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 – The Harp Twins

Can you feel the wind of the north, my dear Camille and Kennerly?

How about we celebrate insane six years of The Headbanging Moose with two very talented women who have the unique ability of transforming the heaviest and most intense metal classics into serene and touching ballads only armed with their ethereal harps? I’m talking about Camille and Kennerly Kitt, known worldwide as The Harp Twins, who have achieved an unprecedented success not only among metal fans but in countless other music genres and entertainment segments, leading them to tour across several countries in North and America, Europe and anywhere else where their whimsical sounds are truly appreciated. And no, you’re not seeing double, as The Harp Twins are indeed identical twins, providing your avid ears double the pleasure with their refined skills by mixing all types of rock, metal and soundtrack arrangements with the gentle sounds flowing form their harps. Not only that, Camille and Kennerly are also accomplished actresses, showing there’s no actual limit for this talented American duo.

Born in the city of Chicago, Illinois, United States in 1989, with their heritage being mostly Norwegian mixed with Swedish, Finnish, English, Scottish, French, German and a little Cherokee Indian, Camille and Kennerly began playing the piano when they were children, followed by the harp when they went to junior high school. The duo was drawn by the beauty of the harp, saying it seemed like a magical instrument to them. By the way, their first harps (small, pre-owned lever harps) were bought with money they got from jobs such as babysitting and dog-walking, in order to show their mother they were really serious about playing the instrument. Classically trained in piano and also capable of playing a little percussion, the two blonde harpists also love to sing, which can be seen in some of their own original compositions and cover songs, although of course their main focus is and will always be their mesmerizing harps.

Having already played their electric harps, acoustic and electro-acoustic concert grand harps in several concert series, festivals, fairs and conventions in front of the most diverse crowds, even playing for US presidents, tech geniuses and global leaders, Camille and Kennerly have released over 100 singles online since the beginning of their career, as well as some very interesting cover albums, developing a huge cult of followers worldwide through their social media and becoming undoubtedly the most famous harp duo in the world. All that success is not in vain, of course, as both sisters hold a Bachelor of Music degree in Harp Performance and graduated with highest honors (“Summa Cum Laude”) at Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, located in Wheaton, Illinois, not to mention their previous years in a music studies program at a local college where they were in the Honors Scholar Program and represented the college at several collegiate summits.

Despite being formally trained in classical music and having the aforementioned degrees, their true obsession in music has always been taking the harp to new heights and exploring new grounds, nurturing a deep passion for arranging and performing rock, metal and soundtrack music as a harp duet, as well as their Nordic-inspired original songs thanks to their Scandinavian origin, always without any backtracks, studio productions or record labels involved, beautifully representing what it truly means to be an independent artist. And after listening to their duet arrangements of contemporary songs from artists including Iron Maiden, The Rolling Stones, Metallica, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Enya and Journey, among many, many others, you’ll be able to fully understand why they have chosen to follow such distinguished path, embellishing the airwaves with their gentle, melodic and classy harp fingering.

As already mentioned, The Harp Twins, who by the way perform on Venus “Classic” Concert Grand pedal harps and Lyon & Healy “Silhouette” Electric lever harps, have several albums released (also in physical format) apart from their hundreds of online singles and videos, with their YouTube videos totaling over 106 million views with over 600,000 subscribers as of September 2019. For instance, their cover of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven alone garnered over three million YouTube hits as of September 2019, while their version of Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark received over 11 million views as of September 2019. Their six self-produced albums are Harp Attack (2013), Harp Attack 2 (2015), Harp Attack 3 (2018), Harp Fantasy (2013), Harp Fantasty 2 (2016), and Winter Lights (2017); while the Harp Attack series are dedicated to covers of Rock N’ Roll, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal songs and the Harp Fantasy series focus on covers of video game, anime, film and television soundtracks such as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Pirates of the Caribbean, Final Fantasy, Star Trek, Star Wars, Vikings, Silent Hill and The Lord of the Rings, just to name a few, Winter Lights was their first-ever holiday album, including two new original songs and ten new arrangements of holiday classics from years gone by. Furthermore, their music has also been featured in countless media like National Geographic, The Huffington Post, ABC News, Conan O’Brien’s TeamCoco, AMCtv.com, Guitar World, Revolver, and many more, having also been praised by different music icons like Megadeth, Billy Idol, Kansas and Within Temptation, who shared the twins’ music on their official social media.

