Header_DenigrataA Lecturer in Popular Music at a British Higher Education institution, Denigrata Herself is undertaking her PhD in women in extreme metal. She is also the front woman/guitarist in Denigrata, an experimental black metal collective. Denigrata have coined the term noir concrête for their music, meaning the avant-garde dark noise initiated by Pierre Schaeffer and Karlheinz Stockhausen finds a different rhizomatic existence within their contemporary black metal performance space.

Denigrata Herself is a gender theorist whose research and publications to date focus on body performativity, reclamation of female space, tattooing, graphic novels, death metal and black metal. She is part of the International Society for the Study of Metal Music (ISMMS) and sits on various academic and equal rights boards in the UK.

For over a decade she was a lead guitarist in British death metal bands, she was signed to and worked for various independent record labels and now devotes her time to lecturing, researching and performing. She is choir master for her departmental chamber choir and presents annual post-modern renderings of canonical classical pieces with her choir, a string quartet, a contemporary band and Ableton performers.

Denigrata Herself – Reflections from the Recording Studio

Sorry for my absence of late, Denigrata have been in the recording studio and whilst this process historically has not been something I have enjoyed, this time has been completely different. We opted for Initiate Audio and Media, based in the East Midlands, UK which has Neil Hudson, an incredible engineer and musician, at its helm. As such, he has made the recording process more of an opportunity, rather than a laborious task.

However, because our set up is different from a great many bands, I think we underestimated how much longer the process would take because of it. Having no drummer may seem like it would make recording easier, but because of the sheer amount of files we use, it has actually meant we have been encouraged to really focus on every single tiny aspect of our music.

It would be easy to categorise this as annoying or perhaps, cavalier regarding attention to detail because some people enjoy this process, others don’t. I am most certainly in the ‘don’t’ category, or at least I was. Perhaps I used to think about it as time = money and so to spend a long time in the studio simply meant racking up a huge bill which wasn’t at all preferable. But what this particular recording process has done has been enlightening.

Through using Ableton, it has meant that every single sound, timbre, texture and time signature has been accessible, put in stasis if you like, in order for us to carefully analyse its inclusion and function. This has meant a different engagement with our music as well as how it will be recorded.

The usual is there, guitar and bass tracking, laying the keys and vocals and whilst I’m used to recording guitars, this is the first time I have recorded any vocals. The morning I was due in the studio, I was quite anxious as I genuinely didn’t know what to expect, from me or the process. I hadn’t warmed up particularly (not something I would recommend!) but got straight into it as soon as I got there.

After various fuck ups, laughing fits and minor alterations, I nailed all the tracks and before I knew it, my day was done and it was time to sit back and listen to what had been captured. I can honestly say I sat there in complete shock! I couldn’t believe it was me! I heard evil, terrifying screamed vocal lines and from someone who sings opera and choral music during my teaching, this absolutely blew my mind!

Having only heard myself at practice and only vaguely at gigs, I was not really able to obtain any objectivity on my ‘sound’ and articulation but hearing this back now, I am able to do so. Having spent so long singing expected gendered songs, vocal lines, soprano tessituras, I was unprepared for the way my vocals for Denigrata would alter my own perception, not only of gender roles but of capabilities. I think well if I can do it, anyone can. I have often held extreme metal vocalists (mostly men) in high regard, thinking that it must be exhausting; it must ravage your vocal chords and be very hard to maintain; naively I was worried I didn’t have what it takes. However, perhaps because of how much I enjoy being a vocalist, this has helped my evolution and commitment to making the sound I have in my head. I suppose in those terms, it’s no different from finding a guitar distortion that meets the sound you want to use. But unlike a guitar pedal or head, you can’t just fix your settings, doing the vocals requires something more.

In order for me to do this, I have to feel. I need to feel the darkness in my soul in order for that sound to come out. It is a cathartic process as well as terrifying. Staring straight at your own fears and being willing to bare your soul is a scary prospect. That being said, I hadn’t thought it would be as empowering as it is. When I scream my vocal lines, I find it almost transcendent. I know this may sound daft, but it’s true. I don’t know if other extreme metal vocalists experience something similar or not, but being able to scream out all the pain, the misery and sorrow is a very valuable gift that I am deeply thankful for.

Needless to say I am very excited to hear the final cut of the album! As H.P. Lovecraft wrote, ‘madness rides the star winds’ and it is time we join them.

Comments are welcome. Denigrata Herself can be contacted at denigrataherself@horizonvumusic.com