Enemy Star
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Enemy Star

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | SELF

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | SELF
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Although it started out as the baby of guitarist Paris Ortiz, Enemy Star soon morphed into a band.

And that's OK with Ortiz, who is a veteran of bands The Cocksmiths, Big Dumb Dick and Psychedelicasi. What changed everything for him was hearing Kassy Gruszkowski sing.

"This was supposed to be my solo album," recalls Ortiz of the band's debut disc, "Light It Up." A CD release party to launch the disc is set for Oct. 9 at G-Daddy's BBC. Fallout opens.

"I intended it to be a Santana-like album. I planed on recording all the music and ask certain singers that I really respect and enjoy to pick a tune and sing on it. When I heard Kassy's voice I knew immediately that I wanted her to be the voice for the whole thing.

"It's exciting for me to introduce a new voice and talent to Milwaukee's awesome music scene. In my heart I wanted it to be a band thing."

Dave Benton, recently of Chief and currently "on call" with Beatallica, plays bass for the band and former Cocksmiths bandmate and widely heard local drummer Dave Schoepke. Schoepke joined the band as the record neared completion and didn't perform on it.

Those familiar with Ortiz's past projects won't be surprised that Enemy Star makes heavy music. But perhaps in part to Gruszkowski's lyrical, melodic and vocal contributions, there is a poppier edge to "Light It Up."

Some of the melodies and guitar sounds may even remind some listeners of bands like Placebo and Muse.

"It is a different sound but really at the end of the day it's the music I enjoy most, says Ortiz, "heavy guitar-driven music. I've been recording my own music for a while so I stock piled a ton of riffs and songs. The Cocksmiths really challenged me and made me a better guitar player and this CD showcases another side of my guitar playing while at the same time showcasing my songwriting. I think (that) band gave me the experience and courage to release this material."

Ortiz says the songwriting was a collaborative effort. He would create a bed track and Gruszkowski would take over from there. There was no previous rehearsal or performance before the tracks were recorded he says.

"It was strictly a studio thing. I would recorded all the music, give her a CD and she would come back the following week with lyrics and vocal line ideas. We would track them and then at the end of the session I would give her a new song and she would spend that week writing lyrics and so forth. It was very productive. She had a ton of ideas and an incredible work ethic. I trusted her lyrically and melody wise and she trusted me musically."

And it wasn't long before Benton was added to the mix, too, completing the team that would make a collaborative record with an approach Ortiz had never before tried.

"Dave came on two months after we started tracking and he and I would record a song a week," recalls Ortiz. "We would just track and find the best way the bass would fit with all the guitars and vocals (previously) tracked. It has not been this way for me in the past two projects I have been associated with. ... It was very easy and fast for us."

"Light It Up" was recorded in a home studio that Ortiz built himself around a computer. And, thanks to that technology, he was able to do it all without disturbing the neighbors.

"I tracked this whole thing on my computer," he says. "I didn't plug in one amp for it. Dave would come in the studio at 10 p.m. and we would track till 1 or 2 a.m."

To create a finished product, Ortiz tapped former Lazer 103 engineer Rich Wagner to mix the 14 songs.

Now, in an unusual move for any Milwaukee band Enemy Star will make its stage debut with a completed CD already for sale at the door.

"It's amazing what a band can do these days," says Ortiz. - http://www.onmilwaukee.com/


CD: Light It Up
by Mike Huberty
September 2010

After the demise of the COCKSMITHS in 2009, Milwaukee guitar slinger Paris Ortiz (formerly of popular Brewcity rock bands like PSYCHADELICASI and BIG DUMB DICK) had a new sound in mind. Presumably, he was looking for a band that didn’t have a word for penis in the name, but also he was looking to create a more melodic kind of hard music. And ENEMY STAR, the band that eventually would come out of his idea, definitely has both the sweet-sounding and feminine element.

