She has the words “ROCK STAR” tattooed across her knuckles. He sports a headband worthy of Ralph Macchio in the Karate Kid. And they are so hard-core it hurts.
The boyfriend/girlfriend duo of Ed Livengood and Amber Valentine is better known as Jucifer, and once you hear their music, you will not forget that name.
“Our relationship is awesome,” Valentine said. “The way we relate is really special.”
Valentine not only has a beautifully delicate voice, but also plays an ’80s-style Flying V guitar. Damn, you know that’s hot. Livengood drums on a custom, transparent oversized kit that is also, technically, their bass player.
He runs a hook-up from his bass drum into a large amp. Along with Valentine’s blaring guitar resonation and umpteen amps, this provides enough bass to suit their needs. Those needs, for those who haven’t yet picked it up, are playing really, really loud heavy metal. And when you can do that, what else do you really need?
It only takes one listen to Jucifer’s second full-length release, I Name You Destroyer — how metal is that! –, to realize why they have been generating a buzz in the indie music scene. They have also generated ample success outside of the Athens, Ga., scene they so loudly represent.
“We’ve sold out shows a lot, and in places we didn’t even know we had pockets of fans,” Valentine said. “I don’t even know how many albums we’ve sold … I need to get that info.”
Jucifer manages to blend Valentine’s sweet candy vocals with a hefty barrage of drums and evil guitar licks. It doesn’t sound too pretty in theory, but they pull it off, somehow, with hard-rawkin’ precision.
And that formula makes for a killer album.
The violent “Queen B” and self-explanatory “Fight Song” secrete metal-ness that would make Iron Maiden proud. How Valentine can sound so pretty one minute and then shriek with bleak indignance the next isn’t even worth pondering — the worth is in the listen.
The core of I Name You Destroyer is the ubiquitous, indefinable metal-pop. The song that best signifies Jucifer’s studio sound is “Amplifier.” It is an infectious pop-distortion tune that matches Valentine’s snide lyrical delivery (“I like Becky’s amplifier/Love to hear her sing … /Pop-rocks in her nostrils cause she loves her PCP”) with Livengood’s hypnotic, persistent drumbeat, Mission Impossible style.
“Lazing” showcases a bit of xylophone-play, while on “Surface Tension,” Valentine wipes the dust off the acoustic guitar. Both, while they show the softer side of Valentine’s venom, will still scare the children.
Jucifer’s interesting ever-present contrast between soft and hard makes I Name You Destroyer a great album and provides a unique sound which Valentine and Livengood could possibly progress musically but maybe not popularly.
“If mainstream success was our goal, we’d have it,” Valentine said. “But we aren’t in it for money, attention or to get laid.”
Jucifer’s show at the Orpheum, in Ybor city, on Friday night was a study in the style and sound differential that a band puts forth live compared to its studio recording. Gone was any semblance of catchy, infectious fuzz-pop. It was replaced by reverberating heavy-metal doom that gained momentum with every powerfully deafening song.
“We like to make records you can chill out with,” Valentine said. “But as far as playing live, our shows are full-on; loud, heavy and strange. Bring ear plugs.”
Valentine and Livengood made more noise live than I had ever heard in my entire life — and there are only two of them. Had I gone deaf, though, I wouldn’t have minded too much. It was that good.
Valentine and Livengood played in front of the Berlin Wall of amplifiers. She shrieked lyrics out demonically, strutted angelically and played guitar heavenly … and heavily. He used his drumsticks as weapons, slashing relentlessly at his drum kit during the maniacal show. At one point, Livengood was thrown from his drum set, possibly by the sheer rock ‘n’ roll of it all, and laid motionless on the stage, his face contorted in pain.
But, like a fallen hero, he slowly staggered back up, grabbed a new pair of drumsticks and commenced the maddening drumming.
The Jucifer live experience truly was all sound and fury, signifying Valentine and Livengood’s own personal metal Armageddon.
Contact Nick Margiasso firstname.lastname@example.org