Guide to Female Fronted Rock and Metal
This is a quick guide to a selection of 12 key groups and albums with further suggestions, to help the newcomer embark on their journey into the wonderful world of female fronted metal.
Symphonic Gothic Metal
This describes bands that perform a combination of the percussive, rhythmic and melodic aspects of Gothic gothic metal music with the sounds of a symphony orchestra, produced by keyboards and/or a real instruments. The orchestrated elements form an important, integral part of the music, not just a backing. This is often the lightest form of metal, noted for its romance, drama and melody.
Within Temptation – 'Silent Force', Roadrunner/Gun, 2004
Dutch group Within Temptation established the template for symphonic gothic metal with 2000’s Mother Earth, led by one of the World’s greatest front women, Sharon Den Adel. With the addition of a real orchestra and choir, they created this masterpiece, an album that is grand, melodic, romantic and beautiful. The ideal album to start your journey with, appealing to anyone who likes metal as well as rock bands such as ELO, ELP, Queen, Meat Loaf, etc.
Epica – 'Consign to Oblivion', Transmission Records, 2005
Epica’s most commercial and accessible sounding album from the most ambitious of groups, fronted by the gorgeous mezzo soprano, Simone Simons. Since this album, the Dutchmen have increased the complexity, heaviness and death metal elements in their music, so this is the perfect choice to dip your toe into their waters.
Sirenia – '13th Floor', Nuclear Blast, 2009
Norway’s Sirenia started as being a beauty and beast gothic metal group (female vocals, male growls), but Nine Destinies and a Downfall saw them becoming more pop metal with the female vocals becoming dominant. This is the culmination of that development, combining Ailyn’s angelic vocals and pop sensibilities with prog flourishes and gothic drama.
Leaves Eyes – 'Njord', Napalm, 2009
The addition of a real orchestra and choir to their epic songs of Vikings has propelled Norwegian/German Leaves Eyes into the major league. Melodic but heavy, dramatic but catchy, this is an album truly on a grand scale, with the pure vocals of leading lady, Liv Kristine, and a delightful folk element, shown by a superb version of Scarborough Fair.
See also, Yotangor – 'The King of the Universe'; Edenbridge – 'The Grand Design'; Tarja – 'Winter Storm'; Silentium – 'Amortean' & 'Seducia'; Hanging Doll - 'Reason & Madness'; Stream of Passion - 'Embrace the Storm'; Magion - 'Close to Eternity'; Angtoria - 'God Has a Plan For Us All'; Voices of Destiny - 'From The Ashes'; Rawkfist - 'Gardens of Elysia'
Symphonic Power Metal
This refers to power metal bands that make extensive usage of keyboards, or instruments normally found in classical music. These additional elements are often a key part of the music when compared to normal power metal, contributing not only an extra layer to the music, but a greater variety of sound. This is more powerful and uptempo than gothic metal, and some bands occasionally use the double kick drumming associated with power metal, although it is seldom as heavy or fast.
Nightwish – 'Dark Passion Play', Nuclear Blast, 2007
Nightwish started as a Finnish power metal band with an opera singer. Since then they have become increasingly gothic, and when Tarja was sacked and the pop/rock singer Anette Olzon employed for this album, it could be argued that they are no longer power metal. No matter, this is one of the greatest symphonic metal albums of all time – epic, melodic, ambitious, and catchy, establishing Nightwish as a truly global premier league group.
Holyhell – 'Holyhell', Magic Circle, 2009
The new American band has exploded onto the scene with this most mature of debuts. Combines outstanding power metal anthems with gothic drama and superb musicianship. They are lead by the powerful voice of Maria Breon with her incredible range, and one of the World’s top shredders, Joe Stump.
Lunatica – 'Edge of Infinity', Frontiers Records, 2006
This album saw the Swiss band, fronted by Andrea Dätwyler, take an enormous leap forward. Many power metal elements were dropped in favour of creating truly wonderful rock songs that will appeal to any rock fan. Their follow up album, New Shores, follows this trend, and both albums contain a wonderful duets with former Asia singer, John Payne.
Pythia – 'Beneath the Veiled Embrace', Golden Axe, 2009
Britain’s answer to the European power metal elite, fully of catchy power metal anthems and awesome melodies, lead by the semi operatic vocals of Emily Alice Ovendon, a member of classical groups Mediaeval Baebes and Celtic Legend.. It even features a cameo appearance by Bryan Blessed, which shows their ambition and imagination.
See also, Gwyllion - 'The Edge of All We Know'; Whyzdom - 'From the Brink of Infinity'; Visions of Atlantis – 'Cast Away'; Echoterra – 'The Law of One'; Solisia - 'Ordinary Fate'; Wildpath - 'Non Omin Mor'
This is characterised by its combination of dark and often melancholy atmospheres with elements of metal, rock, extreme metal, but it can also be uptempo and highly melodic with pop sensibilities. Melodic keyboards are important, but symphonic sounds are used sparingly, and electronica is sometimes a key feature.
Lacuna Coil – 'Shallow Life', Century Media, 2009
After 10 years Italians Lacuna Coil have finally made the breakthrough into the World’s premier league, including the Billboard top 20, with this heavy, melodic and amazingly catchy set of songs. They are fronted by the iconic Cristina Scabbia, whose face now adorns countless magazines and posters; she is now a true rival to Amy Lee’s crown as Queen of Gothic Metal. While Evanescence flounder, Lacuna Coil prosper.
Xandria – 'Salomé' - The Seventh Veil, Drakkar, 2007
Xandria from Germany really came up trumps on this album packed with up-tempo, catchy, gothic metal songs, with a subtle Eastern flavour, as befits its title. It stars Lisa Schaphaus-Middelhauve’s superb vocals; sadly she has now left the group, replaced by Kerstin "Lakonia" Bischoff. This is perfect for any rock and metal fan.
Delain – 'April Rain', Roadrunner, 2009
Started as a project by Within Temptation’s ex keyboard player Martijn Westerholt, Delain have developed with this second album into a real band that are taking on the world with their brand of grand melodic metal. Fronted by the stunning Charlotte Wessels, they are also a truly awesome live experience.
Mandragora Scream – 'Volturna', Massacre Records, 2009
After ten years this Italian combo have released their most commercial and accessible set of songs, and are hot on the heels of Lacuna Coil. Fronted by the striking Morgan Lacroix, they mix in touches of electronica and some of their songs are real dance floor fillers. They mix this with gothic melodrama and atmosphere, to create a unique fusion.
See also, Chapter 2 – 'Angelface'; Domina Noctis – 'Second Rose'; Erben der Shopfung – 'Narben der Zeit'; Manic Movement – 'Dark Glitter'; Bare Infinity – 'Always Forever'; Lovecrave - 'Soul Saliva'; Angel - 'A Woman's Diary'; Regardless of Me - 'The World Within'; Murder of My Sweet - 'Divanity'; Katra - 'The Beast Within'; Emabassy of Silence - 'Euphorialight'; Faces of March - 'Confessions'; Glass Deliriom - 'Thanks to a Many Headed Monster'
From this springboard, you can then explore the dozens of other well known groups, and perhaps more excitingly, the lesser known one’s who are enterprisingly producing music of outstanding quality and adventure. Phil Wooldridge