“I was on Myspace and saw an ad from the singer of 9MM SOLUTION.” Paris says. “It said, ‘My vocal teacher is looking for a band’ and I thought it was a gag. I mean, I was like, ‘Who’s your vocal teacher? Satan?’ But then I heard her [ENEMY STAR singer, Kassy Gruszkowski], and I knew it wasn’t a joke and I thought the voice was unique and refined.” A longtime Milwaukee singer, Kassy, was on the lookout for a new band as well. As she says, “The band I was in, THERESBEENAFIRE, broke up and I was out there kind of like ‘Will Rock For Gigs’. It was hard to find a good band at the time and Paris calling me was really, really awesome.”

They quickly bonded over a shared love of the obscure Finnish monster costume-wearing hard rockers, LORDI, and found quickly that their writing styles worked well together. As Paris was engineering and producing the songs, he describes what amazed him about her. “We were recording once and we stopped around 10 or 10:30pm.”, he says. “I send her a new song and she sends me an email at 1am and she’d recorded lyrics and a melody already! What a work ethic!” Kassy agrees, saying that Paris is “just a pleasure to work with.” He continues, “It’s just my love of melodic, aggressive music. We’re like Beauty and the Beast. But at the end of the day, I’m trying to write really aggressive pop tunes. You have got to have a melody. I need a chorus, I need a hook. I want people to walk away singing. I don’t think anyone’s heard this kind of music from me before. There’s a saying that a really good drummer can make any band sound better, her lyrics and her vocals are making my guitar sound better.”

Kassy wrote all of the lyrics on the record and describes one of the album’s main themes as “personal struggle, fighting against the rest of the world. The various battles that a person encounters and how to overcome them.” This is most evident in the album’s track, “Heroes.” As she explains,”It’s about euphoric love, and that’s heartbreaking and terrifying at the same time. It’s about overcoming and sticking it out as a couple.” Paris loves the line in the song, “The Next Big Thing”. “‘I’ll sell out to get out’”, he quotes from the song, “I want that to be on a t-shirt!”

Their new album, “Light It Up”, drops on October 9th at G-Daddy’s BBC in Milwaukee and the rest of the band is filled in with Brew City rock vets, bassist, Dave Benton (CHIEF, BEATALLICA), and drummer, Dave Schoepke (COCKSMITHS, WILLY PORTER). The CD Release party will also be the first time that the band has played out live. Kassy is excited and describes the thought of gigging out with this band for the first time. She says, “I really don’t know what to expect, it’s been so long since I’ve been in a band of my own. To actually be onstage and lead the audience, but I have complete confidence with the other guys.” And Paris cannot wait to unleash the new band on Milwaukee. As he puts it, “I think the big thing is ‘old meets new’. We’re hardened, grizzled veterans of the Milwaukee scene, but we’re backing and introducing this new voice. Kassy’s got such a refined classical style. It’s something different and no one’s heard something like this before.” - http://www.maximumink.com/index.php/site



The artful fury of Kassy Gruszkowski’s voice, swooping and soaring like a Valkyrie chorus, is not the blunt instrument of a heavy metal screamer. In addition to performing in bands, Gruszkowski earned a music degree from UW-Parkside and sang in the MSO Chorus. Her new band, Enemy Star, provides an ideal platform for the guided-missile accuracy of her voice.

A harmony of precision and passion is heard throughout Enemy Star’s debut CD, Light It Up. The band’s founder, guitarist Paris Ortiz, is a familiar name in the local scene from his years with the funky Psychedelicasi, the aggressive metal of Big Dumb Dick and the blues-rock swagger of The Cocksmiths.

“I wanted a different direction for myself,” he says, contrasting Enemy Star with previous bands. “I wanted more of a thrashing Megadeth feel focusing on those kind of syncopated guitar rhythms.”

