Metal Chick of the Month – Lauren Hart

Scar weaver, sew the flesh on my fears…

It’s time to turn up the heat and beat the bitterly cold winds of winter in the Northern Hemisphere here at The Headbanging Moose with one of the most electrifying women from the current metal scene worldwide. Owner of a beyond powerful, dynamic and versatile voice, she will crush you like an insect not only with her deep roars and stunning clean vocals, but also with her high-octane onstage performance. I’m talking about the multi-talented Lauren Hart, the unstoppable frontwoman for Los Angeles, California-based Groove Metal powerhouse Once Human, setting fire to this month of March and keeping the flames of heavy music burning bright wherever she goes for the total delight of us metalheads.

Born on April 8, 1986 in Anaheim, California, but raised in Australia, Lauren self taught piano as a toddler and guitar by the age of 14, proving she was more than ready for stardom at a very early stage in her life. It was in 2014 when she was discovered by former Senior Vice President of A&R for Roadrunner Records and record producer Monte Conner, who put her in touch with Canadian-American record producer and guitarist Logan Mader for a production deal; after the two met, they decided to start a whole new band and started to work on Once Human. That being said, there’s no Lauren Hart without Once Human and vice-versa, which means we’ll focus on the history of the band for a while before talking about some other specific details about our metal diva.

As aforementioned, Once Human was formed in 2014 in Los Angeles, California by Lauren and Logan, with the band’s current lineup being comprised of guitarist Max Karon, bassist Damien Rainaud and drummer Dillon Trollope. In a few of her interviews, Logan explained how Once Human came together. “It all kind of started as soon as I met Logan. I was sent to him because of my video I made, a guitar playing video which was actually pretty shit. I don’t know how I ended up in the hands of these big people but I sat down in the studio with I think was my $99 guitar and my crappy amp and I just started playing these metal riffs and recorded it and put it up on Youtube and Facebook and next thing I know, I’m getting to go into Logan Mader’s studio because I guess Monty Connor (A&R) saw it and he said, ‘Why don’t you try and build something around this girl, let’s have her in and see what happens’. So I came in and straight away we really hit it off and started writing together and I guess he’s normally used to people coming in and wanting to do radio music and a lot more commercial things and I didn’t want any part of that. In fact I didn’t want to do any career singing, I just wanted to do the metal riffs that I love so much and so I think he was taken aback by that because he spent so much time doing the radio stuff and yet he comes from heavy metal, that’s his soul. So when he was able to write heavy metal again with me, I feel like something awoke in him and we just started writing and never stopped,” said Lauren, who also mentioned the original name for the band was going to be Once We Were Human just because of the way the world is going nowadays, because the fall of humanity and the uprising of social media.

Mixing aggression with vulnerability and downright gut-wrenching growls with ethereal clean vocals, Once Human have already released three studio albums, all of course with Lauren on vocals, those being their 2015 debut The Life I Remember (where she also played piano and additional guitars), their 2017 sophomore opus Evolution, and more recently Scar Weaver, not to mention their 2018 live album Stage of Evolution and their 2022 EP Erasure. Furthermore, Once Human also appeared in the compilations Maximum Metal Vol. 210 (released in 2015 by Metal Hammer) and Le Sampler RockHard 159 (released by RockHard in 2015), both with the song The Life I Remember, and in the compilation Le Sampler RockHard 172 (released by RockHard in 2017) with the song Gravity. If you want to have a very good taste of the power, groove and electricity flowing from the music by Once Human, as well as the mesmerizing visuals of their official videos, you can enjoy on YouTube the songs Eye Of Chaos, Erasure, Cold Arrival, Deadlock, Sledgehammer, Only In Death, Gravity, Dark Matter, a live version for Flock Of Flesh, and tons of non-official videos of their live performances all around the world, as well as stream all of their furious creations on Spotify. On a side note, there’s one song and video, for the title-track Scar Weaver, that means a lot to Lauren. “The Scar Weaver track is about dealing with my anxiety and catastrophic thoughts. I give a bad thought (which is ONLY in my head) a true reality by feeding it energy – thus, giving it life, to grow and completely engulf my mind. I sew the flesh on my fears,” she commented.

Apart from her career with Once Human, Lauren can also be seen doing additional vocals for American Progressive/Melodic Power Metal band Kamelot live since 2018, having also recorded additional vocals for the songs Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire), Mindfall Remedy and The Proud and the Broken, from their 2018 album The Shadow Theory, and participated in their 2020 live album I Am the Empire: Live from the 013 singing the song Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire) live with the band. Another band that had the pleasure of having Lauren doing some vocals together with them was International Blackened Death/Groove Metal act Sinsaenum, with whom she recorded the song Sacred Martyr, from their 2018 album Repulsion for Humanity.

