Metal Chick of the Month – Adrienne Cowan

So sin ‘til you win, let your demons out! Lady Lightbringer!

It’s time for a true metal opera this February on The Headbanging Moose, courtesy of our multi-talented metal lady of the month. A metal vocalist, poet, vocal coach and musician best known for being the frontwoman and composer for American Symphonic Metal band Seven Spires, among several other amazing metal bands and projects, Adrienne Elizabeth Catli Cowan, who goes by her stage name of Adrienne Cowan, will mesmerize you with her unique vocals, both extreme and classic Heavy Metal clean vocals. In other words, she can sing pretty much any type of metal and non-metal music, from the Symphonic Metal of Seven Spires to Death Metal, Deathcore and Dark Jazz, and I’m sure you’ll have an absolute blast with Adrienne after knowing more about the life and career of such skillful artist.

Born on January 28, 1995 in Houston, the most populous city in Texas and the fourth most populous city in the United States, Adrienne is formally trained in classical and most contemporary styles as a graduate of both Berklee College of Music (with a degree in Music Composition) in Boston, Massachusetts and the Academy of Contemporary Music in the UK, although she was also self-taught in both extreme clean vocals for many years before finally finding a perfect vocal coach in Swedish singer David Äkesson. Her connection with music started a lot earlier than that, though, as since she was a child she was already taking part in choirs and taking piano lessons, performing in musicals and then entering music school, and from there starting to compose her music and to expand her knowledge and skills, especially as a singer. For instance, Adrienne had her first performance as a vocalist at the age of three at an event at the church her family attended, beginning her piano lessons after that at the age of six and being mainly into choir and darker popular musicals such as Phantom of the Opera throughout elementary and middle school. Not only that, her parents pulled her out of high school so that she could attend a music school full-time, so through that show of support she already had a good feeling about her potential skills.

When she was still living in England, in 2012, Adrienne was making demos by herself for a dark and theatrical project she had yet to debut, and after moving back to the United States in 2013 she met Jack Kosto in a bookstore in her first week at Berklee and told him about her project and songs. From there Seven Spires were born, with all band members having extensive musical knowledge and studies, therefore drawing on their backgrounds to express themselves musically without limits of genre or technique. Seven Spires released their first album in 2014, the EP The Cabaret of Dreams, with all of its songs representing half of their 2017 full-length opus Solveig, where not only Adrienne was responsible for all vocals, keyboards, lyrics and songwriting, but also for the production and vocal engineering, showcasing all her talent and professionalism. After Solveig, the band released the full-length albums Emerald Seas, in 2020, and Gods of Debauchery, in 2021, and if you want to enjoy all of the band’s epic creations you can find Seven Spires on Spotify and on YouTube, where you can also have a visual orgasm with their official videos for the songs Lightbringer, Succumb, The Unforgotten Name, The Cabaret Of Dreams, Drowner Of Worlds, Bury You, The Paradox, This God Is Dead, Silvery Moon, The Cursed Muse, and Dare To Live, as well as some live footage, making of’s, behind the scenes and other awesome videos by Adrienne and her crew.

Apart from her career with Seven Spires, you can also find Adrienne and her powerful vocals in distinct bands and projects such as International Power Metal band Light & Shade, with whom she recorded the vocals for the 2016 album The Essence of Everything; International Power Metal/Hard Rock band Sascha Paeth’s Masters of Ceremony, with whom she recorded the vocals (and piano for one track) in the 2019 album Signs of Wings; and American Symphonic Deathcore band Winds of Plague, with whom she recorded the keyboards and backing vocals in the 2017 album Blood of My Enemy. In addition, Adrienne was also part of American Melodic Heavy Metal band FirstBourne from 2016 to 2018, having recorded the vocals and keyboards in their 2016 album Riot and in the 2017 acoustic single Home, and of Frontiers All Stars in 2020 and Riot Underground between 2012 and 2013.

