talented Haydee Irizarry, or Haydée Irizarry if you prefer. Vocalist for Melodic Groove/Death Metal act Carnivora, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and composer for Alternative Rock/Metal project Zahra Lux, and vocalist and composer for her own solo project, not to mention her six years as the vocalist for Melodic Death Metal outfit Aversed, Haydee owns a very potent and dynamic voice, delivering a wide range of styles that go from smooth, clean vocals to deep and visceral growls, positioning her as one of the most interesting names of the current American underground scene. Having said that, are you ready to know a little more about Haydee, her bands and projects, her influences, and her passion for all types of music?

Born on February 28, 1995 in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States, but currently residing in Salem, Massachusetts, and of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, Haydee graduated in 2013 from Lincoln Park High School in Chicago and then moved on to study jazz, classical and contemporary music writing and production at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts that same year, where she also became the lead singer for her classmates’ band Aversed. However, before we start talking about her professional career in music, let’s take a step back and go all the way to her childhood years, more specifically to when she was only four years old. At that age, Haydee received a keyboard that ignited her interest in studying and writing songs on the piano, while her grade school was a Lutheran school that introduced hymnals and sight reading to her and prompted her to join choirs at the age of eight, when she realized she had a natural talent and love for singing that was undeniable and she knew she wanted to be a vocalist. Not only a vocalist, but a metal vocalist, as while she remembers her family listened to everything from Redding’s soul to their Latin culture’s salsa when she was a kid in Chicago, she also became enchanted by Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal. When asked what attracted her to the harder stuff, she said metal offered release and salvation as she struggled with her parents’ divorce, an abusive brother and her mental health. “When I was getting started, I really connected to the aggression because of all the things I was feeling at the time,” she explained. “I was feeling a lot of dark, intense things that I didn’t really quite know how to express outside of music.” Then at the age of 16 she joined the Chicago School of Rock so she could perform and develop as a performing frontwoman, having also studied guitar, piano and bass through private teachers, and through that plus her choral experience she achieved many honors and had the ability to play Lollapalooza and many other local festivals in Chicago. She learned pop, rock, jazz, blues, metal and so on, all of which directed her to the Berklee College of Music, as already mentioned.

Since 2017, Haydee has been the voice of American Melodic Groove/Death Metal act Carnivora, with whom she has already recorded three singles, those being Bogdweller, in 2019, Witch City, in 2020, and more recently Hypnogenic, featuring guests Jon Donais (Anthrax, Shadows Fall) and Matt Bachand (Shadows Fall, Act Of Defiance). The band’s guitarist Cody Michaud believes Haydee is helping Carnivora evolve in a more sophisticated, more accessible, less testosterone-fueled direction, helping them transition their sound from Metalcore and Melodic Death Metal to a more groove-oriented Heavy Metal with Death Metal influences. “If you’re a fan of folk music, there’s folk metal, and there’s symphonic metal,” commented Haydee in one of her interviews. “It doesn’t have to be the Cookie Monster screams. It isn’t always aggressive. It can be very beautiful.” She also explained how she ended up becoming the band’s new vocalist a few years ago. “I had met the Carnivora members at an early Aversed gig and we had become friends and performed with each others bands’ many times. They were interested in transitioning their style and believed my vocal skills and personality was compatible and here we are!”

Speaking about Boston, Massachusetts-based Progressive/Melodic Death Metal act Aversed, Haydee was the band’s vocalist from 2015 until September 1, 2021, having recorded with the band their 2016 EP Renewal and the full-length opus Impermanent earlier in 2021, not to mention the live album Abandoned in Charlestown, released in August 2021. You can enjoy Haydee kicking some ass with Aversed in the official videos for the songs Laboratory, Impermanent, and Close My Eyes, or simply click HERE to enjoy the album in its entirety. When asked how she was invited to join Aversed, she said the band had been active since 2009, before she lived in Boston, and as she was attending Berklee College of Music she had met many local metal musicians and bands and had been referred to be their new vocalist and joined them in 2015. In addition, Haydee mentioned that she had studied gutturals before joining them and it proved to be a great transition to practice performing the new technique that she had been developing.