Lauren also mentioned in some of her interviews how she ended up singing with Kamelot. “Well I was on tour with Kobra and the Lotus and Kobra Paige told me that Thomas Youngblood (Kamelot) had his eye on me for a while because, as you know he’s taken other girls on tour, like Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy) and Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) as they always have a guest feature. He always has his eye out for someone he can take for the next record. Kobra came up to me after one show in somewhere like Arizona and says ‘Hey, do you want to go and play a show with Kamelot?, you’re going to be opening up for Iron Maiden and Ghost’… I was like ‘uhm yes’!” Moreover, the experience with Kamelot also had a huge impact on her singing style. “Well, in the very beginning of Once Human, I didn’t want to clean-sing. I was scared. I said, ‘Screaming only.’ And Logan made me sing – I guess he heard something in me and knew I could do it — but on the first two albums, you can hear me singing, but it’s quite reluctant. I think it sounds held back and unsure. But on this album, on Scar Weaver, it’s full force. And that is definitely 100% because of Kamelot. You gotta come out of your shell with that band. You’re filling some big shoes – you’re filling Alissa White-Gluz, you’re filling Elize Ryd, you’re filling the shoes of these big amazing singer. So I couldn’t be shy about my vocals anymore. So doing it every night onstage, singing songs like “Liar Liar’ and ‘Sacrimony,’ you will come out of your shell. You’re thrown in the deep end. I became really familiar with my clean-singing voice, and my own style.”

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Still regarding her vocal technique and style, Lauren said that apart from the growth from the years with Kamelot and her daily singing she tries to stay fit, to be really connected with her voice and to know her limits, learning how to breathe and speak to an audience without a microphone, and learning how to project in a healthy way and becoming aware of diaphragm support. In addition, she also mentioned her work with vocal coach Melissa Cross, and with laryngologist Dr. Michael Johns to make sure everything stays healthy. “The style that I do, false chord screaming, is a lot of air, all the time. You have to be in really good shape to pull it off. So for me, I feel like being really fit and staying in the gym and making sure your cardio is up to par – I think that helps me onstage. I also did a lot of voice work – not singing, but voice, which is like breathing work, in a theater school. That’s what I incorporate into my screaming and my singing, to not do any damage and keep my breath down in my diaphragm,” she said, also mentioning a not-so-fun experience she had in her teens. “So when I was a teenager listening to metal, I had an ex-boyfriend who was in a band and I would always go to his rehearsals and after they were done rehearsing, I would always come in and they’d free jam and I’d scream on the microphone and I remember always tasting blood in my throat afterwards. Back then there was no YouTube, no internet really to look up whether or not that was okay so I thought ‘I’m doing it right because I taste blood’! Obviously, though there was something very wrong there.”

Lauren has several idols in her career and in her personal life, of course, including huge names the likes of Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy), Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), Joe Duplantier (Gojira) and Layne Staley (Alice In Chains), also mentioning Black Metal in general as one of her influences when writing and composing music. When asked about her favourite European bands, she said “well my favorite metal album when I was a kid was Dimmu Borgir’s Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia. I learned to drive to that album and I don’t recommend learning to drive to that album because you’ll get a lot of speeding tickets! But them and Opeth and I love Strapping Young Lad, loved Devin Townsend and Meshuggah. My first ever album that got me into metal was Yngwie Malmsteen’s Trilogy and that was sort of the gateway as I wanted to be a guitar player and that was, ‘Wow listen to this guy!’ I listened to that record over and over again and quickly it went from that to Dimmu Borgir, I don’t know how it happened but that’s how it went.”

Having already toured with renowned acts such as Dragonforce, Cradle Of Filth, Kobra And The Lotus, and Fear Factory, our beloved vocalist said that she still dreams of touring with other bands, of course, including Devin Townsend, Opeth, Arch Enemy, Dimmu Borgir, and Meshuggah, and of playing in Wacken Open Air with her band Once Human, complementing by saying she really enjoys to be on the road and that she would love visiting South America. In one of her interviews, Lauren talked about the beauty of screaming in small venues, where she can make eye to eye contact with the crowd and closely feel the reaction from her fans. Also, when questioned if the female-fronted label in metal should continue or cease to exist, she said that “I can see how that separation can cause that, I see the conflict but I also see a lot of my fans, I’ve gotten to know a lot of my fans on Patreon – a lot of them are huge fans of female-fronted metal, they’ll go to every show, they’ll buy all the merch and it’s a genre they are just in love with, I don’t know, there are good points and bad,” mentioning she would love to work with other prominent women in metal such as Angela Gossow, Alissa White-Gluz, and Noora Louhimo of Battle Beast.

