This past weekend, I found myself listening to the self-titled debut EP by London-based troubadour A.A. Williams, recently released on Holy Roar records. It’s quite brilliant: fragile and beautiful; dark and threatening. In a run time of just twenty minutes, Williams has established herself as one of the most exciting new artists of 2019. Inspired, I was led down a rabbit hole of some of my other favourite releases of the last few years that capture a similar sentiment. After a few hours spent in the company of some wonderful albums, I came to a conclusion that has been staring metal in the face: a female perspective is the most original voice in heavy music right now.
That sentence is gonna jerk a few knees, so let’s be clear: men are still making great heavy metal albums. Of course they are. But listen to albums as brave, personal, vast and challenging as Rheia by Oathbreaker, or Hiss Spun by Chelsea Wolfe, or Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It by Rolo Tomassi, or On Dark Horses by Emma Ruth Rundle. Consider that, this very month, Reba Meyers of Code Orange became the first woman to release a signature ESP guitar. Diverse and different as all those artists may be within their own right, the point stands: something is changing.
Women have, of course, been involved in heavy music since the dawn of time (although you’re kidding yourself if you argue that they’ve always been deservingly represented). In metal alone walls have been broken down by the likes of Jinx Dawson, Doro Pesch, Angela Gossow and many, many more. Now, though, there is a brand new flavour for a scene that has spent decades drenched in testosterone. And, be it Julie Christmas helping Cult Of Luna create their most critically-lauded record, or Myrkur winning the Best Album award at last year's Metal Hammer Golden Gods, it would appear the influence of these artists is being picked up on by fans and critics alike.
And the influence isn’t just a sonic one. While the sound of musicians taking inspiration from the beauty of iconic female artists like Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, PJ Harvey or Tori Amos and melding it with the harshest elements of extreme metal has broadened the dynamics of heavy music way beyond what we’re used to, there is also a new attitude and a new kind of anger reflected in this class of 2019. In a world where we want our artists to say something, where we bemoan the lack of intelligent and outspoken political figures in our scene, the ire of Larrissa Stupar of Venom Prison, Serena Cherry of Svalbard or Lisa Mungo of Fucked And Bound, all of whom have channeled the injustices they see into specific, well-articulated, seething discontent, all born from lived experiences, is something to cherish.
This isn’t the vague sloganeering that many modern metal bands are guilty of. Listen to Larissa on Venom Prison’s Perpurtrator Emasculation for the sound of real rage against rape culture, Lisa’s disgust at the way she was objectified by men whilst working in a bar on Fucked And Bound’s #GTFO, or Serena scathingly attack slut-shaming culture toward young girls on Svalbard’s latest album, It’s Hard To Have Hopef. These are young women with no filter, determined to make a point, to make a difference, completely uninterested in compromise. That’s fucking metal.
Right now, I’d rather listen to Employed To Serve, Oceans Of Slumber, Ithaca or Blood Command fuck with my preconceptions and offer me a new world view than I would another standard metal band thrash their way through another bunch of enjoyable but unremarkable genre conventions. If you’re looking for the next evolution in metal, it’s already here.