Fuck the Facts / Landmine Marathon
Stigmata High-Five / Wounded
Relapse / Level Plane
B / B+
n recent years, heavy music has seen a rise in frontwomen who don't play the role of siren. Arch Enemy's Angela Gossow, for example, has a death growl that shames most of her male counterparts. She is a serious practitioner of her craft; live, she effortlessly slides from a deep death growl to a high-pitched howl, with an alarmingly normal speaking voice between songs. Ludicra's Laurie Sue Shanaman delivers both bottomless black metal shrieks and haunting choral singing. In hardcore punk, Candace Kucsulain (Walls of Jericho), Ally French (ex-Bloodlined Calligraphy), and Alison Bellavance (ex-Fall River) have frightened many a moshpit, while Alexandra in German grindcore band Bolz'n has belched forth some of the most unfeminine sounds ever uttered. Add Mel Mongeon from Fuck the Facts and Grace Perry from Landmine Marathon to this list; one is seasoned, while one is not, but both could peel paint off walls.
Canadian grindcore act Fuck the Facts began in the late 90s, compiling a long discography of split 7"s, split CD's, and limited-pressing full-lengths. Mongeon joined up for 2002's Backstabber Etiquette, an album that could only be described as "crazy." FtF's foundation is grindcore, yet the band appends melodic death metal, prog detours, and brittle electronics to form a rather spastic hybrid. It's common for FtF songs to go from glitchy beats to full-on grind to the second coming of At the Gates, all within seconds. But Stigmata High-Five tones it all down. Somewhat. It's the band's first album with a real budget, and one gets the impression the band wanted to "get down to business."
The business is still killing, mind you. And the killing is still good. Electronic touches pop up here and there, but by and large, the album runs on guitars. The seven songs here range from two to almost nine minutes in length, but their duration is irrelevant. The band leaves little time for recovery, as songs drag listeners over bumps of speed, spikes of dissonance, and acceleration/deceleration galore. Strong production and tight performances shape the album into a singular weapon, with Mongeon's voice as the warhead. It's somewhere between a growl and a shriek, dropping to the former and rising to the latter according to the occasion. Her voice fits perfectly as a sonic texture, with only a spoken word segment on "La Derniere Image" to remind us of her apparent humanity.
Landmine Marathon is rougher around the edges, but no less potent. On its full-length debut, this Phoenix, AZ band cheats on grindcore only with its cousin death metal, deploying nine songs in 23 minutes. Thanks to metal vocal coach Melissa Cross, screams and growls have become a business of science, with specific techniques employed to preserve vocal intensity and longevity. One almost wants to direct Perry to Cross, as her vocals are so throat-shredding that one feels hoarse just listening. But she never loses her voice or poise. Unlike Mongeon's somewhat androgynous delivery, Perry's is definitely female. At times, she dips into a strong death growl, but for the most part, she sears the midrange. The fact her voice is higher than most men's doesn’t weaken its power. In fact, it cuts through the mix more effectively than the typical cookie monster vocal, which often competes with guitars in the lower midrange. The riffs are menacing, electric, and dirty, with the occasional upper-register melody. But they serve as background to Perry, as they should. A voice this vicious wouldn't have it otherwise.