Lauren was also asked in an interview if she has ever considered returning to acting, but she said that because of the competitiveness of it she doesn’t believe it’s something that she would pursue in her career despite having studied method acting for a number of years. “But you know what, method acting is all about not acting at all, but being honest, 100% honest with yourself. So it is very therapeutic, and I do believe it;’s helped me with my stage presence. Being comfortable in my own skin, being honest. Because people can feel that – they can feel when someone’s being fake. The audience can connect when you’re being true. So it’s definitely helped me be okay with being myself.” And if you want to know more curious facts about Lauren, her career, how she manages to sing and scream with so much passion and energy, there are several interviews on YouTube that I’m sure you’ll enjoy such as one called Screaming when SICK?! What happens…, one interview where she talks about how she learned screaming, another one where she talks about how she found her voice and plays a game called ‘How Well Do You Know Your Bandmate’, and a very relaxed one where she reads mean and not-so-mean YouTube comments about herself and her band. As you can see, Lauren Hart is everywhere, and if you consider yourself a true metalhead it’s time to know more about one of the driving forces of the current metal scene in the United States and bang your head nonstop to her undisputed vocals.

Lauren Hart’s Official Facebook page
Lauren Hart’s Official Instagram
Once Human’s Official Facebook page
Once Human’s Official Instagram

“I force myself to go places that I don’t normally want to go. I force myself to look at things that I’d typically want to not see.” – Lauren Hart

Concert Review – Disturbed (Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON, 03/04/2019)

David Draiman and his henchmen took Toronto by storm once again, providing us all a touching and memorable night of heavy music, life and friendship.

OPENING ACTS: Three Days Grace

Monday night in Toronto was damn cold, windy and, even if it was sunny and hot, it was still Monday. However, there’s nothing better than a good rock and metal concert to warm us up on such a boring day, right? That’s exactly what over 20,000 fans got at the now named Scotiabank Arena (formerly known as Air Canada Centre) during the Disturbed: Evolution Tour, featuring Three Days Grace as the opening act and, obviously, Disturbed, spearheaded by the iconic David Draiman. I was surprised with the amount of very young people at the venue, proving that rock music is far from being done (and I’ll talk more about it later), and not even that annoying bitterly cold wind was capable of stopping us all to raise our fists in the air to one of the most important bands in the history of Alternative Metal.

I must confess I’ve never paid too much attention to THREE DAYS GRACE, mainly because their music is not my cup of tea, sounding way too radio-friendly at times. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy their performance, though, as those Toronto-based rockers put on a very energetic and fun concert, still promoting their 2018 album titled Outsider. Frontman Matt Walst didn’t stop running around and jumping up and down for a single second, demanding the audience to sing along with him and to ignite some circle pits. A few songs stood out from their setlist, like The Good Life, Pain, Riot and, of course, their biggest hit I Hate Everything About You, all working as a good warm-up for the main attraction of the night. In other words, if a fan of Thrash, Death and Black Metal like me enjoyed their show, I can imagine how happy they made their diehard fans playing in their hometown.

Setlist
Intro (Livin’ On a Prayer)
The Mountain
Home
The Good Life
Pain
Infra-Red
Painkiller
Break
Right Left Wrong
I Hate Everything About You
Animal I Have Become (with “Seven Nation Army” interlude)
Never Too Late
Riot

Band members
Matt Walst – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Barry Stock – lead guitar
Brad Walst – bass, backing vocals
Neil Sanderson – drums, keyboards, backing vocals 

DISTURBED

It was around 8:50pm when the lights went off and the humongous screen at the back of the stage started showing scenes from several DISTURBED concerts through the years, also presenting some rebellious and inspiring messages to the crowd, and that video worked flawlessly to pump up every single person at the venue for the opening track Are You Ready, from their 2018 album Evolution (which is definitely not their best effort, but it still has some very good moments, I might say). And although the whole concert might not have been as electrifying as their latest performance in the city in 2016 with Breaking Benjamin while promoting their 2015 album Immortalized (partially due to the extreme cold outside, as their 2016 show was outdoors in the middle of the summer), David & Co. kicked ass with a very solid and diversified setlist, proving once again why they’re still relevant after all those years on the road.