You can also find her singing and playing live with German Symphonic Power Metal band Avantasia since 2018, with American Heavy Metal band Mike Kerr from 2015 until 2018, and with American Power/Thrash Metal band Sonic Pulse. Not only that, Adrienne was also a guest musician in an array of bands and projects, those being vocals for the song I Declare War from the 2020 album The Journey, by German Melodic Death Metal band Deliver the Galaxy; vocals for several songs from the 2021 album The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson, by Swedish Symphonic/Melodic/Power Metal band Heart Healer; vocals for the song My Guide My Hunger from the 2018 album As Above So Below, by Italian Melodic Death Metal band Hell’s Guardian; vocals for the song The End of Innocence from the 2017 album Reflections, by American Neoclassical Heavy Metal artist Jimi Mitchell; vocals for the song Mammoth from the 2017 album Pianometal, by American Symphonic/Progressive Metal artist Kyle Morrison; vocals for the song The Truth of the Lion from the 2015 album The Truth of the Lion, by Mike Kerr; harsh and clean vocals for the songs Conjunction of Souls and The Restitution from the 2020 album Pile of Priests, by American Progressive Death Metal band Pile of Priests; vocals for the song Let It Go from the 2018 album Re-Animated, by Italian Power Metal band Trick or Treat; and vocals and lyrics for the 2018 album Lights in the Murk, by Italian Symphonic Black Metal band Yass-Waddah. Do you want more? Because our she-wolf was also responsible for the songwriting for the song Hold Tight from the 2016 EP Dirty Lyxx, by American Heavy Metal/Hard Rock band Dirty Lyxx, and she also sung vocals in Black Science’s Freedom (Or Die Trying), featured in the outro of one Camp Camp episode, and sang both a duet with Casey Lee Williams in the RWBY Volume 6 credits song Nevermore, and in the song War of Volume 7. Adrienne has also been a part of the Freelance Orchestra in their RTX 2016 (where to her surprise she ended up in the RWBY music panel) and 2018 concerts, plus Anime Boston 2018, and you can always have a great time watching her own videos on her official YouTube channel.

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Adrienne got into the world of metal music around the age of 11 when her uncle showed her Metallica and Scorpions, but it wasn’t until she found out about musicians the likes of Alexi Laiho, Janne Wierman and Yngwie Malmsteen that she really started to feel at home listening to Heavy Metal. She mentioned it appealed in some way to her classical background, and watching live Children of Bodom videos was quite inspiring. However, she’s not only into metal, but showcases a wide variety of influences in her life. “I’m not a one-dimensional person – I’m a human – so I’m allowed to like other stuff”, she said in one of her interviews. “I’m not a huge K-pop fan or anything, but I really like good pop writing. From a technical standpoint, as a songwriter, I’m like: damn, good for you guys. And there’s a certain sassy energy – it just speaks to me in a way that a lot of metal doesn’t.” Another influence on our beloved diva as a writer are painters of the Romantic period, with German painter Caspar David Friedrich and Russian painter Ivan Aivazovsky being two of her main inspirations. “I’m also a big fan of (the English composer) Edward Elgar – he does this piece called ‘Sospiri Op. 70,’ which is the most beautiful thing, it sounds like the pain of falling in love. It was something I listened to a lot when we were writing this record. And of course, Chopin,” she said, also finding inspiration under night skies and in the darker depths of the human condition to write her lyrics. Adrienne also nurtures an amazing openness with her fans on social media, which she credits to her experience as a My Chemical Romance fan back when she was younger. “This one interview with them came out, and I remember one of the guys in the band saying basically, ‘We say these things in our music, we are a bunch of fucked up guys, and it helps our fans know… you’re not alone.’ That really made me feel less alone when I was a sad teenager, and then when I grew up into a sad adult, I thought, damn, I could be that for somebody else.”

Regarding her singing style, technique and how she maintains her vocal cords in great shape, Adrienne mentioned in one of her interviews that she likes to meditate before shows and uses her instincts to decide what she’ll sing or scream either high or low. “The low death metal style is more present and more grounded and more angry and earthier in a way. The higher black metal screams are more spiritually pitched or spiritually empty — when there’s black metal themes and nihilistic lyrics, of course I’m probably going to scream with that high tone”, said Adrienne. In addition, when she was enrolled at The Academy of Contemporary Music at the age of 16 she joined an after-school club where all metalhead students gathered to jam on a new song every week, opening her eyes to the rest of the metal world and challenging her to vocally try different styles of each subgenre of metal. She also mentioned that she has studied many techniques of singing including theatrical belting, Speech Level Singing, bel canto and even some throat singing, with the hardest part being unlearning things previous teachers had told her in order to properly approach whatever new technique she was learning, and with the very high Power Metal “scream” being one of the styles that took her the longest to develop. In order to maintain her vocal health, she mentioned that she basically has to just mind her sleep and hydration levels, trying to stay out of the direct blast of heaters or air conditioners, and trying not to get sick or allergic. However, at the end of the day, even dehydrated or sick the show must go on, which forced her to develop alternate techniques to sing through sickness.