As a metalhead, I’m pretty sure you’re eager to listen to Camille and Kennerly playing some of your favorite metal classics of all time, right? Well, all you have to do is subscribe to their YouTube channel, sit down and enjoy their harp versions for, but not limited to, Rush’s Closer to the Heart, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, Dio’s Rainbow in the Dark, Metallica’s Fade to Black, Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills, and Megadeth’s A Tout le Monde. Go visit their official YouTube channel, or buy their music from CD Baby or from Apple Music, relax and enjoy these and countless other classic like Send Me an Angel, Smoke on the Water, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Hotel California, Don’t Stop Believin’, Every Breath You Take, and so on.

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Camille and Kennerly always say they switch off playing melody and accompaniment, even within the same piece, and also that apart from all cover songs they do either by request or by their own choice, they have also been composing original music for their harps for years, which can be seen in songs like North and the music theme for their own animated logo. In addition, you can also find Camille and Kennerly as guest harpists in the intro Time to Set You Free,  from the album The Second Big Bang, released in 2017 by Brazilian Melodic Power Metal project Soulspell. And regarding her main influences and idols in music, the twins mentioned in one of their interviews that their earliest musical influences were rock and classic rock because that’s what their mother used to listen to, including bands like The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Billy Idol, Van Halen, ZZ Top and Johnny Cash, later expanding their range due to their classical training to most artists and bands who think outside the box and follow their own path.

Although their main focus is obviously on their harp career, the duo is also famous for their acting and modeling skills, being members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and AFTRA and having already acted in theater, film and television. For instance, in the season 6 finale of The Walking Dead, they played a walker nicknamed “Ouch That’s My Hair”, who was fought and killed by the character Carol, and had roles as “The Marcelli Twins” in the dark teen comedy Blacktino (as you can see in the official trailer by clicking HERE), from 2011, as well as appearances in many other movies like Delivery Man (2013), Elephant Medicine (2010) and The End of Lost Beginnings (2009), and in several commercial such as a national Japanese commercials for Chupa Chups lollypops. Still talking about their film career, Camille and Kennerly always like to mention that they do all their videos by themselves, arranging the music, finding the filming location, making their own costumes, filming everything with a small hand-held video camera on a tripod, recording the sound in their own living room and editing the video themselves. Needless to say, there’s no such thing as playbacks or any other “magic tricks” in their videos, as what you hear is exactly how it’s being played by our multi-talented twins. Also, when asked about their life on the road, Camille and Kennerly said in several interviews they have lots of memorable moments to share, like when they represented the United States at the World Harp Festival in Paraguay, where they had extensive support from the American embassy resulting in a full concert the day after the event to a sold out theater, and all of their performances at several Walker Stalker Cons, playing right before panels with Norman Reedus, Andrew Lincoln, Chandler Riggs and Greg Nicotero. It’s impossible to list all events they have participated so far in their career, featuring in all types of public, private, philanthropic, academic, corporate, cultural and political events, proving once again how talented and professional they are.

Of course, there’s no Camille and Kennerly without their harps and vice-versa, and that’s why it’s important and truly interesting to know more about the girls’ ethereal weapons. Their acoustic concert grand harps are 6’3” (or 1.9 m) and weigh 90 lbs (or 40.8 kg), while their electric harps are 4’ (or 1.22 m) and weigh 16 lbs (or 7.25 kg); regarding the number of strings, their acoustic concert grand harps have 47 strings (which can have three different pitches, those being flat, natural and sharp), their electric lever harps have 33 strings (which can have two different pitches, either flat/natural or natural/sharp), and their Harpsicle Harps have 26 strings. In addition, although it’s possible for the twins to use distortion on their electric harps, they don’t actually do that due to the difficulty to use distortion while still continuing the melody and accompaniment; however, you can enjoy Camille and Kennerly blasting distorted harp sounds on their cover version for Billy Idol’s White Wedding (by the way, Billy Idol himself even said that “if you live long enough you get to see this version of White Wedding”), and a slight effect in their Doctor Who Theme and The Smith’s Asleep covers. When asked about how they manage to carry their harps everywhere and how they handle their weight while playing, they said they put a strap on their backs to do that, but that they also bruise their hips from the straps if they wear the harps for too long. They love the freedom of movement, though, helping them to properly perform rock songs with their electric harps. Some people like to ask them why they don’t move even more while playing, and they said it’s tougher to reach a necessary balance with the harps than with a guitar or violin, for example.

