Metal Chick of the Month – Jayn Maiven

So long in fear, I have gazed ghost tears….

It’s time to darken the skies here at The Headbanging Moose in this month of May thanks to the somber and absolutely beautiful music crafted by our metal lady of the month, and I bet you’ll get addicted to her voice after listening to her Stygian creations. Inspired by natured in all her forms, this West Yorkshire, England-based vocalist and multi-instrumentalist is known by many under her nom de plume of Darkher, one of the most interesting names of the current folk and doom scene worldwide. I’m talking about Jayn Maiven, a multi-talented woman who devotes her life to dark music for our total delight, and who has a beyond bright future ahead of her and her Darkher as all of her releases are simply awesome.

As I like to say about this type of project, there’s no Jayn Maiven without Darkher and vice-versa, with Darkher representing not only Jayn’s alter-ego but also her view of our world, using her musical creature as a catharsis that can be noticed from her painful and truthful lyrics. Conceived as the sole brainchild and solo project of our unrelenting flame-haired metal diva in 2012, whose fragile elegance lies the creator of a powerfully emotive work, Darkher brings forth an amalgamation of sounds and styles carefully embraced by the project’s trademark fusion of folk and doom music, with her compositions inviting the listener into the mystical ancient world characterized by slowly building storm clouds of guitars and Jayn’s haunting, spine-tinglingly evocative voice.

Having already released her self-titled debut EP in 2013, followed by the 2014 EP The Kingdom Field and the full-length albums Realms, from 2016, and The Buried Storm, released earlier this year, the sound of Darkher has been described as “ghostly transmissions that sound like they were delivered by lost souls in the dead of night”, leading her to support several renowned acts the likes of Robin Guthrie, Dead Meadow, Esben And The Witch, Enslaved and Chelsea Wolfe, and playing in festivals such as Roadburn Festival and Damnation, among others. Creating extraordinarily dark music full of contrasts, including both chilling loneliness and the warmth of hope, Darkher is a derivate of the words “dark” and “her”, showcasing some sort of symbolism from Jayn’s past as she wanted to find a name which she felt better described the direction she had been heading in with her solo career after a decade working with and around other musicians.

Several different guest musicians have already been involved with Jayn in Darkher, such as for example guitarist and bassist Martin Wissenberg, former My Dying Bride drummer Shaun ‘Winter’ Taylor-Steels, drummer Christopher Smith, cellists Ludvig Swärd (Forndom), Arianna Mahsayeh and Melanie Chaplin, violinist Lambert Segura and guitarist Daniel Land. If you want to see the result of the collaboration between our skillful vocalist, guitarist, composer, lyricist and producer with all those distinguished musicians, you can enjoy the official videos on YouTube for Where the Devil Waits (filmed at the stunning location of Muncaster Castle in Cumbria, within its Victorian gardens and grounds), a song of empowerment and light relating to the shadows within that lead to attachment, to what can become destructive; Love’s Sudden Death, a dark, romantic ballad which was heavily inspired by the mood of the ancient landscape as it mirrors the emotions within, being “dramatic, beautiful and sometimes bleak” as mentioned by Jayn herself; Hollow Veil, recorded in Salem Woods in October 2015; as well as Ghost Tears, Immortals, Lament, and The Dawn Brings a Saviour, or you can also enjoy The Buried Storm in its entirety on YouTube, and all of her albums on Spotify. Also, don’t forget to show your support to Jayn and her Darkher by purchasing her releases from her BandCamp page and through her Patreon.

Before forming Darkher, our unstoppable rock and metal diva was a member of Epic Dark Folk band The Steals for several years, having released with them the EP Floodlights, in 2006, and the full-length effort Stactic Kingdom, in 2009, both available on Spotify and on BandCamp. However, that wasn’t the path she actually wanted to follow in her career after a certain time. “Throughout the years I was previously working on tracks for The Steals album and EP, I was in a very sombre state and I needed to make music to lift me out of that state. By the time I was ready to start writing songs again for what would be Darkher, I felt that I needed to symbolically burn what I had in order to begin a new chapter,” commented Jayn in one of her interviews, describing the musical metamorphosis that was happening inside her.

