Lady Beast Stake Their Claim On ‘Vicious Breed’
Pittsburgh’s struggles to resurrect itself from the death of the steel industry that built it have been covered by everyone from The Onion to Anthony Bourdain, who in a recent episode of his CNN series Parts Unknown could be heard waxing about the city being stuck between an old industrial world and a new wave of tech startups and gentrification. An industry the city has never had is one to support its many musicians, who, despite a near-total lack of media and record label support, continue plowing fertile ground for all manner of bands and artists.
If you watched that episode of Parts Unknown closely, you caught a glimpse of another side of Pittsburgh: one of dimly lit, smoky (a stubborn holdover from its steelworker days) dive bars with bands playing to small but dedicated crowds. More specifically, you would have seen Lady Beast, a band that plays capital-H Heavy Metal that requires no prefix, suffix, or subgenre tag to let you know which drawer to file them in.
Traditional heavy metal in the vein of its originators is well-worn territory that’s tough to put any interesting new spin on. When done well, though, it can briefly recall a time when kids gathered in parking lots of arenas to see the heavy metal pop stars of the day. On Vicious Breed, Lady Beast does heavy metal well.
The band’s fourth full-length record -- and first for Italian label Cruz Del Sur -- begins with a somber moment of clean guitars quickly overrun by a crossfade into the full attack, unrelenting until the penultimate track. “Seal The Hex” will likely do one of two things for you: seal the deal, or slam the door in your face. It’s a statement of the album’s intention to preach the gospel of 1980s heavy metal, and the band is only interested in those who’ve already been converted.
What sets Lady Beast apart from numerous other trad-metal acts is their singer Deborah Levine whose power metal vocal dexterity and penchant for melody and theme makes a strong case against that Dio hologram nobody ever asked for. Beyond a female voice -- of which there are many in the metalsphere that go unrecognized -- Levine offers her unique female perspective. On songs like “Lone Hunter” and “Get Out,” Levine defends the claim she’s spent years staking out with swords and a bullet belt, ready to cut down any dude who thinks he can do it better.
Throughout the record is a sparse, smart production job by Jason Jouver (of Don Caballero's second era of fame) whose less-is-more approach gives each instrument space of its own to occupy where many producers would cram every sonic range with quintupled guitars and canned reverb. Even when the band’s dual guitar players (Chris Tritschler and Andy Ramage) go off on their many forays into Maidenesque guitarmony, there’s no overdubbed rhythm guitars crowding the speakers. They opt instead to give Greg Collaizzi and his throaty Rickenbacker bass tone room to walk around. Adam Ramage rounds out the band with straight-ahead drumming that doesn’t give a shit about impressing you with its skills so much as it does about keeping it all together as the band pushes itself to its musical edge and wears the minor flaws that make it real with pride. The album’s final, self-titled song is its finest. The interplay between guitar and vocals in the song's chorus is an anthemic crescendo to a record that holds up from beginning to end.
A DIY band in a city with virtually no music industry doesn’t get four records deep and pushing a decade old by sitting on its collective ass. The fact that on their fourth time around Lady Beast has made their best record yet is a testament to their dedication and work ethic that persists, even as the city they call home tries like hell to bury its blue collar past.
-- John Dziuban
Vicious Breed released on November 17th via Cruz del Sur Music. Stream it below via Bandcamp where you can buy it as well..