Aside from being impressive harpists, Camille and Kennerly also have a variety of other interests and hobbies in their lives, keeping them absolutely busy pretty much all of the time. For instance, the twins are third degree black belts in Tae Kwon Do and former Tae Kwon Do instructors, which by the way caused two broken fingers to Kennerly while sparring one day, and stitches to Camille’s face as a result of puncture wound sustained while holding a board that Kennerly was breaking. In the end, those incidents made them decide to stop practicing martial arts and focus on their career as harpists. Our beloved blonde musicians were also competitive swimmers as kids (having both qualified for the Junior Olympics five times), are experts in rifle marksmanship, and are trained in horseback riding, not to mention their passion for other activities and hobbies such as hiking, working out, watching TV shows like The Walking Dead and Vikings, reading, writing, and so on. Moreover, the Kitt Twins are also actively involved in their community, supporting education and health initiatives for unprivileged children overseas, and volunteering for many years at a monthly deaf/hard-of-hearing social gathering (and yes, they know sign language), among other endeavors, as they strongly believe in the importance of giving back. The girls also sponsor a few kids in Ethiopia, helping to provide them school, food, clothing and medical care, always hoping more and more people will follow their steps to make the world a better place.

Last but not least, Camille and Kennerly’s connection as twins is beautifully externalized in the way they always look at each other while they’re playing, and in their twin costumes (which as mentioned are always put together by the twins themselves by mixing and matching things they already have at home), unless of course they need to dress differently for a commercial, film or media project. Having said that, if you want to have double the fun with the classy and mesmerizing music by Camille and Kennerly, or if you are an event organizer who’s searching for a truly unique attraction to captivate the attention of your guests on your next big event, you can get in touch with The Harp Twins by sending an email to HarpTwins@HarpTwins.com, and don’t forget to keep an eye on their Events Page on Facebook for all of their public performances, concerts and other events. And if you want to show your support to their distinguished work with their harps, as aforementioned you can purchase their music from Apple Music and from CD Baby, or simply visit their official website for all music, news, tour dates and other nice-to-know information about the unstoppable twins who give a beyond welcome touch of delicacy to our good old rock and metal music.

Camille and Kennerly’s Official Facebook page
Camille and Kennerly’s Official Instagram
Camille and Kennerly’s Official Twitter
Camille and Kennerly’s Official YouTube channel

“When someone tells us that our music has helped them through an illness, or inspired their child to learn an instrument, or even just given them some peace after a trying day, that means the world to us. As musicians, it’s the greatest feeling to know that our music has touched someone else in some way.” – Camille and Kennerly Kitt

Metal Chick of the Month – Vicky Psarakis

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You! Pull me out and plug me in!

As our Metal Chick of the Month beautifully chants in one of her band’s best songs, fear is not her master. Owner of a powerful and wide vocal range that allows her to sing anything from the smoothest Jazz to the most visceral Heavy Metal, she’s the present and future of female singing, with a more-than-promising career ahead of her. I’m talking about the dashing long-haired singer Vicky Psarakis, the frontwoman of one of the most influential contemporary metal bands in Canada, The Agonist, and a woman that represents pure talent in heavy music.