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In addition, her inspirations in music and life in general come from very distinct sources. For instance, she always says that her father has been a huge inspiration to her growing up, with both her parents having encouraged her passion for creating music for many years. “I am mostly inspired by my inner world, emotions and imagination, which I run in parallel to the outer world. Nature and the elements are always with me when I write, and are equally as inspiring for me due to their mood and drama,” said Jayn in one of her interviews, also mentioning that her lyrics are always from her deepest depths, past, future or present, and showcasing a strong fascination for water. “When I walk each day to The Kingdom Field I pass a river, everyday is a different picture, it has its own life force and seemingly personality. Where I live is surrounded by water, I live in the basin of a valley, a hamlet which is surrounded by streams, rivers and a canal all of which have caused flooding. So I think because of this I am deeply respectful of water in its many forms.”

Heavily influenced by mood-based dark music from an early age, and having a father who performed on stage in the 60’s, not only she grew up in a musical house but she has always nurtured a deep passion for the darker exponents of the post punk indie scene. “I was really into bands like the Sex Gang Children, Virgin Prunes and Alien Sex Fiend. I’ve always suffered with a bit of a depression and as a teenager was drawn to dark music and the whole theatrical Goth thing. I loved the textures and atmosphere of guitars,” also saying that at one point she was completely absorbed by the Cocteau Twins and she used to re-play their performance of Pink Orange Red on the TV every night after school. On the other hand, if you think Amalie Bruun’s Danish Black Metal band Myrkur has had any influence on Darkher’s style, being even called “Myrkur for the Folkies”, you’re absolutely wrong. “I’ve only come across her name very recently, I haven’t listened to her music yet, so I’m not sure if there is any thread of similarity,” said our diva.

When asked about her evolution from Realms until The Buried Storm, Jayn said that she sees it as a continuation of her creativity, feeling like it has many similar elements in the instrumentation, though she puts even more emphasis on the vocal harmonies as a feature on her newest album and she believes it leans towards a more cinematic feel. Moreover, the pandemic doesn’t seem to have had a negative impact on her creative process for The Buried Storm. “The effects of the pandemic were actually quite beneficial for me, to be able to take time out from any tour dates and really focus on the writing and recording. I also spent even more time alone, which I found to be very necessary for the writing process,” commented Jayn, and we must all agree with her the whole pandemic has been positive at least for the writing process of not only Darkher but countless other bands out there, who obviously had a lot more time to focus on their creative process with the whole touring thing being on hold for almost two years.

Interested in art and photography, beautiful and inspiring imagery, animals and nature, Jayn tries to spend half of her life outdoors, also nurturing a deep passion for doing videos and photographic imagery, which for her is all part of the creative process. “When I make music I see a lot of visions and imagery, so it’s great to be able to achieve some of that in video form,” said Jayn, which can be easily noticed in the video for Ghost Tears, for example. “The environment that I am surrounded by and the vast landscape is always in my mind when I write as I see music in a very visual way. For this reason I would love to one day try to write for film or TV and I equally feel the presence of many images when I write or produce. The studio walls otherwise would not inspire me to develop the sound and present it in such a way,” complemented our multi-talented artist. And lastly, when asked what the secret is to keep her long flaming hair look so grandiose and beautiful, she simply said there’s no actual secret, just that she never cuts it and therefore it serves her well for hiding behind it. Well, of course we would love to see her face on all of her videos, but the combination of nature and her long, incendiary hair is more than enough to keep us hooked not only on her music, but on her stunning art in general.

Darkher’s Official Facebook page
Darkher’s Official Instagram
Darkher’s Official YouTube channel
Darkher’s Official BandCamp page

“I find it very healing to make music, like a form of meditation.” – Jayn Maiven

Metal Chick of the Month – Nicole Ansperger

nicole01

One last silver kiss before the last string decays…

We’ve already had some incredible vocalists, guitarists, bassists, keyboardists, drummers and even a saxophonist here at The Headbanging Moose among our metal chicks to properly celebrate the power and importance of women in heavy music, but never a musician like the one selected to conclude the year of 2016. Can you think of anything more unconventional (and charming) than a stunning female fiddler playing kick-ass Heavy Metal? That’s exactly the case with German bombshell Nicole Ansperger, a high-skilled mistress of Celtic Folk fiddling known for her contributions to different groups and projects such as Swiss Folk Metal band Eluveitie, German Folk Rock group Paddy Goes To Holyhead, German Folk Punk band Across the Border and German Neo-Classical Metal orchestra Haggard.