A huge fan of Lord of the Rings, all forms of art, Gothic style, cheesy Sci-Fi, vampire shows, coffee and fantasy games, Adrienne enjoys mountain hikes, spending time by any shore, and playing JRPG’s (Japanese Role-Playing Games) and games with friends between her musical ventures. “After a long tour, I like to sit at home and sleep in my own bed, play video games, maybe think about going out… If I get to go on a little holiday or something, I love road trips and anywhere remote with alpine forests and quiet waters. Wyoming is great for this, as are many spots on the West Coast. Anything to get me away from people and out of my regular world,” commented Adrienne, who despite being very fond of animals cannot take care of a dog or cat due to her lack of space and time to do so. And when asked which hobbit from Lord of the Rings she would choose to be part of her band for the rest of their days, she provided a curious and fun answer to that. “Either Sam or Pippin, I think. Because I think I’m a Frodo, and I need a support system like Sam. But also I need a Pippin to just make me laugh all the time no matter what, and just help lighten the mood, and tell me to eat my carrots and mushrooms.”

Last but not least, our raven-haired vocalist also had a few interesting words to say about the whole pandemic and how it has been impacting her life on the road with Seven Spires. “All of this resulted in connecting more with our fans online. So although it’s super frustrating to not know exactly when we’re going to be able to play live again, we have found a way to do the online equivalent of hugging people at the merch table and listening to their stories,” said Adrienne, who also mentioned she keeps working hard to entertain and stay in touch with her fanbase, also teaching online, private vocal lessons and running a weekly workshop on everything from orchestration to arranging to songwriting techniques, all of which you can find on Linktree and on Patreon. “Mostly I teach tools for people to be able to express what they have in mind, and I teach from a really emotional standpoint.” And if you want to know more about Adrienne, her likes and dislikes, her inspirations and so on, there are countless interview online with her such as this one to Rock Titan or this one called RichardMetalFan Interviews! Ep. 33: Adrienne Cowan of Seven Spires/Winds of Plague/Avantasia, where she talks about her journey with music from where she started until now. Having said all that, what are you waiting for to let Adrienne reach deep inside your heart and take you on a breathtaking musical voyage to the sound of her stunning vocals?

Adrienne Cowan’s Official Facebook page
Adrienne Cowan’s Official Instagram
Adrienne Cowan’s Official YouTube channel
Adrienne Cowan’s Official Twitter
Seven Spires’ Official Facebook page
Seven Spires’ Official Instagram
Seven Spires’ Official YouTube channel
Seven Spires’ Official Twitter

“I know that if I’m just stagnant and sitting on my ass, I’m not going to be happy. So if I want to be happy, I have to do something about it.” – Adrienne Cowan

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

Metal Chick of the Month – Mikaela Attard

mikaela01

I flew high on black wings when death looked me closer in the eye…

The Headbanging Moose is about to become The RED-banging Moose this summer with our multi-talented, sunning and rebellious metal chick of the month of June, and you better get ready because she’s out for blood. I’m talking about Mikaela Attard, a vocalist, composer, lyric writer and producer hailing from the island of Malta, in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, with a wide vocal range that allows her to easily sing in multiple rock and metal styles, known in the metal community for her time with Maltese Extreme Metal act Martyrium and more recently for her wicked solo project MIKAELA. Born on May 8, 1993, Mikaela has been singing since the young age of eight, having actually started with classical singing training as well as classical piano training and examinations. In addition, she won the Pop Idol in Malta when she was 13 and released her first Alternative Rock EP Hear Me Out when she was 15, with all the singles from the EP getting constant airplay. Do you want more? Alright, here we go.