Vicky was born on June 22, 1988 in Chicago, Illinois, United States, but moved to Greece with her family at the age of 10. Her Greek roots were the main reason why she grew up listening to traditional Greek music (as well as Jazz, Blues, Pop and Disco classics), something not very common in the background of most Heavy Metal musicians. Our blonde diva started singing when she was around 5 or 6 years old, when her teachers would make her participate in school plays and musicals. Then when she was 10 she laid her eyes on a piano and fell in love for it, getting her first keyboard and starting playing on her own. When Vicky was attending middle school she started listening to metal and rock music, singing a lot and writing her own songs, later growing an interest towards orchestral arrangements and soundtracks. She mentioned during one of her interviews that the great support she received from people around her was the main reason why she continued to pursue a career in music, leading her to where she is today.

Before joining The Agonist, Vicky had a band named E.V.E., which started off as a Progressive Rock personal project in 2010. Among the bands that influenced the music by E.V.E. there are some very interesting names such as Pain Of Salvation, Ayreon, Dream Theater, Pink Floyd and Fates Warning. In regards to the meaning of E.V.E., according to Vicky herself it stands for “Equations Vanquish Equality”, where the first word is connected with science, math and technology, while the following words refer to humankind and how each person is affected by modern society, giving the idea of how progress, usually a positive term, can affect our lives in a negative way at the same time. You can take a listen at their only release, the 2012 self-titled EP Equations Vanquish Equality, at the band’s BandCamp page or at their official YouTube channel (by the way, on YouTube you can check out their tribute to the renowned diva Anneke Van Giersbergen with a cover version for the song Beautiful One), and witness how Vicky’s vocal performance used to be in the early stages of her career.

Another key point in Vicky’s career are the cover versions for several different bands and artists available on her official YouTube channel, which are either personal favorites or requests from friends or fans and have nothing to do with E.V.E. or The Agonist. Among all the awesome versions uploaded by our stunning singer, I recommend you go check her performance in Audioslave’s Show Me How To Live, in Nightwish’s Slaying The Dreamer, in Disturbed’s Stricken, and especially in Aerosmith’s Dream On and in one of the biggest Iron Maiden classics of all time, The Clairvoyant. Moreover, what seemed to be just a nice and healthy hobby became in fact the spark that changed her life forever: The Agonist’s guitarist, songwriter and founder Danny Marino sent Vicky a message saying how he was impressed with her covers after watching some of her videos on YouTube, asking her later on if she wanted to try and track some vocal and lyric ideas on a couple of his new songs. Vicky ended up sending him back almost a full song (which is now the incredible Danse Macabre), and after listening to it and sharing it with the rest of the band he asked her if she would be willing to join The Agonist as their new frontwoman.

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Although Vicky’s been with The Agonist for such a short period of time, having recorded only the single Disconnect Me in 2014 and the superb full-length album Eye of Providence in 2015, which showcases all her versatility in songs such as Gates Of Horn And Ivory and A Gentle Disease, she already has a lot of interesting stories and facts to share. When asked what’s easier for her to record, if clean singing or harsh vocals, she said screaming might be faster to track, but it’s something relatively new to her and her clean vocals come out a lot more natural due to her music background. Regarding her live performances with The Agonist, Vicky said she was really nervous before stepping on stage for the first time with the band, but as soon as the adrenaline kicked in all nerves were gone and she enjoyed the moment. She also said the most intense concert with The Agonist so far has been Summer Breeze 2014, where they played for a crowd of over ten thousand people. And it looks like Vicky doesn’t have any issues singing songs she didn’t originally write or record: she just sings them in a way that’s comfortable to her, giving her own personal touch to the music.

Apart from her career with The Agonist, E.V.E. and her cover videos on YouTube, Vicky has featured in some other projects and bands as a guest musician, recording female vocals on the song Siege of Ruad, from the album Nuclear Winter (2008) by Greek Heavy/Power Metal band Orion’s Reign; backing vocals on the album Depressive Icons (2010) by Greek Doom/Gothic Metal band Daylight Misery; female vocals on the album Lasting Forever (2013) by Chinese Power Metal band Barque Of Dante, as you can see in the song The Way to Freedom; additional vocals on the album Anthem to Creation (2013) by Greek Progressive Metal band Until Rain; and female vocals on the 2014 self-titled album by Greek Power Metal band Rage of Romance, as in the song Let Me Breathe Again. Is that enough Vicky for your taste?

