The members of Lady Beast will be the first to agree that there's nothing wrong with reinventing the heavy-metal wheel.
It's just not for them.
Forget about anything after 1988 — they're unapologetically committed to reviving the golden age of heavy metal. In their world, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motörhead might as well be The Beatles, The Stones and Led Zeppelin.
"We're flying the flag for traditional heavy metal," says drummer Adam Ramage.
The flag flies again this Saturday, when Lady Beast plays a record-release show at Cattivo for its second LP, Lady Beast II. It's a follow-up to 2012's self-titled debut, but it's also the recording debut of Lady Beast's current lineup.
At a bar in Bloomfield, the members of Lady Beast behave like a pack of siblings, occasionally talking over one another. It's endearingly apparent that they're of the same mind about heavy metal and the music industry at large, as well as playing music simply out of passion, with no financial strings attached.
Video by Ashley Murray
Vocalist Deborah Levine acts as the band's matriarch, reining in the conversation when it starts to rehash the same topics. Whenever Ramage — her boyfriend, who's already had a couple drinks — takes the imaginary mic to talk about the band's disdain for working with concert promoters and record labels, Levine laughs, playfully pushes him and says, "OK, next question."
Considering this tight-knit family dynamic, it might seem difficult for Lady Beast to overcome losing a member. But that's what will happen after the release show.
Kinnett, the band's lead guitarist, will play his final Lady Beast gig this Saturday. Sometimes personal responsibilities have to take precedence over the music, and Kinnett says that, for now, his own family had to come before his band family. But Levine makes clear that the break-up can hardly be called a "break-up," since "there was no bad blood, [and] it was very mature and thought-out." Despite the impending change, they wanted to maintain the consistency and cohesion to properly roll out Lady Beast II.
"It was important for all of us that we completed the album and, more importantly, played the record-release show with this lineup before the transition [happened]," Kinnett said.
Kinnett's exit doesn't mean the band will have to take time to break in a new guitarist. Stephen Lauck, the band's original lead guitarist, will return to take his place. Lauck moved to California just before the debut of the first album. Levine and company call it a stroke of luck that another like-minded bandmate moved back into the area right after Kinnett announced his departure.
That first album was recorded during the band's infancy, through several personnel changes. At that point, Levine and bassist Greg Colaizzi were still picking up the pieces of their former band, Long to Hell, and trying to solidify a new group. But Lady Beast II was recorded entirely by the current lineup — including Kinnett and rhythm guitarist Christopher Tritschler — and, this time around, songwriting duties were split more evenly across the band. "It's like a wine that's been aging," Levine says.
Lady Beast's dueling riff-work, howls and rapid-fire drumming are unmistakably heavy metal, but the band's philosophy isn't far removed from punk — raging against homophobia and racism while celebrating multiculturalism and a DIY ethos.
Maintaining that DIY independence is especially important: Lady Beast releases its albums on Colaizzi's own record label, Cobra Cabana Records. According to the band, signing with a bigger record label would limit its creative freedom.
"This group of people is more interested in doing what we believe in than doing what would help our career," Ramage said.
But there's a currency in legacy, and the members of Lady Beast would rather achieve staying power instead of becoming what Colaizzi calls an "overly trendy blip." With his first son on the way, Colaizzi also wants Lady Beast's value system to endure as an example.
"It's something that I want my son to see: why his dad does this," Colaizzi said. "If he sees someone walking down the street in a Lady Beast T-shirt and says, 'My dad did that,' nothing would make me prouder."
Levine's lyrics rarely venture into straight-ahead social commentary, and she tries to avoid vulgarity and dark topics — even when the songs explore witchcraft and Nordic rune magic, themes the band newly plumbs on Lady Beast II.
"We're really not trying to shock anyone — that's why our appeal kind of extends to all audiences," Levine said.
She doesn't write many personal songs for Lady Beast, either. "People don't really need to know what's going on with me," she explains, though her positivity on Lady Beast II seems to indirectly stem from her past experiences.
"'Caged Fury' is kind of like this song about being put down or abused or feeling alone — which definitely stemmed from things in my personal past," Levine said. "But it's mainly just a message that, I've been where you are, I see you, you're not alone: Let's rise up from this and continue. Because things only get better."