Having performed on several stages around Malta and overseas, including cities like Los Angeles and Boston, in the United States, and several European countries, Mikaela studied Vocal Performance on campus at Berklee College of Music in Boston and furthered her education with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Production with Summa Cum Laude, always attracted to the creation and production side of the music, and also getting into the science and engineering behind it as well as into Game Audio and Film Scoring. All that passion, talent and education resulted in multiple awards in her career, including Best New Artist in 2010, Best Female Artist and Malta’s Export Artist in 2011, Vodafone Upcoming Artist and Berklee College Singer-Songwriter, and Best Metal Band in 2019.

Let’s begin her journey in our Heavy Metal universe with her two-year stint with Martyrium (or MartYriuM), an Extreme Metal band from Malta formed by Count Mortem in 1999 with the spawn of the second wave of Black Metal, offering fans of extreme music a unique blend of Black and Death Metal with a specific sound design introducing sinister orchestrations and industrial elements to the style. Our red-haired diva began her time with Martyrium back in 2018, and Mikaela herself mentioned that it was a great learning experience in the beginning. However, as time passed by she started to feel very uncomfortable inside the band, stating that things got unacceptable literally, from the conditions how they treated her as a frontwoman and how they used her pictures, never wanting to hear what she had to say about those topics, leading to her departure form the band in 2020. It is what it is, unfortunately, because as you can see in some live videos such as Martyrium playing the song Curse Of Salvation at Oskorei Midvinter Festival in 2019 and the song Vital in Willemeen, Arnhem, Netherlands during the Female Metal Voices Tour 2018 with the Butcher Babies and Kobra and The Lotus, Martyrium kicked some serious ass with Mikaela fronting the band. Not only that, Mikaela had also been part of several collaborations such as Xirka Rock, and collaborated with the legendary multi-instrumentalist Marco Minnemann on his album My Sister on the songs My Sister and A Working Town. In addition, she was also a member of a metal band called Hex Omega during part of the 2010’s.

A few months after leaving Martyrium due to the personal issues listed above with the other band members, our Maltese metal goddess founded her stunning solo project MIKAELA, having already released her debut effort Nocturne In Red in 2020 alongside guitarist and bassist Kyle Farrugia (from Maltese metal band Align the Tide) and the aforementioned Marco Minnemann on drums, bringing to our ears an electrifying and sexy fusion of Metalcore, Deathcore, Progressive, Black, Death and Nu Metal, as you can see in the excellent song Chaotic Mind. According to Mikaela herself, Nocturne In Red is a conceptual album and also comes to terms with her personal experiences. “The concept of the album is about state of the mind. In fact, even it is even portrayed in the artwork on the album. I hold on a crystal ball and assigned to it the human brain. It is dripping black blood from it, and basically what it means is that it is about six different states of the mind and it is different how we perceive them, but sometimes we still are the same in the difference. So that is what it generally is about. All the songs are about a particular episode and that is what inspired me to write a particular song,” said Mikaela, complementing by explaining the idea behind the song Bring Me Blood. “That was inspired by an extreme event I went through in the past. I was the victim of an attempted murder here in Malta. I wrote that song in literally five minutes basically, it was just spitting out the words and music. It just came right on and that is why I decided that it should be the first single on the album, because it is so authentic. It is like: I left from somewhere over there. The song speaks about the anger I felt towards the situation and also towards the misunderstanding of court. I do not think it was well dealt in court, I think justice was not delivered.” And you can watch Mikaela discussing about that in an interview to Gabriel Gignac from Grizzly Media named 10 Bites of Nocturne In Red.

When asked about what us fans should expect from her first solo album, Mikaela explained how different the music style would be from her previous years with Martyrium. “My background of influences are quite different from Martyrium’s, although obviously there’s a lot of common favorites. I, however, like a more dynamic plateau of sounds and textures. I am a lot into deathcore, jazz, classical, electronic, groove and progressive music apart from all the metal in general. Obviously, I have a fond love for Black Metal and Death Metal too as well as all sorts of rock and metal in general. But I’m not quite a one kind of music-kind-of-girl. For that matter, I also love techno and industrial.” Regarding her main influences and idols, as expected she keeps getting inspired by a vast array of distinguished musicians and bands the likes of Ronnie James Dio, Metallica, Megadeth, Rammstein, Nine Inch Nails, The Prodigy, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Opeth, Janis Joplin, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Lamb of God, Otep, Gojira, Slipknot, Thy Art Is Murder, Whitechapel, Jinjer, Bring Me The Horizon, Suicide Silence, Northlane, Chelsea Grin, Behemoth, After The Burial, Emmure, In This Moment, Arch Enemy, Wage War, ERRA and Ded, just to mention a few, which explains why the music found in her solo project is so difficult to label, so unique and diverse.