Such a multifaceted artist like Vicky couldn’t have a short list of influences, of course. If you thought she would say her favorite singers of all time are Angela Gossow or Phil Anselmo, for example, you’re totally wrong, because as aforementioned screaming is something new to her music career. Although Heavy Metal inspired her to become a musician, her list of influences include names from different genres of music like Anneke Van Giersbergen, Daniel Gildenlow, Mikael Akerfeldt, Mikael Stanne, Devon Graves, Roy Khan, Russel Allen, Tom Englund, Marilyn Manson, Sting, among many others. She also enjoys listening to classics such as Led Zeppelin, and to more modern bands like American Rock group Rival Sons.

Lastly, despite all the growling and jumping on stage, her personal hobbies and interests are similar to what most of us like to do in our free time, including activities such as working out, watching a movie, cooking, hanging out with her friends and going out for a beer or to a good restaurant. In other words, if you’re a fan of Vicky Psarakis keep your eyes open wherever you are: she might be sitting right next to your table, sharing a beer with her friends and having some fun, just like you.

Vicky Psarakis’ Official Facebook page
Vicky Psarakis’ Official Twitter
The Agonist’s Official Facebook page
The Agonist’s Official Twitter

“I believe it’s very important for a vocalist and musician in general to be able to maintain their identity by adding their own stamp instead of copying someone else’s rendition on a song.” – Vicky Psarakis

Album Review – Against The Plagues / Purified Through Devastation (2015)

The devastating new album by this Blackened Death Metal band from Chicago is undoubtedly the perfect soundtrack for the total extermination of our species.

Rating4

ALBUM_COVER_2015We all know that the human race has proven countless times to be a failed experiment of Mother Nature and that, consequently, there’s only one last resort to restore balance to the world, which is the total extermination of our species. Thus, as there’s no other way out, why not conducting that mandatory purge to the sound of the demolishing music found in Purified Through Devastation,  the brand new release by American Blackened Death Metal act Against The Plagues?

Based in Chicago, Illinois, this brutally heavy and technical band has been pulverizing the world with their Blackened Death Metal since their inception in 2005, mixing speed and slower tempos in a precise and explicit way for the delight of fans of extreme music. Featuring another first-rate artwork by renowned Swedish artist Pär Olofsson (you might remember him from some of our previous reviews such as the latest albums by Exodus and Irreversible Mechanism), six of the nine tracks in Purified Through Devastation were already part of either their 2012 EP The Quaternion or their 2015 EP Extermination Event, which altogether offer the listener a concept album that will leave you disoriented after its 47 minutes of annihilation are over.

Their pulverization begins in less than five seconds in Man’s Modern World, where lead singer Shaun Albro delivers potent screams and growls (hence leading the band’s dense musicality) while drummer Varyen Chylinski shows no mercy for mankind, sounding like a machine gun behind his drums. The brutal and atmospheric All Flesh Had Corrupted, showcasing a more modern version of Death Metal due to its background sounds, continues the band’s carnage and also presents some amazing guitar lines by Jon Corston and Aaron Covarrubias, especially their solos. And what can be said about Praetorian Icon, slightly faster, heavier and more demonic than the previous tracks, reinforcing their impressive technique to sound so destructive and tuneful at the same time?

photoThe next song, Theokratia, is a magnificent neck-breaking chant perfect for admirers of Melodic Death Metal but with sharper instruments, in special the bestial drumming by Varyen and the even deeper growls by Shaun. And their heavy artillery doesn’t give any sign of slowing down as seen in TerrorForm, where hints of Symphonic Black Metal blend perfectly with their traditional shredding, beats and screams, making it a highly-recommended tune for getting smashed in the circle pit. The same is valid for the awesome chant Extermination Event, where its initial siren alerts a scathing bloodshed is about to begin in the form of demented Death Metal.