Enemy Star is a product of the postmodern communications revolution. Ortiz found Gruszkowski on MySpace. Light ItUp’s 14 songs were composed through uploading, with Ortiz sending Gruszkowski the guitar riffs that inspired vocal melodies and lyrics. And yes, along the way, they met face to face, not just on Facebook.

“We have an assembly-line work ethic—we wrote a song a week,” Ortiz says. As the songs and basic tracks accumulated, Ortiz recruited a veteran rhythm section to fill out the band with Dave Benton from Chief and Beatallica on bass and ex-Cocksmith Dave Schoepke on drums. A few of the tracks have a pop heart and positive soul inside the razor-edged riffing. The love song “Heroes” sounds ready for any number of radio formats.

“I love pop choruses,” Ortiz says. “I want people to hum these songs. If you think of all the great rock anthems of the past, they can be hummed.”

Gruszkowski’s lyrics cross many themes. “I have to feel a sense of conflict to have a good lyric,” she explains. “One way or another, the lyrics draw from strong emotions, whether elation, depression or anger. I try to vary it. I don’t want to be this depressing person who always writes sad songs.”

Regardless of topic, her furious vocals are enough to raise goose bumps, haloed in the dark lacerations of Ortiz’s guitar and supported by steady power rhythms. Most bands begin by jamming in the basement and testing songs live. Enemy Star began with the songs polished to an obsidian gleam in the recording process long before the first rehearsal. “Finally, after five months in the band, I got to meet the bass player,” says Gruszkowski, laughing.

Light It Up’s jacket is notable for the Frank Miller-inspired images produced by a Milwaukee artist with a national reputation among graphic novel readers, Mark Stegbauer. The visuals are as striking in their way as the music inside. - http://www.expressmilwaukee.com/


I admit to being a fan-girl of Eve’s Apple, the Facebook community of professional female vocalists from some of my favorite bands like Xandria, Delain and Stream of Passion. So, when I read a post raving about Enemy Star, a new female-fronted band from Wisconsin, it definitely piqued my interest along with a fair amount of skepticism. “Hard Rock / Metal / Alternative Metal / Operatic Power Metal? Impossible!” After downloading Light It Up, it was time to settle for an awesome listening experience with a side-order of humble pie. In fact, the album does incorporate all those sub-genres, and does so without ever losing its coherence. The combination of melodic European metal and swaggering American rock attitude hits the sweet spot from start to finish. Mmmmmmm, tasty!

Enemy Star was originally conceived as the solo project of guitarist, Paris Ortiz — a Santana-like album with guest vocals on some of the tracks. Once he heard Kassy Gruszkowski’s voice, Ortiz immediately knew that he wanted her to sing on the entire album. And what a versatile and lovely voice it is! Swooping and soaring on the high notes, seductively powerful throughout, and sometimes more than a little heartbreaking. Here’s a band that obviously has chemistry to spare, as demonstrated by the fact that the entire album was recorded without a previous performance or rehearsal. Dave Benton (bass) joined the recording process two months after Ortiz and Kassy began tracking, and the rest is history. - http://unleashthefuries.wordpress.com/


I was perusing my Facebook page a few weeks back and saw some talk about a Female fronted band from, of all places, Southern Wisconsin. Now I know that could draw snickers in some upscale neighborhoods, like, oh I don’t know. . . BOSTON or LA. . . or even Amsterdam assuming they ever heard of Wisconsin. But since I’m originally from that particular part of the semi-civilized world, I was intrigued. You see, being the hot blooded young turk that I was, I was always looking for places to explore in my youth that might expand my contact lists with the opposite sex, and I noticed that clubs with live entertainment were pretty good options for that purpose. So, I spent some time in the Milwaukee area prowling those same clubs with my fake ID and, although I rarely got to Madison (the state capital, also in Southern Wisconsin), we all know there is no finer party town in the Western Hemisphere so you have to expect that the better Chicago sounds will generally end up there as well. Consequently, there has always been a pretty good music scene in Southern Wisconsin. And, since it is the beer capital of the world, good music is a must.
The band is listed technically as being from Brookfield, a suburb of Milwaukee, or BrewCity as it is known to the locals for obvious reasons. However, growing up, some of my finer athletic achievements came at the expense of the Brookfield athletic teams and I am undoubtedly not remembered for any of them, unfortunate as that may seem. But, I recall the locale fondly, especially one snow filled football game where our white uniforms made us virtually invisible in the snowy white out conditions viewed by at least 10 truly inebriated but sincerely loyal football fans with very heavy coats. And, lead guitarist Paris Ortiz allows that he still reports to a supervisor at his day job who attended my high school, so it seems we still rule the premises to some extent.

