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Angela Gossow : Many Interpretations

November 27, 2009
Angela Gossow

Angela Gossow, badass vocalist of Arch Enemy

Anyone who asks about female metal vocalists will be directed to Angela Gossow, lead singer of Arch Enemy. She’s different from the other female singers out there : she’s in an extreme metal band and uses the growl instead of clean vocals.

Now, this is unremarkable really, in and of itself. However, music is a snapshot of the times, and which musicians we validate is a barometer of our values and expectations. When I first heard Arch Enemy as a teenager, my first reaction was, “Wait, that’s a woman singing?!” I only saw men do harsh vocals, so I assumed the voice gracing my ears was male. It’s a mid ranged growl, somewhere between low, guttural death metal and high, banshee-esque black metal styles. The reactions I heard others express were similar to mine.

Angela was not completely dismissed and written off because Arch Enemy’s music is solid. While extreme, it’s still accessible to metal fans of many walks. Angela also inhabits a place in metal that not many women do. She presents herself as feminine enough to draw the sexual interest of some male fans, but not so much that they’d trivialize her through sexuality.

Angela comments 0n her presentation:

“My style is feminine/tough – matching my stage personality. I want to look good in my clothes but still wanna be able to move in them. I prefer pants all the way. Dresses aren’t my thing at all. I like it simple but with small, interesting details. I don’t like an overdressed look. Yes, of course do I sort out my own clothes. I wouldn’t want it any other way!” (via her official website)

She walks this fine line because 1) it’s what she wants and 2) she knows presenting herself any other way would be career suicide (ala Winds of Plague). If Hillary’s cleavage made news, think of the mishigoss that would ensue if Angela Gossow showed some skin? She’s exactly what the world of metal wants out of the women who make metal music. Any slight deviation (more sexy, new musical direction, etc) would detract from her success. I’m glad this is what she wants, and these unwritten rules don’t constrain her expression.

While she is sometimes the subject of male desires and gaze, Angela is also an inspiration to many young women. She has said this in the documentary “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey”, and restates it in a recent interview:

“A lot of girls come out to shows and thank me for being a role model. I’m quite outspoken about how I was when I was a teenager. I had to battle a very severe eating disorder. They thank me for talking about it and giving me strength through music. They say they want to make it over that and out of that, and I’m not going to kill myself. That’s quite moving.”

Angela does not make the challenges she overcame the central focus of her identity. She mentions them when asked, and urges people going through the same things to seek help on her website. However, she stops short of suggesting how to go about seeking this ambiguous help. I need to be fair and remember that she’s not a doctor or social worker, but a metal musician, and an awesome one at that. As a fan, I expect a lot of musicians, and not in the sense that I want a clothing line, a perfume, and a movie cameo. I really like to see my favorite musicians speak out on issues that matter to me. But they are speaking through their music already, so they’re giving me something I’m incredibly grateful for.

Angela has expressed support for feminist goals, such as environmentalism and bringing an end to war and violence. Angela will probably come up again. She is after all, unbelievably awesome! \m/

-Ms. Anthropia

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