It was indeed a feast of classic tunes from the band, with crushing hymns like Stupify (where David gave a short speech about how the media wants us to believe we’re divided, when in fact we’re all united no matter our color, race, gender or sexual orientation), Voices, Ten Thousand Fists and their cover version for Genesis’ Land of Confusion (my favorite of the night, by the way) inspiring everyone to jump, headbang, mosh and sing together with the quartet. Dan Donegan, John Moyer and Mike Wengren were on fire with their instruments, providing David everything he needed to blast his unparalleled screams. Furthermore, despite the biggest part of their setlist being comprised of heavy songs, it was when they played their ballads that they truly connected with the audience, and that happened for a very simple and delicate reason. It was visible that all four members of the band were very sad and touched by the death of their longtime friend Keith Flint, the wicked frontman for British electronic music trailblazers The Prodigy, who committed suicide at the age of 49 at his home in Essex earlier that same day, turning the concert in Toronto something very special for the entire band.

When they played Hold On to Memories on the main stage, showing photos and images of their entire career including some pictures and old footage with their friends Chester Bennington (from Linkin Park, who also committed suicide in 2017) and the unparalleled Pantera brothers Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul, who died in 2004 and 2018, respectively, it was already a memorable moment for everyone at the venue, a celebration of life and friendship by Disturbed, but it was when they moved to the smaller acoustic stage at the back of the floor section to play A Reason to Fight and Watch You Burn that we could clearly see a lot of tears falling down from their eyes. David took some time to give a very meaningful speech about how depression is not something people choose to have, but a very serious disease that can consume even the most famous and richest people on the planet, dedicating that part of the show to Keith Flint just like what he had done a week before remembering the lives of Chris Cornell, Scott Weiland and Chester Benington during their concert in New York. There are (several) other people out there either suffering from depression or who had already reached the unfortunate point of suicide, like the talented Huntress frontwoman Jill Janus who passed away in 2018, and as David said we need to reach out to those in need to win this battle against such horrendous illness.

The other three unforgettable moments for me (and for most people at the venue) were first and foremost their already classic tribute to Simon & Garfunkel with their flawless version for their ballad The Sound of Silence, the insane fire on stage during Inside the Fire (for obvious reasons), and the amazing kids with their parents on stage to celebrate rock music during The Light, proving once and for all as David said that rock is not dead like the media enjoys “vomiting” in our faces every single day. And lastly, as the icing on the cake, how about two of my all-time favorite Disturbed songs, the superb Stricken and the demented Down With the Sickness, which ignited a big, fun and frantic circle pit that took over a significant part of the central area of the floor section? That’s what good rock and metal music is all about, right? Having a good time with your loved ones, enjoying a nice beer while watching a great band like Disturbed perform, and resting assured that while bands like Disturbed are alive and kicking, our beloved Rock N’ Roll will never, ever die.

Setlist
Are You Ready
Prayer
The Vengeful One
The Animal
Stupify
Voices
Land of Confusion (Genesis cover)
Hold On to Memories
Ten Thousand Fists
The Game
A Reason to Fight
Watch You Burn
The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel cover)
Indestructible
Inside the Fire

Encore:
The Light
Stricken
Down With the Sickness

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

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Album Review – Subliminal Fear / Escape From Leviathan (2016)

A collection of boundless and modern Melodic Death Metal creations, which together represent the next step in the evolution of the music by this excellent Italian band.

Rating4

Subliminal_Fear-cover640While listening to the brand new full-length album by Italian Modern Melodic Death Metal band Subliminal Fear, entitled Escape From Leviathan, I realized how dynamic, fresh and ravishing the mixture of Extreme and Cyber Metal with electronic music can be when brought forth by a high-skilled and honest band like these Italian metallers. Following the steps of renowned acts such as Sybreed, Mnemic and Fear Factory, this band from the cities of Barletta and Bari put all their passion for heavy music and their futuristic vision in the conception of the album, surpassing their debut album Uncoloured World Dying (2007) and their latest release One More Breath (2012) in quality and feeling. Put differently, Escape From Leviathan is undoubtedly Subliminal Fear’s finest release to date.

There are two additional ingredients that make the album so special, bringing more value to the already gripping music by Subliminal Fear. First of all, the participation of three international guests in different songs add extra layers to the musicality and concept of the album. Guillaume Bideau (Mnemic, One-Way Mirror), Jon Howard (Threat Signal, Arkaea) and Lawrence Mackrory (Darkane) lend their potent voices to some of the best tracks of the album, always in sync with what the band is firing through their instruments. And secondly, the beautiful artwork by Seth Siro Anton, the Greek artist and musician also known as Spiros Antoniou (Septicflesh) who has already worked with bands like Moonspell, Arch Enemy, Paradise Lost and Old Man’s Child, is based on the lyrics concept, which present a futuristic and apocalyptic vision of the world and the society inspired by movies like Terminator, Alien and Matrix. A subtle but very important detail that only proves how focused those guys were while composing the album.

