I often feel like an anomaly. I’m a black female opera singer with a soft spot for metal. How many of us have you ever come across? For me, the answer is very few, if any. A couple months ago, I started researching metal bands fronted by black women and I came across Witch Mountain and the amazing Kayla Dixon.
After the departure of Uta Plotkin, Dixon took over as the lead vocalist for Witch Mountain. Admittedly, I did not know of Witch Mountain prior to a few months ago, and neither am I particularly familiar with Plotkin’s vocals. In my opinion, Dixon’s voice fits perfectly with the band and puts the blues back into metal. In an instant she can switch from a deep, bluesy belt to a blood curdling scream. Her vocal range and timbre disrupts the archetype of female metal singers. Today, it is not necessarily as uncommon to see a female fronted metal band as it was in the 70s or 80s, but there seems to be a copy and paste formulaic approach. You’ll often find light, lyric sopranos with resonant high notes that soar over the rumble of the rest of the band. This contrast between light and dark, high and low – it’s beautiful but in some ways it becomes a cliché. Go through your local craiglist and you’ll see metal bands looking for female singers specifically requesting light operatic sopranos. On the other hand, Dixon’s sultry, soulful voice has the raw power and unabashed emotion of some of the greats like Robert Plant and Chris Cornell.
Dixon is also formally trained in classical, jazz, and musical theater and puts a strong emphasis on vocal health, which makes my heart sing (no pun intended). It breaks my heart to hear some of my favorite singers strain, or even worse, develop vocal nodes and lose their vocal ability. It breaks my heart even more knowing that in many cases, it was completely avoidable. Her screams, although piercing and terrifying, sound supported by the breath and not the throat. Her transitions between registers sound flawless and not forced. Outside of Witch Mountain, she acts in TV shows, musical theater productions, and teaches private voice lessons. She is a jack of all trades, and master of all.
Today, I leave you with Witch Mountain’s new single, Midnight. This slow, but driving new track is reminiscent of Black Sabbath and Dixon’s vocals really shine through, proving that she is a force to be reckoned with. I am following Dixon Witch Mountain very closely and I’m hoping they make it to the DC area one day. I can’t wait to see what she has in store.
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