On the day of my interview with Dutch metalcore supremos, The Charm the Fury presented a few firsts. I had never used the nominated communication application, Google Hangout. This is the first time I have 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 sure candidate for album of the year. The Sick, Dumb & Happy blend the best of Pantera, Emmure, Living Colour and ultra-modern FM radio electro-pop in the vein of Tove Lo and Rihanna. Caroline Westendorp’s monstrous roar and shimmering vocal complement some of the finest riffs on this side of Vulgar Display of Power. Mathijs Tieken’s percussive groove adds a bedrock 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 I have yet encountered. “Oh, god, I love your accent”, is one of the first comments 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 many Australians yet, which is a shame because I think the Australian metal scene is one of the most vibrant up-and-coming scenes in the world. There are so many great Australian bands right now.”
Given the band’s enthusiasm and propensity for having a good time, we somehow get onto discussing our preferred choice of beverages. “I’m not much of a partyer. I guess a pretty heavy drinker, though. It used always to be beer, and now it’s 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 bar. “How do you know that? I thought that was a Dutch thing?” I mentioned my long-since departed father used to drink it, and I caught the taste of the yellow beverage from him. “That is great, and you can bring it back then!” It turns out that not even the Dutch drink much Advocaat anymore.
The cheerful atmosphere of the discussion continues. However, all is not as rosy as the pair’s tone and frequent laughter may indicate. Not everyone has been as keen as I to embrace the songs from The Sick, Dumb & Happy that were available via streaming services when 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 turned to sexism.
“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,” said Westendorp .
”I’ve been surprised because I remember when we started this band, I didn’t think that sexism would even be an issue with metal heads,” said Tieken.
“But 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 essential point of the reason they listen seems to be, ‘Alright! How can I pick this apart, and what do I dislike about this?’. I feel like almost nobody just listens to it with a blank canvas. It’s like, ‘because The Charm the Fury are female-fronted, I have to have an opinion.’ ”
As an avid attendees of gigs in the 90s, 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 the crowd. I can’t tell you how many gigs I have been to over the years where the only females in attendance were venue staff.
A glance at the band’s 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 physically 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.