Metal Chick of the Month – Cammie Gilbert

Holding on to everything you say… Cause’ your words they paint a picture of me…

In a very difficult year where the world sadly witnessed an increase in violence and racism against black people, and of course the more-than-necessary rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in their fight for freedom, liberation and justice, we at The Headbanging Moose want to share with all of you our humble tribute to another black woman who has been brilliantly fighting all that racism and showing to the world black women have their place in heavy music, just like other rock and metal divas who have already been honored here on our webzine like Melissa Bonny, Militia Vox, Alexis Brown, Thalìa Bellazecca and Kayla Dixon. I’m talking about the multi-talented and gorgeous vocalist and songwriter Cammie Gilbert, the stunning frontwoman for American Progressive Rock and Metal act Oceans of Slumber, a band that has already been labeled by many as “Opeth or Katatonia with female vocals”, but that in my opinion managed to craft their own sound and style, embellishing the airwaves with their delicate but at the same time scorching creations.

Born on October 8, 1987 in Shepherd, a city located in San Jacinto County, Texas, in the United States, Cammie joined Houston, Texas-based Oceans of Slumber at the age of 27, more specifically in the year of 2014 after the departure of the band’s former vocalist Ronnie Allen, who had been with the band since their inception in 2011. Cammie, who’s by the way on a solid and healthy relationship with the band’s founder, drummer and pianist Dobber Beverly, the sole reminiscent of their original lineup, became the primary songwriter for the group after joining, having already released with Oceans of Slumber the EP Blue, in 2015, followed by the full-length albums Winter (2016), The Banished Heart (2018) and more recently Oceans of Slumber (2020), all available for a full listen on Spotify. You can enjoy tons of amazing official videos of Cammie and Oceans of Slumber kicking some serious ass on their YouTube channel, including the songs The Decay Of Disregard, Pray for Fire, The Colors of Grace, The Adorned Fathomless Creation, Winter, To the Sea (A Tolling of the Bells), The Banished Heart, Strange Fruit, Suffer The Last Bridge, a cover version for Candlemass’ Solitude, an acoustic version for Turpentine, and a live in the studio version for the song This Road.

Currently comprised of the aforementioned Cammie and Dobber together with keyboardist Mat V. Aleman and newcomers Jessie Santos and Alexander Lucian on the guitars and Semir Ozerkan on bass, Cammie said that the band’s former guitarists Sean Gary and Anthony Contreras and bassist Keegan Kelly wanted to explore different influences and styles which never fit with what Oceans of Slumber were doing at that time, the kind of tension that’s absolutely normal, but she also said there were tensions as soon as she got into the band, resulting in a split between the former members not wanting to be “female fronted”. “There is a certain metal crowd that thinks its a gimmick. I’m not growling, I just sing clean and am emotional, but a lot of male singers have that emotion too. There’s just stigmas that make anything a woman does, the wrong thing for metal. We had a couple of those old school attitudes and transition wasn’t their strong suite,” mentioned Cammie in one of her interviews.

Apart from her years with Oceans of Slumber, Cammie is also the lead singer for a Houston, Texas-based project called Genoa Band together with Dobber and guitarist Christian Larson, another branch from Oceans of Slumber’s musical tree drawing upon the lyrical and atmospheric production of bands and artists like Nick Cave, Portishead and This Mortal Coil while still sounding heavy but more intimate, playing a fusion of styles such as Southern, Gothic and Dark Rock. However, there’s nothing officially released by the band and no news since mid-2019 when they announced their first single Paraffin was almost ready to be released, making me think if they gave up the idea of moving forward with the project due to everything that has been going on with Oceans of Slumber, including the recording and release of their 2020 self-titled album. You can also find Cammie as a very special guest in the 2020 album Transitus, by Dutch Progressive Metal/Rock project Ayreon, playing the part of Abby throughout the entire album. “We met a friend of Arjen Lucassen over in the UK and he was interviewing us and asked if there was anything that we wanted to tell Arjen. And so Dobber is like, ‘Yeah, if he could get any of us on an album, we’re big fans, and if you could have him listen to The Banished Heart, that’d be great.’ And so he followed through with that request. Shortly after that Arjen wrote that he loved The Banished Heart and he would love to work with me someday. And we were like, ‘Yeah, of course that’d be great.’ And then maybe a couple more months after that, it was, ‘You want to be on the album?’ And I peed my pants,” commented Cammie about her collaboration with one of her idols in heavy music.

