The Lion's Daughter will see the release of its latest, the excellent Skin Show, this week.
It would be folly to imply that the past year-plus of quarantine life has been anything but excruciatingly difficult for all of us, but even within that context, the timing of the pandemic's onset was particularly cruel to St. Louis metal band the Lion's Daughter.
The three-piece had been steadily gaining steam since the July 2018 release of Future Cult, the band's groundbreaking third full-length album and second record with the revered French label Season of Mist. The album's synth-heavy twist on the band's usual brand of relentlessly heavy blackened sludge won the overwhelming acclaim of critics and fans upon its release, who appreciated the John Carpenter-esque sounds on offer. The Lion's Daughter hit the road hard to support the new record, touring across the United States and even doing a run through Europe in 2019 with Baltimore death metal act Misery Index.
And, at its start, 2020 was looking to be even more exciting. The band secured a support slot for the celebrated and long-running Italian prog-rock act Goblin's summer 2020 tour — a huge win, as Goblin is a massive influence. The members of the Lion's Daughter were beside themselves with excitement as they prepared to announce that outing. Then, of course, COVID came along.
"Right before we were about to announce it, everything got shut down," guitarist and vocalist Rick Giordano says of the tour. "Goblin's from Italy, and Italy got hit first, so it's just like, 'Hey, there's no way this could happen — these guys can't even get out of the country.' And you know, a week later it was like, 'Oh, hey, nobody can go anywhere ever again.'
"That was the only thing that got axed," he continues. "But that was going to be the biggest tour that we'd ever done with literally one of my favorite bands of all time. And a band that we, I think pretty obviously, pull a lot of influence and inspiration from. So that was a fucking dream tour for us. Having that get canceled was a sledgehammer to the fucking nuts, man."
Obliterated testicles or no, the Lion's Daughter made the best of a bad situation and got to work on some new music, resulting in Skin Show, a ten-track offering that will see its official release this week with a party at Record Space and a streamed event filmed on Arch City Audio Visual's massive soundstage.
The new album was recorded over the summer at Firebrand Recording Studio in Maryland Heights with Chicago producer Sanford Parker, who worked on the band's last two albums and who has put in time behind the boards with a slew of well-known metal acts, including Darkthrone, Voivod, Eyehategod and Nachtmystium.
Legendary glam-metal musician Lita Ford helped out with recording, too — in the form of a scantily-clad poster hung in the studio throughout the proceedings.
"I purposely bought that poster off of eBay weeks ahead of time in preparation for the studio, and I wanted to hang that where it was in plain view the whole time," Giordano says with a laugh. "I literally played instruments and recorded this whole record while staring at that poster. Instead of just the back of like, Sanford's head or my feet or whatever, I could stare at Lita. It was like drinking espresso or something — looking in Lita's eyes, you know, it gets you going."
Whatever trade secrets were employed, they worked. Across its ten tracks, Skin Show remains characteristically heavy but superbly polished, with Erik Ramsier's thunderous drums underpinning the suitably disgusting sounds of Giordano's guitar and Scott Fogelbach's bass. The synths that made Future Cult such a revelation are present and accounted for on Skin Show as well, from the bubbling line that kicks off the record's first track "Become the Night" to the haunting horror-soundtrack sounds of closer "The Chemist." This time around, though, the synths were more thoughtfully arranged to serve as accents to the rest of the music — a decision that Giordano, who played them, says the band made deliberately.
"We've always played with horror themes. And with the last record, Future Cult, we introduced a little more sci-fi and stuff like that," Giordano says. "I'm always looking for a way to mix horror and metal that hasn't been done before. Because it's been done to death — to great success — by a lot of bands, whether it's King Diamond and some of the theatrical stuff, or something like Cannibal Corpse and gore, Misfits and kind of cartoonish B-movies and stuff like that. I'm always looking for a new, unique way to do it.
"So with Skin Show it was like, 'OK, what if we let the synthesizers and stuff sound a little more natural and a little more spooky, and have things sound a little more haunting?'" he continues. "And then kind of take the themes, and let's make the scenes kind of sleazy, but not in a cool, sexy, sleazy-punk-rock way — in like a dark, depressing, frightening-sleazy kind of way. So it was just a way to continue with themes that we'd always worked with, which were horror and darkness and all of that super duper, uber metal stuff. But let's see what happens if we introduce, like, sexuality and abuse and these weird, really uncomfortable topics — if we kind of, you know, throw those in there."
The resulting record feels surprisingly catchy and accessible while still retaining the band's heavy sound and dark themes, and serves as further proof that there's really no modern metal band that sounds quite like Lion's Daughter — even if Giordano self-effacingly posits that their latest material, to his ears, essentially amounts to a Nine Inch Nails or Faith No More rip-off.
"It's not that different than old Nine Inch Nails," he says. "You know, the vocals are a lot more aggressive than either of those bands because they kind of have to be — I wish I could sing like either of those guys. But, you know, if you strip down Angel Dust by Faith No More, you have all the same parts that we have. You have basically a rock band, and then synths and pianos. And the synths aren't always there — they kind of come and go as they need to."
In a time of ongoing pandemic, a proper record release show just isn't realistic, so the Lion's Daughter will be celebrating this album with a party/merch pop-up at the Record Space on April 8 at 4 p.m., a Gimme Metal radio takeover by Giordano at 4 p.m. on April 9 and an April 11 streamed set recorded on the professional soundstage where St. Louis production company Arch City Audio Visual has been hosting local acts over the past few months.
The latter brings something else new for the band: a new member. Though the Lion's Daughter has operated as a trio for much of its existence, guitarist Aaron Akin, best known for his work fronting Black Fast, joined the band for the stream and will continue as a full-time member going forward.
"He's fucking great. Amazing guitar player," Giordano says. "It's funny to show somebody who's a really, really good guitar player the dumb stuff that you came up with. Like, he's actually showing me like, 'No, I actually think you'd play it like this. It would be easier if you played it like this. It would sound better if you played it like this.' Like alright I get it, you know how to play guitar."
As for future plans, Giordano says everything is pretty much up in the air as the world cautiously re-emerges from pandemic life. The band has no tours on the books at the moment, but he's hopeful that they'll at least get another shot to hit the road with Goblin after COVID-19 robbed them of that last one.
"From what I understand about those guys, they were really eager to do it and eager to reschedule it," he says. "So I'm really, really hoping that it could happen, but I mean, those guys aren't getting any younger.
"But whatever," he adds. "The Rolling Stones are still fucking touring, you know?"
The Lion's Daughter Record Release Stream 7 p.m. Sunday, April 11. Streamed event. $10 to $65. liveentnow.com.
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