It's a well-known fact that most band names are gobbledygook, but here at the Houston Press, we're doing our best to find meaning in the oddest monikers.
In general I try to avoid delving into the message in metal bands' names as it always leads some place weird and horrifying. I still twitch when someone mentions Owl Witch. Nonetheless, the little sour kraut in my soul couldn't pass up Versklaven.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out the band was fronted by an old stagemate, Dominique Withoff from Delta Block (MKUltra back when they played Black Math Experiment's CD release in 2007). She's still quite the screamer and abrasive as ever, but I was more impressed with the cool, almost Patti Smith-style spoken-word way she can drop into on songs like "Baptism of Fire." These are amazing moments that come too few for as cool as they are, and show off a smoother side to her vocals that lends a great deal of weight to her lyrics. Good stuff.
But that name...
Versklaven is German for "enslaved." Is that really necessary? Sometimes I think metal bands are in some kind of contest to find the most stereotypical metal name in hopes of achieving infinite energy for themselves through bizarre cold fusion nomenclature. Still, I found myself in this pickle, so I reached out to guitarist Kevin Palmer for the scoop on the name.
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When we started this band, conceptually we knew that our music was going to be a bleak look at the world around us. Off the get-go we had a song written about Christianity's grip on society, and another about our lead singer's real experience with sexual assault. So there was a recurring theme about exterior forces, whether physical or conceptual, pushing down on us, enslaving us.
So one day after practice, we hung out on our drummer's front porch and started talking about potential band names. We talked about that whole enslavement concept and decided to go from there. We typed the word "enslaved" into a word translator and Versklaven came up, and voilà, we had a band name. It is admittedly a misconjugation, but it has this rough and sinister sound to it that coincides with the style of music we play.
Now, a year and a half later, Versklaven means much more to all of us. With the way our sound developed, it makes me think of a cornered animal that lunges out at its assailant. So when I think of Versklaven, I think of seeing red and just swinging.
Congratulations, guys and girl. In the long course of this column, I have found fewer than ten bands who could explain the origin of their name with any real depth, unprodded or beyond my mockery. You're on a short list of people who are not fucking around. Keep it up, Versklaven!
Versklaven (n): 1. Enslaved. 2. A chainsaw, if it was melodious and could talk. 3. Fighting back.
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Versklaven plays the Unite to Destroy Afterparty at The Ponderosa Friday, March 9, with Rotten Waters and Dethrone.