When asked to make a list of the top 10 albums that changed her life, Cammie listed a collection of albums that usually occupy a dark corner of her mind where often emotions outweigh the heaviness of the music, including 40 Watt Sun’s 2011 EP The Inside Room, Agnes Obel’s 2013 album Aventine, Alice In Chains’ 1992 album Dirt (which by the way reminds her why she loves the kind of music that she makes), Anathema’s 2012 album Weather Systems, Eivør’s 2015 album Slør, Evergrey’s 2016 album The Storm Within, Katatonia’s 2016 album The Fall Of Hearts, Swallow The Sun’s 2015 triple album Songs From The North I, II & III, Agents Of Oblivion’s 2000 self-titled album, and last but not least, Type O Negative’s 1996 masterpiece October Rust. “I love Peter Steele. We love Type O Negative, there’s  just nothing like it. We go through a lot of his albums but that’s the main one for me. I love Cinnamon Girl, Be My Druidess and also Wolf Moon. Dobber saw them live once. Super jealous. I’ve just had to make up for it by reading the autobiography, and he buys everything he can as far as media regarding the band. It’s an experience to go through their songs. He [Peter Steele] is such a clever lyricist. It’s the funniest kind of music I feel like I listen to. It brings up my energy and makes me happy,” commented our talented vocalist about the unparalleled work by Mr. Peter Steele (R.I.P.).

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In one of her interviews, when questioned about the lack of more black women in heavy music, Cammie said that it’s due to a multitude of reasons, including sexist comments saying that her voice would fit pop or hip hop music much better than metal, and that clean singing that isn’t symphonic is connotated to sounding pop, which might influence the decision of a black woman to move towards a soul, gospel, R&B or blues direction. Cammie herself was basically told to sing in hip hop or pop and to never go anywhere near rock and metal, but no one ever told her why except for the preconceptions already mentioned. “And what Dobber heard in my voice and what he heard from me… I’m a very melancholy person. I’m in and out of bouts of depression and what I identify with metal and metal-adjacent music is, what I identify with the music that I find, if it makes me, if I’m already sad and it makes me sadder then I’m like, “This is going on a playlist.” And I like things that give me these, not give me these dark feelings, but validate my dark feelings, because I feel like that helps me release them,” said Cammie, also saying that she feels that’s changing as there are more and more alternative black and black metalhead females out there. For instance, her own parents were extremely religious, not allowing her to listen to extreme styles like Death Metal or Grindcore, but that’s different now as younger black kids and people in general can have access to all types of metal music through their phones, for example.

When questioned about the Black Lives Matter movement, racism and if metal has a problem with racism, she said that racism is everywhere, and that it’s something more people have to unlearn than they realize, especially in America. Despite being fortunate enough to not experience too many issues related to racism since joining Oceans of Slumber, she stated that she can no longer approach this subject without a multitude of emotions overtaking her resolve, nor keep the angry tears from welling up and pouring out of her eyes when black senators, mayors, celebrities and brave people online share their frustrations over America’s shortcomings. She feels like her history and the entire country are broken, with George Floyd’s death being a tipping point or a catalyst for a new generation to finally say enough is enough due to the undeniable ruthlessness in which his life was taken. “When you think about the history of America, there’s very little that’s good for anyone who isn’t white. That’s just the truth. It leaves a hollow feeling in your chest taking this information in from so many different outlets. You realize this country isn’t fixing something, it’s letting something go,” complemented Cammie about such delicate matter, also saying that in the days ahead we face the challenge of putting these emotions into goal-focused actions.

Lastly, always evolving as a vocalist and always ready to experiment with her music, Cammie is more than sure Oceans of Slumber are already starting to break out of the Progressive Rock and Metal scene, letting her inspirations guide her music and warning people who already like the band that they’ll have to let go of any expectations for what comes next, leaving us curious to see what the future holds for her and for Oceans of Slumber. Furthermore, as the fantastic vocalist  that she is, Cammie surely misses the stage and performing live to the band’s fans and to newcomers to their progressive world, and they’re already thinking of ways of getting back onstage in Houston obeying all recommended protocols of social distancing to keep everyone safe, including obviously all band members. And, of course, all of us fans of a good fusion of progressiveness, emotions and heavy music can’t wait to see Cammie back to where she belongs, mesmerizing us all with her powerful voice and showing us all black girls can and will forever rock no matter what.

