Published Jan 30, 2015In December, Andy Curtis-Brignell, the multi-instrumentalist and conceptual mastermind behind UK-based experimental metal project Caïna, stated to Wondering Sound, "I'm absolutely, 100 percent a feminist and I genuinely don't give a shit whether you like it or not really. We're going to win, deal with it."
He also took shots at the common derisive phrase "girlfriend metal," and the pervasive sexism that often defines metal coverage for women artists, wondering aloud in frustration, "Is metal culture that terrified of women nowadays that it robs them of any agency whatsoever?"
Curtis-Brignell expected his statements would agitate some people, but never could have predicted the degree of the backlash and campaign of harassment that would come his way as a result.
"What's more upsetting to me is that I lost other friends over this," he tells Exclaim!, "despite me, in the interview, explicitly stating that I have no desire to push my views on anyone. Some people still felt they had to choose sides, and they chose the hateful guy, which I still genuinely don't understand."
Detractors included Phil McSorely, who was fired from the band Cobalt for using hate slurs towards Curtis-Brignell and others, accusing them of trying to establish a "USBM [American black metal] friendship scene" and "liberal agenda" in extreme metal. The incident became one of the flashpoints for #metalgate, a short-lived hate campaign and offshoot of #gamergate that attacked journalists and artists accused of attempting to "censor" heavy metal.
Despite the tension Curtis-Brignell experienced in the weeks following the interview, he does not regret his assertion that he is a feminist. At one point, he declared he was completely "done" with the metal scene, including making music, but has changed his mind about that with a little time and distance.
"I'm done with metal culture in a sense — conventional metal culture, that is," he explains. "I guess in the positive, it showed that there are people who did agree with me about metal's attitude towards certain groups. So I think my real change is to be 'done' with hedging. I can't backtrack and adopt some new persona to weasel out of what I said. I believe what I said. I think in the few days that followed the drama, I could have tried to distance myself from whatever it was I was accused of being.
"But no, fuck it, I absolutely believe that metal should be a safe space for women, people of colour, differently abled people, the LGBT community. There's nothing metal about arbitrary exclusionism. Safe space: unsafe music."
The conversation around sexism in metal culture, and Curtis-Brignell's role in this particular moment calling it out, has come to define Caïna's fifth full-length release, Setter of Unseen Snares, out now on Broken Limbs Recordings. A conceptual record set in a dystopian future where the last family alive is facing down certain annihilation, it engages deeply with ideas of defiance in the face of astronomical odds and catastrophic change.
"We're part of a living ecosystem going through constant violent change," Curtis-Brignell says. "I guess I see change and transformation as something beautiful rather than terrifying."