It starts with a scream, as all heavy metal records worth their salt do. Thus begins the turbo-charged head rush of "Sex Metal," a Motörhead-meets-Priest screech of burning rubber and leather and the first track off new Orlando metal project Perversion's debut album.
Though the band is new, the woman behind it will be very familiar to Orlando metal and punk – and goth! – aficionados. Since she was a teenager, Sarah Patricia has been a near-constant presence in Orlando's underground, most notably with the gothic gloom of Autarx (RIP), punks Manic & the Depressives and the corpse-painted black metal trio Von Nacht, among others. It was only when Patricia started delving fully into her metal obsessions that all of her compositional skills and shredding chops came to the fore.
During the last two months of coronavirus quarantine, Patricia has maintained an enviable rate of productivity; ironically, finally able to devote time to music when there's nowhere to go. "I've spent so many years trying to balance music, a full-time job and my education in the scientific field, and it's been hectic," she says. "Right now, I just get to stay home, work from home – I'm lucky – and I have so much more free time to create."
First came a demo from Deicidal Regime in late March, a bleak slab of industrial music that captured the nihilistic instincts of pandemic panic. It was the sound of fortifying a bunker, adding spikes to every piece of clothing you own and sharpening your knives.
Patricia's next release, out earlier this month, proves to be even better. This is a project she's been threatening to release for a while now. It all began last summer. Patricia "started bingeing on heavy metal for months on end," and that's metal with a capital 'M.' She was filling her turntable with the sleazy thrills of Judas Priest, Bitch, Jaded Lady, BlackLace, Witch Cross, Warlock and the Runaways. Shelter in place just gave her the time window to finally do the recording needed.
And thus was born Perversion, a classic, raw batch of heavy metal tunes unabashedly fixated on sex and the leather-clad search for good times. "Heavy metal is so sexual in nature to me, so the subject matter just seemed perfect and the obvious path to keep a consistent theme going in the lyrics and song titles," says Patricia. Double entendre gives way to single entendre, and that in turn gives way to the anthemic "Blood Orgy."
The visual component of the project is similarly over-the-top wonderment. In a promo photo shoot for Perversion's social media, Patricia – or Sarah Slave, for the purposes of this project – sports finery worthy of Betsy Bitch, Doro Pesch or solo Lita Ford, hair teased up to the heavens and singing into a vibrator. "The idea to use the vibrator like a microphone was funny to me," Patricia admits. "I love carrying that imagery throughout the art and promo pictures. Someone even suggested I should make a modified microphone out of a Magic Wand!"
The album artwork, done by former Orlandoan and Nightmare singer Fernanda Maura, takes the project into straight Manowar and Dio territory with a post-apocalyptic landscape, demonic eyes and (yes) a severed head. Put out into the world at this particular moment, the whole package becomes an unintentional testament to the importance of fantasy and escapism as we're all physically isolated. Oh, and if the world does go all Mad Max, there's a pretty good chance that Patricia will be hoisting aloft a severed head at some juncture.
The lyrics add an intriguing twist to the standard hedonism of metal lyrics. The usual gender dynamics of the genre that brought you "Girls, Girls, Girls" are subverted and toyed with, especially in the songs "She's a Dancer" and "Sultry Eyes," with Patricia's narrator lusting after the protagonists of each tune.
Patricia's confirms the intentionality. "I'm not straight, and I love writing songs as a lady about ladies, and I think it's cool to flip the script since there are so many men writing heavy metal songs about ladies," she says. "I have many desires, many fantasies, and I love that I can use this project to channel that energy."
All of these factors, along with the requisite guitar shredding, give Perversion an unabashed celebratory edge that might surprise someone familiar with Patricia only from the occult vibes of Von Nacht, or her dour Siouxsie-esque presence out front in Autarx. But that's life; people change.
"I'm a punk guitar player who took a nosedive into writing metal several years ago," shrugs Patricia. "I've gotten more feedback on this than anything I've done as a musician. It's wild. People think it's really old school and fun."
Though she already has ideas for presenting Perversion live, we're going to have to wait – maybe a very long time – before we get to see the band take the stage. And by that time, Perversion is going to be a Gainesville band. Patricia was accepted into a master's program at University of Florida and plans to leave the city this summer.
"I am moving to pursue an M.S. in Entomology and a doctoral degree in an interdisciplinary program that blends entomology, nematology, plant pathology, weed science and soil science," she says. "I found my calling through my love for nature and growing food."
So what's to be done for listeners who want more Perversion in their lives?
"I just got a green screen and I'm hoping to make a music video soon," says Patricia.
Hell-bent for leather, indeed.