Can Ex­treme Metal Break The Main­stream?

We asked Arch En­emy’s Alissa White-Gluz and Venom Prison’s Larissa Stu­par where the glass ceil­ing is

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Arch Enemy & Venom Prison - WORDS: STEPHEN HILL• PICTURES: KEVIN NIXON

Just how far can ex­treme music go? Arch En­emy put some sheen on the for­mula to be­come one of death metal’s most suc­cess­ful bands, while Venom Prison are get­ting wide­spread at­ten­tion and fes­ti­val main stage slots play­ing a more gut­tural, vi­cious strain of noise. But is there a glass ceil­ing on bands that have come from the un­der­ground? Alissa White-Gluz and Larissa Stu­par team up to dis­sect ex­treme metal’s chances of smash­ing into the main­steam – and how the face of the scene is chang­ing...

How did you both dis­cover ex­treme metal?

ALISSA: “I grew up in a house­hold where we all loved music. My sis­ter was in a tour­ing band, so we were ex­posed to a lot of grunge and punk music, but my ini­tial ex­po­sure to metal was ac­tu­ally not that heavy. It was prog metal, like Dream The­ater or some­thing – I guess that is ex­treme in its own way! But I only re­ally got into ex­treme music when I re­alised that I could do death metal vo­cals. I was ex­per­i­ment­ing with my voice, and it just sounded good! My band at the time was like, ‘Wow! You should do that in our songs!’ It was only then that I ac­tu­ally started ex­plor­ing this sound and get­ting into bands that sounded like that.”

LARISSA: “When I started lis­ten­ing to music, Nir­vana were the heav­i­est band I lis­tened to. Then I dis­cov­ered Slip­knot and they were the heav­i­est thing I had ever heard, and from there I just grew into punk and hard­core and death metal. I think Na­palm Death were the band that stood out for me the most. They had the po­lit­i­cal mes­sage and the pace and the power. I had al­ways wanted to be in a band but I could never do clean vo­cals, so first I was in a crust­punk

band and then a hard­core band, and then I just started to dis­cover more and more.”

so How ex­treme do your tastes go now?

ALISSA: “It’s two op­po­site ends of the spec­trum meet­ing in the mid­dle. I had to learn to ap­pre­ci­ate songs that are ex­treme and heavy, but that trans­late re­ally well live. That’s why, for me, I like to write songs that are struc­tured in a way that will trans­late live and on an al­bum. I don’t want to tour songs for 10 years that just sound like mud live.”

LARISSA: “I mean, we’ve only just started re­ally, so I don’t know how far we can push it son­i­cally. We don’t want to hurt any­body phys­i­cally, and we’re not as loud as some­one like Sunn O))) yet, so we do have room to push it. I don’t think there is a limit on ex­treme metal.”

ALISSA: “Yeah, I don’t think I have a point where I’m like, ‘Nope, that’s too far now!’ If I like it, I like it.”

LARISSA: “And metal is about power! Show­ing power and hold­ing your au­di­ence cap­tive.

That’s some­thing that we are try­ing to pur­sue live, be­cause we are a loud band and we want peo­ple to be scared of us. We just want to be loud as fuck.”

ALISSA: “And to me that is a re­ally in­trigu­ing idea. It makes me want to learn about it more. But I un­der­stand that some peo­ple put up a wall be­cause they don’t get it. Once you’re in the ex­treme metal com­mu­nity you re­alise that th­ese scary ex­pe­ri­ences are an act of pas­sion and that this is very so­phis­ti­cated music. Peo­ple who think this is stupid and that you just can’t hear what we’re say­ing or what­ever... they just don’t get it yet.”

is the stereo­type that the ex­treme metal scene is mainly for long-Haired dudes in spikes fi­nally start­ing to buckle?

LARISSA: “I see this scene as some­thing of a haven for un­der­dogs. We’re all un­der­dogs in this scene; we lis­ten to this music for a rea­son and we are all dif­fer­ent for a rea­son. I see be­ing a ve­gan, straight edge woman as be­ing the ul­ti­mate un­der­dog, and that’s why our music works so well.

You com­bine ex­treme music and ex­treme views, and you get to live as your­self and give a piece of your­self to peo­ple.”

ALISSA: “And I’ve never been pres­sured into be­ing any­thing other than me.

