Hell hath no fury… like Malta’s female-fronted metal music festival

Ahead of Malta’s very first celebration of female-fronted metal music, TEODOR RELJIC speaks to local ‘Blackened Industrial Death Metal’ band Martyrium about Voices of the Succubi, an upcoming festival which they’re both organising and participating in, and which will bring together a local and international selection of metal bands under one roof. The only caveat? All the bands are led by female singers

Martyrium: “We explore the all-encompassing, abrasive, powerful release of the feminine voice in music”
Martyrium: “We explore the all-encompassing, abrasive, powerful release of the feminine voice in music”

How did the festival come about, and what were some of the motivations behind setting it up?

Back in March 2016 (and even before as we were preparing for our latest tour) Martyrium was part of the ‘Female Fronted Metal Extreme Festival’ in Belgium; an event which was organised by one of the bands taking part in our festival this September (Cryptogenic). As you can imagine, it was in fact this mind-blowing experience further inspired us to create a similar event here in Malta.

Finally, apart from celebrating the unbound capactiy of the human voice, what we aimed for was to assemble female-fronted metal bands from all over Europe (that are either established, or currently climbing up the ladder). Martyrium earnestly commits to deliver a merciless and memorable show.

Why would you say that an all-female metal festival is something notable in our scene? Is female representation lacking in the metal scene – both in Malta and elsewhere – or is it just not highlighted enough?

Locally with the passing of time, various female-fronted bands which are also ranging in style are becoming more and more apparent. We can see female vocalists singing jazz and swing (Swing Nuages), doom and atmospehric (Deluge of Sorrow), females singing soprano (Weeping Silence and Rising Sunset), punk (RAS) to name but a few. This is also true about foreign bands. So in all honesty, while we do believe that this scene is mostly represented by men, it is also a fact that Maltese underground bands adopt a very open and accepting attitude towards female vocals. Add a little pinch of curiosity from metal fans, (who would usually want to know what sort of vocals the female vocalist will deliver) and this can also be applied to our metal audiences.

Apart from enjoying the presence of notable musicians such as Cadaveria and Mechanical God Creation, this festival offer the first extreme metal fest which is fronted by females. More than any other festival, we explore the all-encompassing, abrasive, powerful release of the feminine voice in music. 

On that note, how would you trace a rough ‘history’ of the emergence of female-fronted metal music in Malta? Was it a recent development or does it stretch further back?

It’s difficult to give a detailed and accurate history of all the female-fronted bands that were ever set up here in Malta. However the past few years have seen an abundant development in this area. Back in the 80s we had the band Overdose fronted by Miriam Spiteri. Georgina Abela was also into rock at the time. Back in those days most of Malta was still in the Metal and Rock ‘Dark Ages’, except for Rock Village, which at the time was in Tigne barracks and served as a place for most bands to meet and rehearse. This was where it all started as – quoting a local musician active at the time – the musicians “crawled out of the nooks and crannies”. As the years went on, other female-fronted bands emerged, though some have changed their line-ups over time. These included Oblique Visions (1993) who saw the addition of two female vocalists later on for a brief period of time, Weeping Silence (1998), Deluge of Sorrow (2000), Rising Sunset (2001), Memento Nostri ( 2005),  Angel Blade, Sepia (2008) and Shadowborne (2009), to name but a few.

The festival boasts some impressive international participants… how did you manage to get them on board, and what did they find appealing about Malta in particular?

We met most of the bands on our bill during other tours around Europe. These musicians are always interested to know about and experience the music scene on our tiny islands. As a result, after various methodical discussions we start our negotiations  to book them in. Sometimes we receive applications of interest from other bands through our official website or Facebook. After a thorough review of the band, we go through a selection process.

What do you make of the local metal scene? What would you change about it?

The local metal scene in Malta is quite strong with a recognizable and unique identity in most bands.  It is no wonder that if you’re performing on stage, and Malta being so small, metal audiences are usually people who you would know from other walks of life.  So while you’re on stage you’re probably playing to a collegue, a family member, a friend or someone you know.  To an extent this makes the scene very comfortable and welcoming at best.

A few problems which we can currently identify is the gross lack of available venues for performances, chilling out as well as proper rehearsal space were bands can comfortably meet on a daily basis (and by ‘comfortably’, we mean having easy access to a restroom). Another problem may be the lack of communication between organisers who sometimes end up organising events in the same genre that end up clashing with each other – making an already dense scene feel even more cluttered. 

What can the audience expect from the festival, as an overall experience?

For sure a brilliant show with outstanding arising and established bands and a varied selection of music that will surely keep our audiences screaming up for more!

Voices of the Succubi will be taking place at Razzett L-Ahmar, Mosta on September 17. The featured acts include Cadaveria (Italy), NordWitch (Ukraine), Weeping Silence (Malta), Cryptogenic (Belgium), Aeranea (Germany), Mechanical God Creation (Italy) and Martyrium (Malta). For more information and bookings, log on to: http://www.votsfestival.com/