The 10 Greatest Heavy Metal Front-Women

In times past, heavy metal was often charged with being a “boy’s club” where women were not only unwelcome, but they wouldn’t want to be there in the first place what with all the music’s fire and blood and Satan and other stuff that’s supposed to make prissy girls say, “Yuck!”

What a load of hellacious hogwash. From the very earliest days of heavy metal, female vocalists and musicians have raised an unholy racket and propelled the form forward with beautifully brutal force.

Contemporary metal is loaded with ferocious frontwomen and lady-players on par with any of their male counterparts. No true metalhead can or would dispute that. Just consider Amy Lee of Evanescence, Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil, Laura Pleasants of Kylesa, Alia O’Brien of Blood Ceremony, Rosalie Cunningham of Purson, Christine Davis of Christian Mistress, Jess of Jess and the Ancient Ones, and Jex Thoth of, uh, Jex Thoth (like Alice Cooper, the band and the singer share a single name).

Let’s look back now, and raise horns all around, to ten Iron Maidens who blazed trails as classic heavy metal frontwomen.


Wendy O. Williams of Plasmatics

“Black Leather Monster”
Shock-rock’s supreme anti-goddess Wendy O. Williams performed with a rhinoceros horn on her head, electrical tape on her nipples, a working chainsaw in each hand, and absolutely no fear whatsoever.

The Plasmatics, Wendy’s pioneering take-no-prisoners platoon, spearheaded the punk-metal crossover. She collaborated and played live often with Joey Ramone and Lemmy, and eventually sang lead on Motörhead’s 1982 slash-and-burn cover of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man.”

Despite the extreme nature of their music and live shows, W.O.W.’s talent and charisma regularly landed the Plasmatics on mainstream media outlets. They certainly stood out in 1981, for example, on the weekly Top 40 TV pop showcase Solid Gold, where Wendy not only tore the house down wailing through “Black Leather Monster,” she joked around with the show’s bawdy house puppet, Madame.

After the Plasmatics disbanded in 1984, Wendy put out a solo album, W.O.W, produced by Gene Simmons and featuring the rest of Kiss playing on the tracks. From there, Wendy turned to acting, starring on stage in The Rocky Horror Show, before making an unforgettable villain in the 1986 cult classic Reform School Girls and later bringing sexy menace to her turn as a spy on the Fox sitcom, The New Adventures of Beans Baxter.

Tragically, Wendy O. Williams committed suicide in 1998. A fitting memorial was held for her at New York’s legendary birthplace of extreme modern rock, CBGB. W.O.W.’s impact on metal overall, and women in metal in particular, can’t be understated. So shout it loud and to truly make it count, blow up a car or shotgun a wall of TV sets just like Wendy would have (and did).


Lita Ford (solo and with The Runaways)

“If I Close My Eyes Forever”—Lita Ford with Ozzy Osbourne

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