Music News

Two Breeds of Badass Female-Fronted Bands at Mayhem Fest

The annual heavy metal throwdown known as the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival is making its way through Phoenix this week, and things are about to get heated. This year's lineup is one of the festival's best, with heavyweights Rob Zombie, Five Finger Death Punch, Machine Head, and Mastodon. But if you're attending, it's best to keep in mind that some of the must-see performances will be by a handful of gorgeous, unrelenting, and face-melting heavy-metal-chick-fronted bands: Butcher Babies and Huntress.

Neither band is necessarily new to the scene, but both have been climbing the metal ranks with reputations for killer stage shows and impressive vocals. And both are bringing their brutal style and sexy positivity to the otherwise male-dominated Mayhem Fest. They've proved they can handle the heat.

Butcher Babies frontwomen Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd embrace the art of shock value and have been known to perform soaked in fake blood with black electrical tape over their nipples (an homage to the late Wendy O. Williams), thrashing around mics with knife handles.

"One thing we try to get across in our live shows is controlled chaos," says Shepherd. "And to be that energy to the crowd."

Earlier this year, they hit the road with Marilyn Manson, honing their signature razor-sharp riffs, melodic vocals, searing screams, and growls.

"[Marilyn Manson] is definitely a rock star," says Shepherd. "The the second show in, we were playing a really high stage, and he came up to us said, 'That's a high stage. You girls should wear crotchless panties.' So that was the first thing he said to us. We were just like, 'Well, this is gonna be fun!' But in truth, he was very respectful."

Only days after wrapping the tour in Sin City, the band was in an L.A. studio recording its debut album, Goliath.

"We've been writing it our whole career. The second song we ever wrote as a band is on this album," Shepherd says.

Butcher Babies are releasing Goliath on July 9, to be a part of the festival, and the band Huntress had the same idea.

A throwback to the days of brutal speed and black metal, Huntress frontwoman Jill Janus is a force to be reckoned with — she has a killer vocal range (she landed her first role in an opera at age 10 with her four-octave coloratura soprano range), as well as the ability to growl and scream. She's been a part of a witch coven since age 15 and hosted a night cabaret in the World Trade Center up until the night before 9/11. She solidified Huntress' place in music with the release of its debut album, 2012's Spell Eater.

"We've just started our journey," Janus says.

The band thrives on heavy riffs, spectral solos, and catchy choruses that come from the band's fascination with nature, the occult, and experimentation. On stage, Janus embraces her sexuality, often scantily clad and covered in blood. Their new album, Starbound Beast, was released July 2, and even has a track, "I Want to Fuck You to Death," written for Janus by Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister.

"It is the most romantic song I've ever heard," adds Janus, laughing. The band plans on touring throughout 2013, which she admits can be hard, especially as a female.

"On stage and while I'm touring, in a somewhat difficult lifestyle, there can be a lot of negativity. I try to maintain a very positive and peaceful outlook on life because I can be very capable of unleashing a lot of darkness and negativity and, as the old adage says, 'What goes around, comes around,'" says Janus.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise