There has been a lot of talk recently about change. One or two of you may have noticed that some new guy has been voted in as President Elect. There is no doubt that this is a momentous time for the United States to have the first African American president voted in with such enthusiasm, but we should not get too obsessed about the racial connotations of his victory. The reason why the American people voted him in was not because he is black, it is because he enthused and inspired a nation that has felt pretty uninspired for the last four years or so.
I love it when things like this happen, and these moments are significant in our culture and our history – they send out strong messages of potential to a new generation to demonstrate just what is possible. Someone has stepped above the plate and inspired change, and inspired others to be as bombastic and adventurous in their own endeavours.
This reminds me of a story of change that has occured within the much smaller extent of the metal world. As even non-metal fans will imagine, the heavy metal world is something of a sausage-fest. The vast majority of bands are filled with twenty-something males, getting on stage to do what they do and generally beating their chests. There are clearly exceptions, but even in the exceptions, the place of women has often been more receded – playing bass or backing vocals. Few bands have had women up front, kicking it out like the guys.
Then Arch Enemy came along. As a pretty ripping melodic death metal band founded from the ashes of Carcass, they originally had Johan Liiva on vocals who was then replaced by Angela Gossow. Now, Gossow was not performing the angsty yet angelic singing that other female vocalists in metal had traditionally performed – instead she got out there and growled in as gnarly and visceral fashion as anyone else. In fact, when Wages Of Sin (the first album with Gossow) was released, many didn’t actually believe it was a woman on vocals, and those who were aware assumed that the vocals were processed in some way. Not at all. Everything was as pure and unfettered as her male counterparts, and every time I saw Arch Enemy play (around four or five times in two years), she delivered an uncompromising vocal and live performance.
Gossow probably never imagined what this would trigger. Not only were we treated to some pretty rocking music, but she sent out a hugely positive message to women who loved rock music but struggled to find their place in such a male dominated world. Although the metal world is an incredibly inviting, close-knit, proud community of people, the nature of the music is intense and physical. Gossow stepped up and showed women everywhere that they could do it too. Since then we have seen a wealth of female fronted metal acts, with the most recent I have been getting into are Walls Of Jericho, with Candace Kucsulain providing an even more ripping vocal performance than Gossow.
Getting back to Obama, what Gossow proved was that the theory was possible. Before she came along, and before Wages Of Sin was released, anyone with half a brain knew full well that women could get up there and perform vocals just like the guys – there was no physical or social reason why not. What Gossow did was the inspire a new chapter in our culture, to inspire a new generation of musicians to get up there and realise their dreams.
And this is what is important from my perspective – communicating the theory of what is possible does not cause change, it still remains simply theory. To make real change, we need inspirational figures to really show what is possible. Whether that happens in the White House or in a tiny club in London, the sense of inspiration is still the same.