Phantoms Or Drones is industrialized from the very beginning, presenting electrified riffs and a futuristic ambience as expected, as well as a good mix of clean and harsh vocals, with guest singer Guillaume Bideau bringing an extra dosage of aggressiveness to this progressive and groovy tune. The accelerated beats by Ruggiero Lanotte guide the high-octane Industrial Metal chant All Meanings They’ve Torn, featuring Lawrence Mackrory, where once again Carmine Cristallo and Matteo De Bellis make an effective and balanced duo with their clean vocals and visceral growls, respectively; followed by the alternative and mechanized Nexus, an excellent blend of dark and violent soundings with very melodic passages thanks to the electronic effects in the background and its polished riffs. In addition to that, fans of the genre will definitely enjoy the song’s lyrics, in special its excellent chorus.

SubliminalFear-promo_pic1An ominous intro is gradually enhanced by each instrument in the title-track Escape From Leviathan, building a futuristic aura while Ruggiero gets quite progressive behind his drums, adding more intricacy to the overall result; whereas Evilution, featuring guest singer Jon Howard, is a robotic heavy hymn depicting the evolution of man into a greedy and devilish machine. Industrial and Melodic Death Metal are nicely blended in this exctinig song, with the “special effects” in the background together with the industrialized and violent drumming turning it into one of the best moments of the entire album. And if you’re a fan of cover songs, you’ll simply love Living In Another World, an amazing version for a classic from the 80’s by English post-progressive band Talk Talk. The band was capable of keeping the magic from the original version and mechanizing it with their own industrial touch, with guitarist Domenico Murgolo having a great share of responsibility for such a pleasant result due to his powerful guitar lines.

Yet again the band fires a solid Industrial Metal tune with hints of Melodic Death Metal entitled Dark Star Renaissance, with Matteo and his evil growls driving the song’s effectiveness up while Carmine maintains the smoothness in the musicality, before Self-Proclaimed Gods, with its metallic drumming, a brutal industrial atmosphere (even Carmine gets robotic), its lyrics about the arrogance of man (“Killing the parthenogenesis I’ve created / And still living always into the other truth / I’m born on this land for deny / I don’t want to look like you”) and Domenico’s riffs complementing the futuristic keyboards (and vice-versa), brings forward all core elements of the genre, which consequently make it the most exciting of all tunes. Lastly, we have the Melodic Death Metal with industrial elements of Limitless, showcasing a good riffage by Domenico while bassist Alessio Morella and Ruggiero take care of the “structure” of the music, and an eerie outro about the inevitable ending of mankind in a not so distant future named The Disease Is Human Emotion, with its movie-like start (as many industrial bands enjoy doing) and an ominous narrator giving the details about the disease that exists inside every man.

Enjoying this futuristic album by Subliminal Fear and knowing more about the band’s day-to-day activities and music is quite easy, as you can find them on Facebook, YouTube, SoundCloud and ReverbNation, as well as purchase Escape From Leviathan at their BandCamp page, at the Inverse Records’ webstore, at Record Shop X, or on iTunes. In a nutshell, Subliminal Fear are paving a solid and prospering path to stardom with their boundless and modern creations, with Escape From Leviathan being the next step in the evolution of their music.

Best moments of the album: All Meanings They’ve Torn, Evilution and Self-Proclaimed Gods.

Worst moments of the album: Limitless.

Released in 2016 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Phantoms Or Drones (feat. Guillaume Bideau) 6:17
2. All Meanings They’ve Torn (feat. Lawrence Mackrory) 4:45
3. Nexus 5:00
4. Escape From Leviathan 4:55
5. Evilution (feat. Jon Howard) 5:51
6. Living In Another World (Talk Talk Cover) 4:56
7. Dark Star Renaissance 4:07
8. Self-Proclaimed Gods 5:22
9. Limitless 4:48
10. The Disease Is Human Emotion 3:09

Band members
Carmine Cristallo – clean vocals
Matteo De Bellis – harsh vocals
Domenico Murgolo – guitar
Alessio Morella – bass
Ruggiero Lanotte – drums

Guest musicians
Guillaume Bideau – additional vocals on “Phantoms Or Drones”
Lawrence Mackrory – additional vocals on “All Meanings They’ve Torn”
Jon Howard – additional vocals on “Evilution”