Considering the role of Esther “Jinx” Dawson, the singer and leader of the Covens group, women’s participation in heavy metal music began in the sixties. The next significant milestone occurred in the seventies when Genesis, the precursor to the Vixen band, was formed in 1973. In 1975, the all-female hard rock band The Runaways was formed, with Joan Jett and Lita Ford later pursuing successful careers. During the emergence of the new wave of British heavy metal in 1978, Girlschool was formed in collaboration with Motorhead under the name Headgirl in 1980. Doro Pesch was dubbed the “Queen of Metal” in 1982 and succeeded throughout Europe, paving the way for other female-fronted metal bands like the Spanish group Santa in 1983. She had previously fronted the German band Warlock before embarking on a solo career. In 1983, another pioneer of heavy metal, Mary Hmad, took to the stage for the first time and achieved great success in Japan from the eighties into the twenty-first century. In 1986, the German thrash metal band Holy Moses, led by frontwoman Sabina Classen, released their debut album.

In 1994, Liv Kristine joined the Norwegian gothic metal band Theatre of Tragedy, where she provided “angelic” clean vocals contrasting with the masculine death growls. In 1996, the Finnish band Nightwish was formed by Tarja Turunen. This was followed by an increase in women at the forefront of heavy metal bands such as Halestorm, Within Temptation, Lacuna Coil, Epica, and others. Liv Kristine appeared on the title track of Cradle of Filth’s album “Nymphetamine,” released in 2004, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. In 2021, Code Orange and Poppy were nominated for Best Metal Performance in This Moment.

Evanescence, one of the prominent female-led groups of the nineties/early twenty-first century, led by singer Amy Lee, not only presented a unique musical style often described as alternative gothic metal with classical elements but also significantly impacted the genre’s evolution. Their debut album “Fallen,” released in 2003, became a global phenomenon, winning two Grammy Awards for the band and elevating Lee to fame comparable to contemporary pop stars like Christina Aguilera, Avril Lavigne, and BeyoncĂ©. While subsequent albums did not create the same impact, Evanescence’s commercial success and unique sound continue to influence the metal scene, with over 20 million records sold.

In Japan, alongside the success of Babymetal, there was an explosion of women-led metal bands in the early twenty-first century, such as Destrose, Aldious, Mary’s Blood, Cyntia, and Lovebites.

Women like Gabi Hoffman and Sharon Osbourne played important managerial roles behind the scenes. In 1981, Hoffman helped secure the first recording contract for Don Dokken and later became the manager of Accept in 1981, also writing songs under the pseudonym “Deaffy” for many of the band’s studio albums. Vocalist Mark Tornillo noted Hoffman’s continued influence in writing songs for subsequent albums. Osbourne, wife and manager of Ozzy Osbourne, founded the Ozzfest music festival and managed several musical acts, including Motörhead, Coal Chamber, Smashing Pumpkins, Electric Light Orchestra, Lita Ford, and Queen.

Female Metal Singer 2024
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