Heavy metal, for the most part, is a boys club. Women have unfairly been relegated to the role of fan despite their devotion to the cause. Thankfully times are changing; women are now hitting the stages worldwide and performing their music to appreciative audiences. Here we take a look at some of the most inspirational women in metal – individuals who broke ground and tore down barriers to deliver some of the most exciting music in heavy metal.

Above image of Floor Jansen by Meredith Snow

Ann Boleyn

Ann Boleyn not only started the careers of many via her label New Renaissance Records, but her band Helion (formed in 1982 in LA) was a mainstay on the US heavy metal scene. Boleyn deserved greater acclaim, but never compromised during the male-dominated ’80s.

Dawn Crosby

The late Dawn Crosby began her career with Détente, but it wasn’t until she formed Fear Of God that she truly arrived. Her haunting, esoteric vocals on the 1991 Warner Bros. debut Within The Veil remain unique to his day. On 15th December 1996, Crosby succumbed to her demons, dying of liver failure from substance abuse.

Liv Kristine

Norwegian singer-songwriter and composer Liv Kristine got her break fronting Theatre of Tragedy, after which she sang lead for symphonic metal act Leaves’ Eyes. She’s currently at the mic for German band Midnattsol , for which her younger sister Carmen Elise Espenaes sings lead.

Floor Jansen 

Floor Jansen’s resume is impressive all the way through, but she’s best-known as the vocalist for adored Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish (who released their ninth studio album Human. :II: Nature. last year. Jansen’s vocals are powerful, but it’s live where she shines; her stage presence is a tour de force of head-banging and crowd interaction. Jansen is hard to beat.

Doro Pesch

Doro, as she is known by her devoted worldwide fanbase, is the undisputed Metal Queen. Doro first came to the attention of metalheads when she fronted Germany’s Warlock during the ’80s. She went solo in 1989 and hasn’t looked back, having released a staggering 13 albums. Doro is a true pioneer and a legend in the scene.

The Great Kat 

The Great Kat remains one of the most interesting women in heavy metal. Born Katherine Thomas, she attended the prestigious Juilliard School on a full scholarship, where she studied classical violin. By her own account, she was drawn to metal when she saw a Judas Priest clip on television one day. Soon gravitating towards the electric guitar, she became renown for her thrash interpretations of some of the classical world’s most popular pieces, as well as her insanely fast playing abilities.

Lita Ford

Lita Ford is one of the most visible women in hard rock. She was the lead guitarist in The Runaways, after which she carved out a solid career in glam metal during the ’80s. She signed with Sharon Osbourne Management later in the decade and released her most successful album, Lita, in 1988. It included a duet with Ozzy Osbourne, Close My Eyes Forever, and a co-write with Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx, titled Falling In And Out Of Love. She remains a hugely worthy icon in the metal scene.

Jo Bench

In the world of death metal, Jo Bench is an innovator. She joined the mighty Bolt Thrower as bassist in 1987 – a time when any women at death metal shows were always to be found in the audience, certainly not on stage. Bench proved that women could thrive in the arena of extreme metal.

Honourable mentions

Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy

Anna Marie Murphy of Eluveitie

Anna Maria van Giersbergen

Sabina Classen of Holy Moses

Simone Simons of Epica

Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation

Nita Strauss of Alice Cooper

Sarah Zezebel Deva

Leather Leone of Chastain

Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil


Now that you have a better appreciation of women in metal, discover the history of the horns!

You might also get a kick out of 5 awful rock/metal bands your dad won’t admit he listened to in the ‘80s.