In this scene, no la­bels or man­agers have ever made me be any­thing other than my­self; it’s a free­dom that you don’t have in other gen­res. And it’s a risk! Once you say


you’re a fe­male, ve­gan, straight edge with blue hair you’re putting a tar­get on your head for hate, be­cause it’s dif­fer­ent, you know? I was all of those things before I started a band, and that’s one of the best things about metal: that you can be po­lit­i­cal and you can care about things. In fact, you kind of have to care about things be­cause so much pas­sion goes into the music that you have to por­tray that through the lyrics.”

LARISSA: “I’m sure Arch En­emy have made so many girls re­alise that they can be any­thing they want to be, and that’s why there has been this rise of women and girls bring­ing that new per­spec­tive. I think ex­treme metal is go­ing to be ac­cepted very soon in the near fu­ture, be­cause we see pop­u­lar cul­ture al­ways striv­ing to take over the un­der­ground. It’s some­thing new, cool and fresh. You see Na­palm Death at Glas­ton­bury! I think we’re on that path now.”

ALISSA: “I think the rise in pop­u­lar­ity of this ex­treme music that we’re see­ing is be­cause this is what the world needs right now. In a world full of Kar­dashi­ans and valu­ing shoes and breast im­plants… like, what­ever, do you if that’s what you like, but it’s hor­ri­fy­ing to me that, not only girls, but guys as well, are be­ing raised to think that the ideal of beauty is to be to­tally self­ish and su­per­fi­cial and only value your looks. I think what the world needs is to see that scream­ing and be­ing pow­er­ful and be­ing from any­where in the world and not be­ing per­fect is true beauty.”

ex­treme music re­ally is get­ting a big­ger plat­form on the world stage at the mo­ment…

ALISSA: “Yes, and there is that Prime Min­is­ter in In­done­sia who is a mas­sive metal fan, and they’ve got mu­rals of Ozzy Os­bourne and Lemmy on public build­ings. And they’re not ‘just there’, they have been com­mis­sioned by the gov­ern­ment! That is such an amaz­ing thing, to have some­one in a po­si­tion of such pro­file from our com­mu­nity.”

LARISSA: “And Bar­ney from Na­palm Death wrote him a let­ter about the death penalty, say­ing, ‘I know you’re a fan of my band but I re­ally don’t like the death penalty, can you do some­thing about it?’”

ALISSA: “That’s real power, that’s the power of this music. You know there is the part of us that wants to keep this music un­der­ground but I do think the world would be in a bet­ter place if this music was big­ger. I think it’s a very pos­i­tive thing, which is ironic be­cause this music sounds so ‘neg­a­tive’.”

so you’re all for ex­treme metal smash­ing the main­stream?

ALISSA: “I’m open to the idea of larger ex­po­sure if it stays the same mu­si­cally. I have so many peo­ple talk to me and I tell them I’m in a band called Arch En­emy, and they say, ‘Oh, cool, but what do you do for a liv­ing?’ I’m like, ‘I’m in a band!’ And they just haven’t been ex­posed to us yet. You lis­ten to the radio and it’s no bands! When we started it was bands on the radio, now it’s just mas­sive pop stars.”

LARRISA: “This is why DIY cul­ture is so im­por­tant in our scene, be­cause no one is go­ing to get a gig sup­port­ing Me­tal­lica or Suicide Si­lence if you’re an ex­treme metal band with no experience. You only get to play in those big venues if you have a book­ing agent.”

ALISSA: “And it was so im­por­tant to me to get that experience of play­ing when I was grow­ing up in Mon­treal. We started in lo­cal venues to about 10 peo­ple and a few years later we were play­ing to 200! Those scenes were key to un­der­ground music, but we have the in­ter­net now, we’ve truly gone global. We’re un­der­ground but have a huge global com­mu­nity that you can ac­cess on so­cial me­dia, so we may have lost some of those smaller venues, but we have gained that.”

so the big ques­tion – can ex­treme metal make it to the big time?

LARISSA: “It’s still un­der­ground at the mo­ment, de­spite the steps we’ve made, and it’s a long way off before we can have an ex­treme metal head­liner at a big fes­ti­val. But I wouldn’t rule that out one day.”

ALISSA: “I mean, I’m not sure I’ll ever see a grind­core fes­ti­val pulling in 80,000 peo­ple...”

LARISSA: “Un­less it was in In­done­sia!” ALISSA: “Yeah, maybe in In­done­sia!”



Alissa with her Arch

En­emy broth­ers


Venom Prison are tak­ing

no, umm, pris­on­ers

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