Today marks the 6th anniversary that I celebrate 4th of July as a national holiday. A classical time that we take the opportunity to get blue-white-red cupcakes for the kids, turn on the charcoal on fire for grilling some patties for some good home-made burgers and spending time with family.
My exposure to the US was through the US culture, in the golden age of the 80s, when the US provided France with damn good TV series (Magnum PI, The A-Team, Diff’rent strokes, The Fall Guy, the Million Dollar Man….), a remarkable toyline (GI Joe, Transformers, Masters of Universe….) and also through music (mostly pop-music such as Michael Jackson or Madonna).
My entrance in the US metal scene was early on during my teenage years with Metallica blasting in my headphones. I got through them with “The Black Album” and later on went back into their discography. Surprisingly enough, I did not bought much into the US metal scene for different reasons. But maybe the first reason is probably the US metal style that greatly differs from the European metal style. What makes the European metal style unique is the certain complexity in the melodics and the lyrics, contrasting with the rough and brutal US metal style or the completely non-serious of the glam metal. Where in Europe you could almost sit and listen to the live performance, the US one is experienced by moshpits and wall of deaths.
Surprisingly, the symphonic/gothic metal scene in the US is fairly discrete and dwarf compared to the European counterparts. Where Nightwish could fill a Wembley Stadium, a local gig capable to handle 1000-persons is considered already impressed. I came with the conclusion that Americans like their metal like they like their cars: bold, heavy, crushing and not afraid of being aggressive. Imagine my face when I first landed in Texas and faced all these Dodge Ram 3500, Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado pickup trucks roaming on the road and parking lots, me coming from a country in which a Renault Clio, a Peugeot 205 or any minicar was lauded for their frugality on gas and the ease to sneak into parallel parking.
However, if you sneak through broken paths, you can find that some bands surfing on Amy Lee’s seminal work with Evanescence opened the field for a small but motivated fanbase for gothic metal, symphonic metal and even melodic death metal.
Therefore my list may appear very limited and biased towards gothic/symphonic/melodic death metal and some of the US bands I have uncover during my few years in the US.
Although I highly praise the work of Metallica (San Franscisco-CA) and System of A Down (Los-Angeles), I will give priority to small bands.
Aria Flame (Detroit-MI):
Aria Flame is a gothic metal band from Detroit (Michigan) fronted by Aziza Poggi. The band has a very special sound that nicely blend with the voice of Aziza Poggi. No sugarcoating with sound engineering, the sound is raw and very mesmerizing, hard and soft in the same time. A very unique sound that make them unique and avoid to sound like a copycat of any European mastodons.
If I have an only wish, I wish I could see them live. They rarely tour and have mostly their live performance.
Their EP “A World of Silence” is available through iTunes. Sit down, listen and enjoy!
Destiny Beard (?-PA):
Destini Beard is a classical example of several of the US FFM I have encountered, that are the driving force of a band and also working alone. Destini Beard work is mostly recognized through her collaboration with Midnight Syndicate, providing a romantic gothic metal sound, straight from an Allan Edgar Poe or a H.P. Lovecraft novel. A magnificent voice supported by a monotonic piano and languishing tone, bringing this aura of mystery, dusty and haunted dreams.
Evanescence (Little Rock-AR):
Certainly the band that got me into FFM gothic and symphonic metal bands. Before listening to Tarja, Sharon, Simone or Anneke, I listened to Amy.
Who does not know Evanescence? The band came in with a breaking ground first album “Fallen” that certainly created some ripple effects in the US Rock and Metal billboard and surely acted as a front door in the US (and probably in Europe too) to the Gothic and Symphonic Metal Wonderland to the mainstream music scene.
Got into Evanescence with their album “Fallen” that was good alternative metal/gothic rock with a fiery discussion whether Evanescence is belonging to metal or not (I consider it part of the metal genre, with really on the outer rim overlapping with the rock).
At the same I fell in love with Amy’s voice, I fell in love with my wife (for her Evanescence is the most metal band she will go into).
Not only talented with her voice, Amy is also a talented pianist. Certainly one of the best female metal artist from the US.
Exalt the Throne (Dallas/Fort Worth-TX):
Exalt The Throne is one of this band I have discovered purely by random during a gig. It was during a Epica concert as they played the opening act as a last-minute choice. I came, I listened and I was vindicated. The band is fronted by Courtney Johnson with a melodic death metal genre. This particular blend is very interesting because FFM with clean voices are in the Symphonic, whereas FFM playing in the death metal are usually growlers. This very nice blend of the bold and the beautiful is very refreshing and takes you by surprise.
The band just released their first album “Long Live the King” and will be reviewed later this month as a physical copy just came in last week. The album can also be purchased through iTunes.
FayTree is a female-fronted melodic death metal band still in its infancy, with a single out and a EP in progress. Falls into the similar chords than The Agonist or Arch Enemy. I cannot really talk much about the band since it is still into its infancy but worth to keep in your bookmark. Their single “insulation from consciousness” worth to keep an eye on:
In This Moment (Los Angeles-CA):
In This Moment. If I have to define my relationship with the band, it would be “it’s complicated”. Fronted by the charismatic Maria Brinks, I really liked their first three albums that were very good and promising until the band started to part out with the original lineup, one album at the time and taking more a direction lining on what I call “FM Radio Metal”, something more accessible but also as tasty as a Tandoori chicken without the spices in it. This also translated into live performance made with Brinkettes posing on stage and a burlesque fashion-show.
I really hope that the band reconsider getting back to their roots. To give you an idea of how good they were, listen to “Beautiful Tragedy” from their freshman album “Beautiful Tragedy”.
Kamelot. Kamelot. Maybe what I call an UFO, as the first thing that comes in mind that Kamelot is a power metal band from Scandinavia. But a surprising trivia is Kamelot is a power metal band originating from Tampa (Florida). This is kind of the paradox of the US metal scene: Kamelot is highly popular abroad the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and below the Rio Grande (they are big thing in Latin America, from Mexico down to Argentina and Chile) , yet mostly underexposed in the US territory. This is a band that has been touring for over twenty years and was iconized by the suave voice and romantic lyrics of Roy Khan. Certainly one of my best MFM US power metal band.
Mercy Isle (Detroit-MI):
Mercy Isle is gothic metal band, an off-shot formed by Cory Scheider, ex-guitarist from the former Ottoman Empire (fronted by Mary Zimmer) and keyboardist Joop de Rooji (sharing his time with Aria Flame) and fronted by Kassandra Novell. It is a fairly new band, with an EP “Storm” and an upcoming album “Undying Fire”. Mercy Isle is an example on how crowdfunding campaign such as Indiegogo or Bandcamp can help small bands get a chance to produce and sell themselves.
Mary Zimmer (Madison-WI)
Mary Zimmer is a particular metal singer. She is very good at what she is doing but for some reasons, the bands she was fronted last for a couple of releases before breaking apart. Mary can growl and sing vocals, giving this brutality and elegance.
She has being doing a terrific job as a front singer with the Ottoman Empire/Luna Mortis (Wrathshot, Anemic World) and with The White Empress (The Ectastic and The Sorrow, Darkness Encroaching).
Most recently, Mary announced her departure from the White Empress and launched her solo career as Santa Marta, still under development as we are talking.
Mary brings the heavy, the brutality and fast tempo that are hallmarks of the US metal.
My only regret? I wish I discovered the band when I was postdoc-ing in MadCity and that I see Mary performing live.
Felt forgotten from that list? Well bring a link to a YT video or a Soundcloud stream and if I like it, you will make it in next year’s list.