Ortiz is listed as the founder of the band and he is a longtime BrewCity musician. Several of his previous musical entities, BIG DUMB DICK and COCKSMITHS, had relatively strong followings and several of my friends who still live in the Milwaukee area are familiar with them. Fortunately, this newest production takes its name from something other than a male sex organ, maybe because the focus is on a female singer. That singer, Kassy Gruszkowski, and that’s a Milwaukee name if ever there was one, is also a local with a past history in the BrewCity music scene. But her sound is heavily influenced by the more classical directions. And that, as a result, is the Enemy Star sound; a heavy metal with a classical vocal. . . combined with some choral elements and a lot of pop hooks. Ortiz wanted "more of a thrashing Megadeth feel focusing on those kind of syncopated guitar rhythms" and put them together with the Gruszkowski vocals, soaring, often in harmony, like an Operatic choir.

Production follows some of the current trends. . .that is, it’s often done electronically and from a distance, even if that distance is only around Milwaukee neighborhoods. Ortiz actually found Gruszkowski on MySpace. Production followed this distance learning mode. Guitar riffs were sent to Gruszkowski where they led to melodies and lyrics. Interestingly enough, this production first saw the light of day in a recording studio, not live with an audience. That in itself is a novelty, even in these days where nothing seems to follow those age-old patterns. And the results are truly satisfying. There are some bumps in the road to get over with this approach, of course. Band members were still meeting each other for the first time in person when they got together for the coming out effort.

The CD goes in a variety of directions through it’s 14 song track list, but the focus is guitar based metal over a striking female vocal. Lyrics don’t fit the European Gothic mode, no discussion of the finality of life and the desperation of eternity here. This music takes it’s lead from other directions, some probably as a result of blues influences that have been a part of the bands past experience but the topics vary. I guess it’s a midwestern thing. But, this is sincerely interesting music and some comparatively strong musicianship along with a strong classical female vocal, something I never saw during my touring days of the Milwaukee night spots, and I checked out most of them. Of course, the women of interest to me would not have been on stage.

Enemy Star covers a lot of musical territory in this 14 track offering. And its all pretty good, so you can expect each track to have its supporters. I didn’t hear anything I had even the most remote problem with, but there were some tracks that stood out for a variety of reasons. In some instances, it was the music, in others, the lyrics, in still others, it was both. One of these was definitely The Next Big Thing. You know I love music that has something to say, and this is one of the best treatments of our consumer society I’ve ever heard. The song begins with a crunching guitar, with Kassy’s vocals electronically distorted. But the vocal clears up as the song progresses and we hear the lovely vocalist sing:

I’ll sell out to get out
I’ll settle for less
Your buying, we’re smiling
We live to impress
The brand name, and big fame
Have nothing but the best
You live to impress

Damn, now that’s worth listening to, and the guitar bridge howls like a banshee. This is the way metal was designed to be played, and with a message to boot. You get a little taste of this song in the sole YouTube video available, one from Metal Max of Madison found here.
Bury Your Soul is another favorite. It almost approaches the Gothic in some respects. There is an other worldly guitar sound that carries on throughout the song, the drums, always a pounding signature component, take a darker ride. Kassy’s vocals are overlaid, as they are on many numbers, with a classical background that supports the lyrical delivery. Paris is reported to have done much of the production on a home computer with those vocals e-mailed in . . . so he must have a lot of memory on that box. Kassy regularly carries 3 and 4 vocal lines within a given title. On some numbers, Help, for instance, this vocal line carries the song and provides some of the strongest female vocals on this or any release I’ve heard recently. Her background singing in choral groups has to have influenced this delivery, and the musicians prove they can do beautiful as well as they can do crushing. It’s a truly noteworthy display of musicianship and is at the core of the Enemy Star repertoire.

