As summer is just around the corner in the Northern Hemisphere, let’s take a trip to a place known not for its hot and warm weather, but for its wet and cool climate, which by the way has led to the growth of extensive forests featuring some of the largest trees in the world. I’m talking about the region known as the Pacific Northwest, in the United States, more specifically the city of Corvallis, located in central western Oregon and around 120km from the state’s largest city Portland, where our metal chick of the month, the unrelenting Malaysian-born vocalist Avienne Low, frontwoman for Progressive/Melodic Death/Black Metal unity Vintersea, has been embellishing the Pacific Northwestern airwaves with her powerful voice since moving from Penang, a state in northwest Malaysia, to pursue her studies in American soil. As you’ll be able to see, you’ll be absolutely stunned by Avienne with both her clean, delicate vocals and her infernal roars, showcasing all her vocal range and talent as the lead singer for Vintersea.
Married to a guy called Nick Kiuttu in Keizer, a city located in Marion County, Oregon, in 2016, which led her to use the name Avienne Kiuttu for a while (and because she switched back to Avienne Low I have absolutely no idea if she’s still married), Avienne started her life and career in music when she found an acoustic guitar in a box under her parents’ bed when she was 11 years old, and after having the guitar dusted and tuned, she discovered her passion for singing and performing while playing covers and originals for her family and friends. During her college years, her love for performing grew bigger as she joined an all-ladies a capella group named Divine, a small group of singers hand-picked from Oregon State University’s Bella Voce that began in 2003, with whom she stayed for about a year and a half before fully directing her focus on being the vocalist for Vintersea. Avienne also stated that “I absolutely love fronting the band, and my past experiences have cultivated my ongoing passion for singing, screaming, and performing.”
Regarding her career with Vintersea, as you might already know they are a female-fronted metal band from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, from the aforementioned city of Corvallis, born in 2016 from the ashes of a previous incarnation of the band itself when it was called Asterion, combining the essential elements of metal’s most revered sub-genres with memorable and anthemic song-writing sensibility, therefore crafting a unique brand of crushing Blackened Progressive Metal inspired by the dark skies of the Pacific Northwest and leading the band to share the stage with renowned acts the likes of Jinjer, Ne Obliviscaris and Arkona, among others.
Shortly after entering the United States, Avienne found her home with Vintersea, with guitarists Riley Nix and Jorma Spaziano, drummer Jeremy Spencer and bassist Karl Whinnery rounding out their current lineup. The band was actually born in the summer of 2014 under its previous moniker Asterion when high school friends Riley and Jeremy put out an ad on Craigslist searching for the right musicians to form a new metal act, with Avienne and Jorma (who had moved to Oregon from the east coast, not even sure he was going to be in a band anymore) responding to their ad based on a few early demos. They quickly got together and started jamming out, and it felt like a really good fit right away, which led them to start working on music and playing a few shows as Asterion, which by the way was based on stars and constellations, leaning towards a modern and progressive side of music, almost to a Djent vibe, releasing that same year a five-track EP titled Constellations, which you can enjoy in its entirety HERE or HERE.
However, despite the high-quality of the music found in their debut EP, Riley, Avienne & Co. figured out pretty quick that the music by Asterion wasn’t exactly what they wanted to do. Heavily inspired by European Black Metal, Atmospheric Metal and Post-Metal, the band started playing a hybrid of Progressive and Melodic Metal types, making the collective decision to delve headfirst into that and develop their own sound and later changing their name to Vintersea, with “Vinter” being winter and “sea” because they are from the Pacific Northwest, as grey ocean waves are a heavy asthetic. After such significant changes, they released two official full-length albums, The Gravity of Fall, in 2017, and more recently Illuminated, in 2019, and you can enjoy several top-notch music videos for some of the best songs from both albums on YouTube, such as Illuminated, The Host, Skies Set Ablaze, Old Ones and Entities, as well as their official tour video for the song The Gravity of Fall, and you can also go to Spotify or BandCamp for more of their stylish creations. Furthermore, there are some great interviews with Avienne on YouTube where you can get to know more about her role with Vintersea, such as this one given to Metal Shop Steve where she talks about their 2019 album Illuminated and their music videos, and this one to Dani Zed Reviews where they talk about several topics including their albums, the feedback received on them and their live performances.
Avienne has already made it pretty clear in several interviews that she wants to be a great metal vocalist, not just ‘great for a female’ metal vocalist, as almost all of her main influences are male vocalists or bands with male vocalists, including Ghost Iris, Disentomb, Unprocessed, Logic, Devin Townsend, Ne Obliviscaris, Enslaved, Ihsahn, Between the Buried and Me, Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir, TesseracT and Skyharbor, to name a few, with her vocal idol being Chris Barretto, from bands such as Ever Forthright, Monuments, Periphery and Haunted Shores. In addition, when Avianne was asked about how she discovered metal music and which artists and bands caught her attention while she was growing up in Malaysia, our talented vocalist answered by saying that because she didn’t have access to online platforms like BandCamp almost all the music she listened to as a child was either from the radio or MTV, mentioning Linkin Park from their Hybrid Theory days as a huge influence when she was only around seven years old. During the following decade, she got obsessed with discovering new metal bands after listening to the 2010 album Long Live, by American Metalcore act The Chariot, with bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Between the Buried and Me and Converge fueling her obsession. As she didn’t play any sports nor go to the beach at that time, she spent hours and hours developing her taste for metal and finding lesser-known bands online. Also, when questioned about which song by any artist she wishes she could have written, Avienne mentioned Celestial Violence, from the 2016 album Arktis. by Norway’s own Ihsahn, as Vintersea were all listening to Arktis. a lot during the recording of The Gravity of Fall, and that song in particular spoke to all band members with its severe changes in dynamics and epic conclusion.