An accomplished vocalist, Mikaela can easily switch from clean singing to powerful growls and screaming vocals, and when asked about how she grew to like and practice this kind of singing and who were her heroes or inspirations that got her into that, she said that she’s a trained classical singer with a fond love for rock and metal who has always listened to those styles, having been introduced to them at a young age by her parents, and as her voice has always had sort of a rasp and natural scream it was a smooth transition for her to start doing guttural vocals. “My first experiences growling and screaming in public came gradually but once I launched some of the music at my debut, it was then official,” commented Mikaela, who’s also absolutely passionate about being on stage. “I must have been 9 singing in public, festivals, auditions, cathedrals, singing with organs and orchestras, stages, karaoke’s, we used to do it all the time when I was kid. It was fun. My first official outside country experience in public was singing in Johannesburg, South Africa though on a much larger scale and I loved it. I never feared the stage, can’t really say I got ever shy or anything… And I guess that still shows to this day.” And although she believes the pandemic might destroy metal music if nothing is done urgently, she understands the whole situation and keeps working off stage in anything that requires her attention. “We’re doing this massive sacrifice to help stop the spread of covid which now I don’t even know when that will ever stop but let’s hang on. When I’m off stage, there’s still a lot of things to do for a musical act so I keep myself entertained and focused by practicing on my own, coming up with ideas, drawing, writing, preparing orders and doing everything necessary to keep it going.”

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As a woman that performs in a genre that is always connected with power and strength, when asked about what she would say to women in general who face sexism and undermining and are considered weaker than men, she believes that all women in metal and in life in general should not go down to the level of the bullies who are being sexist, as it’s a waste of time. “If you share negativity, that’s what you’ll get. So be positive, feel it for real and just shut them and their vibes out of your life. The world is much better than that. Always be yourself and look for people who share the same ambition, who can see through you for real and what you’re after in life and music. You deserve better, we are strong and our strength should be celebrated just as any man can,” commented Mikaela, who also thinks that music shouldn’t be divided by gender or sex at all, as if we don’t all have a pair of vocal cords and we all can sound unique no matter what techniques we use to voice our hearts out.

Regarding her view of the metal scene in her homeland Malta, she mentioned that although Malta is a small island with a population of only around 500,000 people, it’s pretty much the same population as Iceland, but a lot of great artists come from Iceland. “I do not think it is quite within the culture to appreciate Metal a lot. It is not the mainstream at all. With the Metal scene, there are a lot of bands and actually, if you play here, a lot of the people in the crowd perform themselves. In general, I think it is very hard to make it, you have to skip the first step and it has to be outside of Malta, unfortunately,” said our screaming queen, complementing by saying that despite the fact there are several excellent metal bands showcasing a lot of potential on the island, the lack of a proper market or industry makes it extremely hard (albeit not impossible) for most bands to reach a decent level of success. In addition, if you want to know more about Mikaela and her beautiful home country, I highly recommend you watch two very interesting interviews with her done by local publications, one being 73 Questions Malta, where she talks about her thoughts on the metal industry in Malta and what it was like growing up there, and another called Lovin Malta Meets: Mikaela, where Lovin Malta’s resident music journalist JP Azzopardi discussed everything with her, from her musical origins to the world of metal and her future plans.

There are many TV performances of Mikaela on Youtube with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra during an event called Rockestra, a collaboration that Mikaela considers really amazing, singing in front of 13,000 fans in her homeland even with the fact that metal is still a controversial style in Malta. For instance, you can enjoy her powerful vocals in absolute sync with her country’s national orchestra in songs such as Metallica’s Enter Sandman in 2011, Guns N’ Roses’ Paradise City in 2012, Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train in 2016, and AC/DC’s Back In Black in 2018, showing her performances with the orchestra were not a once-off, but she’s a recurrent guest during such unique festival. Also, there’s another great video of Mikaela performing Black Sabbath’s Children Of The Sea live on the Maltese TV channel One on the program Q, always showing her support for metal music in Malta.

