There are a lot of choices when it comes to picking the best female fronted heavy metal bands of all time. The heavy metal genre has evolved a lot over the years. Nowadays, many women are performing with metal bands and becoming their faces.
Female Fronted Heavy Metal Bands
Famous female singers like Lita Ford and Doro Pesch led the way to the best female fronted heavy metal bands, going back to the 80s. But this situation has only grown stronger over the years. Music bands like Epica and Nightwish have popularized females in heavy metal, and nowadays they are just as popular as any other band in the genre.
So, here are, in no particular order, the best 20 female fronted metal bands of all time. This list is based on their achievements, career, and the quality of their albums, so please consider that.
Chastain is one of those weird examples of bands formed by the label done well. Shrapnel Records president Mike Varney wanted a traditional Heavy Metal project to showcase guitar virtuoso David T. Chastain. This is how this band came to be in 1984… only that female vocalist Leather Leone added extra spice to the recipe.
The great chemistry between Chastain’s wizardly guitar and Leather’s histrionic, Dio-esque vocals is noticeable in every single song. While they never had a commercial breakthrough, these guys are legends in the underground metal scene and became one of the best female fronted heavy metal bands of all time.
Records such as 1986’s Ruler of the Wasteland and 1988’s The Voice of the Cult deserve a lot more recognition, and they are great starting points for people who want to get into the band.
There is an argument to be made that Nightwish is the most popular among the best female fronted heavy metal bands of all time. Even people who are not that into metal are familiar with these Finnish stars and they have the music to back it up, which is of course the most significant selling point.
Whether it’s with vocalist Tarja Turunen’s operatic singing, Annette Olzon’s pop-influenced approach, or the extreme versatility of Floor Jansen, the band has continued to offer a phenomenal combination of Metal and classical music, becoming one of the faces of Symphonic Metal. Albums such as Oceanborn and Wishmaster show the band at their finest.
There is much to like about Nightwish and the different eras with different vocalists offer much-needed variety to the band. They have a comprehensive discography of hits, including “Wish I Had an Angel,” “Nemo,” and many more.
Dutch guitarist Mark Jansen decided to leave another band when it came to the best female fronted heavy metal bands debate, After Forever, back in 2002 and decided to form his band, which was Epica. This band would go on to become one of the most popular in the metal genre while combining a lot of different influences, including extreme metal at times.
Simone Simons’s vocals are a huge selling point for the band. The Dutch singer’s charisma and range have made the band fairly flexible when it comes to their music, which is why they can pull off songs like “Cry for the Moon”, “Another Me”, or “The Last Crusade” with such ease.
4. Holy Moses
There were not a lot of female fronted metal bands back in the 80s, but bands such as Chastain, Warlock, and Holy Moses deserve a lot of recognition as the genre’s trailblazers in that regard. Sadly, Holy Moses is perhaps the most unknown among those three bands, mainly because of their raw approach to Thrash Metal, but they are reasonably beloved in the underground community.
The band started in 1980 and vocalist Sabina Classen has always been behind the mic, offering one of the most aggressive vocal styles on this list of the best female fronted heavy metal bands. Holy Moses has produced some exciting works, although 1987’s Finished with the Dogs is viewed as their thrash metal best.
5. Crystal Viper
Crystal Viper is one of the most popular bands Poland has produced and they deserve a place on this list. The band fronted by Marta Gabriel is pure, classic heavy metal and they also add an element of power metal without sacrificing intensity.
Gabriel is not only a very good singer, in the classic Bruce Dickinson pattern, but she can also play guitar and bass. Their lineups have changed a lot, but their albums are consistent, so people can start with 2007’s The Curse of the Crystal Viper, and take it from there.
Vixen were underrated trailblazers for women in metal. People like them and Lita Ford helped a lot in the mainstream, even if they were not as heavy as, say, Chastain or Warlock. However, Vixen also deserve recognition for being an all-female metal band.
Their self-titled 1988 debut is a product of its time, taking a lot of cues from 80s Hair Metal. However, the band also proves how capable they are as musicians and they offer a bit of variety on this list as well.