Born in 1981 in the beautiful city of Stuttgart, Germany, our talented fiddler said her strong passion for playing music came to light after listening to the music by Italian composer and virtuoso violinist Antonio Vivaldi, famous for his highly-acclaimed series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons. At the age of 6, she became a student of violinist George Moradian, who knew exactly how to help her develop her style and utilize all her natural potential, always by practicing famous pieces by masters such as Vivaldi and Bach and adding her own style to those. Then, at the age of nineteen, instead of becoming part of an orchestra she ended up joining her first Folk Rock band, learning then how to do improvisations, her true passion in music. Nicole never really thought about following a career playing the violin, it was just a hobby for her at first, but since 2005 she has been involved in so many bands, projects and concerts that she was able to turn music into her main profession.

Due to a guest visit with the famous band The Hooters, she was discovered by German Folk Rock band Paddy Goes To Holyhead in 2005, later joining Folk Punk band Across the Border in 2008 and recording two albums with them, named Loyalty (2009) and Folkpunk Air-Raid (2011). In addition to that, she played several concerts with German Symphonic Metal band Haggard in 2013, such as the one and only Wacken Open Air. You can have a good time listening to her solid performances with those bands on many YouTube videos, such as Across The Border’s Loyalty, Fucked Up World and Übers Meer / Rio Reiser, as well as Paddy Goes To Holyhead’s Far Away and Great Song of Whiskey. Apart from those bands, she also played violin in the 2006 album Fairy and the Dragon (a project of Jo Naumann from Paddy Goes To Holyhead), she was a guest violinist in the 2014 album Wegweiser, by Swiss Melodic Death/Folk Metal band Abinchova as you can witness in the excellent tune Flaschengeistand she also played violin on Winter’s Judgement, by Italian band Misteyes, from their 2016 album Creeping Time.

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However, it was in 2013 when she became a member of Eluveitie that she finally conquered the world of heavy music, replacing Meri Tadić on the violin and cello on December 11 of that year, having recorded with those Swiss metallers the singles King (her solo on this tune is simply superb) and The Call of the Mountains, and the full-length album Origins, all in 2014. And in case you want to see one of her violin solos with Eluveitie, I suggest you take a listen at this soulful one announcing her first full gig with Eluveitie. When asked about how she was invited to join Eluveitie, Nicole said she was at a concert and met a guy who knew the band, who then asked her if she would be interested in playing with them. Obviously, her answer was positive, and the guy got her in contact with Swiss multi-instrumentalist Chrigel Glanzmann, the mastermind behind Eluveitie, to whom she provided some of her demos. I guess I don’t need to say how good those demos were and what resulted out of that, right? Sadly, due to her family situation, our talented fiddler had to leave Eluveitie on August 3, 2015, as it became impossible for her to be on the road with the band constantly. The departure was very harmonious, though. “Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult to manage personal obligations and take care of a family alongside a life of constant touring, and Nicole’s priorities are with her family – where they should be. We are parting amicably and would like to thank Nicole for the good times and her musical contribution. It’s been an honour to share stage and studio with such a talented musician!”, commented Eluveitie, while Nicole complemented saying that “this certainly doesn‘t mean an end to my musical career. Music will always be a very important part of my life and who knows – maybe we‘ll see each other again one day.” And guess what? It didn’t take too long for Nicole and Eluveitie to meet again. For our total delight, she rejoined the band in the middle of 2016, already playing several summer festivals with the band, including the always fantastic Wacken Open Air.

When asked about her biggest challenge from all bands she has already played in her career, she mentioned the time she played with Haggard, mainly the first few gigs like the very first one in Mexico, when she had only one week to practice the entire set and hadn’t met anyone from the band before. And although she has played most of her career in Germany, she said she still wants to visit lots of different countries, naming Australia as one of her desired destinations. Finally, before you complain that I haven’t mentioned her biggest idols in heavy music, here they are to conclude this tribute to the talented Nicole! When she was a teenager, she mentioned she used to listen a lot to old school bands such as Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, switching to more contemporary and intricate groups like Opeth and Dream Theater in recent years. Well, no matter what, we have to admit our gracious Nicole has indeed an amazing taste for music.

Equipment
Diamo Carbon Violin
Viper 7 String Wood Violin
Acoustic Violin with Magnetic Pickup
Accoustic Cello Rouen 2008
Audioprotect/Vision Inear

Nicole Ansperger’s Official Facebook page

Album Review – Bouquet of Dead Crows / Of The Night (2015)

Take a good listen at this classy rock album by a very talented British quartet and you might be able to understand what a “bouquet of dead crows” is all about.

