By Lane Dent
The words heavy metal usually conjure up mental images of burly, violent men shouting into microphones with brute strength, releasing growls and screams that sound like a possessed wild animal. But what about the women?! The lack of female representation in the metal community is absurd, considering the number of women who are talented vocalists. To broaden the average metalhead’s playlist, the compilation below lists a few maidens of metal that know how to scream like no man can.
Vicky Psarakis of the Canadian melodic death metal band The Agonist replaced Alissa White-Gluz (mentioned later) in 2014. Psarakis can easily switch from angelic clean vocals to feral screams in a second, making her a double threat to other male-led metal bands. Psarakis learned how to scream by imitating other vocalists, her main inspiration being Phil Bozeman of Whitechapel. Her style focuses on enunciating every word, as she appreciates when listeners can understand the lyrics while still receiving the heaviness. “In Vertigo,” a song from the 2019 album Orphans, perfectly encapsulates her vocal versatility. The song starts with almost operatic singing and is quickly followed by strong growls, which are occasionally interjected with clean vocals that display her natural alto range.
American groove metal band Butcher Babies contains two female vocalists: Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd. The band gained fame from their theatrical performances, self-written comic book, and online videos, but what makes them stand out is the frontwomen. Harvey and Shepherd take turns singing and screaming on “Lilith,” track two of the 2017 album by the same name. Both ladies explained that as children, they had to look up to men in the metal community because they didn’t know of any women who screamed. But over time, so many women have joined the scene that they now surround themselves with vocalists as revolutionary as themselves. The band has received a lot of hate from the metal community, usually centering on the sexualization and discrimination of women, but both Harvey and Shepherd have stood their ground and not let the sexist criticism affect their work or their attitudes.
Burning Witches, a swiss power metal band, is a special case where all five members are women. In 2019, Laura Guldemond replaced Seraina Telli as the singer, leading the girls with a voice uncanny to Judas Priest’s Rob Halford. On “The Witch of the North,” the powerful intro picks up the tempo with a classic-metal-inspired belt from Guldemond, setting the standard for the band’s new witch. Guldemond doesn’t actually scream, yet she incorporates elements from heavier vocal styles to produce her throaty-growling falsetto. And to come full circle, Guldemond even offers Skype vocal coaching for all styles of singing and genres of music.
Ukrainian Progressive metal band Jinjer hails Tatiana Shmailyuk as lead vocalist. Usually mistaken for a man’s gutturals, Shmailyuk’s voice is inhuman. She first heard screaming from nu-metal bands Otep and Mudvayne, both of which she tried to imitate by screaming out the car window or into her pillow in her parent’s house. She claims that she taught herself a special technique over years of practice, which she won’t share due to impatience and the belief that it only works for her. She even guessed that her habit of frequent smoking might contribute positively to her insane growls. She called the switch from clean singing to screaming the “technique of two throats,” which took her years to master. This is demonstrated in the songs “Words of Wisdom,” as well as “Sit Stay Roll Over.” The 2021 album Wallflowers continues to prove the perfected duality of Shmailyuk, her wild voice forever evolving.
One of the most famous female-led metal bands is Arch Enemy. Fronted by Alissa White-Gluz, she usually growls to melodic death metal, and recently power metal, but sometimes interjects with clean vocals. White-Gluz left The Agonist (mentioned earlier) when offered the role in the Swedish band Arch Enemy. She has explained her screaming technique as an amplified whisper, a method not commonly used, as it can be easy to damage your voice. On “The World Is Yours,” she masters bending the pitch of her screams to create harmony in the madness. Known for her striking blue hair and primitive vocals, White-Gluz has become a female icon in the metal community.
Thousands of other female metal vocalists are excelling and transcending the male-led metal stereotype. Bands like Lacuna Coil, New Years Day, Spiritbox, In This Moment, Halestorm, and even YouTubers like Lauren Babic and Ai Mori (RUS) are breaking the genre’s conventions. These vocalists and many more prove that women can scream as well as men – if not better.
Written by: Preethi Mangadu