Sunday, July 27, 2014

Metal Women

Butcher Babies. Clearly they're all about the music.
I've complained about a lot of female-fronted metal bands. Bands who rely on the sex appeal of their vocalists annoy the crap out of me (and that's true regardless of gender, but in metal it's usually a female vocalist appealing to the largely male metal fan base). Stylistically, Nightwish and their ilk have drawn my ire on plenty of occasions too. In my most recent "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" review where I griped about two more female-fronted bands, I made the remark that I hated seeing shitty music get a ton of attention just because the band producing it had a hot chick in their ranks. Lest ye think I'm just being a misogynist, please note that my issue with this trend is that women are underrepresented enough in metal as it is, and it bothers me that women with actual talent tend to be ignored in favor of the aforementioned "hot chick" bands. That's not to say that beautiful women can't have musical talent, because they most certainly can. In fact, I'd call several of the women I list below quite attractive. The point is that what's important should be the quality of the music, not the way the band members look in skin-tight leather.

In the spirit of putting my money where my mouth is, I'd like to present to you a few talented women in metal who I think deserve your attention. This is merely a starting point, and as always I encourage you to hunt further on your own. I just felt somewhat compelled, given my recent grumblings on the topic, to provide some names. These are the ones I've chosen.


Name: Mallika Sundaramurthy
Band: Abnormality
Role: Vocalist
Genre: Brutal Death Metal
Country: USA

Abnormality may only have one full-length album out, released in 2012, but it's a good record. And the excellent, meaty harsh vocals provided by Mallika Sundaramurthy leave the likes of Alissa White-Gluz so far behind in the dust that it's like comparing a Corvette to a unicycle.


Name: Uta Plotkin
Band: Witch Mountain
Role: Vocalist
Genre: Stoner Doom Metal
Country: USA

On a lighter note, Uta Plotkin's smokey, soulful vocals dominate the stoner doom output of this Portland-based outfit. She's been with the band for two albums now, and her debut on their 2011 release South of Salem  was one of my favorite albums of the year.


Name: Karen Gilligan
Band: (formerly) Cruachan
Role: Vocalist, Percussionist
Genre: Folk Metal
Country: Ireland

Gilligan is no longer a member of the band, but she has appeared on every Cruachan album save for their 1995 debut. The clean female vocals with harsh male vocals approach has been used to great effect by many bands, but with the arguable exception of Draconian I think Cruachan have done it the best. Her unusual (for metal) vocal approach gives them far more character than most folk metal bands.


Name: Dr. Mikannibal
Band: Sigh
Role: Vocalist, Saxophonist
Genre: Avant-garde Metal
Country: Japan

Possibly my favorite metal album in the past five years came from the brilliantly creative Japanese outfit Sigh, whose front-woman delivers a wide array of vocal styles and throws in some cool sax work to boot. Oh, and it's not musically relevant, but that "Dr." title isn't just a stage name. She actually has a physics Ph.D.


Name: Wata
Band: Boris
Role: Vocalist, Guitarist
Genre: Everything
Country: Japan

How can I explain the hyper-prolific Boris? With a career spanning two decades and more than twenty albums, this trio seems to dip and dive and wander into every weird crack and crevice the music world will allow. The best description would be to say that they're the Asian version of the Melvins. Wata has been a part of this powerhouse of weird since the beginning.


Name: Liz Buckingham
Band: Electric Wizard
Role: Guitarist
Genre: Stoner Doom Metal
Country: UK

She wasn't a part of the original trio, but Liz Buckingham has wielding her guitar in the wizard for over a decade now. Whether one would call the lineup changes that brought her on board as Bagshaw and Greening left an improvement or a downgrade is largely a matter of personal preference, but as a guitarist in one of the world's premiere doom bands, she's played a big role in producing some really excellent material.


As I said, this is just a sampling of names. At this point, most women in metal are vocalists, which is why vocalists dominated this list, though there are women who fill other roles in metal bands. A few examples: Justine Ethier is the drummer for Blackguard, Anna Murphy (and now Nicole Ansperger) provide folk instrumentation for Eluveitie, and Jill McEntee plays bass in Funerus (she also took over vocal duties on their last album). Unfortunately these women are still in an extreme minority, but hopefully with time more girls will take an interest in being metal musicians. In the mean time, let's pay more attention to women like these who have actual musical talent and less attention to women whose primary skill is looking really good in band photos.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful list. I was hoping you'd get Uta Plotkin in there. Seeing that you did, I'll have to add Christy Cather (guitarist/vocalist) and Laurie Sue Shanaman (vocalist) of the now-defunct Ludicra. They were Cosmo Lee's favorite band, so that speaks volumes.