Hard Rock and Heavy Metal’s Best Female Fronted Bands
For decades it seemed that heavy music was dominated by males. Chest pounding, head banging, fist raising males who would attend shows in droves of rabidity or don the stages therein, pelting out their aggression to the masses at ear shattering volumes. This was, for quite some time, the burgeoning scene that was “heavy metal”, and it was glorified and revered as an expulsion of collective testosterone through raw, brutal music.
The bands that would adorn those hallowed stages, save for the odd exception, were generally masculine. Sub-genres such as thrash, death, black and the forerunning ‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’ never restricted the fairer sex from their scenes, yet a female presence was definitely lacking.
The exception to this would be the sub-genre that was “glam” or “hair” metal which rose rather quickly from L.A.’s Sunset Strip in the early to mid-80’s. Let’s face it. A tremendous amount of those who consumed and celebrated that sub-genre were women. Females played a massive part in that scene, which thrived through it’s celebration of decadence, debauchery and androgyny.
Today however, we see a much different, and certainly more welcome, landscape. The female presence has not only become vast but also significantly important to it’s development as a genre. Women are adorning black garb in the form of tour shirts of their favorite heavy bands while they and males alike gather in droves to witness strong and powerful females deliver ear-splitting aggression and sound experience.
Women have become a significant and important part of heavy metal as a whole.
The Top 13 Female Fronted Heavy Metal Bands Of All Time As Voted By You
Over the last couple of months, we here at Loaded Radio and Loadedradio.com have been tabulating your votes for who you think are the top FEMALE FRONTED Hard Rock and Heavy Metal band(s) of all time. We have done this tabulation through on-site voting, incoming emails and on-air requests, so we would like to personally thank each and every one of you who took the time to vote.
It was a rather lengthy process, but we have now narrowed down the ‘Top 13’ FEMALE FRONTED Hard Rock and Heavy Metal bands of all time as voted by you.
You can find them below.
Number 13. – LITA FORD
Lita Ford is iconic. Yet even that seems like an understatement when it comes to a woman who is easily one of hard rock’s most recognized and accomplished frontwomen.
Inspired by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s work with DEEP PURPLE, Lita Ford began playing guitar at the age of 11 and by 16 found herself recruited by recording impresario Kim Fowley to join the all-female rock band THE RUNAWAYS. Ford’s lead-guitar playing became an integral element of THE RUNAWAYS sound until their eventual break-up in the April of 1979.
After signing with RCA Records and hiring Sharon Osbourne (Ozzy’s wife) as her manager, Lita would unleash 1988’s “Lita” which featured the hit songs “Kiss Me Deadly”, “Back to the Cave”, “Close My Eyes Forever” (featuring Ozzy), and “Falling in and Out of Love”, a song she co-wrote with Nikki Sixx of MÖTLEY CRÜE.
Ford followed up the success of “Lita” with a few more albums, yet never attained the level of success and recognition that she did with her 1988 release. Ford would take a lengthy recording hiatus soon after but has since returned with a crushing vengeance, adorning numerous stages and playing for welcoming and adoring fans worldwide.
Number 12. – DORO/WARLOCK
Dorothee Pesch, known professionally as Doro Pesch or simply Doro, is Germany’s contribution to the echelons of soaring female voices within heavy metal.
The former frontwoman of metal band WARLOCK, Doro has earned the moniker of “Metal Queen”, not only for her incredible talents as a frontwoman, but also for her contributions to the culture of heavy metal, making her a global figure in the genre for over three decades.
Doro saw some commercial success with WARLOCK throughout the 80’s, with the band starting to make a dent in North America’s vastly expanding metal scene. Frequent personnel changes within the group would leave Doro as the only original member, leading her to launch her own solo career to avoid legal battles between her record label and her former manager. It was also a move that would thrust Doro into the forefront of heavy metal’s most significant female voices.
To this date, Doro has released 17 studio albums, the latest being ‘Forever Warriors, Forever United’ in 2018. She continues to record new material and is a prolific touring artist all over the world.
