Since the release of Huntress’ debut album Spell Eater in 2012 on Napalm Records , lead vocalist Jill Janus has always been steadfast in her vision for the band as well as her own image as a woman in a metal band. This has won her a legion of loyal fans as well as being a lightning rod for Internet trolls who feel the need to disparage her for her style, image, and at times, her brutal honesty. Combine this with almost constant touring over the last 3 years, only taking time off the road to record their sophomore album Starbound Beast, then piling back into a van with four sweaty dudes and occasionally with a canine companion for more non-stop touring and this type of lifestyle would take its toll on most people. Yet, Janus has never wavered in her vision to create her trilogy of Mother, Maiden, and Crone, the final piece of the puzzle being the bands forthcoming album Static, which, in this reviewers opinion, is the bands crowning achievement. An album filled with soaring melodies, heavy guitar riffs, pounding drums, powerful vocals, and emotionally charged lyrics.
Yet with all the positive news surrounding Huntress, their vocalist Jill Janus was living with a secret, a secret that she has lived with almost her entire life and recently (and courageously) revealed in a recent interview, Janus stated:
“I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder first, when I was 20. I started to show signs of it when I was 13, though, and I struggled with it through high school. But it started to get dangerous in my early teens. By the time I was 20 and living in Manhattan, it was very, very difficult for me. That’s when I was admitted into a mental health facility and was diagnosed bipolar with schizoaffective disorder, which progressed into schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder.”
If this wasn’t enough to deal with, Janus also revealed that she recently had to undergo a hysterectomy to deal with her recent diagnosis of uterine cancer. The band had to pull out of a planned U.S. tour so Janus could heal properly. A lesser person would have crumbled under the weight of all of this adversity, but instead, Janus (along with best friend and support system guitarist Blake Meahl) took her these experiences into the studio during the recording of Static and the result is an emotionally heavy and powerful heavy metal statement.
The album kicks off with Sorrow, a flurry of squealing guitars, heavy guitar rhythms, thrashing drums, and aggressive and powerful vocals, as the band (featuring new members drummer Tyler Meahl and guitarist Eli Santana, both of power metallers Holy Grail) are firing on all cylinders. Tyler (Blake’s brother) and Santana add a new dimension to the Huntress sound while keeping the core style intact. Janus references her struggle with mental illness throughout the albums with lyrics describing pain, anger, and sadness:
Can’t let go
I’m done with getting old… All I got is breath to hold
My hate fuels the pain I get trashed to fuck my brain… Thoughts breed regret The future is my only threat
The albums lead off single, Flesh, is a riff-laden, melodic metal monster with a killer vocal performance from Jill with a huge chorus filled with soaring vocal harmonies. There is a point in the song after the guitar solo where Jill’s voice takes a somber tone, which provides an emotionally charged moment. One of the songs on Static that intrigued me right when I saw the title is Brian, a mid-tempo metal song with a hint of the occult and doom metal. Jill vocals are extremely melodic and overlayed with a higher harmony vocal during the chorus. The buzzsaw of guitar work by Blake and Santana is a highlight here. Lyrically, I’d be interested in knowing more about this songs inner meaning.
The next song, I Want To Wanna Wake Up is another blazing up-tempo metal anthem with Janus’ searing vocals testing the limits to her incredible 4-octave range. The songs subject matter dealing with loss and (I’m just guessing here) multiple personalities. The albums crowning achievement is also the longest song (clocking it at almost 9 minutes) titled Mania. It is here that Janus bares her soul for the world to see, talking about her bout with mental illness.
If you ever spent a night in my head… By the morning you’d be dead. It’s getting harder every time to pretend I’m getting harder to defend
With every word she sings, you can feel the pain and torment in Janus’ vocals. This is incredibly brave of Janus and in some ways a cathartic release to bring her fans closer in to understand her daily struggle. The song itself has a doom metal quality, with slow, trudging riffs and harmony guitars.
The next few songs Four Blood Moons, the title track, and Harsh Times On Planet Stoked are a triple threat of traditional headbanging, fist-pumping metal with some impressive riffs and guitar soloing from Meahl and Santana and a frenetic pace set by Tyler Meahl on the drums.
Noble Savage is a slice mid-tempo metal with a melodic chorus and a throwback to old school NWOBHM heavy metal the way it was meant to be played. The albums final track Fire In My Heart is another metal anthem where Janus seems to confirm that whatever life throws at her, she will always be true to her vision and that the fire of her art burns within her. The song is a powerful statement with some crushing riffs, aggressive vocals and an uplifting chorus filled with melodic harmonies.
On a side note, there are two bonus tracks (Black Tongue and The Vultures Can Wait) that were not available with the promotional copy that I was given for review.
With the final act of the Mother, Maiden, and Crone trilogy, Huntress has created their finest moment yet. It is an honest and raw look inside the mind of a couragelous and talented artist who will literally suffer for her art. If you have never given Huntress a chance to to your preconceived notions of what the band is about, I urge you to give Static a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised. This Crone is ready to bone!