Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Women in Metal

If you like metal then you will have heard of Revolver Magazines ‘Hottest Chicks in Metal’ feature.   As with so many genres of music, women who work in the metal or hard rock industry are scrutinised by their appearance and their musical ability is judged by how many clothes they have or have not got on.  But what makes a women in metal ‘hot’?  Is it really their outward appearance that can be emulated, altered or manufactured to suit their perceived fan base that sells records or is it something more than that?

Here are the 3 women that I consider to be 'hot' in metal at the moment and why.

Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy

Angela as she appeared in the
2010 Hottest Chicks calendar.
Arguably the most metal woman in the history of metal. Angela Gossow has publicly slammed the ‘hottest chicks in metal’ 2010 calendar.  She told KNAC "I hate the Hottest Chicks in Metal! It’s an embarrassment for women, I think (laughs). It’s an embarrassment for female musicians, who actually are musicians.".  Revolver included Angela in the 2010 calendar but were forced to use a photo from 2004 when she rather loudly refused to participate.

It is true that Angela is an impressive musician.  She is a manager and the lead singer of the Swedish melodic death metal band Arch Enemy.  In addition Angela manages Swedish hard rock band Spiritual Beggars.  She has a mezzo-suprano singing range but tends to favour a growl style; one of the few women in metal to successfully achieve this.  She continues to grow and develop as an artist and is currently undertaking vocal training and piano lessons.  On the official Arch Enemy website, Angela provides vocal advice and teachings for up and coming metal vocal artists.  During her time with the band they have recorded 6 studio albums and 3 EPs.  She has also worked with Asmodina and Mistress along with countless guest appearances with bands such as Black of Heart, Slaves for Life and Couple Suicide.

Angela is an incredibly strong and confident woman who has refused to play up her gender.  She wants to be seen as a serious musician and is able to shake off the pressure within the industry by remaining focussed and true to herself.  She is passionate about promoting a good example of how a woman should be perceived in metal. 

Sharon Den Adel of Within Temptation

Sharon Den Adel
When I think of Sharon Den Adel, I think 'super mum'. She is a singer, songwriter, composer and founding member of Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation. She has never received any formal singing training but as part of Within Temptation she has had 5 studio albums, 2 live albums and 3 EPs. Sharon started when she was only 13 in a blues band and got into symphonic metal after meeting her now husband and band member Robert Westerholt. As a former fashion design, she designs her own stage costumes and the bands merchandise. Sharon also contributes to the Within Temptation online blog and is the mother of 2 small children with a third on the way.

Within Temptation participated in the 'Hottest Chicks in Metal' tour in 2007 and Sharon believes that this does not have a negative impact on the band.  When talking with's metal blogger Chad Bowar "I don’t think it matters if you are a female or male. When you are a frontman or frontwoman you always get the most attention ... It’s not about women in metal, it’s that you are the frontperson in the band. It’s something that comes along with it. You just have to get used to it."

Sharon is hardworking and passionate.  Her attention to detail, immaculate stage presence and ability to juggle her family and her band is inspiring.  Unfortunately, her acceptance of features highlighting how women look in metal and her views on it being part and parcel of the role as front woman is certainly something that a lot of women in the industry would share. 

Tarja Turunen

As a classically trained full operatic lyric soprano and a founding member of Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish, Tarja has had a long musical career to date.   Nightwish had much success in their 10 years with Tarja and released 5 studio albums.  When she was publicly dismissed from the band for skipping rehearsals and acting like a diva Tarja took it upon herself to prove her critics wrong.  She has gone on to forge a successful solo career; writing and releasing 3 solo albums and touring extensively.   Tarja has her own website and contributes blog posts to her What Lies Beneath online blog on a regular basis.

Tarja is often mention in 'hottest chicks in metal' discussions online and in 2009 she was voted ‘sexist female metal performer’ in Ultimate Guitar magazine.

Tarja is a strong, dedicated and persistant woman who has dealt with her public dismissal from Nightwish with grace and dignity.  She has progressed her solo career and is now a true metal artist in her own right.

All of these women may be 'hot' but they are also incredibly talented musicians and business women. Each of them are making successful careers within a male dominated industry.

As the majority of metal consumers are male it seems inevitable that at some point the way these women look will be focussed upon in the media.  Record companies will encourage bands with a female member to exploit this fact in order to assist in the marketing and saleability of the band and media publications will place expectations on them when featuring them in their magazines. Angela Gossow revealed in her KNAC interview that when she protested about her inclusion in the 2010 calendar, Revolver magazine had threatened to make sure Arch Enemy were not featured in any of their future publications.  This is a difficult position to place any band in and the pressure on these women to promote their sexuality 'for the good of the band' must be high.

The truth is though that there are many women in metal with incredible talent that are often over looked or underestimated professionally because of the way they look or they way they allow themselves to be portrayed.  Sometimes it pays to dig that little bit deeper.