7. Within Temptation
Within Temptation have been around since their 1997 Enter debut album and their evolution is quite interesting. They are definitely one of the best female fronted heavy metal bands of all time and their popularity and success prove it, but there is more to them.
Sharon den Adel’s band has a lot of variety, starting with a lot more focus on doom metal and becoming poppier as the years passed. However, the band has always focused a lot on the songwriting side of things and Den Adel’s sweet and melodic vocals are a huge selling point.
Hair Metal was all the rage in the late 80s and many bands broke through, trying to make it big. Sadly, a lot of those bands were forgotten and Saraya was one of them, which is a shame considering what they have to offer.
Saraya’s appeal was Sandi Saraya’s charismatic vocals and range, but they also had musicianship to back it up. Their self-titled 1989 debut album is classic late 80s Hair Metal and done with a lot of purpose and professionalism, so definitely deserves a chance.
9. After Forever
After Forever had an ugly ending in 2009 as band members didn’t feel passion for the project anymore, but the fans can’t say the same. This band started in the Netherlands in the mid-90s and became one of the best female fronted heavy metal bands of all time.
They started to become known in recent years mostly because of Mark Jansen’s work with Epica and Floor Jansen’s with Nightwish, but they deserve a lot more credit. Albums such as Decipher and Invisible Circles are great combinations of symphonic metal with some power metal leanings and Floor’s vocals are just breathtaking.
10. Burning Witches
Swiss outfit Burning Witches is one of the newest bands on this list and their history is quite interesting. Guitarist Romana Kalkuhl left the band Atlas & Axis as she wanted to form her own all-female band and this led to the creation of Burning Witches in 2015 and the band has only grown better over the years.
Vocalist Laura Guldemond joined their ranks in 2019 and the band has gotten even more popularity since. Their music style has a lot of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Savatage influences, with 2021’s The Witch of the North album being a perfect starting point for newcomers.
Doro Pesch is one of the most influential singers in metal history. Her influence in giving women a lot more exposure and a stronger in the genre cannot be understated, with her beginnings with Warlock being quite notorious for that.
Warlock started in Germany in 1982 and continued to succeed moderately in Europe, opening for bands such as Megadeth, Judas Priest, and Dio. Doro’s harsh yet melodic vocals and the band’s classic approach to the genre were highly appealing.
When it comes to the best female fronted heavy metal bands, Warlock simply had to be on this list. Their debut, 1984’s Burning the Witches, is classic 80s metal with a raw approach, although 1987’s Triumph and Agony as some of the band’s biggest hits.
There is a very good chance that people reading this list have never heard of Morgana. That’s understandable as they are an Italian heavy metal band that released an album in 1989 and then called it quits for decades.
Now, this doesn’t mean that they are bad or that that album, Lady Winter, doesn’t have a lot to offer. In fact, it is very good, with vocalist Roberta Delaude having a lot of range and a certain power in her vocal deliveries. The opener “Make Me Love” is a very good example of how powerful vocals and guitar mastery worked in the 80s.
The band came back in the late 2000s and released two new albums, 2009’s Two Faces and 2011’s Rose of Jericho, that are also worth everybody’s time. An underrated band, if there was ever one, and one of the best female fronted heavy metal bands of all time.
Leather Leone is, of course, the voice of Chastain but she also has her solo career. She is one of the most charismatic voices in metal and is a shame she has never gotten the credit she deserved in that regard.
Be that as it may, Leather released a solo album in 1989 with Shrapnel Records called Shock Waves produced by David T. Chastain. It was still heavy metal but perhaps a bit slower than what she did in Chastain and with more focus on her vocals, which was much appreciated.
After leaving Chastain in the early 90s, Leather took a long break from the music business. She returned in the mid-2010s and released a new solo album, 2018’s II, which shows she didn’t skip a beat in all these years.
14. Lita Ford
Lita Ford is one of the most commercially successful women in metal. She switched to this genre as a solo artist in the 80s after doing punk with The Runaways in the 70s and being one of the first-ever all-female rock bands.
