I don’t recall exactly how I uncovered the album Mariner last year, a long distance collaboration between Swedish post-metal band Cult of Luna and local NYC vocalist, Julie Christmas.
What I do remember is this seemingly brief album of 60 minutes transporting me to an ethereal wonderland of shadow shapes and misadventure. Across five tracks we heard the intense range of Cult of Luna as instrumentalists and post-metal doomsayers. At its most aggressive moments Julie directed her voice across the ether in a spin of minor keys, hushed breathes and chants. Mariner is unafraid. It explores layered rhythms and echoed riffs, it builds tension between heavy and soft vocals, calling away and calling forth so many musical elements.
In the first weeks of the album’s release the artists spoke often of the project being a chance creation, limited by distance and full of doubt that touring the collab would ever be possible for personal reasons.
This really was my favorite album of 2016, so when they finally announced a live performance of the album in the States, I knew I’d be there, right up front, ears ready for transcendence. 😀
Closing out the six stop tour at NYC’s Gramercy Theater, I heard many in the crowd whisper, “It sounds Exactly like the record, she sounds perfect! It’s perfect!” like, duh- the best thing about metal is most bands staying authentic to live capability.
The performance of Mariner was flawless. The NYC crowd was a on the older side of things, less interested in crowd surfing or moshing- with a substantial audience of women present for Julie Christmas awesomeness. Musicians so often are in their own head and its great to find a band able to pull you into a world they’ve crafted together, a place that could burn on without them it’s so strong in its narrative sound.
When I discovered Julie’s talents through the deep scourge of YouTube recordings of Brooklyn punk shows, I knew I’d found something special. I’ve been working on my own music for a couple years now, struggling to find a style of singing aggressive enough for metal. But with a soft toned voice with high pitch, I can lose my voice after a couple hours of speaking loudly. Femme vocalists of the heaviest metal each have original sounds, knowing we can’t always growl an scream the way men do, we find other ways to project our voices. When I heard Julie’s shrill voice so similar to mine, I knew she was doing it right. The only other artist I’ve found with an equally strong high pitch voice is Valerie June, a bluegrass badass from Tennessee.
The second best part of seeing this performance was watching how she projected each song. Women in the heavy scene remain few and far between, its still validating to find others crafting a space that proves we can do this. That we are just as good as any dude in a death metal band, just as heavy – maybe heavier. \m/