Photo by Jorge Riaño
When I first saw the name Castrator, I hoped in my heart of hearts that I'd somehow stumbled across some kind of badass feminist death metal killing machine. How awesome would that be, right? Given death metal's traditional approach towards the concept of feminism (and women in general—that's a whole 'nother thinkpiece right there), though, I wasn't banking on it. With a name like that, it was probably just another pornogrind slamfest hoping to one day secure a coveted opening slot for Cemetery Rapist or Prostitute Disfigurement.
Imagine my surprise and delight, then, when I got a promo email from their label, Horror Pain Gore Death, revealing that my initial hunch had been correct and that Castrator was in fact the band of my dreams. Not only is the fledgling supergroup a self-described all-female band, it's an international effort—women from established underground bands in Colombia, Florida, Mexico, Massachusetts, Sweden, and Norway had come together to write brutal death metal songs about chopping off dicks and stabbing rapists. Before you go crying "misandry," keep in mind the astonishing glut of metal songs that celebrate graphic, gory violence against women. It's about time someone stepped up to level the playing field, and Castrator's knives are sharpened and at the ready.
The band's members prefer to remain semi-anonymous, but a little sleuthing pointed me towards vocalist M.S. and nabbed Noisey the chance to premiere the vicious, life-affirming title track for the band's new EP, No Victim.
M.S. was also kind enough to answer a barrage of my excited questions via email, and to tell us exactly why a band like Castrator is so much fun—and so necessary.
Castrator is a confrontational band, from the name to song titles like "Honor Killing," "The Emasculator" —hell, all of them read like a feminist revenge fantasy. Is Castrator the first overtly feminist death metal band?
M.S.: You could call us that. We are unapologetically strong, independent, and pissed-off females. We aren’t asking for equality, we’re taking it. Not all of us choose to carry the flag of feminism, though I most certainly do. We are five women who love death metal, who like jamming with other like-minded women, and we feel like we have some ideas worth expressing. People will label us how they will, we aren’t concerned about it. We are going to make the music we want to make, and we are having a great time doing it!
What brought you all together in the first place? You're all part of your own established projects all over the world—would I be remiss to think that Castrator was born from your collective frustration at the bullshit you've had to endure as female musicians in a brutal genre?
C. Perez and I got to know each other through the NYC metal scene when playing shows with our other bands. She expressed the desire to form an all-female band, and I was really into it. I had an all-female project once in the past, but it fell apart after a year. I still had a lot of ideas for lyrics and themes that I wanted to get out in this kind of band. I have to say, yes, it has been really nice to vent amongst other ladies all the bullshit we deal in the metal scene. It’s also something fun, it’s a much different vibe then writing with my other bands that contain only male members besides myself. I still love my other bands too, this is just something different and refreshing for me. What do you aim to accomplish with this band? Have you encountered any pushback or hate from other death metal fans?
We aim to write some killer music, play some aggressive shows, and take no prisoners! So far we have had nothing but great support from the scene, male and female fans, and other bands. Some of our biggest supporters are men. Yeah, some guys out there are a little afraid of us, they cup their balls, hehe. I’m sure we’ll eventually run into some haters… but we aren’t concerned about that. We do what we like, we’re having fun and we don’t give a fuck who doesn’t like it.
The album title, No Victim, is so powerful—can you tell me a little more about it? The lyrics for the song itself resonate so deeply.
The idea behind that song and album title is highlighting the fear all women deal with walking alone at night- the fear of being attacked and raped. Yes, it’s so easily relatable to any woman! It’s something guys don’t usually think about, and it’s really not fair. It’s something we should talk about more in society, and change the whole predator-victim scenario. We also want to empower women to realize their own strength and ability… to fight their attackers when possible. That same old story of a rapist attacking a woman in a dark alley can have a different ending.
All your lyrics are intense, especially on "Honor Killing," whose horror is ripped from the headlines. Given your own half-Indian background, what was it like to write and sing these words?
I think now more than ever, it’s important to bring up the issues and struggles, especially in particular parts of the world where women’s rights are far behind. Definitely this song has some personal connection for me. I really feel for those who are suffering violence, rape, and murder in India and other countries. This has got to stop. When writing this song, I researched and read countless news story after news story and documentaries of individual cases of honor killings (there are so many)! It’s so hard to look at, it’s disgusting. Even so, I made myself look straight at it, get pissed off, and turned those feelings and thoughts into lyrics.
"Brood" is deliciously creepy, but also sobering when you remember that so many people still think of women as broodmares - baby machines with no other value. Did any specific situation inspire the lyrics for this one?
Yes, you are right. In a way it’s about that, how our own bodies and sexual reproduction don’t “belong” to us anymore. Women’s bodies and rights are so often controlled by men, the law makers, boyfriends, husbands in this patriarchal system. It’s also about how this unbalanced system is allowed by or continued by women, by accepting it and not fighting it or rising above it. It was inspired by the case of Octomom, she wanted to seek fortune and fame through having an unnatural amount of children. The song takes the idea that a woman’s value is determined through childbirth and her ability to please men, but this theme on steroids. I feel she is a victim of our disturbed society, and not necessarily a monster in and of herself.
Where is the sample on "The Emasculator" from? It's rad to see you turning the tables on the countless brutal death, goregrind, and pornogrind bands that litter their records with sample after sample of women in sexual distress or death throes.
The sample is from Hostel 2. I found it while searching for a good castration audio sample, haha! That’s exactly it. We are turning the tables on what you usually see in brutal death metal that focuses on rape and torture of women. We are doing what the guys do but from a female point of view, and in doing so making a critique of the whole genre. In some of our themes, a woman is the powerful one, the victor. If someone has a problem with our lyrics and samples, they should frown equally upon misogynistic themes. We ourselves are pretty laid back about all these things. We aren’t going to tell people what kind of music they should or shouldn’t write, or listen to; I believe in artistic expression and freedom of speech. But if there will be anti-female themed bands out there, I believe there should also be anti-male or at least pro-female bands out there too. I suppose that is a goal, to add some balance to the male dominated metal scene, and to the male-dominated world.
I don’t have a serious problem with people who joke about those things; I don’t like it, but I have more of a problem with musicians and fans that take anti-women themes seriously, and there are many of those out there. There are men out there that genuinely disrespect women and I would go so far as to say, they hate women. They take out their own frustrations of their own shortcomings and dissatisfaction with their lives and relationships, and they turn it outward at all women. We deal with these attitudes on a daily basis, in the scene and in our daily lives. I’m all about changing people’s perspectives or making them think a little bit.
You're in a few other brutal bands of your own, and write lyrics with traditional gory (though genderless) violence, or sociopolitical screeds. How much do you think is too much in terms of fantasy violence in extreme metal lyrics?
I believe strongly in freedom of expression. I wouldn’t support people with sexist, racist, or homophobic beliefs, but I also don’t believe in censorship or banning. As long as you aren’t hurting, someone you should be able to create whatever art or music you like. I think it’s just important to speak truth and try to change people’s ideas and opinions through what you do and what you create, using educated and evolved ideas. When I see bands with the same rehashed violence fantasy lyrics, I just think, "Booooring. Those themes have already been done a thousand times over, is this band doing anything creative or new?"
Given Castrator's members' far-flung geographical locations, do you intend to do any touring or at least more live shows to support No Victim?
We are getting together next week to shoot a music video and play a small tour including Philthadelphia Infest, Brooklyn NY, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. We’re excited to get out there and emasculate!
'No Victim' is out May 5 via Horror Pain Gore Death Productions.
Kim Kelly is currently listening to Derketa, and is also on Twitter: @grimkim