Female fronted metal bands have held a place in my heart, going back to Lita Ford whose writhing leather jumpsuits furthered my transition into puberty. Over the past decade, the primal sexuality of the leather clad sirens was replaced by Andrew Loyd Webber acrobatics. This took away the dominatrix persona of the female metal singer and replaced her with melodramatic mezzo sopranos who croon to teenage girls reading Twilight books. Jill Janus’ band Huntress takes back the power.
I was skeptical at first glance of the video for “Eight of Swords” . I then learned Eric Harris the ex-bassist of Skeleton Witch is in the band, they still had a strike against them for being from Los Angeles. In the over saturated Hollywood music scene, retro-thrash thing could be an over zealous manager trying to steer a band away from being the next In This Moment.
A little digging and my suspicions were confirmed as Janus’ other name is Penelope Tuesdae. Under this name she has sung in “Under the Covers” Dave Navarro’s other cover band that’s not the popular Camp Freddy. Janus also spun as a d.j under this name as well.
Despite the double nature of their frontwoman, a few listens later I was more sold on the albums sincerity,despite the occult references being more for show than say the Devil’s Blood. This wouldn’t be the first band whose outside bull shit I forgot once they made it to my I-pod. Granted Janus’ look got their foot in the door for me but at the end of the day it’s music. I don’t care how nice your tits are if I need to clear some memory on my hard drive.
Huntress clearly soars in on the wings of the retro thrash band wagon with little new ground broken. At times "Spelleater" reminds me of the first few Metal Church albums more than say the obvious comparison to Warlock. The riffs are not derivative enough for me to play name that tune with. Janus’ melodies assist the often atypical chugged riffage. The guitar is competent but not wowing.
Sure Angela Glassgow has a more of a snarl as does a half dozen other few growlers from bands like Cerebral Bore, Walls of Jericho etc. Janus is actually singing. Not operatically but with the rough and powerful lungs metal asks for. She delves down into a growl or two for an effect but normally hovers over the proceedings with a healthy power metal yodel. \The band's Facebook bio claims she boasts a four octave range. This is either an exaggeration or their publicist does not know an octave consists of eight notes. She has a substantial range but is no Kate Bush. I hear traces of King Diamond, in her more theatrical moments. The choked demons growls are very similar to what King did on “Them”. Given Huntress' more straightforward attack it comes across a little silly, but forgivable as she is at least trying to do something different.
All of the great thrash bands, had a monster drummer on the throne behind them. Ex -Dark Black drummer, Karl Weirzbicky, gets the job done and on the title track he even flirts with being blasty mcnasty. By and large this is no attempt at being blackened thrash. The double bass gallops are as needed, yet the drum mix didn’t really do him any favors as he is buried under the guitars. The bass is also not very present in the mix, I think if the rhythm section had gotten a little more love in post-production the album would sound tons heavier.
The guitarist’s were sitting at the left hand of their producer when this was mixed. They give the vocals plenty of room but take up everything else. They are mean enough. This album isn’t going for brutality but fist pumping.
When I back away from the magnifying glass to head band to this it’s fucking fun. Huntress succeeded at making nostalgic for the days when this sort of this was new and coming out on Combat and Megaforce. Maybe D.J. Tuesdae was snorting lines of cocaine off Tommy Lee’s dick as he spun dance music in a metal bra, here a Jill Janus she makes a helluva metal singer so I can’t begrudge her too much for it . “Spelleater” takes it time to grow on me and has a few moments which drag a little in the final few songs.