The Power of Women in Metal

The Power of Women in Metal

Heavy metal has been labeled as a "Boy's Club" since its origins. From the early days of the likes of Sabbath and Zeppelin, to it's bigger success in the 80's with Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Motorhead. Even the glam metal scene leaders of Poison and Mötley Crüe. Many label heads would claim that female singers would not be "as good as a male fronted band" or "male listeners couldn't relate", stifling the growth of female musicians and singers in hard rock and heavy metal music. But many artists in other genres like traditional rock and roll would help push the power of the female voice.

During the 70's, many rock and roll acts began to feature powerful and strong voices. Singers Grace Slick, Jinx Dawson of Coven Rose, Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac and the legendary Janis Joplin showed that women could pack one hell of a punch in their voice, even belting out a voice more powerful than many male fronted acts at the time. The rise of these acts, would promote the popularity and strength of female fronted bands and artists, which was represented in album sales and the legacy and influence they would leave in their wake.

During the late 70's & early 80's, popular bands like Heart, Pat Benatar and Blondie would showcase female fronted acts that would begin to follow in the footsteps of the legendary voices of their predecessors. Their voices had sultriness, power, passion and impact. Inspiring a newer generation of women to not only show they can lead the charge without being compared to their male counterparts or have to sexualize themselves to get their names out there. Many of these classic acts would be immortalized in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, cementing their band's legacy and influence for women in rock and roll.

While pop and rock began to show an increase and confidence in female fronted acts, hard rock, punk and metal began to show a rise of talented musicians and singers. From the influential and aggressive acts like The Runaways (a band that would feature rock and roll singer Joan Jett and 80's metal frontwoman Lita Ford), along with Girlschool and Doro with her band Warlock as well as her solo career. These vocalists would inspire many female singers to pick up the mic and front their own bands. These acts include Lzzy Hale of Halestorm and Carla Harvey & Heidi Shepherd of Butcher Babies.  

Vocalists weren't the only roles in bands that women were starting to become showcased in. The Great Kat was a classically trained musician who picked up the guitar and could shred better than a lot of guitarists at the time. Her famous cover of "Flight of The Bumblebee" is insanely impressive in complexity with her speed and precision. Britt Lightning of Vixen, Prika Amaral of Nervosa, Orianthi and Nita Strauss would show that women can shred and play impressively technical solos, along with catchy riffs and memorable hooks. Sean Yseult of White Zombie would show off women playing bass along with Gail Greenwood of punk/grunge act L7. Drums were showcased with Mercedes Lander of Kittie as well as YouTube drummer Meytal Cohen and The Iron Maidens drummer Linda McDonald.

In the 90's, metal would begin to see the rise of new genres. Genres like death metal, black metal and grindcore would begin to rise with acts like Cannibal Corpse, Mayhem and Napalm Death. During that time, vocals were lower and guttural or ear shatteringly high shrieks. Many fans were hesitant of a female fronted death metal or grindcore band. Arch Enemy front woman Angela Gossow delivered a commanding and astoundingly deep guttural vocal that impressed and wowed the naysayers in the death metal genre, proving to them you don't need to have a pair of balls to growl that low.

Her replacement after her departure from the band in 2014 was Alissa White-Gluz and she has delivered at filling the shoes of Gossow. Death metal bands like Entheos, Abnormality, Sisters of Suffocation, Landmine Marathon and Crypta were bands that were female-led and built confidence in women venturing into the death metal "male-heavy" scene. Grindcore would also show a resurgence of bands with Fuck The Facts, Watch Me Burn and Escuela Grind. Black metal artists like Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, Astarte, Dawn of Ouroboros and Cadaveria would feature frontwomen who could shriek and scream higher then their male counterparts.

The 2010's and 2020's would begin to show women taking over the core genres. Acts like Jinjer, Spiritbox, Infected Rain, In This Moment and Mind Control would showcase the evolution of mixing the power and aggression of growl vocals, while also showing an emotional and empathetic delivery in their clean vocals. These bands would rise to commercial success in the late 2000's, with Spiritbox even receiving a Grammy nomination for their song "Jaded" at the most recent Grammy awards.

One of the strongest and accepting of female vocalists in the metal community is the symphonic and power metal scene. The genre is VERY heavy on the female fronted bands, with vocalists showing off impressive range of performances and talent. Bands like Nightwish, which featured iconic frontwoman Tarja Turnen and their current vocalist Floor Jansen, showed the amazing power and scale of the female voice, with the grandeur and structure of a cinematic feel with the symphonic elements and talented musicians behind them.

With other acts like Leaves' Eyes, Epica, Within Temptation and Visions of Atlantis would follow along with the band or in their footsteps. With the acceptance of women in the genre and the elegance in their voices, along with the heaviness and grandiosity of symphonic elements, it would spawn great up and coming acts like Empress, Graveshadow and Alterium.

Women have become a force to be reckoned with in the metal community. Coming from the time of the scene being a "Boy's Club" and a bygone era of telling them "you can't be as good as men" or "you'll never be as successful unless you show skin". That to me was the driving force to prove them wrong. To reach the top of the charts, sell millions of records, win awards and sell out major venues as they flip the finger to their naysayers. I found a quote that says "when revenge is your driving force, there's no room for failure", and this fits the rise of women in metal.

These talented women were determined to showcase their skills and abilities. They drove to represent what they believed in, and what they wanted to say musically, and wouldn't give a damn what people said or who got in their way. I am proud that the metal community has evolved and accepted female-fronted acts and musicians. Metal is and should be an equal-opportunity genre. No gender should exclude you from making the metal you want to make or prevent you from succeeding. Women have been an inspiration to succeed and thrive in this genre and I cannot wait to see what women will do to the metal scene.

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