New Music Reviews

Backxwash and Banshee’s Never Forgive: The Evolution of Death Metal

On the surface, Backxwash and Banshee tick all the classic death metal boxes. Dark crunchy guitar with 200mph drums….tick. Screaming at a level that you swear is not possible by a human throat…tick. Finally, dark lyrics about the devil and death…tick. However, a closer look shows you two Canadian women, one woman of colour who sings about gender / race and another woman who sings fairy metal. There’s something interesting happening in these dark woods.

Musically, this track is classic death metal with machine gun drums and chainsaw guitar. This sounds like the waiting room music in hell. However, there is more going on under the surface. There is an etherial bridge that shows a fragility not normally associated with death metal that lifts the entire track. It sounds like some interlude by Glados from Portal….the cake is a lie, am I right? That’s a shout out to all you Portal heads. Anyway, this is the glittery fairy metal part of the track, which provides a nice break and feels like an oasis within a hellish lava desert. I think death metal fans will find the arrangement both comfortingly familiar, but also fresh.

Lyrically / vocally is where this track really sets itself apart from other death metal songs. Musically it is close to classic death metal bands like Deicide and even a surface listen to the vocals have hints of that guttural delivery death metal is known for. However, that is where the similarities end. Backxwash has a mix of metal and hip hop that has a raw passion to it that is unparalleled in metal. Her previous record I Lie Here Buried With my Rings and my Dresses has themes of race, gender and violence towards women. Moreover, Banshee has a death metal vocal that has me wondering if she can speak after recording, but can also effortlessly move into this glittery fragile bridge that is like nothing in metal. Banshee is also not new to taking on gender themes in her music with Fuck With a Witch focused on taking down toxic masculinity. This track follows each artist’s form with lyrics like “Sleep with a knife under my pillow / In case you fuck up.” It is this hyper-vigilance women must inhabit in order to remain safe and defend themselves from male violence. There are classic death metal references to plagues, death and the devil, but the true devil is what lives in the real world and what forces them to have a knifes under their pillows.

In a sense, Never Forgive is far scarier than the death metal tracks from bands like Deicide and others. In those tracks devils and demons are cartoonish figures that bathe in blood and dance around the room. For Banshee and Backxwash, the real devil / demon is one that lurks among us and can use violence at any time. This devil is unpredictable and requires constant vigilance…even in the safety of your own bed. In this sense, for women the bed is both a site of safety and terror / violence. It is this ability to take death metal to deeper thematic places that have Banshee and Backxwash on all metal heads’ bands to watch lists.

Listen to Never Forgive

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