Number 11. – BUTCHER BABIES
BUTCHER BABIES are an American metalcore band hailing from Los Angeles, California, consisting of frontwomen Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey, guitarist Henry Flury, bassist Ricky Bonazza, and drummer Chase Brickenden.
Formed by Shepherd and Harvey in 2010, BUTCHER BABIES invaded the heavy music genre in no short order, self-releasing their savage first EP in 2011 and not looking back since.
The band assaults their audiences with powerful screams. angry guitars and pounding drums yet can also lull them into a false sense of security before pulverizing them once again with their sheer sonic attack. Rock journalist Keith Valcourt said in his review of one of the band’s shows: “The Butcher Babies deliver a loud crashing blend of heavy metal, punk and thrash that recalls Pantera, adding their stage show embodies the horror antics of Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie. Carla and Heidi don’t merely sing: they assault the crowd with a blinding flash of aggression and abuse. And the crowd loves them for it.”
BUTCHER BABIES’ place on this list is well earned, as not only an absolute force of a metal band, but also as a middle finger in the face of misogyny. And they are adored for it.
Number 10. – JOAN JETT
Joan Jett (born Joan Marie Larkin, September 22, 1958) is the ultimate example of pure, unadulterated rock who’s lack of presence on this list would be indeed surprising and quite frankly shocking.
Joan Jett is best known for being the frontwoman of her band JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS, as well as for founding and performing with the all girl rock group THE RUNAWAYS (with Lita Ford who we saw earlier in this list). Alongside THE BLACKHEARTS, Jett has continuously smashed numerous audiences in the face with her strait up style of rock which just oozes with a ‘fuck you’ attitude.
Live performance staples like her rendition of the song “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” – which was number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks strait upon it’s release in 1982 – “Bad Reputation”, “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and “Dirty Deeds” all showcase an unrivaled tour-de-force in the annals of heavy rock performers.
With a mezzo-soprano vocal range and a sneer that would intimidate even the most hardened rocker, Joan Jett has been described as the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” who was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, placing her firmly among the genre’s elite. However despite the honor, Joan Jett still attacks the stage with an unrivaled presence and attitude that has become not only revered but inspiring.
Number 9. – LACUNA COIL
Since their formation in 1994, Milan, Italy’s LACUNA COIL – previously known as “Sleep of Right” and “Ethereal” – have recorded nine studio albums, two EPs, two live albums, two compilation albums, one video album, and sixteen singles. Their body of work plays like a beautiful, yet blistering, wave of sound complete with gothic imagery, prominent guitars and soaring vocals courtesy of frontwoman Cristina Scabbia and co-vocalist Andrea Ferro.
Signed by Century Media Records at the end of 1997, LACUNA COIL adopted their current moniker (meaning “empty spiral”) and took their inspiration from the combination of gothic imagery and heavy, guitar driven music.
The band were initially known for mid-tempo tracks consisting of contrasting dual female/male vocal harmonies, creating a melodic, all encompassing sound. They would eventually lean more toward a much heavier approach, adopting a more down-tuned style with prevalent bass lines and a higher mixing of the guitars within their songs.
LACUNA COIL have toured internationally and have become recognized as forerunners in their genre, winning countless awards and paving the way for numerous other dual male/female vocal acts in heavy, sometimes extreme, music.
Number 8. – EPICA
EPICA are a Dutch symphonic metal band founded by guitarist and vocalist Mark Jansen after his departure from metal act AFTER FOREVOR.
Initially starting out as a symphonic metal project with gothic tendencies, EPICA would eventually settle into more of a death metal influence accompanied by progressive components. That being said, EPICA have also integrated elements of thrash, groove, black and even power metal into their music.
