Metal Chick of the Month – Mikaela Attard

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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!

Mikaela Attard’s Official Facebook page
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Mikaela Attard’s Official YouTube channel

“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