Enemy Star is not above throwing stones at their own profession, they seem to be an equal opportunity basher. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in Rock Star Requiem (DIE). It’s another high energy guitar based number but with some interesting perspective on their chosen profession:

Recognize you’re full of lies
Your ego’s bloated to them noted
Play the victim, literate them
Burn that bridge and claim the righteous in the sense

Kassy then turns to some overlaid classical vocal before providing some additional thoughts on the matter, generally in the same vein. But, her final comments are to the point:

Do us a favor and just DIE.

OK, that’s certainly not a perspective you hear from Western Europe.

Enemy Star is a noteworthy contribution to the Female Fronted Metal genre. It’s first rate metal with a first rate vocalist. You don’t get the symphonic, the male death metal vocals are absent, but that’s not what this production is about. What you get is formidable Midwestern metal with outstanding lyrics, production that is way beyond what one would expect given the obvious limitations and a vox to compare with the best in the genre. Paris has made a contribution way beyond anything he could have envisioned when he began this project. And my goal? Get back to that tour I began decades ago in Wisconsin so I can hear them in person. See you there Paris.

In the meantime, you can get a little Enemy Star here. Without the beer unfortunately.

9.5 / 10 - http://www.soniccathedral.com


After playing in the Wisconsin and Midwest metal scene for a long time, I've really learned who some of the standout musicians in our area are and I've been so fortunate to share the stage with some really incredible performers right here at home. So, what happens when some of the area's best musicians get together and decide to start a female-fronted hard rock/metal band? Enemy Star is what happens and I am so glad it did happen.

This article was originally going to be a review of their first show which I was lucky enough to attend at Gdaddy's BBC in Milwaukee last month. I decided to turn it into an overall review because their explosion onto our local metal/rock scene has really been tremendous in a short amount of time and the band deserves a little more of an exploration than just a few sentences about their debut live show.

Perhaps the most surprising member of this band is Paris Ortiz. Paris is a Milwaukee guitarist mostly known for being a founding member of the 90s funk-rock band “Psychadelicasi”. For those of you who don't know the band, Psychadelicasi were at one time one of the most popular bands from Milwaukee and Wisconsin in general, garnering major label interest and a lot of attention. The band fizzled out after a number of years and Paris has re-emerged in other projects like The Cocksmiths and Big Dumb Dick and now Enemy Star. I say he is a surprising member only because the type of music played by Enemy Star is completely different than his prior projects and his fans will certainly enjoy hearing the new sounds.

Frontwoman Kassandra Gruzkowski is my favorite Wisconsin female metal vocalist. She made her debut entrance in a band that I immediately fell in love with, Orphonic Orchestra. They had the symphonic female-fronted metal thing DOWN, but didn't manage to make the long haul as a band. Kassy is a terrific vocalist with formal classical training and a rock and roll heart. She's the primary composer of the vocal lines, while guitarist Paris Ortiz is responsible for a large part of the musical composition. The writing combination of the two results in a totally unique sound that takes the best of European femme metal and combines it with American hard rock. I can't say that I've ever heard a project like this and Kassy's sensual, warm vocals make it hard to resist for anyone. Did I mention she's also sexy as hell?

The drummer, Dave Schoepke is a career musician who has played with Willy Porter, Moloko Shivers, Corey Sterling (Kenny Wayne Shephard vocalist). He's an incredibly tight and professional drummer and is truly a perfect fit for this band. Notable area bassist, Dave Benton of Beatallica and Chief joins the lineup as a perfect rounding corner to this really tight, professional group of musicians.

