Combining witchy trap beats, celestial hyperpop and black metal-inspired shrieks, Banshee’s sound is a visceral yet ethereal experience that the LA-based producer and singer has dubbed ‘fairy metal’.
“I was always really drawn to the prettier synth sounds,” she says. “Take Children Of Bodom for instance, their song, Downfall, has a really beautiful synth section. I honestly credit a lot of my influence to that alone.”
Channelling everything from Lamb Of God to black and power metal to rapper Megan Thee Stallion, since she started uploading music to TikTok in 2020, Banshee (real name: Rachel Knight) has built up a loyal fanbase of more than 300,000 followers, who have found solace in their lyrics, in which she speaks frankly about experiences with abuse, sexual assault and misogyny. “It’s about healing from that, finding strength and accepting it’s OK to be angry,” she says.
The dark and spacey Chamber includes the lyric: ‘I will not be held responsible for how your body feels.’ “For so long, because of my experiences, I blamed myself and the way I dress for the comments I get,” she continues. “A lot of my music is saying, ‘Your perception of me is none of my business. If you sexualise me that is none of my business.’ I’m just gonna exist how I want.”
Part of a wave of new artists who are taking a boundary-free approach to heavy music, for Banshee, genre simply doesn’t factor when it comes to making music, although that attitude has attracted plenty of comments from online elitists. “I don’t think the black metal community accept me, but I don’t really care if they do,” she says. “If there’s one thing I could go back and tell myself, it would be there’s no rules to making music. Just make what you like.” Dannii Leivers
Sounds like: A cutting-edge blend of the demonic and angelic
For fans of: Mimi Barks, Backxwash, Poppy
Out now: Fairy Metal
Actress and model Stormi Maya is about to become a triple threat. As Cinnamon Babe, Stormi is shaking off the pressure to write poppy, viral songs that she’s felt in the past and returning to her love of metal. “A lot of my life is about acting and selling an image,” she explains. “I needed something that speaks for the person inside of me.”
The result is a slew of tracks like Pure O that take inspiration from nu metal and the cultural intersection it represents, acting as a “gateway drug” to heavier music for the black community in the Bronx.
“A lot of times in our culture, rock and metal is not something we’re introduced to,” she explains. “A lot
of people have told me, ‘I didn’t think this was for me,’ but they just needed someone that looked like me to deliver the message.”
On the incendiary new single Rock And Roll Is Black, that message is clear. Influenced by Rage Against The Machine’s Take The Power Back, she rails against the gatekeeping of metal from its black originators. And while the intense racist backlash she’s received online made her think twice about releasing the track, she ultimately felt compelled to stay true to her original vision.
“The whole point of me making this is so I can say how
the fuck I feel. If I’m the antihero, I don’t care,” she says with a laugh. But for someone who literally gives away merch
to her fans, it’s evident that being a voice in the scene is something Stormi does not take lightly at all. “I’m fighting just to get through the door,” she admits. “I just want people to hear what I have to say.” Catherine Morris
Sounds like: A ferocious, sexy and politically-charged homage to the likes of NIN and RATM
For fans of: Nova Twins, WILLOW, Wargasm
Out now: Rock And Roll Is Black
“We’re not very grim people,” says River Jordan, the guitarist of Kentucky’s melodic black metal upstarts Volcandra. “And we don’t write very grim music.”
River co-founded the quintet in 2018, after meeting the other four members through Louisville’s heavy music underbelly. What drew them together was a shared love of black metal, but boredom with its clichés: as far as they’re concerned, corpsepaint, incessant tremolo picking and suicidal lyrics are all so 1994.
As a result, Volcandra eschew the genre’s bleakness on their Border World EP, preferring invigorating guitar leads and thrashing drum work. And they’re not fussed with Satan or sacrifice. They’d rather scream about being geeks.
“Our vocalist, Dave [Palenske], is a huge nerd for Godzilla,” River grins. “Myself and our bass player, Dyer [Keathley] – we’re huge Star Trek fans. Nerdy stuff is what we’re all about!”
Border World’s songs are centred around the Half-Life, Metroid and Shadow Of The Colossus videogames, and River believes that’s enough of a breath of fresh air to lift Volcandra onto the world’s stage.
“We want to tour overseas and play as many shows as possible,” he declares. “We’re not reinventing the wheel, but we’re certainly making it more fun.” Matt Mills
Sounds like: Black metal on anti-depressants, swapping gloom for videogames and vibrant guitars
For fans of: Belzebubs, Dark Fortress, Wiegedood
Out now: Border World is out now via Prosthetic
“We just wanted to be the fastest and the heaviest band around,” says Plague Years guitarist Eric Lauder. “We like party thrash, but we wanted to take all the guttural parts from Sepultura and death metal and make thrash sound as brutal as it ever has.”
They’ve certainly done their best to achieve that on recent EP All Will Suffer. It’s full of thrash pace and memorable choruses, but songs like Reality Of Filth are far more brutal than the genre’s usual beer-swigging, grinning vibes.
“Every time I release something, my intention is to push it to even more extreme levels,” shrugs Eric.
Plague Years’ debut album, Circle Of Darkness, received rave reviews in 2020, but Covid curtailed any chance of them immediately capitalising on the love metal fans felt for the record.
“We lost a bit of momentum,” Eric admits. “We had these amazing reviews and just had to sort of sit on it, and I couldn’t sit on it anymore.”
That frustration was poured into the new EP and, even by the high standards they’d already set, it’s resulted in Plague Years’ best work so far.
“Hooks and choruses and actually making people want to sing along, that’s a big desire for us,” nods Eric. “But ultimately we just wanted to shock people with how brutal it was.” Stephen Hill
Job done then.
Sounds like: All your favourite bits of prime Kreator, Sepultura and Obituary all fighting in a sack
For fans of: Power Trip, Vektor, Vader
Out now: All Will Suffer
In 2019, Walter Hoeijmakers – artistic director of the Netherlands’ Roadburn festival – approached James “Perturbator” Kent with the kind of opportunity most musicians would kill for. The synthwave star could collaborate with anybody in the world, and Walter would put it on his stage.
“It was an honour,” James remembers. Instantly, he picked Johannes Persson: frontman of post-metal brutes Cult Of Luna. “When Cult Of Luna released Vertikal [in 2013], it cemented my love for the band,” he explains. “The addition of subtle electronics and synths really made me feel like that album was tailored to my tastes. It’s also when I realised that we might have some influences in common.”
The team-up was christened Final Light, and James and Johannes clicked so well that they decided to not just perform, but record their ideas. The resulting self-titled album is the sound of synthwave and metal at war with each other. Nothing Will Bear Your Name plummets from keys to apoplectic sludge, and everything after casts Johannes’ roars and riffs against the bleakest electro beats.
“Johannes is a great friend and was extremely easy to work with,” James reflects. “It went so well and I’d love to work with him again.” Matt Mills
Sounds like: Synthwave soundtracking the end of the world with cataclysmic roars
For fans of: Cult Of Luna, Godflesh, Vangelis
Listen to: Nothing Will Bear Your Name