Not Just Femme Metal: In This Moment Makes Their Case
Mention the term femme metal and it conjures up images of bands fronting beautiful singers such as Amy Lee of Evanescence, Carly Smithson of We Are The Fallen, Cristina Sacabbia of Lacuna Coil and maybe even Anette Olzon of Nightwish. But femme metal hardly does the genre justice and is probably just used for a lack of a better term. After all, femme metal didn’t start with Evanescence and it certainly isn’t going to end with them either. What makes these bands isn’t just that they are fronted by capable lead singers with sex appeal. What makes these bands is that, for the most part, they churn out great music in an industry that is dominated by men. Maybe this is why the surprise find, for me, was the band In This Moment. In This Moment is atypical when compared to the aforementioned bands because they are not only competing with men, they are competing with men in a screaming, blood curdling style that isn’t typically entrusted to a female front person. It certainly grabbed my attention. After speaking with Chris Howorth and Maria Brink, I discovered that they not only welcome the uphill fight, but continue feed off of it. “I have to admit at the start of the week (leading up to the Mayhem Festival), I had no idea who you guys were.” I admitted. Everything about them surprised me including the fact that they were about to release their third album, A Star Crossed Wasteland. “Well, what did you think?” During the face time with the lead guitarist, Chris Howorth, for In This Moment seemed to be okay with my ignorance. “Your PR team sent us your new album and I have to say after listening to the first track with Maria screaming, I wasn’t sure that you could pull it all off live…but you did.” Chris confides that he loves the challenge of winning over new fans. Praising the Mayhem Festival for the great exposure, In This Moment discovered that other festivals like the Warped tour weren't nearly as good of a fit for them. But with a female front person, they have had their work cut out for them from the very start. I’m probably kinder than other listeners who have been known to direct more aggressive comments towards their femme screamer extraordinaire. The anonymity of the internet has been winning them a fan base, but sometimes that includes some not so nice comments. If there is a downside, it certainly is that some of the comments are a bit troublesome and Chris seems protective of his singer. I try to talk about their music, but I struggle a little. The media has been scrambling to figure out what to call the new music that has been coming out as of late. They’re not “metal core.” Chris is quick to point out how different they are from that sub genre of heavy metal. I don’t disagree. Not that they don’t share similarities with the subgenre, but metal is in transition. Every subgenre seems to take the music into a more muddled and confused landscape. Chris points out that nobody struggled with what to call AC/DC just because Brian Johnson or Bon Scott were screamers. They were rock. And I realize that every time someone seems to ask their new wave of bands to describe themselves they can’t. It’s a mix they all confess. It’s just metal. Maria playfully flashes Chris “the horns” as she passes us as we talk about the finer points in music. I mouth that she needs to sit and chat with us. But this is a media madhouse and as he is being escorted by the PR people, Maria can only give us an apologetic look suggesting that they are making her talk with another media outlet and that we'll have to wait. I will steal some of her time later, I think. Chris and I talk about the history of In This Moment. They are, in many ways, the new face of metal. But they are also a template for bands that are searching for a way to find an audience. Their following began online. Chris acknowledges that the path that led to this road through the Mayhem Festival and how they needed to be innovative to get this far. But most importantly he points out how they had to be market savvy and not just know who their potential audience might also be, but how to get them. They may have solicited a few message boards in their day. “I would say that of those that we solicited we would gain eight out of the ten that we would draw to our Myspace page.” Without a doubt there are very few bands that sort of steal the hearts of its listeners, but as Chris Howorth seemed to like the idea of being an underdog. He challenged me with the initial comparisons that I made and then I point out that Maria is fascinating because she is doing something that could be considered dangerous and damaging to a weaker vocalist. She is, after all, screaming I suggest. And I point out that at least one of the bands that they might compared themselves to during this conversation that we’re having (Avenged Sevenfold) have reinvented themselves, putting aside the guttural screams for something more traditional. This doesn’t seem to bother them. Still young enough to take risks, I concede Maria is the female version of Corey Taylor (Stone Sour/Slipknot). Maria has never lost her voice during a show. When I finally get to sit with her and discuss this fact she seems enthusiastic about the comparison taking it as a compliment. She attributes her prowess to having good technique. Another thing that she shares with Corey Taylor. She isn’t screaming from her throat. And whatever else they’re doing as a band is working. I tell her and Chris that they’ve won me over and that’s a hard thing to do during this transition in metal. I’m not interested in derivative. I want to know that they’re trying to be innovative and create something with heart and substance. Looking at the current landscape, In This Moment is definitely offering a glimpse of something different. The only question left is whether or not they can continue to give their audience what won them over in the first place. I guess only time will tell. In any case, what we have right now is food for thought...that and a pretty decent album in A Star Crossed Wasteland.