Freelance writer Bryan Reesman has submitted the following report to GRAMMY.com:
If the multi-platinum success of EVANESCENCE proved to narrow-minded rock jocks that female-fronted metal bands were viable, a fresh wave of melodic European headbangers should cement that affirmation, with their distinct blend of heavy guitars, symphonic underpinnings and soaring female vocals. Thanks to the breakthrough of "Fallen", like-minded groups that court gothic and classical influences are starting to find success on American shores.
"For quite a number of years we've personally loved that sound and tried to champion it," declares Marco Barbieri, president of the Century Family of labels that includes Century Media and Nuclear Blast. "We initially liked the European, gothic-inspired stuff that came out of some of the doom and death metal bands of the early '90s. When women started joining these bands, they made it that much more exciting and compelling."
Their sounds are quite distinct. NIGHTWISH blends gothic brooding with intense guitars and classical bombast. Their recent album, "Once", features orchestra, choir and a Native American flute player. LACUNA COIL play gothic-tinged heavy rock that invokes a more aggressive Evanescence (and they have been around much longer). LEAVES' EYES, lead by former THEATRE OF TRAGEDY singer Liv Kristine, serve up dreamy, medieval-style metal. All of these bands employ lush keyboards and often contrast their beautiful female singing with harsh male growls normally reserved for death metal. That latter concept may not sound commercial, but EVANESCENCE may have paved the way for its acceptance through the male rap-metal exchanges of "Bring Me To Life".
Odin Thompson, label manager for Napalm Records USA and Moribund Records, sees a basic appeal for these groups — they write great music." These bands bring that heavy edge but inject it with melody and arrangements that have been long lost from rock and roll ," he asserts. "They also offer light to the normally dark world of heavy metal, which makes them special amongst their peers." Thompson believes this subgenre has the potential for tremendous commercial success at a major label level, something Napalm has strongly believed in for years with acts like SINS OF THY BELOVED, TRISTANIA and SIRENIA.
"I'm sure the majors are probably working on their own [groups]," surmises Barbieri. "I feared that a lot of manufactured, female-fronted bands would be coming out after the first EVANESCENCE single. Thankfully we've been spared that from the corporations, and it's being done the right way. Those that have been doing it [awhile] are gaining presence and profile."
The most obvious example of such visibility is Italy's LACUNA COIL, whose two-year-old album "Comalies" scanned more than 200,000 units domestically, cracking the Billboard Top 200 for several weeks last year after extensive grassroots development on radio, video play on Fuse and MTV2, and tours with P.O.D. and Ozzfest.
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