Unless you're Christina Scabbia or Bleeding Through's Marta Peterson—who've both accentuated their sexuality to ease entry into the boys' club of metal—it can be hard out there for a female metal musician. Years of He-Man jocularity and racy "Ladies of Metal" pictorials in Revolver ensured as much. Try talking about Walls of Jericho, for instance, without mentioning their female vocalist. Not easy.
But a handful of metal double X's, like Arch Enemy's Angela Gossow, have done well without totally fetishizing their gender for the sake of record sales and cover stories. Chapel Hill's The Curtains of Night should have a keen awareness of these sorts of identity politics. After all, their dueling agro assault comes at the hands of—you guessed it—two women.
All-girl band in an all-guy universe they might be, but guitarist Nora Rogers and drummer Lauren Fitzpatrick render the gender card irrelevant about half way through the first song on their debut, Lost Houses: The vocals pierce through the swampy sewage of "Living Forest," reaffirming—the way Savannah's Kylesa so often does—that shrill, sandpapered female screams are the perfect complement to backwoods metal muck.
Though he didn't produce the record, the roomy, overblown aesthetic of Kylesa's Phillip Cope informs much of Lost Houses, which bears fairly regular resemblance to his band and his cohorts in Baroness, while occasionally nodding to Durham groove titans Des Ark and the yelped post-hardcore of Pg 99 offshoot City of Caterpillar. But Curtains borrows too much from no one source to be pegged so easily. The duo finds its own footing on strong stuff like the title track. With its build-and-release riff and its teeth-gnashing outro, "Lost Houses" tosses back the veil to reveal a raw, room-mic jam.
All in all, it's a collection that fits perfectly into the young history of New Southern Metal, which throws out many of the tough-guy postures and meathead clichés that have led to far too many bras on the cover of Revolver. And thank goodness for that, because Lost Houses is allowed to focus diligently on songcraft. Front to back, it's a record that knows how to land punches, veering from the boots in the mud power of "The Letter Four" to skuzzed-up iterations of doomy bombast like "Total Domination."
Lost Houses isn't without its faults, though. Like so many bands that have honed a certain aesthetic, the duo is often too comfortable in its footprints, relying on similar tricks over the record's 40 minutes. But these issues really only reveal themselves when the record is taken piece by piece. As a whole, it's a mountain of superb riffage, and one of the Triangle's best steady sludge deluges in memory.
Outside of the metal scene to which it belongs, Lost Houses probably won't register that loudly. But, as the outmoded ideas of a 40-year-old genre get elbowed aside, this album indicates a larger shift, something important happening: Women of metal are finally being allowed to lose the corsets and ditch the Dita Von bullshit if they so desire. Finally the "Ladies of Metal," righteously epitomized by The Curtains of Night, are allowed to do what the guys do: Just fucking slay. —
The Curtains of Night releases Lost Houses with a free show at Local 506 Friday, Oct. 3, at 10 p.m. In the Year of the Pig and Death Came Down the Mountain open.