Our talented Mikaela also loves to interact with her fans and followers on social media, not only posting pictures but also writing lengthy captions and asking them questions as well as for opinions or suggestions; however, people tend to simply “ignore” her questions and give her only compliments in the comments. Mikaela said she actually appreciates all the comments and compliments, not judging anyone for not answering any of the questions posted and always valuing the interactions with her followers. She also likes to keep track of the number of streams of her songs, which countries she’s listened the most and merchandise purchases, as she believes it’s very important to know where her music is being enjoyed. For instance, she mentioned in one of her interview that Germany is amongst the top countries where her debut solo album is being listened to, as well as the United States, Canada (and The Headbanging Moose is proud to contribute to that, of course), Mexico and Russia.

Having several beautiful tattoos all over her body, Mikaela said it all started with ‘Rock and Roll’ inked on the side of her palms some years ago and she has never looked back, having her two full arm sleeves, palms, fingers, front side of the thighs, some on the neck, ass and full back all covered (and always ready for more). “I love tattoos, I think it’s like turning a house into a home. I feel confident in my body and what I represent. In my country it was still a taboo, especially on women, until a few years ago, but things slowly started changing thankfully. I used to get looks for having red hair in the past, can you imagine when I had the first tattoo sleeve? Older mentalities still judge a woman with tattoos greatly and to be fair, it is still not the norm and could get a lot of judgement,” commented Mikaela, who’s always encouraging uniqueness and trying to lead by example. Furthermore, when asked why she has chosen red as her main color, when her zodiac sign says it should have been green or pink, she answered by saying she loves red a lot along with black, representing a lot of things for her personally and becoming an important part of her identity. Mikaela also has some interesting hobbies whenever she’s not listening to music, writing, playing the piano and experimenting with mixing and sound engineering. For example, she loves to paint occasionally with pencils or acrylics and of course to take part in photo shooting sessions, among other non-music activities, but yet again she has mentioned several times already that music is her life and vice-versa. “Well, I live the cliché, yes my life is the music.” Well said, Mikaela!

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“Honestly, the more you know about music, and the more you know how things are done behind that, I think being a vocalist is just the tip of the iceberg. I think it is good to you have some kind of knowledge. I mean, you do not have to have a degree if you just like to read about mixing, mastering and production and you have the space to do so, I think it is just awesome. But I really wanted to get that formal degree. So that is why I applied for that degree course. It was very important for me, it was a game changer, because I have always seen music not from a vocalist perspective. I have always seen it as a musician’s perspective, since I am formally trained and piano classically trained and also jazz trained.” – Mikaela Attard

Album Review – Unflesh / Savior (2018)

A dark, aggressive and extremely technical opus of Blackened and Melodic Death Metal by a four-headed American beast, sounding as pulverizing as extreme music can be.

Forged in 2014 in the fires of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in the United States as a solo project of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Beevers (Solium Fatalis), who’s by the way a student at the highly prestigious Berklee College Of Music, but currently located in Boston, Massachusetts, Blackened Melodic Death Metal four-piece squad Unflesh has been on a roll since their inception, having already released an excellent EP in 2016 titled Transcendence to Eternal Obscurity (which featured the astounding German drummer Hannes Grossmann as a session musician), followed by their new and insanely heavy and entertaining album Savior. Featuring a beautiful and menacing artwork by Brazilian artist Junki Sakuraba, Savior will strongly appeal to fans of the unparalleled music by bands such as Dissection, Necrophagist, Emperor, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Dimmu Borgir, among others, placing the band comprised of the aforementioned Ryan Beevers on vocals and guitar,  Chris Gardino (Pathogenic, Wolfsmyth) on the guitar, Peter De Reyna (Seven Spires) on bass and Chris Dovas (Seven Spires) on drums as one of the most promising names of the current underground scene.

