The meteoric rise of nü metal’s brightest new stars Tetrarch has been a compelling show for the scene around them. Taking their name from a governing body of four people, the Atlanta upstarts made their world-dominating intent loud and clear from the onset. Fourteen years later, their plan is coming together nicely.
That plan, however, may have never left the ground if it weren’t for shredder-in-chief Diamond Rowe. Meeting co-founding member/vocalist Josh Fore in middle school, the guitarist with huge ideas set about achieving her dreams of joining the ranks of Korn’s Munky and Slipknot’s Jim Root. However, Fore was initially hesitant about adding a woman to his fledgling band. It didn’t take long for Rowe’s talent to shine through beyond her gender and form what would later become Tetrarch, but this early experience with prejudice in the world of music only hardened her resolve to become a stellar ax player, regardless of gender.
Rejuvenating nü metal with a fresh melodic menace, Tetrarch bring an amped-up approach to a genre that otherwise faded into the background of the early 2000s, framing Fore’s sinister bite with Rowe’s blistering riffs. As a result, the Georgia crew have shared the stage with Avenged Sevenfold and Alter Bridge off the back of their 2017 debut, Freak, and recently moved to L.A. to step up their mission statement even further.
At the dawn of their second album, Unstable, available via Napalm Records, we spoke to Rowe about her experiences as the first African American female metal guitarist who’s breaking down barriers for the next generation, what to expect from Tetrarch’s 2021 incarnation and whether or not we could soon see a full-scale nü-metal revival. Time to dust off your JNCO jeans, chain wallets and baggy band shirts, folks.
Growing up, were you specifically inspired by other women in music?
Gender didn’t matter to me. At the beginning of Tetrarch, interviewers would ask me who my favorite females in metal were, and I felt like I had to make something up, but in actuality, I didn’t have any female influences in metal or rock. I was into Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Slash and Jim Root, Munky from Korn and all that. I didn’t care. I didn’t even look at gender or anything. [I was like], “These are the musicians I like, and I want to be like them.” I never focused on the fact [that] I was a woman. People would always tell me, “You’re doing something so different and so cool!” I’d go, “What are you talking about? I’m just playing guitar like everybody else!” It took me a long time to really realize that it was something different because when I was coming up, it was something that never crossed my mind, and when people said it, I just brushed it off because I thought it was dumb.
When you started jamming with Josh in middle school, he initially turned you down because he didn’t want a girl in the band. How did that situation affect you, thinking that opportunities could be passing you by just because of your gender?
It’s funny because I didn’t dwell on it very long. I was like, “Well, that’s dumb.” I got mad about it, but he let me come and jam pretty quickly after, so it wasn’t something I had to spend a lot of time being upset about. Who knows how I sounded then, but apparently it was good enough to get the slot and jam with them longer.
We’ve seen Tetrarch rocket through the scene lately, almost as if from nowhere, but you’ve been actively playing shows and jamming since 2007. Has it always been as easy for you as it’s looked from the outside?
There were always challenges, but we enjoyed them because we started so young. It seems like a very quick trajectory starting from our last record, Freak, in 2017 to now. It’s been a gradual upward slope, and everything we do turns into something positive, so we feel very lucky. Before that, it was a lot of years of rejections and people telling us what we should be doing, that we’re not doing this or that right, DIY touring ourselves, sleeping in the van in Walmart parking lots and eating McDonald’s every day. A lot of people say artists blow up out of nowhere, but they don’t see the years before that. It was a struggle, but we enjoyed it all because it was fun. You’re there with your best friends, you’re on the road, you eat and shit together… It was definitely a long process to get to this point, but it’s all worth it so far.
You’re the first African American female metal guitarist featured in the mainstream alternative media, grabbing front covers all over the place. Shouldn’t that bridge have been crossed a long time ago? Why do you think we’re only correcting this gap in 2021?
I’m in the middle of the argument because when someone told me that I was the first, I was like, “How is that even real or possible?” But at the same time, sometimes I can’t help but ask myself if I was meant to be that person. It’s a really weird spot to be in, and I’m super grateful to be able to be that person and to lead that charge. I don’t feel like this is horrible or this should’ve happened a long time ago, while it should have and it could have. I’m still very grateful for that opportunity.
You’re leading that movement with Tetrarch’s second album, Unstable. What’s changed musically since Freak in 2017?
We started out as a straight metalcore band, and when we started writing Freak, for some reason, we were writing these different influences coming in—really creepy, skin-crawling guitar sounds and different tempos. More groove and not just fast, thrash-y stuff. We had some stuff that was heavy, some stuff that was more melodic and creepy, but that was just naturally what was coming out as we were writing. We were nervous, wondering if we should even put these things on the record because it’s so different [from] anything we’ve ever done. We did it, and we saw that people really dug it, and it resonated with people. So when writing Unstable, having that experience before gave us the confidence to go, “Hey, now we can jump right in headfirst with all this stuff.” We can do this 100%, and we know we enjoyed it, and we know our fans enjoyed it last time, so we don’t have to be nervous about it. It gave us the strength to go all-in while writing this record, so we really accomplished pretty much everything we were trying to.
The second album is usually a worrying challenge to bands looking to raise the bar from the debut. Did that concern you at all with Unstable?
We gained so much confidence between the last album and this one that it strangely doesn’t feel like we have those worries. Most people are worried about how they’re going to top the first record, but from the first single from this album, “I’m Not Right,” and going into the second, “You Never Listen,” we already talked about a lot of the stuff we did on Freak. It gave us a little bit of comfort because we’re starting off in a good spot, so we should be all right.
You can read the full interview in the debut Alternative Press Power Issue: Women Rising, available here.