Apart from her time with Carnivora and Aversed, our beloved vocalist has also lent her beautiful voice to an array of distinct bands through the years, with the first ever metal band she was officially in, called Ephemeral Sunrise, being a huge learning experience as she was able to get a taste of where she needed to grow and what the local scene was like. Another amazing project she’s currently involved with is called Zahra Lux, which translates to “beautiful light” or “flower light”, combining classical, rock and blues music to form one heavy and delicate musical experience featuring gorgeous piano lines, soulful vocals and orchestral arrangements. “Before I went down the surprising road of melodic death metal and guttural vocals I had thought that I would strictly be a blues and heavy metal vocalist that would sound more like Evanescence, and other female fronted rock and metal bands,” said Haydee, having already released under her Zahra Lux project the EP’s The Deam (2018) and Rosewater (2020), and more recently the single Say No More, in August this year.

You can also enjoy Heydee’s powerful vocals in other bands and projects, such as Symphonic/Progressive Power Metal band Widows Rite, with whom she recorded the album Volume 1 back in 2018, and Queen Boudicca Metal Opera. Haydee has also been a guest in distinct albums by excellent underground bands, those being vocals on the song Shutter, from the 2020 EP Eulogy by American Gothic/Death/Doom Metal band Autumn’s Ashes; vocals on Per Erebus, from the 2018 album Per Erebus ad Astra by American Blackened Thrash Metal band Graviton; vocals as “The Soldier” on Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster, from the 2018 album Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster by American Power Metal band Helion Prime; and vocals on A Gathering of Storms, from the 2018 album Genetically Engineered to Enslave, by American Death Metal band Solium Fatalis.

As aforementioned, Haydee grew up listening to all kinds of music such as blues, classic rock, classical, and Latin music, but when the music in question is our beloved Heavy Metal her main influences range from Joe Duplantier of Gojira and Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy to all classic metal vocalists such as Dio, Ozzy and Rob Halford. Her first ever record which introduced her to heavy music was Fallen, by Evanescence, when she was eight years old, taking her down the rabbit hole that would eventually lead her to find Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and all of the icons of early metal, also delving into the early punk scene. Nowadays you can find pretty much anything on her playlist including Chelsea Wolfe, Bjork, Black Sabbath and At The Gates, as well as “guilty pleasures” such as Katy Perry, Sia and Lady Gaga, as long as it’s well-written pop music, of course. When asked which three songs would be perfect for someone listening to her for the first time, Haydee mentioned her cover versions for Sia’s Everyday is Christmas and Arch Enemy’s As The Pages Burn, plus Aversed’s Renewal, because they are diverse and represent her as she is now, still growing but slowly establishing a strong voice within the music industry. By the way, if you want to see how wide Haydee’s range can be and how eclectic her taste for music is, you can take a shot at her cover versions for Iron Maiden’s Hallowed Be Thy Name, Alanis Morissette’s Uninvited, Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel, and Prince’s Purple Rain, among several others on her personal YouTube channel.

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Absolutely engaged in the music no matter which band she’s in, Haydee not only has an incendiary voice, but her onstage performance is just as flammable and electrifying, earning her a few unique nicknames including Haydee the Hyena, Metal J.Lo and Metal Selena. “I love the Metal Selena and Metal J.Lo because I like to embrace my culture,” she said, “like wearing my hoops.” Furthermore, she mentioned in one of her interviews the importance of understanding R&B and classical music to become a better metal vocalist. “Both styles have extreme soul and depth that is definitely important in metal music in both style and vocal delivery. Having experienced performing many different songs with different stories and intentions I have a large understanding of what level of emotions, strength, and movements to deliver to any song to make it as effective as it can be. I couldn’t do that if those many styles had not molded my range to be the way it is now as well. Every life and musical experience finds itself in each new performance that you share and it’s really wonderful.”