The band’s use of mezzo-soprano vocals, performed by frontwoman Simone Simons, coupled with Jansen’s guttural vocal attack, is the cornerstone to the band’s sound. EPICA primarily write their own lyrics, which delve into subjects such as philosophy, psychology, spirituality, morality, science, the environment and even socio-political themes. Their live performance is simply astounding with the band being known for their use of orchestra and operatic choirs coupled with Jansen’s aggressive guitar riffs and the beautiful, yet haunting voice of Simons emanating throughout.
Number 7. – IN THIS MOMENT
IN THIS MOMENT have gone on to become one of the most recognized acts in metal today, thanks to their encapsulating sound and over the top live performance experience.
Formed in 2005 in Los Angeles, California by singer Maria Brink and guitarist Chris Howorth, the band initially started out under the name “Dying Star”. Unhappy with their musical direction, the group changed their name to IN THIS MOMENT and commenced their journey as one of heavy music’s stand-out acts.
Heavily influenced by such groups as BLACK SABBATH, SLAYER, METALLICA and PANTERA, IN THIS MOMENT’s sound has always been evolving. Their debut album “Beautiful Tragedy”, as well as their third album, “A Star-Crossed Wasteland” have become metalcore staples, while other releases like “The Dream” show the band moving toward a more alternative metal sound. The group would even go on to use elements of industrial and electronic music on later releases such as “Blood” and “Black Widow”, with the latter even being described as a gothic metal record.
Despite numerous lineup changes, with the exception of mainstays Brink and Howorth, IN THIS MOMENT have received multiple award nominations, including two for Best Hard Rock Artist and one for Best Live Band by Alternative Press Music Awards. They have also received a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance for their over-the-top live presentation coupled with pure, unadulterated metal.
Number 6. – WITHIN TEMPTATION
WITHIN TEMPTATION are a Dutch symphonic metal band founded in April 1996 by vocalist Sharon den Adel and guitarist Robert Westerholt. They have been classified by critics as gothic metal and symphonic metal, although it seems each album the band releases contains other influences outside of just those genres. Calling WITHIN TEMPTATION simply a “symphonic metal band” would be lacking, as their material also features prominent gothic metal elements and even hints of doom metal.
After the release of their debut album “Enter” in 1997, WITHIN TEMPTATION became prominent in the Dutch underground scene. However it wasn’t until 2001 that they became known to the general public, with the single “Ice Queen” from their second album “Mother Earth”, hitting No. 2 on the Dutch music charts.
Their latest studio album, “Resist”, which arrived in January 2019, incorporates influences from other musical styles such as industrial and EDM, showing the vast scope of the group’s musical abilities. By 2016, WITHIN TEMPTATION had already sold more than 3.5 million albums worldwide solidifying their place among metal’s elite.
Number 5. – JINJER
JINJER are a Ukrainian metal band from Donetsk, who have been around since 2009 yet none of the founding members remain within the current band.
The current lineup of JINJER consider 2010 as their official year of formation, with the addition of vocalist Tatiana Shmailyuk and guitarist Roman Ibramkhalilov. The band has since added bassist Eugene Abdukhanov and drummer Vladislav Ulasevich with their latest album, “Wallflowers”, being released in August 2021.
JINJER are an act that is known for their progressive mixups of numerous genres such as R&B, soul, funk, jazz, reggae, and groove metal.
Bassist Eugene Abdukhanov has been noted for his use of a five-string bass to fill out the group’s sound with Roman Ibramkhalilov being the sole guitarist.
JINJER are easily one of the hottest bands in heavy metal today due to their capacity for absolutely incredible creations of audio madness coupled with a daunting stage presence.
Number 4. – EVANESCENCE
EVANESCENCE are another one of those bands who’s being absent from this list would seem almost impossible. The sheer vocal power and stage presence of singer, pianist, and keyboardist Amy Lee has skyrocketed the band to the upper echelons of hard rock and metal royalty.
EVANESCENCE released their first full-length album, “Fallen”, in 2003 which made a significant mark within heavy music amidst a then dominant “nu-metal” movement. On the sheer strength of the hit singles “Bring Me to Life” and “My Immortal”, “Fallen” sold more than 17 million copies worldwide and helped the band win two Grammy Awards out of six nominations the following year.