Cammie Gilbert’s Official Instagram
Oceans of Slumber’s Official Facebook page
Oceans of Slumber’s Official Instagram
Oceans of Slumber’s Official Twitter
Oceans of Slumber’s Official YouTube channel

“I am a black woman in America and I am the great, great granddaughter of slaves. Memories upheld only in photographs; as a little girl I would try to imagine what their lives were like. But as it goes, reality unravelled the mystery behind my childish imagination. Now when I see old photos in civil war documentaries, I see their faces. When I watch the grainy black and white footage depicting the Jim Crow era, I see their faces. When I watch the films of the marches inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., I see their faces. And now when I sign into social media and see protestors getting tear-gassed, I see their faces, only now mine is there too.” – Cammie Gilbert

Metal Chick of the Month – Cristina Scabbia

Follow me, follow me… As I trip the darkness…

If you write her name with an “h”, she will kick your ass mercilessly. That’s probably the most fun way to introduce you to our beyond special Metal Chick of the Month, the electrified Italian rocker Cristina Scabbia, one of the most influential and reputable women in the entire world of heavy music and the perfect choice for celebrating four metallic and totally awesome years of The Headbanging Moose webzine this October. Owner of a distinct and very potent voice, Cristina Scabbia, whose full name is Cristina Adriana Chiara Scabbia, was born on June 6, 1972 in the cosmopolitan city of Milan, a metropolis in Italy’s northern Lombardy region and a global capital of fashion and design. Best known as one of the two vocalists for Italian Alternative Rock/Metal band Lacuna Coil, Cristina is not only an accomplished singer and lyricist, but also a writer, a fashion model and, above all, a true headbanger who loves what she does and who has already devoted a good part of her life to Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll.

Cristina was not even 20 years old when she began singing professionally as a touring musician for other bands and providing backing vocals, in 1991. Later that year, she met vocalist Andrea Ferro and bass player Marco Coti Zelati, who would be the future founding members of Lacuna Coil, in Milan’s Midnight Club, and there’s no way of talking about Cristina without talking about her unique connection with Lacuna Coil. Actually, when the band started it was called Sleep of Right, having recorded a song called Bleeding Souls for the Noise of Bolgia compilation in 1995. The band soon changed its name to Ethereal, playing an interesting mix of Gothic and Doom Metal, with Cristina being initially employed only as a session singer, being asked to record backup vocals for the choruses of their demo tape, but the band members liked the way the male and female vocals sounded together and they asked her to be a permanent member then. After several lineup changes and after releasing a two-track demo in 1996, Ethereal were signed by Century Media Records at the end of 1997 and had to change their name to Lacuna Coil (which means “empty spiral”), as Ethereal was already taken by a band from Greece.

After the name change in 1997, Lacuna Coil became a reference in Alternative Rock and Metal worldwide, having already released eight studio albums, those being In a Reverie (1999), Unleashed Memories (2001), Comalies (2002), Karmacode (2006), Shallow Life (2009), Dark Adrenaline (2012), Broken Crown Halo (2014), and more recently Delirium (2016), as well as the EP’s Lacuna Coil (1998), Halflife (2000), Shallow Live: Acoustic at Criminal Records (2010) and The House of Shame / Delirium (2016). In addition to that, the band also released a DVD in 2008, titled Visual Karma (Body, Mind and Soul). Each album by Lacuna Coil is very unique, presenting a different sonority from the others, with the band always adding new elements to their music and experimenting with new sounds. If you want to have a journey through the various phases of the band, paying a detailed attention to the evolution of Cristina (whose highest note ever hit is claimed to be an A7) as a singer and a performer, you should definitely check their songs Falling Again (from In a Reverie), Senzafine (from Unleashed Memories), Swamped (from Comalies), Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence (from Karmacode), I Like It (from Shallow Life), Trip to Darkness (from Dark Adrenaline), Nothing Stands in Our Way (from Broken Crown Halo), and Blood, Tears, Dust (from Delirium). As a matter of fact, there are so many official videos as well as bootlegs online with Cristina and Lacuna Coil you can literally spend hours or even days just watching everything nonstop.

