Traditionally, heavy metal has been seen as a bit of a boys' club, especially in North America and Britain. But in other parts Europe, female-fronted metal has been popular for decades. Now, with streaming platforms making it easier for bands to spread globally, more female-fronted bands are touring America and a few have even formed here. This list of 13 of the very best female metal vocalists of all time will get you started on the world of female-fronted metal bands.
13. Vibeke Stene (Tristania)
Semi-retired, Vibeke Stene was a trailblazer as the vocalist for Tristania from 1996 to 2007. While bands before them had employed the “beauty and the beast” style of metal, with an operatic female and a death metal male, Tristania added a third vocalist, a clean singing male, allowing Stene to play off both extremes as the anchor for the band's sound. Since leaving Tristania, Stene has been working on a new project called God of Atheists.
12. Elize Ryd (Amaranthe, Kamelot)
Amaranthe is a band that defies genre classification. While falling within the general “metal” umbrella, the group's subgenre is often debated. Much of that is because of vocalist Elize Ryd. Ryd, who has also worked with acts like Kamelot, brings a pop and dance-rock vocal sensibility to her performances while always staying heavy enough to leave no question that she's metal. That stylistic breadth and the overall aesthetic she brings to Amaranthe's profile warrants her inclusion among metal's great female singers.
11. Charlotte Wessels (Delain)
Among the European symphonic metal acts breaking through on the North American scene, Delain is one of the fastest risers. After years of serving as North American openers for other acts, Delain is finally hitting North America as a headliner. Vocalist and co-founder Charlotte Wessels' training in classical and jazz vocals gives her a unique singing style that sets her apart from other female metal singers. She perfectly balances the power needed to come across in metal with a delicateness that fits the band's symphonic, bordering on gothic, sound.
10. Anna Murphy (Cellar Darling, Eluveitie)
Vocalist Anna Murphy spent a decade as the female vocalist and multi-instrumentalist for Swiss folk metal band Eluveitie. When she and two other members of Eluveitie broke with the band in 2016, they formed Cellar Darling. While keeping some of the folk instrumentation of their former band, Murphy's influence as the band's vocalist and primary songwriter led Cellar Darling to take on elements of alternative and progressive metal as well. The band's debut album This is the Sound stretched Murphy's vocal range in ways Eluveitie hadn't and she proved up for the challenge.
9. Lzzy Hale (Halestorm)
The only American vocalist on this list, Lzzy Hale is also the most commercially successful. With her band Halestorm, Hale has earned their reputation for high energy shows the old fashioned way; through non-stop touring. Two of the band's four studio albums have gone gold and three of them have been Top 5 albums. Outside of Halestorm, Lzzy Hale's vocal power has made her an in-demand collaborator, most famously with David Draiman, where the pair covered Ozzy Osbourne and Lita Ford's “Close My Eyes Forever.”
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8. Brittany Slayes (Unleash the Archers)
Another rare female-fronted North American band to find success, Canada's Unleash the Archers thrives on the ear-shattering screams of their vocalist Brittany Slayes. Inspired by high register belters like Geoff Tate, formerly of Queensryche, and Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, Slayes' voice ranges from snarls to melodic rock to operatic notes that would make even Rob Halford blink. A relatively young act on the scene, Slayes has plenty of years left to climb the ladder of great metal vocalists.
7. Simone Simons (Epica, Ayreon)
You know you're a well-regarded singer when you can't keep up with all the offers to collaborate. While Simone Simons stays busy with her main group Epica, she has also appeared on four Kamelot albums, as well as songs from Ayreon, Leaves' Eyes, and Angra. Her classical meets pop-metal vocals have allowed her to perform everything from beautiful symphonic pieces to covers of songs from the anime Attack on Titan without ever missing a beat.
6. Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil)
Lacuna Coil was one of the first European gothic metal acts to find success in America. The Italian group, led by Cristina Scabbia, has notched five consecutive Top 40 albums. Scabbia is practically the face of gothic metal in America and the group has toured increasingly large venues where Scabbia trades vocal leads with Andrea Ferro. Scabbia got an additional boost to her profile in 2007 when Megadeth had her duet with Dave Mustaine on a remake of their hit “A Tout Le Monde.”
5. Tarja Turunen (Nightwish, Tarja)
There are some who would argue that even Top 5 is too low for Tarja Turunen. Many of the vocalists included elsewhere on this list have cited Turunen as a major influence. As the original vocalist for Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish, Turunen was a pioneering operatic soprano singing in the metal style. Since leaving Nightwish in 2006, Turunen has successfully toured with her own band, called Tarja, and released a number of albums, including two-holiday albums.
4. Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation)
Following close behind Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation is the next most popular gothic metal act in America, with their last two releases reaching the Top 40. Throughout it all, the constant has been Sharon Den Adel, whose haunting voice sets the tone for the band's darkest material, but can also handle the lighter fare. In recent years, she has been tested, performing with a full orchestra, with EDM producer Armin Van Buuren, and rapper Xzibit. She is thought enough of in her home country to have been selected as a member of the Dutch jury for the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest.
3. Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy, The Agonist)
Alissa White-Gluz might not have the three-octave range or the hauntingly beautiful lilt of some of the others on this list, but she rates this high by virtue of being arguably the single best female representative of an area where few women go, death vocals. White-Gluz was originally vocalist for The Agonist before being selected to replace original vocalist Angela Gossow in Arch Enemy in 2014. With her unchecked aggression and melodic growls, she ranks right alongside the best male growlers in the business.
2. Floor Jansen (Nightwish, After Forever)
Few bands replace an original vocalist and get more popular. Fewer still can do it twice. But Nightwish discovered third time a charm when they tapped After Forever vocalist Floor Jansen as their third singer in 2013. Jansen's range was such that she could take on the operatic songs originally done by Tarja, the more rock-oriented songs performed by Annette Olzon, and bring her own powerful spin to each of them, as well as the band's new material. Nightwish's career spanning Decades tour in 2018 brought them their largest audiences ever in America, proving Jansen has been welcomed by the band's fanbase.
1. Doro Pesch (Warlock, Doro)
You don't get the nickname “Queen of Metal” unless you've done something right. In the case of Doro Pesch, it's a combination of excellence, innovation, and longevity. Performing longer than some of the artists on this list have been alive, Pesch shattered metal's glass ceiling in 1982 with Warlock and has maintained a successful solo career since leaving that band in 1988. Pesch's anthemic German metal style has made her a mainstay of European festivals, and a well-recognized artist on American stages as well, performing at Atlanta's ProgPower USA as recently as 2018.