Celebrating Women In Metal For International Women’s Day
Band Photo: Nightwish (?)
In the spirit of International Women’s Day, it seems only appropriate and empowering to take a moment to focus on the fierce and powerful women in metal that inspire us every day.
Whether they are rocking it out in a corset or not, their presence on the stage is always captivating. Sometimes they are blowing our minds with their vocal escapades, or dominating their instruments as skillfully as any man, but continuously these women are pioneers in a genre that has traditionally been predominantly men.
Back in the ‘60s during the classic rock days, artists such as Janis Joplin and Grace Slick paved the way for the Valkyries of our modern day music. Later, women such as Pat Benetar and Joan Jett would take the baton and run hard with it!
Nowadays women in metal have provided valuable insights into reshaping aspects of the genre and fusing them with their unique ideas and talents. It’s not possible for a man to hit the airy lyric soprano range that often we are graced with in bands like Nightwish or Leaves Eyes without going into falsetto. Other women have used their hands to virtuosity, and left us in awe with their keyboards, strings, basses or drums.
International Women’s day is about celebrating the strides women have made whether economic, socially, or political. But let us not forget the massive accomplishments we’ve made towards metal music, and how we made our mark on a genre that shows that men and women truly can work towards something better.
We at Metalunderground.com are well aware of the sirens of the scene, and all the triumphs they have contributed that have made Metal the diverse genre it is.
Rachel (aka WandererOfKalevala):
Eluveitie’s own Anna Murphy is a true warrior of the genre. At just under 20 when she joined Eluveitie, she quickly showed that youth is not remotely detrimental in achieving success. She singlehandedly took an instrument that most people had only heard of at renaissance fairs and turned it into a coveted and mysterious vessel that helped to shape the folk ambience of one of the top bands in the folk metal division.
Anna has shown us time and time again that her voice is versatile and proved this with her eclectic solo release (Cellar Darling, 2014) this past year. She is a skilled singer, and the power and occasional fragility of her voice combined with frontman Chrigel’s growls painted pictures for us of an era long gone that felt as faint as a spider web you can see but not quite touch. Today, Eluveitie was the first metal band in Swiss History to receive a Swiss Music award.
Matt (aka Dasher10):
Why Jo Bench Makes Bolt Thrower The Band It Is
Bolt Thrower to me is the epitome of heavy metal. By that I mean that if you don't like Bolt Thrower, then in general, you don't like metal. You may like some of the more trendy bands, you may appreciate some of the less heavy and more symphonic/folky artists or you may just like some of the 80s glam bands for nostalgia and/or partying purposes. But in general, you don't like metal unless you're a Bolt Thrower fan.
In an age before the symphonic metal wave where a woman on stage was a common sight, Jo Bench was playing gigs across the globe in the early 90s. More importantly, Bolt Thrower was always defined by a strong bass presence, that was loud, audible and followed its own path, weaving through the guitars to propel the music forward. In a genre of music that frequently mutes the bass to participate in a completely unwanted battle in the loudness wars, it's good to hear albums like “For Victory” and “Those Once Loyal” have an actual real bass present, especially one that sounds like the grinding machines of battle across the battlefields described in the lyrics.
Peggy (aka darkstar):
Finnish vocalist Tarja Turunen is one of metal’s most influential women. She began her professional career in her late teen years when she joined fellow classmates Tuomas Holopainen and Emppu Vuorinen in an “atmospheric mood music” project that eventually evolved into the "operatic" metal band we've come to know as Nightwish. Since 1997, Turunen has recorded five full-length studio albums, one EP and two live albums with the band. Her powerful soprano vocals, combined with the Holopainen’s grandiose sounds and Vuorinen’s hard-rock riffs, helped strengthen Nightwish as a heavy contender in the metal scene.
After her bandmates said "Bye Bye Beautiful" to her in 2005, Turunen soldiered on to become one of Finland's best-selling solo artists, releasing three studio albums, including a Christmas album. The award-winning singer also performed and collaborated with other artists, most notably with the Scorpions on "The Good Die Young" and, more recently, with Within Temptation on their track "Paradise (What About Us?)." Turunen's talent has also inspired countless singers and bands, including Simone Simons, vocalist of Dutch symphonic metallers Epica. Although some metal fans may find her vocal style to be "over the top," one cannot deny her legacy as a pioneer of female-fronted metal bands and the symphonic metal genre.
Carl (aka CROMcarl):
If there was one women that is the most identified with the women’s movement in heavy metal, it would be Doro Pesch. There is a reason she dubbed the ”Metal Queen.” Rather than parading her beauty for sexual explotation to reach noteriety, Doro chose to climb the hard road by writing captivating songs and perfecting her trademark vocals. Her work with Warlock was some of the most influential material in metal, not only for women in the scene, but for male band counterparts. Doro’s mission was simple: ”to give other women self-confidence.”
Her longevity in the scene and commitment to music first inspired and spawned a legacy for not only herself, but hundreds of superstar females in metal which identify her as an idol. The Warlock discocraphy is ranked as one of the best metal ever created, gender withstanding. You can hardly find a metalhead who hasn’t heard ”All We Are.” A road warrior at heart, Doro has toured the world multiple times, being invited to play major festivals year in and year out and even wrote one of the most popular Wacken theme songs. Her lyrics challenge those to fight and overcome any obstacles, even beyond the boundaries imposed on females over the years in metal. Today, there is a plethora of women in the genre, extending beyond just vocalists – but to full bands. This was largely due to the pathways forged by the great Doro Pesch.
Ty (aka xFiruath):
There aren’t many Norwegian black metal outfits known for having female members, which is what makes Heidi Tveitan – founder of the label Mnemosyne Productions - such a compelling enigma in the scene. Wife of Emperor member Ihsahn, Heidi’s first main foray into the metal scene was with her husband in the avant-garde black metal project Peccatum, offering some equally discordant and off-kilter vocals to match her husband’s trademark screech.
As Peccatum was winding down and nearing its end, Heidi went on to form her own solo project StarOfAsh, which has now seen three proper album releases, starting with 2002’s “Iter Viator.” These three albums saw her trying out a variety of styles and pushing her vocals in different directions. While “The Thread” (reviewed here) was a mostly instrumental, dream-like journey, the follow-up release “Lakhesis” (see our review) featured much more of her ethereal clean singing and a bigger guitar presence for a heavier feel.
Besides her solo work, Heidi has made a mark on the musical scene by appearing as a guest vocalist in projects from other Norwegian musicians, from the bizarrely awesome Hardingrock project (reviewed here) to the recent solo album from Andy Winters.
Rachel Roth has studied classical music and folk music at the University level, and enjoys studying Folklore in her spare time. She is an avid metal and folk music fan lucky enough to be living in Helsinki, Finland. Currently, she has expanded her love of music to include photography and freelance writing. You can see more of her photography here or at liliumphotography.com.
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