Diamond Rowe loves disrupting people's expectations of what is considered a "typical" heavy-metal guitarist. Rowe is the lead guitarist in L.A.-via-Atlanta melodic metalcore band Tetrarch. She's also an African American woman who grew up in the South, where it's easy to get pigeonholed when you're black or female. But she's never catered to societal or scene norms.
"There are female musicians out there that are not generally talented, but are more attractive or dress sexy," states Rowe. "More power to them — success is success — but I want you to like me because I'm good at my instrument. I've never been a girly girl."
Growing up, both of her parents were in the music business, but Rowe's first love was playing softball. "I've always been introverted and strange, loved motocross, hockey and crime documentaries, not your normal black kid … whatever you think normal is!" she says with a laugh.
Rowe was around 14 when she first picked up a guitar — and everything else fell to the wayside. Her initial guitar idols were Slash, Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine, before she progressed to modern-day icons like Trivium's Matt Heafy and Lamb of God's Mark Morton.
"I really like the guitar players that're technically good and can write, more so than the ones that can just shred," says Rowe. "I hope that people see me as that type of guitar player one day."
To that end, Rowe is excited to show off her writing, and shredding, skills with Tetrarch's latest record, Freak, which is due out on September 29th. "The writing came out differently from anything we've done in the past," she says. "Lyrically, it has a theme of pioneering and embracing weird things about yourself, flaunting that individuality. Looking at being a 'freak' in a good instead of negative way."
Since forming in Atlanta in 2007, Tetrarch have proved their tenacity. The band — rounded out by frontman Josh Fore, bassist Ryan Lermer and drummer Ruben Limas — has self-released all of their music (including four EPs, as well as this year's full-length), and despite the lack of label support, they've managed to score coveted spots opening for major acts like Avenged Sevenfold, DevilDriver and Seether.
Tetrach's 2008 debut, Pravda, caught people's attention thanks to its blend of modern metalcore's technical prowess and catchy, dark nu-metal grooves. A collection of thrash-based jams followed with 2011's The Will to Fight, while 2013's Relentless revealed the band's heavier lyrical side. But this year's Freak has proved to be a whole new animal.
"In the band's beginning, we listened to a lot of thrash. Metallica is still my all-time favorite band," says Rowe. "But it was annoying being called a thrash-metal band. We don't want to be pigeonholed."
Freak showcases a blend of intense riffs, driving drums, textural guitar tendrils and hooky choruses layered with soaring melodic vocals and primal, guttural screams. It's more melodic and aligned with hard rock; for example, the track "Mary," one of Rowe's proudest moments on the record, features a ton of sampling for a creepy, Marilyn Manson–like vibe. "Freak was more fun to write than Relentless," Rowe admits. "Because we really got weird, trying things we never have before."
Beyond the new album, the band is planning more tour dates, where Rowe is excited to show off the new songs and indulge her latest extra-curricular obsession: fishing. "I've been really into bass fishing," says Rowe. "I get on YouTube at night and watch bass fishing videos and have three poles and reels and a whole tackle box that I take on tour with me."
Aside from the simple joy of shredding (and angling) Rowe is ready to hit the road across the country behind Freak to keep inspiring fans to disrupt the status quo of the metal scene.
"I've seen more women on instruments like bass guitar or drums, making a name for themselves and their craft," says Rowe of the metal landscape. "I think Guitar World stopped doing their chicks-in-metal, bikini-edition thing, and stuff like that allows girls to find a place in metal that doesn't have to do with just appearance. I mean, there should be a Hottest Dudes in Metal calendar. Take your shirts off, man!"