Let’s say the album needed a short break from all extermination going on with the instrumental track Falling Further, but it’s just for less than two minutes before the psychotic tune Enblightened comes crushing your skull with its Black Metal elements, enhancing the already amazing harsh vocals by Shaun. And lastly, we have the threatening Enemy Herein to close the album, with all instruments getting darker than usual and Jon and Aaron firing more of their striking guitar solos.

Against The Plagues can be found on Facebook and ReverbNation, and there are so many awesome versions of Purified Through Devastation available for sale I don’t know where to start. You can grab your copy of the album at their BandCamp page, a limited edition CD signed by all members at their Big Cartel page, and both the regular version of the album or a special combo CD + T-shirt at the Non Serviam Records webstore. If the brutal extermination of mankind deserves a proper soundtrack, Against The Plagues are indubitably the ones to help us with that gruesome task.

Best moments of the album: Man’s Modern World, Theokratia and Extermination Event.

Worst moments of the album: Enemy Herein.

Released in 2015 Non Serviam Records

Track listing
1. Man’s Modern World 7:06
2. All Flesh Had Corrupted 4:58
3. Praetorian Icon 5:25
4. Theokratia 7:47
5. TerrorForm 5:12
6. Extermination Event 3:56
7. Falling Further 1:39
8. Enblightened 4:46
9. Enemy Herein 6:49

Band members
Shaun Albro – vocals
Jon Corston – guitar
Aaron Covarrubias – guitar
Milo Kovacevic – bass
Varyen Chylinski – drums

Album Review – Disturbed / Immortalized (2015)

If you love Mr. David Draiman and his crew more than anything in your life, just go for it.

Rating5

disturbed_immortalizedDiehard fans of Alternative Metal can take a rest now and enjoy some peace of heart (or maybe not), as American Heavy Metal icons Disturbed finally released a couple of months ago a brand new album after a long hiatus, entitled Immortalized. And although the sixth studio album in their career (the first since their 2010 release Asylum) might be far from being a masterpiece and won’t change anything in the heavy music scene as we know it, it will surely put you to scream, jump up and down and raise your fists in the air together with Mr. David Draiman and his crew. But that will most probably happen only if you’re addicted to their music, so to speak.

Perhaps the main “issue” with the new album by the band that helped put Chicago, Illinois on the worldwide map of Alternative Metal is not the lack of innovation, but the extreme repetitiousness and hollowness of all lyrics. It’s nothing that ruins the album or makes it unbearable to listen to, but at least for me it feels like many songs are just filler and only their most devoted fans will end up digging them. Anyway, it’s still Disturbed with yet another excellent artwork featuring “The Guy”, designed by Raymond Swanland, and you’ll surely have a good time listening to it at home, work, school or in your car, but other than two or three truly strong songs the rest of the album doesn’t achieve its full potential and will be forgotten pretty soon.

The album begins with The Eye of the Storm, an alternative intro that sets the tone for what’s about to come, the incredible title-track Immortalized, which by the way is the best song of the album by far. You’ll need just a couple of seconds to realize it’s Disturbed at its finest, from its razing riffs to the unique voice by Mr. David Draiman, with its chorus being one of those things you’ll feel honored to raise your fists and sing together with the band (“Oh, in the calm before the storm / Another legend will be born / Another battle will be won / We will rise / Oh, so heed the call of confrontation / Today we feed on domination / Secure a legacy that will never die / Be immortalized”). The Vengeful One is another instant classic where the band offers their fans a unique fighting chant with an imposing rhythm and fierce lyrics, and I bet this song will be a permanent piece of their setlist from now on.

It’s in Open Your Eyes that the aforementioned issues begin: despite being another solid tune where Draiman and guitarist Dan Donegan do a great job together, it’s recommended for longtime fans of the band only as it doesn’t offer anything new, and besides, the chorus ends up getting way too repetitive after a while. And if they wanted to send an inspiring message through the song The Light, I’m sad to say they failed miserably, not only because its instrumental parts are significantly bland but also because its lyrics couldn’t sound more generic. It might be enjoyable for fans who love anything that comes from the band, but for fans of a wider range of heavy music it’s a real bummer. Then we have the interesting What Are You Waiting For, which reminds me of some of their songs from their 2000 classic The Sickness mixed with their 2005 release Ten Thousand Fists. In spite of the repetitiveness of the lyrics and chorus it’s indeed a very pleasant tune, with highlights to the excellent job done by drummer Mike Wengren.

