This Canada Day long weekend, a new B.C. festival will be celebrating its second year with the roar of chunky riffs, screeching feedback and guttural vocals.
Metalocalypstick Festival in Valemount, BC is a metal music festival that places the focus on women in the scene, and celebrates their power and skill within this typically male-dominated genre. Founded by musician Kaia Kinney, the idea for Metalocalypstick Festival was born when, upon looking for femme-based festivals to book her band Anarcheon, she was unable to find a festival that focussed on women in the genre.
With only a couple Europe-based, female-vocalist centred metal festivals on the radar, Kinney took action and started up what appears to be Canada’s first woman-focussed metal festival. While celebrating the breadth of skill of women vocalists in the genre, Kinney also wanted to hold a light to women who are bashing skins and melting faces, highlighting the variety of musicianship and skills that women in metal are bringing to the table. In its first year, Metalocalypstick Festival featured world class thrash, death, symphonic metal and hardcore bands, including Brazil’s Nervosa, Montreal’s Valfreya, and New Mexico’s Suspended, amongst many others. Not only does Metalocalypstick Festival provide a stage dedicated to women in metal, but they also donate a portion of proceeds to Girls Rock Camp Vancouver, encouraging and enabling the next generation of women to take space as performers in the industry.
The aggressive nature of metal music has secured it largely as a boy’s club (thanks, gender norms!) since its beginnings back when Black Sabbath emerged, in the early 1970’s. While there have always been some women whose metal careers were highlighted (think Girlschool or Warlock), success in the genre seems to be mostly reserved for men. As we enter an age where gender roles are challenged and women are emerging as visible game changers in a plethora of male-dominated industries, the metal scene is also seeing a surge of female influence and power, both on and off stage. The CEO of The Heavy Metal Music Association of Canada is a woman (Jenny DuHaime), with other women working within the organisation as well, indicating that inclusivity and equal opportunity are more a part of the metal scene than perhaps ever.
With the female perspective in metal making its way into the spotlight, it’s interesting to examine the influence that it has on the evolution of what denotes the characteristics of heavy metal, as a genre and as a culture. No longer are the days when women are mostly pigeon-holed into groupie or sex-object types of roles within the metal scene. As more women integrate into the culture as band members, fans and organizers in the metal community, the narrative has been shifting to reflect and hold space for women in those roles. The narrative also seems to be focussed more so now than ever on gender politics and how inclusivity looks within the metal community, which is important in changing the structural hindrances that divert women from getting involved in heavy metal and its subgenres.
While Edmonton’s metal scene is churning out a lot of great woman-powered metal these days, Vancouver is holding its own, with groups like sludge duo HEDKS, death metal group Kymatica, riff-slingers Anarcheon and post-hardcore band Massive Scar Era holding stage time at this year’s Metalocalypstick Festival. Last year’s festival featured bands Omega Crom, Dead Asylum, and Elysium Echoes, who all represented Vancouver stellarly amidst the international line up.
Metalocalypstick Festival, Girls Rock Camps and other efforts to arm women with the confidence and skill to make noise are paving the way for gender parity in heavy music, and the best way to encourage the diversification of these scenes is to support them! Go to the shows, camp at the festivals, give your daughters drums and amps. Metalocalypstick Festival runs July 1-2, 2017 in Valemount, BC, and more information can be found at www.metalocalypstickfest.rocks.
See you in the pit!
by Britt Meierhofer