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"Nineteen years ago, I was watching Def Leppard with some friends up in Calgary, standing in the nose-bleeds; now I'm getting to support them on tour... This is surreal!" says Brittany Paige, AKA Kobra Paige. She's the lead singer and chief songwriter of heavy-metal revivalists Kobra and the Lotus. Her band is supporting rock behemoths Def Leppard and Kiss on a mammoth U.S. tour, heading to West Palm Beach's Cruzan Amphitheatre July 22.
"The other night, I was standing amongst all the Kiss props backstage while Def Leppard played," Paige says. "I was just standing there looking at Rick [Allen] playing on the drums, and I'm like, 'This is insane!' "
Paige's modesty belies the euphoric choral yelling, bludgeoning riffs, and grandiose pomp and power of the band she has driven from humble beginnings in Calgary, Alberta, a little more than six years ago to supporting two of rock's most deified acts. The band's latest album, High Priestess, is packed with clattering rhythms; fist-pumping, stadium-sized choruses; and Paige's distinctive soaring vocals. It's a formula concocted to adrenalize.
This wasn't necessarily the way it was supposed to go for the singer. As a child, Paige was a classically trained singer who, inspired by a family trip to a Judas Priest show, decided to drop the drama, passion, and pageantry of opera for the drama, passion, and pageantry of heavy metal.
"Classical and heavy music are fairly parallel," she says. "The transition didn't seem completely unnatural. I thought, 'This is what I want to be part of. There's a place for my voice that doesn't have to necessarily be operatic; it can fit somewhere else.' "
The decision proved fruitful, with Paige's astonishing set of pipes helping elevate Kobra and the Lotus' brand of metal above the lumpish power chords and the balls-to-the-wall, testosterone-fueled riffs of their contemporaries. Three albums in, the band's star continues to rise.
One of their early champions was none other than the man with the epic tongue, Gene Simmons. "We were working on the last album," Paige explains. "Mark Spicoluk, an A&R man at Universal Music Group, got a hold of some preliminary tracks. He took the music to Gene, Gene liked it, and he became involved."
Though the band has moved on from Simmons' Universal label, the Kiss rocker's wise words still resonate. "Gene brings all his knowledge, his experience. He's very open about it, so we can approach him and ask him about things to help ourselves move forward."
Kobra Paige is the lone mainstay in a group that has seen a few personnel changes in recent years. A new guitarist, bass player, and drummer have all been recruited since the last album, though lead guitarist Jasio Kulakowski has been present for a few years. As the band's lineup has evolved, so has its sound.
"I guess the sound always, hopefully, evolves as we grow as musicians and have mentors in our lives and learn about who we are," Paige says. "High Priestess has a lot more versatility. A lot of it is drawn from personal experiences or things I want to bring attention to. I'd actually say it's a darker album than the previous one. Usually there's hope, and there's a way of pushing out of it. There's more intensity with this one, and there's a little more soul baring."
Having previously toured with Judas Priest and headlined several massive European metal festivals, Kobra and the Lotus is primed to deal with all the feelings that accompany a 23-date tour with two of hard rock's elite and to showcase its galloping metallic bluster to new audiences. "Expect wailing vocals, heavy riffs, some tasty licks, and some high-adrenaline performing," she says. "And, of course, a lot of hair!"