Rating5

bodc_of the nightAlthough it might be a bit tough for most of us to imagine how a “bouquet of dead crows” would look like, a group of talented rockers hailing from Cambridge, UK can definitely help us in turning this difficult task into a pleasant Rock N’ Roll party, especially if you’re a fan of female-fronted bands. This is what you’ll find in the smooth and trenchant Of The Night, the brand new album by British Alternative Rock/Metal act Bouquet of Dead Crows.

Formed in 2013, Bouquet of Dead Crows truly know how to combine big riffs with big melodies, presenting a sequence of very consistent and rousing compositions led by lead singer Antoinette Cooper and guitarist Neil Bruce. Featuring an exquisite artwork by Stewart Harris Designs, Of The Night is perfect for a day on the road by yourself or with your significant other, a relaxing Sunday afternoon or any other situation where you need to soothe your spirit without giving up the electricity we all love in Pop Rock.

Instruments begin to arise from an acoustic intro in the opening track Everything Is Temporary until the beautiful voice by Antoinette Cooper fills your ears with passion and melancholy, followed by Epicentre, showcasing strong bass lines by Graeme Clarke and heavier guitar riffs by Neil to counterbalance with Antoinette’s voice. In other words, this nice tune proves how romantic and metallic the band can sound at the same time, which is also valid for Just A Little More, another great display of Alternative Rock/Metal with some progressive elements added to boost its pleasant rhythm. When this song is over, I’m sure you’ll be eager for more of it.

Graeme kicks off Without You with his resonant bass before it becomes a gentle ballad, focused on its touching lyrics about what true love is (“Hold me close, don’t let me go, because I just can’t go on without you…”). In my humble opinion, this charming song has all it takes to become a radio hit, it’s just a matter of it getting in the hands of the right people. The next song, Drownout, which by the way is another excellent choice for a rock n’ roll radio playlist, provides some “mystery” to the listener due to its elaborate bass lines and guitar solo, including a thoughtful chorus perfect for singing along with the band in a moment of reflection (“Rising up through the current / Must break free / Peaceful water laps at our skin / Letting us be”).

bodc_live 2015Then we have The Fundamental Flaw Of Solitude, a modern Rock N’ Roll chant with hints of Blues Rock and electric performances by Antoinette and Neil; and The Silent Path (Time Goes By), a minimalist but very effective song tailored for lovers of ballads with Folk Rock influences. And adding a good amount of horsepower to their musicality, Bouquet of Dead Crows fire pure Rock N’ Roll the way we love in Don’t Panic!, with the whole band providing Antoinette what’s needed for her to shine and turn this into one of the best songs of the album (if not the best), not to mention another great guitar solo by Neil.

Before Of The Night is over (and showing how well they master the art of switching between high-octane rock music and beautiful ballads), this talented British quartet still delivers the touching Like A Flower, with its poetic lyrics flawlessly declaimed by Antoinette (“The shadows fall away / Lost in the tranquility of the night / The sun warms the face / Tilted up like a flower / Sending the angst astray”), and Endless, a 7-minute rock journey with awesome guitar lines by Neil and another charge of catchy lyrics to sing together with the band, until it reaches its end on a high note.

In case alternative rock music is your cup of tea, you can get in touch with Bouquet of Dead Crows through their Facebook page, and obviously listen to Of The Night and purchase it at the official German Shepherd Records BandCamp page. Perhaps after taking a good listen to the entire album, all by yourself or together with someone you love, you might be able to create a good depiction of a “bouquet of dead crows” inside your mind to the sound of this classy rock band from the UK.

Best moments of the album: Drownout, Don’t Panic! and Like A Flower.

Worst moments of the album: Everything Is Temporary.

Released in 2015 German Shepherd Records

Track listing
1. Everything Is Temporary 3:29
2. Epicentre 3:08
3. Just A Little More 2:56
4. Without You 4:44
5. Drownout 3:47
6. The Fundamental Flaw Of Solitude 4:06
7. The Silent Path (Time Goes By) 2:51
8. Don’t Panic! 3:02
9. Like A Flower 3:50
10. Endless 7:04

Band members
Antoinette Cooper – vocals
Neil Bruce – guitars, ukulele
Graeme Clarke – bass, acoustic guitar
Andrew Coxall – drums, percussion, programming