When it comes to her solo career, there is no denying that Lita was on the more commercial side of things. However, her debut solo album, 1983’s Out for Blood, was a bit rawer and heavier than what she did before and after, so this is a very solid starting point.
Regardless, Lita’s role and influence cannot be understated. Both with The Runaways and as a solo artist, she played a huge role in showing that women could also rock and that’s why she deserves a place on this list.
15. Arch Enemy
Arch Enemy is one of the best female fronted heavy metal bands of all time, and there is no argument against that. The band has gone through musical changes lineup changes, and even had to deal with vocalists changing, but have always remained consistent.
It’s also worth pointing out that this is one of those bands that people could start with from the very beginning. Then-Carcass guitarist Michael Amott formed the band in 1995 and it was a supergroup featuring people who played in Mercyful Fate, Nevermore, Carnage, Carcass, and many more.
However, the band went on to evolve in its own thing and is one of the most popular bands in the genre. 2001’s Wages of Sin album, the first one with vocalist Angela Gossow, could be an excellent starting point for new fans. Now, Alissa White-Gluz is the vocalist of the Arch Enemy band.
16. The Gathering
The Gathering are a very unique case in the metal genre. They started in the Netherlands in the early 90s and have become pioneers in this music style for several reasons. One of the most significant motives is the band’s musical diversity and variety.
This band has played doom metal, alternative, symphonic metal, gothic metal, and much more. Vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen was behind during most of the band’s peak years, but current vocalist Silje Wergeland has also done a great job.
It’s also worth pointing out that The Gathering’s have such a diverse and varied discography that is best to start with their debut, 1992’s Always. Be that as it may, their status as one of the best female fronted heavy metal bands is more than warranted.
Doro already made it on this list because of her work with Warlock. But her solo career also needs to be on this list. The German singer had legal disputes with her former bandmates at Warlock in the late 80s and had to go solo, which was probably her best decision ever.
Her solo career had a lot of ups and downs, but is best to start with the debut, 1989’s Force Majeure. This album is similar in style to Warlock’s Triumph and Agony, with her recent records also worth checking out.
18. Lacuna Coil
Italian heavy metal bands are rarely known as famous, let alone female fronted ones. So, Lacuna Coil’s success deserves much recognition as one of the best female fronted metal bands ever. Hailing from Milan, the band led by Cristina Scabbia started in 1994 and has gone on to become one of the faces of alternative metal.
Compared to many bands and artists on this list, Lacuna Coil has a much more modern approach but that doesn’t mean they are not good in their own right. It’s worth starting from the start, with the 1999 debut In a Reverie, as it will reflect the band’s evolution in a much more straightforward fashion.
Girlschool is a textbook example of a band that never fulfilled its potential. They started in the early 80s as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and they had the appeal of being an all-female band. Their first three albums had a moderate degree of commercial success but they never took off.
It’s a shame because Girlschool are a band that has always been touring and making new music since the 80s, even releasing a new album in recent weeks. However, if people want to get into the band, 1982’s Screaming Blue Murder is a very good starting point as is classic early 80s heavy metal.
They were pioneers for the metal genre and they never got the credit they deserved.
20. Visions of Atlantis
Visions of Atlantis is a perfect example of a band that worked its way to success. The band has been around since the early 2000s. But in recent years, with vocalist Clementine Delauney, they have gained a lot more notoriety. However, this notoriety should have come much earlier as this band has been consistent.
It’s worth pointing out that Visions of Atlantis are not reinventing the wheel. Bands like Nightwish, After Forever, and Within Temptation are clear influences, but they make their music sound like their own and not someone else’s copy. Their latest album, 2022’s Pirates, could be a perfect starting point.
Which are the 20 best female fronted metal bands?
- Holy Moses
- Crystal Viper
- Within Temptation
- After Forever
- Burning Witches
- Lita Ford
- Arch Enemy
- The Gathering
- Lacuna Coil
- Visions of Atlantis
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