Regarding her vocal style, Avienne said that learning how to do harsh vocals and finding the perfect formula to combine them with her clean singing wasn’t an easy task at first. She complemented by saying that she started doing harsh vocals because she wanted to scream along to her favorite bands at that time, and there was a lot of trial and error while she was developing her style, also saying that one of her main techniques was to record herself, study those recordings, and look for areas of improvement, becoming familiar and comfortable with her own screams and playing around with different tones and styles to see what worked best. She also said that it is not only important to be aware of how your body feels when learning to scream, but to be patient throughout the process, complementing by mentioning that she takes care of her voice by doing vocal warm-ups and relaxing a little before hitting the stage, and avoiding spicy food prior to any concert because it’s not a good feeling to jump around the stage with a “ball of fire” burning inside her stomach.
Her view of the music industry is also quite interesting, as she said that in many ways she thinks the music industry has never been healthier, with the power being concentrated in the hands of the fans, the small labels, writers and so on, with the big, faceless corporations having lost most of the power they once had, letting truly innovative and independent bands to reach a much broader audience due to the evolution and changes to internet distribution. As long as fans keep listening to Vintersea’s music, buying their merchandise and supporting them at their live performances, Avienne said she’ll continue to write beautiful and meaningful music together with her bandmates, which is exactly what we all desire, don’t you agree? And talking about touring and live concerts, Avienne said one of Vintersea’s most memorable shows was when they shared the stage with the talented female-fronted Graveshadow, Mindmaze, Sirenia and Arkona at the Bossanova Ballroom downtown Portland in 2017, also saying that there are countless other bands they would love to play shows with or tour with, but as they’re all hugely fond of the guys in Ne Obliviscaris, she thinks it would be simply fantastic to have the opportunity to spend time on the road with that level of talent.
As it happens with pretty much all women who decide to venture through the realms of metal music, Avienne has also been asked countless times about how she sees the importance and influence of women in a music genre that’s still considered sexist by many, and her answers couldn’t have been more spot-on. “My advice is to acknowledge that misogynists and sexists are there, but don’t give them any fuel to their hateful fire. Don’t turn their hate into your hate. Focus on what makes you happy. If you focus on yourself, not only you will be happier in the long run, but your happiness and success will annoy the haters. It’s a win-win situation,” said our stunning vocalist, also saying that in her opinion the metal scene has never had so many badass, powerful and brutal women like nowadays, with more and more metal bands with women fronting them or slaying an instrument coming to light, which is a very inspiring situation for her personally. The metal scene has been exclusionary of women in metal for years, which is why she believes it’s important that there is more women in metal not only because they represents a significant portion of the listeners, but mainly because there is an endless amount of skill and talent that women in metal bring that should definitely be recognized. Moreover, when asked about who she considers the most influential women in metal today, Avienne cited the unstoppable Tatiana Shmaylyuk from Jinjer and Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy, saying it’s impressive what they can do with their vocals, and that they both have showed many people for the first time that women can bring endless energy and fire through harsh vocals.
When asked about her writing process (and of the entire band), Avienne said that before starting it they discuss as a band what the theme of the album should be, followed by determining each song’s theme and message, writing the music prior to the vocal parts and making sure each of their songs can be interpreted on multiple levels, from deeply personal to globally conceptual, all within the same framework. There are songs that can come together in a matter of days, but most of them take shape over a period of months with a lot of intense work, consideration and debate, with their collective vision usually coming together after a couple of weeks. There’s a lot of trust among the band members, and they have found that this dynamic and exciting process helps them produce their best results. Avienne also said that since the band’s inception she has developed and grown in both skill and style, helping her explore different facets of her voice and making the band’s songwriting more cohesive, mentioning the moment they started receiving messages from fans saying they were inspired by Vintersea or that their music helped them through tough times was a breakthrough moment for the band, making they proud of what they’ve accomplished so far. In addition, as an up-and-coming metal artist, Avienne said that the best advice she can give to new bands and musicians is that they shouldn’t be afraid to be who they are, saying people should find their own voice to be able to craft timeless music, instead of being a “one-hit wonder” molded by the industry, also saying we should never stop learning and never close our minds to new ideas. Well, I guess we couldn’t agree more with Avienne, wishing her and her bandmates from Vintersea a bright and healthy future in the world of heavy music, taking the band to new and unexplored lands in the coming years for our total delight.
“I love singing about things that can make a person think about things differently, and I love exposing things that are poignant yet not talked about or thought of enough. I view music as another mode about storytelling, and I know I’m on the right path if I can feel the emotions rising from deep within my body.” – Avienne Low