Ryan Beevers himself had a few words to say regarding Savior, giving more details on the direction he wanted to follow with his brainchild.  “I’ve always thought of the band as having a kind of mixed sound of 90’s black metal and more technical death metal bands. Since the band started I just called us “Extreme Metal” because it’s a broader label. I never thought the sound of the band would be described as just black metal or death metal. When the first EP “Transcendence to Eternal Obscurity” came out, most people seemed to identify the sound as technical death metal. This album is one more step forward in molding the sound of Unflesh, musically and lyrically the ‘Savior’ album is a lot darker and more aggressive than our previous EP,” said Ryan about his new opus, one that he definitely should be proud of, and one we should all thank him for providing to us, avid metalheads.

An eerie piano intro grows in intensity until progressiveness and sheer devastation invade our senses in the opening track Savior, thanks to the fulminating riffs by Ryan and Chris Gardino as well as the bestial drumming by Chris Dovas. In other words, it’s a dense and intricate depiction of modern-day Progressive and Melodic Death Metal, and a fantastic welcome card by the entire band. Following such breathtaking beginning we have Bestowal of Decay, bringing an avalanche of groove and complexity, being even more demonic than the opening tune with Ryan sounding hellish and demented on vocals, all complemented by some sick guitar solos and some ass-kicking, classic Death Metal lyrics (“The great fade of all life in the dawn / A blissful perception of the fathomless darkness obtained / Primeval scriptures deciphered before the mortal eyes / By forsaken powers of Unanimation / Unveiled”); and their destructive but very harmonious onrush of Black and Death Metal goes on in Final Writhe, an incendiary tune led by the mesmerizing riffs and solos by both Ryan and Chris Gardino, with Chris Dovas showing no mercy for his drum set while Peter brings density and darkness to the music with his unstoppable punches.

More rhythmic and presenting what’s perhaps the most intricate and thrilling beats of the entire album, always supported by Peter’s thunderous bass, Erosive Devotees presents an enraged Ryan growling and screaming nonstop, turning it into one of the top moments of the album, whereas in The Eradication Commenced the band fires more of their electrifying Blackened and Melodic Death Metal with no sign of slowing down at all. Quite the contrary, the band’s stringed trio is on fire from start to finish, slashing our ears beautifully while Chris Dovas adds hints of Doom and Black Metal to his beats and fills. And Caliginous is an even more progressive and melodic tune by Unflesh, with Ryan gnarling in perfect sync with the guitar lines and beats blasted by the rest of the band. Put differently, you can break your neck headbanging or simply close your eyes and enjoy the complex music waves of this multi-layered extravaganza. Either way, you’re going to have an awesome time.

Then a pulverizing display of dexterity and rage waits for us in Desecration of Light, a circle pit-catalyst with all ingredients we love in contemporary Extreme Metal where Chris Dovas will crush your skull with his demonic beats, while Ryan and Chris Gardino have an exciting guitar duel with their wicked riffs and solos, before a superb guitar solo introduces us to another scorching hot voyage through the realms of violence and progressiveness in Disintegration God, ending with another gorgeous guitar solo until everything fades into ethereal sounds, with its classic lyrics being the icing on the cake (“And the somber thrives as animation subsides / When all designed under a star descends into infinity / Predestined fall, all-encompassing fade of life / It corrodes away before the throne of Death / And into its sacred lore”).

In order to let Unflesh penetrate deep inside your mortal flesh with the top-tier metal music found in Savior, simply pay them a visit at their Facebook page and YouTube channel, and buy your copy of the album form their own BandCamp page or webstore, as well as from iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby. The monstrous beast known as Unflesh is more menacing, violent and cohesive than ever, and I’m sure not only the band’s talented originator is happy with the devastating potential of his infernal spawn, but also anyone else who loves the perfect fusion of aggressiveness, feeling and technique in extreme music.

Best moments of the album: Bestowal of Decay, Erosive Devotees and Desecration of Light.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Savior 5:04
2. Bestowal of Decay 5:23
3. Final Writhe 5:13
4. Erosive Devotees 5:22
5. The Eradication Commenced 5:13
6. Caliginous 5:17
7. Desecration of Light 4:26
8. Disintegration God 5:35

Band members
Ryan Beevers – vocals, guitars
Chris Gardino – guitars
Peter De Reyna – bass
Chris Dovas – drums

Guest musician
Anthony Lusk-Simone – additional orchestral elements