Metal, specifically doom metal, has always gone hand-in-hand with female power. One of the very first doom bands, Coven, kicked ass with a woman vocalist back in 1969. Now in 2018, one of the bands taking the doom scene by storm has a trans woman vocalist who is blowing her male peers out of the water. In addition to being a pioneering vocalist, who goes by the name of Doomstress Alexis, and her peers are all avid metal fans. CULTURE sat down with Doomstress to talk about the music, energy and cannabis as regular routine.
How did you get started playing music, and how did you get into metal?
Brandon: Playing music is something I’ve always wanted to do. After some persistent assurance from me that it was something I really wanted to do, my mother finally caved and bought me a guitar and amp when I was 13 years old. I got into metal by watching Headbangers Ball on MTV way back when they actually played music videos.
Matt: I started out in orchestra playing violin in middle school for three years, got pretty good, picked up the guitar when I was about 14, and never looked back. I got into [metal] around 12 or 13 when I started hanging out with this kid in my bowling league and he showed me bands like Carcass, At the Gates, Amorphis, Samael, Emperor, etc., the likes of which I had never heard before, and I was blown away by the capacity for aggression, creativity and melodicism, and it snowballed from there.
What are some of the major themes you explore in your music?
Doomstress Alexis: I tend to write lyrics based off of personal experiences in tragedy, triumph, sadness and loss, but also the struggle to overcome or to focus beyond the immediate world that surrounds us. I also look to current world events, which is pretty harrowing stuff, for inspiration. In all things I write, though, I try to keep it symbolic, or open to interpretation for the listener, as opposed to directly saying ‘this is what this is about.’ I think that can isolate listeners or make the songs a bit dull over a period of time.
How would you describe your sound?
Brandon: Heavy and dark with a lot of guitar harmonies, soaring vocals and tasteful guitar solos.
Doomstress Alexis: While doom is a definite influence in our sound, we also have a lot of classic metal, heavy rock and New Wave of British Heavy Metal influence that comes through, and I’d say our sound is a good mix of those.
Do you have any exciting tours, releases, etc. you want to announce?
Doomstress Alexis: We just released our EP, Supernatural Kvlt Sounds: The Second Rite, on split 12” vinyl with Sparrowmilk from Cleveland via DHU Records, as well as a CD version via NoSlip Records.
We also have a 10-day tour February 15-25 with Beerwolf from Tampa, as well as festival appearances at SXSW in Austin, Texas in March, Maryland Doom Fest 4 in June and Descendants of Crom 2 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this September. We are planning out tours around those events, and others for the year as well.
We just recently finished recording our full-length, cutting vocals and guitar solos with Kent Stump of Wo Fat at his studio in Dallas, Texas, and are awaiting studio time to finish mixing and mastering for a 2018 release.
I tend to write lyrics based off of personal experiences in tragedy, triumph, sadness and loss, but also the struggle to overcome or to focus beyond the immediate world that surrounds us. I also look to current world events, which is pretty harrowing stuff, for inspiration. – Doomstress Alexis
Have you ever worked cannabis into your music as a theme?
Doomstress Alexis: I have alluded to cannabis, but mostly in the figurative or symbolic sense. In “’Way of the Mountain” for example, I sing “Spirit walker came in a vision offering smoke and wine.” That is probably the most direct reference, but again it’s still open to interpretation.
How has cannabis affected your life and/or the creative process?
Matt: It generally helps me get into the feel the music, take things in and develop things in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way I may not have otherwise. It also helps me zone out and just ride the music on stage without much thought; it’s very cathartic.
Doomstress Alexis: I have never relied upon cannabis or anything else to directly influence my writing or creative process; however at times when I’ve been too wound up to see the direction for a piece, it has helped relax and focus me from time to time.
How do you feel about legalization so far? What could be done better or differently?
Matt: I think the federal ban should be lifted and it should be recreationally available nationwide. There’s absolutely no reason for us to be wasting jail space and taxpayers money on weed-related crimes when the space and money can be better spent on more serious and violent crimes. Weed is not dangerous.
Brandon: Just seeing one state with legalized recreational cannabis use is something I thought I would never see in my lifetime. So I’m happy with how far we have come. But there is still a lot more work to do. It’s only a matter of time before it become legal nationwide. But first we must get rid of the current administration before that will happen.
What is your favorite strain or cannabis product?
Matt: Lately, the past three years or so, I’ve been really into concentrates, especially live concentrates, because of the high potency and immense levels of flavor as compared to combusted grass. This is due to the fact that the buds are processed straight off the plant before curing, so the terpenes remain intact resulting in an aromatic experience akin to walking into a fully-budded grow room.
Band Name: Doomstress
Band Members: Doomstress Alexis, Brandon Johnson, Tomasz Scull
Genre: Doom metal
Most Recent Album: Supernatural Kvlt Sounds: The Second Rite, Dec. 17, 2017