By ANDREW McKAYSMITH
The day of my interview with Dutch metalcore supremo’s The Charm The Fury presented a few firsts. I had never used the nominated communication application, Google Hangout. This is the first time I had spoken to a heavy metal band from The Netherlands and it is one of the only times I have been seriously disappointed on behalf of a band.
The Charm The Fury has just released what is a certain candidate for album of the year. The Sick, Dumb & Happy is a blend of the very best of Pantera, Emmure, Living Colour and ultra-modern FM radio electro-pop in the vein of Tove Lo and Rihanna. Westendorp’s monstrous roar and shimmering vocal is complimented by some of the finest riffs this side of Vulgar Display of Power. Tieken’s percussive groove adds a bedrock seemingly inspired by Ray Luzier’s (KXM, Korn, David lee Roth) flair with Hellhammer’s (Mayhem, Arcturus among many others) dominant backbone.
So early one bright morning on the Sunshine Coast, after the obligatory dozen or so attempts to download the ‘new’ application I managed to dial in and catch up with the captivating Caroline Westendorp (vox) and charming (geddit?!) Mathijs Tieken (drums).
Seriously, these two are the most enthusiastic interview subjects that I have yet encountered. “Oh, god I love your accent”, is one of the first comments that I am greeted by from Westendorp. It turns out that I was the first Australian they had spoken to on this round of interviews. “I don’t think we have managed to reach a lot of Australian audiences yet actually, which is a shame because I think the Australian metal scene is one of the most vibrant up and coming scenes in the world at the moment. There are so many great Australian bands right now.”
Given the bands enthusiasm and predilection for having a good time we somehow get onto discussing our preferred choice of alcoholic beverages, a passion it seems the Dutch and Australians share! “I’m not much of a partyer. I guess a pretty heavy drinker though. It used to always be beer and now it’s sort of degraded to an even worse drink, whiskey and Coke” Laughs Tieken. “I’m now drinking a workout drink because I like working out and being all healthy, and when I drink (alcohol) I now drink skinny bitches, so vodka and water” quips Westendorp. “Yes… it’s horrible!” she laughs referring to the tepid alcoholic beverage just mentioned. They were surprised to hear that I stock the traditional Dutch liquor, Advocaat, in my own bar. “How do you know that? I thought that was a Dutch thing?” I mention my long since departed father used to drink it and I caught the taste for the yellow beverage from him. “That is great, you can bring it back then!” It turns out that not even the Dutch drink much Advocaat anymore…
The jovial atmosphere of the discussion continues however all is not as rosy as the pairs tone and frequent laughter may indicate. Not everyone has been as keen as myself to embrace the songs from The Sick, Dumb & Happy that were available via streaming services at the time the interview was recorded. “Some of our current fans haven’t been very happy with our new material. We released two videos and we got a lot of reactions. It’s like ‘guys what are you doing?’ They miss the straight up metalcore sound of our previous releases because The Sick, Dumb & Happy is so different”. Reflecting on that comment Westendorp then offers that “…you win some, you lose some. I am hoping we can reach a bigger audience with it. I say give our album a chance as there is something there for our old fans, lots of metalcore types of songs”
If I thought that was it for the less than salubrious subject matter, the next phase of our chat seriously surprised me.
“There is still a lot of sexism in the music industry. Security would often ask me ‘What are you doing backstage?’ or ask other band members to ‘take this girl to somewhere else’. It’s funny how you get treated in the music industry as a girl. So, that is quite a challenge.”
Forgetting that I am the father of two daughters who I hope harbour a desire to become active in the performance arts, I’m genuinely disappointed that Westendorp, as someone with talent to burn and so capable of bringing people joy through her wonderful persona has to put up with any of that type of shit.
Tieken’s next comments mirror my own chagrin. ”I’ve actually been surprised because I remember when we started this band I didn’t really think that sexism would even be an issue with metal heads. But actually, we have noticed that every time we put out a song you will get two different types of comments. One will say that this band would be nowhere without (Westendorp) out front and the other type is this band is shit because of her. Those are typical of the types of comments we get. The basic point of the reason they listen seems to be “Alright! How can I pick this a part, what do I dislike about this”. I feel like almost nobody just listens to it with like a blank canvas. It’s like ‘because The Charm The Fury are female fronted I have to have an opinion.’ ”
As an avid attendee of gigs in the 90’s, my mates and I could best be described as socially awkward yet polite young fellows lacking confidence with the opposite sex. Without sounding crass, we could only wish there were ladies like Westendorp in the bands and in the crowd. I can’t tell you how many gigs I have been to over the years where literally the only females in attendance were venue staff…
A quick glance at the bands presence on social media reveals the truth in Tieken’s statement. Peppered throughout the messages of support were comments referring to Westendorp in a seriously derogatory manner.
For those that doubt the tenacity of the fairer sex imagine trying to keep up with champion Australian Rugby Union player, Ellia Green (OAM) in literally any physical demanding activity. She’d best you every time.
Either way, check out The Sick, Dumb & Happy as it is a fantastic example of modern metal at its finest. Out now through Nuclear Blast.