Regarding touring, Haydee said that she dreams of touring the world with Carnivora and of being able to make a living from her art without having to work a day job. having already played in many small to large stages in a wide variety of local bars and clubs, she would also love to play some major festivals the likes of Maryland Death Fest, NAMM and SWSW, and return to Chicago Open Air, a festival that holds a spot in her heart. “At Chicago Open Air 2017 Aversed and I had performed on the last day alongside acts such as Slayer, Behemoth, and Ozzy Osbourne to name a few. Nearing the end of Ozzy’s set our tour bus crew was giving the band a last call to get on the bus or else it was leaving without us! My phone has been dead and I didn’t know. By the grace of the metal gods I ran into my band mates while I was getting a pretzel and ran back with them. Everyone was there besides our guitarist Sungwoo Jeong. After an awful 10 minutes of frantic calling, searching, and figuring out a way for him to fly back to Boston on his own, we searched the bus one last time and found he’d been asleep the whole time. I had immense luck and Sungwoo cracked us all up and it made one hell of a story.” In addition, her first metal experience as a vocalist was the Iron Maiden vs. Judas Priest show at the Chicago School of Rock in 2011, a huge moment for her because it had really transitioned her from a bedroom performer to a real one, pushing her to keep doing it.

As Carnivora is now a female-fronted metal band, Haydee was asked her opinion about the role of women in the current metal scene. She said that the face of metal is shifting a lot towards women, but the metal community still has a lot to learn and that can be frustrating, mainly because bands with female lead singers often get lumped together even if they’re creating radically different sub-styles, although she’s fine with the label “female-fronted metal”. In addition, she said that as a growing force, women get a lot of attention that may not be given as frequently to an all-male group because there is something different brought to the table that is intriguing. Women have the same depth and aggression as men, and to have an artistic platform to display that (as well as their delicate nature) is a new and amazing thing. The only disadvantage that she sees is the play on sexism and creating sex appeal that purposefully overshadows or interferes with the platform for ones natural talent. “Women work hard to do what they do and they do not need to hide behind sex appeal to be respected for their time, talent, and work. Knowing that and showing that is important,” commented Haydee.

Last but not least, Haydee also provided her comments about things that she learned recording new music during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting by saying how important it was for her to put a strong focus on songwriting, something that we all know cannot be done properly when the musician is on the road most of the time, saying the simplicity of “one-on-one” writing with guitarist Cody Michaud allowed them to present something more refined to the rest of the team. Secondly, she mentioned how hard the entire band worked on the recording process of their demos, saying she pushed herself to knock out vocal takes and stacked harmonies. Then Haydee moved on to talking about their jam sessions, how important it was for them to get back to practicing together as soon as it was safe to meet up, and how tighter their playing got after that, followed by how important it was to release new music during the pandemic even without being able to tour during that time. And last but not least, she mentioned a fun game Carnivora had during the video shoot for Hypnogenic, the first time they had to load in and get together since everything shut down, where each band member had to wear their newest Vans shoes acquired during quarantine and compare them. Let’s say this is indeed a very healthy competition for a group of metalheads eager to get back on the road, and those shoes are beyond awesome for any trip or for a demanding activity like kicking ass on stage, and we cannot wait to see Haydee and Carnivora eating our flesh alive during their upcoming concerts.

Haydee Irizarry’s Official Facebook page
Haydee Irizarry’s Official Instagram
Haydee Irizarry’s Official Twitter
Haydee Irizarry’s Official YouTube channel
Carnivora’s Official Facebook page
Carnivora’s Official Instagram
Carnivora’s Official Twitter
Carnivora’s Official YouTube channel

“The face of metal is shifting a lot towards women and women from all different countries that look so different. It’s awesome to be a part of that change.” – Haydee Irizarry

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