You’re Mine starts in a “scary” Pop/Dance way, fortunately evolving to a much bolder and heavier sonority and therefore without doing any harm to the album; followed by Who, and let me tell you that if you’re not a fan of the band you won’t even notice the transition from the previous song to this one. However, this one is a lot more elaborate and deserves a better listen, with its solid riffs and beats providing Draiman all he needs to deliver his classic vocal lines. Once again lyrics get too repetitive in Save Our Last Goodbye, with its heavy riffs being what really stand out and give the song some significant energy. It should work a lot better if played live, though.

disturbed 2015I’ll never ever understand the reason for a band like Disturbed to record the hideous Fire It Up. I’m not pro or against it, I just think this is not Disturbed, where its weak instrumental  and even weaker lyrics feel like Draiman had the terrible idea to partner with Snoop Dogg so infantile they are (“Fire it up, I like to fire it up / and it feels so right / Fire it up, ’cause when I fire it up / I feel like serenity / I feel like serenity… is mine”). Disturbed should sing about fighting, about the human psyche, hatred and pain, and leave the superficial stuff to R&B and other crap. At least The Sound of Silence keeps up with the band’s tradition of unusual cover songs, this time paying a tribute to Simon & Garfunkel. It’s interesting how Draiman changed his voice for this song, and albeit it’s nothing outstanding and not even close to their awesome version for “Land of Confusion”, it’s still a nice variation to the band’s sounding.

Never Wrong sounds like the early days of Disturbed with its pure Alternative Metal vibe and Draiman showcasing his powerful vocals in a thrilling way. In addition, the entire band is on fire, elevating the song’s electricity and making it a perfect choice for some action inside the pit during their live performances. And lastly, the album ends with yet another decent but not outstanding song named Who Taught You How to Hate, also tailored for old fans of the band, with its repetitive but good-to-sing-along lyrics. And if you get any of the special editions of the album, I personally consider Legion of Monsters the most exciting bonus track of all.

To sum up, Distrubed are offering a decent Disturbed album for Disturbed fans, and that’s it. Nothing truly new, no breakthroughs or any type of new concepts added to it. Draiman knows what he’s doing and what his fans want, and that’s exactly what he did in Immortalized. If you love the music by Disturbed more than anything in your life, just go for it and you won’t feel disappointed at all. If Disturbed are simply another band in your playlist, take a shot at Immortalized and you’ll find some pretty good moments in it, but don’t expect it to have a relevant impact on the way you see music today. As long as you have fun listening to it, it’s mission accomplished for Draiman and his bandmates.

Best moments of the album: Immortalized, The Vengeful One and Never Wrong.

Worst moments of the album: The Light and Fire It Up.

Released in 2015 Reprise Records

Track listing
1. The Eye of the Storm 1:20
2. Immortalized 4:17
3. The Vengeful One 4:12
4. Open Your Eyes 3:57
5. The Light 4:16
6. What Are You Waiting For 4:03
7. You’re Mine 4:55
8. Who 4:46
9. Save Our Last Goodbye 4:59
10. Fire It Up 4:05
11. The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel cover) 4:08
12. Never Wrong 3:33
13. Who Taught You How to Hate 4:57

Deluxe edition bonus tracks
14.Tyrant 3:49
15.Legion of Monsters 4:23
16.The Brave and the Bold 4:34

Exclusive digital bonus track
17. Warning Sign 3:28

Exclusive vinyl pictures disc bonus track
18. The Vengeful One (Instrumental) 4:12

Band members
David Draiman – vocals
Dan Donegan – guitar
John Moyer – bass
Mike Wengren – drums

Album Review – Starkill / Virus Of The Mind (2014)

These promising American death metallers return with an interesting mix of symphony, harmony and darkness.