The lineup for EVANESCENCE has changed several times over the course of their career, with Lee remaining the only constant throughout. As a result, none of the band’s five studio albums feature the same lineup. However despite this, a couple of hiatuses and a number of “temporary” band members contributing to live shows, it is Lee’s powerful, operatic voice and ability to make a concert-goer in the back row feel like their getting an intimate performance that resonates with fans.
Number 3. – ARCH ENEMY
ARCH ENEMY are a Swedish melodic death metal band, originally a supergroup, from Halmstad, who formed in 1995. Founded by for CARCASS guitarist Michael Arnott and CARNAGE vocalist Johan Liiva, the rest of the band’s personnel was made up of past members from metal groups such as ARMAGEDDON, MERCYFUL FATE, THE AGONIST and NEVERMORE.
After Liiva would vacate his position as frontman for ARCH ENEMY in 2000, he would be replaced by German vocalist Angela Gossow, cementing the group as one of the originators of the female-led, extreme, guttural vocal style. Gossow would leave ARCH ENEMY in March 2014 to become the group’s manager and would be replaced by Canadian vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, formerly of THE AGONIST.
ARCH ENEMY’s musical style has been classified as melodic death metal, yet earlier releases, such as “Burning Bridges”, seem to be more strait up death metal driven.
Influenced by such acts as IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, SLAYER, DEATH and numerous others, ARCH ENEMY have gone on to release ten studio albums, three live albums, three video albums and four EPs, all the while continuing to dominate the landscape of their genre.
Number 2. – HALESTORM
HALESTORM hail from Red Lion, Pennsylvania and consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Lzzy Hale, her brother drummer and percussionist Arejay Hale, guitarist Joe Hottinger, and bassist Josh Smith.
Plain and simply, HALESTORM are one of the strongest bands out there representing hard rock and metal as a whole, with a fury that is both fun and aggressive. Frontwoman Lzzy Hale not only dominates the stage with her incredible pipes and charisma, but has become the go-to voice for guest appearances when a song calls for strong, female vocal abilities.
HALESTORM are also well known for their work ethic and their near non-stop touring cycles, often performing as many as 250 shows a year.
After concerts were cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, HALESTORM launched #RoadieStrong, a fundraiser for Live Nation Entertainment’s Crew Nation fund to support live show crews showing that unity within heavy music was well represented by the future iconic rock act.
Number 1. – NIGHTWISH
NIGHTWISH are a Finnish symphonic metal band from Kitee, Finland who formed in 1996 by songwriter and keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, and former lead singer Tarja Turunen.
It would be two years before NIGHTWISH would see any sign of success which arrived with the release of their albums “Oceanborn” (1998), “Wishmaster” (2000) and “Century Child” (2002) which garnered the band attention within the metal landscape. Their 2004 album, “Once”, went on to sell more than one million copies and also marked the band’s breakthrough in the United States.
Turunen would be dismissed from the band after a concert recorded for the live album/DVD “End of an Era” in 2006 and be replaced by vocalist Annette Olzon in May of 2007. That September would see NIGHTWISH release their sixth album, “Dark Passion Play”, which went on to sell almost 2 million copies.
On October 1, 2012, NIGHTWISH would part ways with Olzon and would finish out the then current tour with ex-AFTER FOREVOR singer Floor Jansen who remains as the band’s incredibly talented frontwoman.
NIGHTWISH are the third-best-selling band and musical entity in Finland with certified sales of nearly 900,000 certified copies. They are also the most successful Finnish band worldwide, selling more than 9 million records and receiving more than 60 gold and platinum awards, having released six Number 1 albums and thirteen Number 1 singles. They are a tour-de-force to be reckoned with not only in heavy metal, but in music as a whole, making them one of the most important bands in the industry today.
– Scott Penfold is the Program Director of Loaded Radio as well as a writer and on-air personality.