The lineup of Enemy Star couldn't have come at a better time, as good bands with awesome female vocalists are in short supply around the Wiscosin these days. So far, the band is unsigned and has exploded onto the scene with cover features in Madison's legendary “Maximum Ink” music magazine and a slot on their Halloween party this past October.

Live, the band is definitely tight musically, and Kassy brings her sexy, yet totally metal, attitude with her to the stage. Her vocals come easily, so she's free to give a great performance that is most enjoyable. Kassy isn't a token female front person. After sharing the stage with her for many years, I can say that she's really an incredible vocalist and a great musician. Paris, Dave and Dave, hold up the band with the high level of tightness you'd expect from such seasoned performers.

I haven't spoken about the music much, because, well you're going to go have a look for yourself right now! Check out the music, photos and all the details on my new favorite Midwest metal band, Enemy Star right here, right NOW:

http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/Enemy-Star/149201008439414?v=app_2405167945

Additionally, the band's debut release “Light it Up”, was released TODAY via iTunes and DigStation.
Check the link above, and download away!

Femme metal fans, you won't be disappointed.

Mary Zimmer for Eve's Apple
? - Eves Apple


From Wisconsin comes the 4-piece female fronted metal outfit Enemy Star. Their debut album, "Light It Up" features a playing time of 56-minutes and 14-songs. Their music has been described as Melodic Power Metal, but within the course of "Light It Up" it becomes apparent that Enemy Star offers so much more. The songs have a certain melodic charm to them, complete with memorable hook-laden choruses and the huge vocals of Kassandra Gruszkowski front and center. The instantly like-able riff of the opening tune "The Hunger" kicks in and provides a solid opener to get things rolling. Also like-able is Kassandra Gruszkowski’s voice. She’s got a classical style, yet still manages to strike just the right tone with her voice. Her vocals aren’t over-the-top or too overly dramatic, they fit the songs perfectly and contribute to the overall melodic energy that the band creates. And there is plenty of melody to be had amongst these 14-songs. The next track "Heroes" has a bit of a heavy pop feel to it. Other songs of note: "Six Feet Shuffle", "The Next Big Thing", "I Will Stand", "If She Says I Love U", "Rock Star Requiem (Die)" and "It’s Not Fair" which opens with an aggressive Motorhead-like opening riff before settling into a grinding track and instantly becoming one of my absolute favorites. It is obvious that Enemy Star has something different to offer in the lyrical department as well. On "Light It Up" Enemy Star delivers a fine, rocking, technical and powerhouse gem of a debut CD. Far be it for me to predict great things for a band, but if there is any justice in the metal world, Enemy Star will ascend to bigger and better heights in the realm of metal. - www.femmemetal.net


Discography

Light it Up-Full Length CD

Photos

Bio

Enemy Star formed in the late autumn of 2009 shortly after Paris Ortiz heard Kassandra's voice on MySpace. Upon suggestion of another friend in the Milwaukee music scene, Paris contacted Kassandra as she was searching for a project since the dissolve of TheresBeenAFire, her previous band. The two hit it off right away and within a few short weeks they had begun writing and recording songs at almost the pace of one song a week.
The call for a drummer was answered by drummer powerhouse Mike Olson formerly of Realm. He is acclaimed for his creativity and his highly technical playing is extremely accurate at very challenging tempos as well as his trademark lengthy double-kick drum rhythms.
Legendary singer-bassist Dan Kubinski of Die Kreuzen fame is a hard core Punk history ICON and the newest Enemy Star member. His influential vocals and bass skills completes a hungry and veteran cast. With an uncommon force and enthusiastic reception the band had received press from OnMilwaukee.com, Maximum Ink and the Shepherd Express along with a radio interview on WMSE 91.7 all before their first performance and CD release.