Rating4

starkill_coverAs promised HERE, it’s time to review Virus Of The Mind, the brand new album by one of the most promising Melodic Death Metal groups in the market today (and they’re not from Sweden this time), American band Starkill. Sounding like a hybrid of Behemoth and Arch Enemy, with lots of symphonic elements and the band’s own unique dark touch, this is an excellent choice for fans of a more contemporary Symphonic and Melodic Black/Death Metal, which is at the same time brutal but very harmonious.

Born in 2008 in Bloomington, Indiana under the name of Ballistika and then Massakren, before changing it once and for all to Starkill and moving to Chicago, Illinois, the band was kind of “catapulted” to significant stardom at the end of 2012 when they signed to Century Media Records, releasing their debut album Fires Of Life in 2013. Now with Virus Of The Mind they sound even more prepared for reaching new heights, especially due to their capacity of mixing so many different genres and subgenres of heavy music such as Melodic Death Metal, Power Metal, Thrash Metal and Symphonic Black Metal in the most professional and polished way possible.

And their symphonic vein can be noticed from the very beginning of the opening track, Be Dead or Die, where the awesome keyboard lines blend perfectly with its Power Metal-ish drums at the speed of light by Spencer Weidner, all guided by one of the band’s trademarks, the harsh growls by Parker Jameson. Winter Desolation follows a more Melodic Death Metal line, especially its riffs and solos à la Arch Enemy, and the first “batch” of clean vocals is a welcome addition in order to expand their music range, while Breaking the Madness elevates the adrenaline of the listener, being perfect for live performances. Moreover, despite the vocals being so harsh, it’s easy to understand the dark and interesting lyrics Parker is singing (“Madness permeates / Into my body and my mind, it starts to break / Bit there is fucking nothing left to take / Nothing to feel / Trapped in the labyrinth, losing sight of what is real / So hard to tell which way to go”).

The title-track Virus of the Mind is a very symphonic tune where the smooth keyboard notes make an interesting paradox with the harsh vocals, while the also atmospheric and dark Skyward focus on the synergy between its guitar effects and keyboard notes. Before Hope Fades, one of the singles of the album, is a good reason why they should stick to fast and heavy music: it sounds a lot like the bland material from the last couple of albums by Nightwish (except for the vocals, of course), being so pop and generic it doesn’t represent at all the true heavy music the band is capable of doing. At least they get back on track with some Symphonic Black Metal the likes of Dimmu Borgir in Into Destiny, albeit the clean vocals do not sound as if they belonged to this song.

starkillThe last part of Virus Of The Mind has its awesome and pretty bad moments at the same time, starting with the amazing apocalyptic musicality in God of This World, focusing heavily on its keyboards and the more obscure and violent lyrics (“I shall smite the earth with a curse / Enemies to ashes on the soles of my feet / Shedding blood as long as it takes / To cease this engine of grief”), followed by My Catharsis, where all elements of Melodic Death Metal can be found: very technical guitar solos, fast drums, heavy riffs and huge doses of guttural vocals. And finally, Convergence, which was supposed to sound more epic, but in fact it doesn’t live up to the expectations and ends up being just filler and, consequently, the worst song of the whole album by far.

In summary, the second installment by those American death metallers is not only a nice and professional combination of harmony and darkness, but above all it also helps consolidate Starkill in the heavy music scene today as one of the most promising names in Melodic Death Metal. Well, I guess we can already stop calling them “promising”, as they’re indeed a reality, right? And if they keep providing us such enjoyable music, maybe one day they can go even further and reach the status of classic.

Best moments of the album: Be Dead or Die, Breaking the Madness and God of This World.

Worst moments of the album: Before Hope Fades and Convergence.

Released in 2014 Century Media Records

Track listing
1. Be Dead or Die 4:36
2. Winter Desolation 5:16
3. Breaking the Madness 3:55
4. Virus of the Mind 4:47
5. Skyward 4:05
6. Before Hope Fades 4:52
7. Into Destiny 4:02
8. God of This World 5:39
9. My Catharsis 3:54
10. Convergence 4:18

Band members
Parker Jameson – lead guitar, vocals, keyboards
Tony Keathley – guitar, backing vocals
Shaun Andruchuk – bass guitar
Spencer Weidner – drums