Apart from her solid career with Lacuna Coil, Cristina can be seen in several distinct projects from the most diverse bands and genres, and in all of them she adds her personal touch of rebelliousness, passion and electricity. First let’s talk about her participation in metal-related bands and projects, and then let’s show what she can do when she’s not in her metallic mode. In 2007, Cristina lent her voice to the song S.O.S. (Anything but Love), from the album Worlds Collide by Finnish Symphonic Heavy Metal band Apocalyptica, and the result was so interesting she ended up playing several live concerts with them in the coming years. And it seems the year of 2007 was very fruitful for her career outside Lacuna Coil, as she also recorded what’s probably her biggest non-Lacuna Coil hit, the revamped version of the all-time classic power ballad “A Tout le Monde”, this time named A Tout le Monde (Set Me Free), by American Speed Metal titans Megadeth, featured on their excellent album United Abominations. Needless to say, every time Megadeth and Cristina were in the same city or festival, they ended up playing that amazing song together for the delight of the fans at the venue, as I was able to enjoy during the 2012 version of Gigantour with Megadeth, Motörhead, Volbeat, and Lacuna Coil here in Canada.

You can also find Cristina in unique metal projects such as the character “The Mother” on the 2013 album The Theory of Everything, by Dutch Progressive Metal/Rock band Ayreon, and as a guest vocalist on the song Scars, by Thrash/Groove Metal project Metal Allegiance, from their 2015 self-titled album. In addition, Cristina is also one of the musicians interviewed on the 2007 documentary Over the Madness, a DVD that follows the career of British Doom/Death Metal icons Paradise Lost, including interviews from present and past band members, plus a host of others such as the aforementioned Cristina, Martin E. Ain, Aaron Stainthorpe and Alex Skolnick, presenting the band’s history from its formation up to 2006, in chronological order.

In regards to her contributions to non-metal acts, you can enjoy the charming and powerful vocals by Cristina on different songs such as Beautiful Lie, as a duet with Italian singer Emiliano Audisio (Line 77) to be part of the soundtrack for the 2013 Italian film Passione Sinistra; Nell’acqua, with Rezophonic; an alternate version of Watch Over You, with Alter Bridge; Basta!, with L’Aura and Rezophonic; Can You Hear Me?, also with Rezophonic; and I’m That, with Franco Battiato. By the way, when Cristina sang with L’Aura it was in 2008 at Festival di Sanremo, one of the most important pop festivals in Italy (if not the most important one). And you can also find some nice videos online of Cristina singing together with a Queen tribute band called Queenmania, such as in the all-time classics Bohemian Rhapsody and Under Pressure. And in addition to all that, she also used to write an advice column in the popular rock magazine Revolver, alongside the iconic American drummer Vinnie Paul (Pantera, Hellyeah).

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If you follow The Headbanging Moose you might have seen Cristina’s name as an inspiration for several of our previous metal chicks, just showing how important she is to the expansion of the presence of women in heavy music, but of course as any normal person she also has her idols and favorite bands in music. Among her main influences and names who contributed to her becoming a singer and pursuing a career in Heavy Metal, Cristina mentioned legendary bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, Motörhead, as well as darker bands like Paradise Lost and Type O Negative. By the way, some of her favorite songs, those that really make a good amount of adrenaline rush through her body, are Motörhead’s Ace of Spades and Type O Negative’s My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend, which despite being very distinct songs I have to agree that they surely put a smile on the face of anyone who enjoys some good old rock and metal. Of course Cristina as any other talented and professional artist listens to a lot of non-metal music, in special music from her homeland Italy, which in the end helps her diversify her vocals from song to song, explore new horizons and remain vibrant and relevant to the world of heavy music.

Slightly changing the focus to her personal life, many of you might think it’s a dream to date a woman like her, but as in any relationship there are always some hurdles and barriers to be overcome in order to keep the passion and love going on. Cristina has been in a relationship with Slipknot and ex-Stone Sour guitarist Jim Root for over 10 years already, but keeping that relationship fresh is not an easy task due to distance between them as they’re both very busy musicians who are always on tour (not to mention the fact that Root lives in Florida while Cristina resides in Italy). “Well, my lifestyle is challenging already,” Cristina explained. “Because I travel a lot and I work very hard. So you have to learn to live your life in a different way, but in a way that works for you. So for me to even think about a normal relationship would be something weird.” Before dating Root, she was in a relationship with Lacuna Coil’s own bassist Marco, and when they broke up let’s say it wasn’t easy for them to keep working together as a band, but fortunately as decent adults they overcame that “issue” and now they’re very good friends, loving each other in a different level.

Another interesting topic discussed by Cristina in one of her interviews was related to the recent deaths of Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, where she expressed her opinion about mental illnesses, from depression to dementia to other types of mental conditions, saying we should never judge the others’ decisions as there’s so much to understand about the whole situation before reaching any conclusion. That was also explored on Lacuna Coil’s latest album Delirium. “When we did Delirium, it was really important for us to treat it in the most respectful and delicate way possible,” said Cristina. “Because you can try to send a positive message and to try to tell people, ‘Oh, you should be positive all the time, you should be happy, you should overcome depression,’ and everything, but it’s not as easy as you speak. It’s way deeper than that and more complicated than this.”

As any good Italian woman, in special if that woman is born in the city of Milan, Cristina loves stylish clothes, trying on new make-up, taking care of her dark hair and everything else that’s a synonym to fashion. For instance, she considers her beauty and make-up signature the one she herself calls a “raccoon look”, or as described by Cristina, “a heavy sort of smokey eyes style with carbon black eyeshadow surrounding both whole eyes and heavily in the lower part of the eye as well.” She also mentioned that, because she likes to combine styles and to work with contrasts, she likes to observe everything around her and go to runway shows in Milan, listing as some of her style icons the always trendy Madonna and the very elegant and dark British and Irish designer Daphne Guinness. Furthermore, she said her make-up and outfit behavior is in constant change due to new products, styles and techniques that are always appearing in the market, stating that while thinking about a new look for her concerts she always takes into account several important factors such as if the clothes are easy to carry around, if they’re washable, and if they allow her to move a lot onstage. Also in the fashion world, American photographer Jeremy Saffer (an old-time friend of Cristina) invited her to be her calendar girl for the Halloween 2015 Special Edition of XPRESSIONS magazine, with the final result being beyond stunning, of course, being sold out in a really short time.

Regarding her preparation for getting onstage and spending a long time on the road during Lacuna Coil’s extremely busy agenda worldwide, Cristina said she doesn’t exercise a lot, saying she’s some sort of “lazy bum”, and that concentration is the most important part of the process for her together with some warming up exercises to keep her voice in good shape. She said travelling all the time and managing everything is definitely not for everyone, but it can be very rewarding if you love what you do. One funny thing connected to that hectic lifestyle is that Cristina collects all her flight boarding cards, saying that one day it will be nice to see and to show others how much she’s traveled in her life. And, in terms of the apps she uses regularly, apart from Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Twitter, she’s also been using an app named Master Tour, which she considers very helpful for whoever does her type of job, keeping you updated on tours and schedules like a tour book in your smartphone. Hence, if you’re a touring musician, why not trying the same app as the successful Cristina Scabbia, right?

Lastly, when asked if she considers herself a role model for young girls, she said she doesn’t see herself as one but that all the love she gets from fans when she’s on the road makes her sometimes believe she might be indeed an inspiration for all of them. She always tells them that they have to believe in themselves because, no matter what, it is impossible to make everyone happy, so the key is to make ourselves happy and conscious of our own unique potential, with her motto in life being “live in the present and make it beautiful. I never think too much about the past or the future. The past is… gone and we will never be able to plan the future the perfect way.’’ What do you think about Cristina and her way of life? Do you agree with what she does and thinks in music and life in general? Well, there are tons of interesting interviews and videos of Cristina online to help you know more about her, such as this one from Loudwire called Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction?, where she even tells if her highest note being an A7 is true or not. It seems that the world of heavy music and also the whole cyberworld can never get enough of the one and only Italian stunner Cristina Scabbia (without an “h”, per favore).

Cristina Scabbia’s Official Facebook page
Cristina Scabbia’s Official Twitter
Cristina Scabbia’s Official Instagram
Lacuna Coil’s Official Facebook page
Lacuna Coil’s Official YouTube channel
Lacuna Coil’s Official Instagram

“You have to sing with your heart, you have to sing with passion, you have to be sincere in what you’re singing, and you have to be totally convinced of what you’re doing. Most of all, you have to realize that this is a hard job that not everyone can take, so don’t look at the shiny part only, because there is a lot of work involved and a lot of sacrifice, so be ready for that as well..” – Cristina Scabbia