- 1 Introduction
- 2 Early Pioneers
- 3 The Old School
- 4 The New School
- 5 Special Mentions
It’s no secret that as a whole, heavy metal is a genre dominated by men. At the time of publication, it’s International Women’s Day – a day meant to highlight and celebrate women. What better way to celebrate than with quality heavy metal with women at the reins?
I want to take the time today to talk about some of our favorite bands – both new and old. Below you will find the earliest pioneers and trailblazers who helped carve the way, followed by 15 old school, classic bands, and we close by talking about 15 of our favorite, currently active new bands!
I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to start the article with than the legendary Girlschool. Formed in the late 70s, they’re one of the very first female-fronted bands in all of heavy metal. From the very beginning, Girlschool opted for a no-frills approach to their sound and blended punk rock influence into their brand of heavy metal. This naturally drew them constant comparisons to contemporaries Motörhead, with whom they also toured and supported in the late 70s. Their kinship with Motörhead was so strong that it eventually culminated in a fun, collaborative EP titled St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Girlschool are undoubtedly one of the most iconic female fronted heavy metal bands. Their early presence, high quality music, relative popularity in the 80s, and overall influence earns them a pivotal place in metal history. Girlschool’s “classic” line up consists of Kim McAuliffe on
rhythm guitar and vocals, Enid Williams on bass and vocals, Denise Dufort on drums, and the late Kelly Johnson on lead guitars and vocals. While their line up has changed over the years, Girlschool have never ceased activity. Their longevity is certainly admirable and it’s made Girlschool the longest running all female band in rock music!
Recommended listening: Hit and Run
(Authored by Panos)
Once upon a time, in a world different than it is today, there was a band that was named Bitch, that featured frontwoman Betsy Weiss, in a dominatrix daring outfit. It’s hard to imagine something like that to be acceptable back then, however Betsy had a different opinion. In more than one occasions, the vocalist mentioned that today’s morals are way more flexible than it was back then, and people would be more open to her stage persona now than they were around 40 years ago. After all, there are many acts in different shades of metal that could be criticized for their imagery being offensive in an attempt make a publicity stand. That was the point of “Bitch”, and in a cool headed point of view, the band accomplished their goal: people were talking about them. The lyrical theme was according to Betsy’s image, with a lighthearted approach to the kinky and bizarre, something that they will gradually tone down throughout later stages of their career.
In 1988, Betsy launched her personal album with even more glam elements than last Bitch album, in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience, once again under the banner of Metal Blade. One year later the EP “A Rose by Any Other Name” got released by Bitch, a compilation-like release which features unreleased songs and a rerecording of Betsy’s personal album. Betsy still has an active career and she frequently performs live, with numerous rumors flying around the recent years that she will record a new album soon.
It is unfair to say that Bitch is a thing of the past. After all, everything is about music and composition and expression and creativity. And of the latter, surely there were was an abundance, especially during the early stages, as it is obvious on the band’s 1982 Demo tape, that immediately caught the vigilant eye of Metal Blade, who featured the band in the legendary Metal Massacre I. The band played traditional heavy metal with some punk rock elements, with a similar sound to Girlschool and therefore, Motörhead, as well as elements of Ramones and New York Dolls. The band retain this sound in the first 2 official releases, the EP Damnation Alley of ‘82 and Be My Slave of ‘83. It wasn’t until 1987 with the band’s second full length album The Bitch is Back where punk elements began to give way to a glam sound.
Recommended listening: The Bitch is Back
Jutta Weinhold (Breslau, Zed Yago, Velvet Viper)
Jutta Weinhold has been an underground force for decades and decades, but this talented vocalist has received so very little of the attention that she very much deserves. Weinhold’s rock career stretches back all the way to 1973 when she formed her own blues/hard rock band simply under the name Jutta Weinhold. She put out a number of singles as well as two full length albums in the 70s under this project before beginning her metal career. Her first venture into the metal underground began in 1982 when she joined the heavy metal band Breslau for vocals on their debut album, Volkmusik. This album was one of the first metal full lengths to feature a woman on vocals and was one of the earliest examples of a metal album sung entirely in German. Their German lyrics combined with the fact that Breslau is the German name for the Polish city of Wrocław (the origin of founding member Alex Parche’s family) unfortunately caused the band to wrongfully be accused of right-wing ideology and Nazi imagery which ultimately resulted in a swift break up.
Just a few years after Breslau’s demise, Jutta formed another band under the name Zed Yago in 1985. She recorded two classic albums with the Zed Yago line up, 1988’s From Over Yonder and 1989’s Pilgrimage. Both of these albums are fantastic slabs of classic heavy metal reminiscent of bands like Dio and fellow Germans Warlock. After these two albums and some issues with the record label, Weinhold decided to dissolve Zed Yago and start a new band – Velvet Viper. She recorded two albums in the early 90s with Velvet Viper, 1991’s self-titled debut and 1992’s The 4th Quest for Fantasy, that closely resembled Zed Yago in style. This duo of albums showcased a slightly evolved band as they began to showcase and reflect a more power metal oriented sound that many of their peers were beginning to adopt as well. These albums are a bit closer to bands like Chastain than Weinhold’s previous material.
Jutta’s expansive career really speaks for itself. All of the albums she recorded in the 80s and early 90s across Breslau, Zed Yago, and Velvet Viper are classics and certainly worth a listen. Her undeniably emphatic and charismatic voice elevates the albums to heights that they otherwise would not have reached. It’s a damn shame that she’s effectively gone under the radar for her entire career. Velvet Viper reformed in 2017 and released a solid album just last year. Jutta at over 70 years of age is still absolutely kicking ass.
Recommended listening: Zed Yago – From Over Yonder
Honorable Mention: Coven
(Authored by Panos)
Jinx Dawson is one of those legendary performers that deserves having a book written, instead of just a few introductory words. She is responsible for one of the most iconic occult rock albums during the delusional hippie infested period of the late 60s, the iconic Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls. The songwriting is genius and Jinx’s voice is phenomenal but these are just words that would describe any good album, and they are not good enough for such a monumental release. No, there is something magical about this album, a haunting ever-present atmosphere since the first note of the song “Black Sabbath”. Jinx Dawson never declined her dabbling with the occult, in fact she mentioned it at every given opportunity. For her it’s a family tradition of ages past, that has nothing to do with the cliché satanic imagery and the inverted crosses- “these things don’t make much sense”, as she usually says. Jinx is a symbol of rebellion against conformity, normality, and mental complacency, a true rocker without being a rock star.
In the infamous review of the Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut in Rolling Stone magazine, the pioneers from Birmingham are presented as Britain’s answer to Coven, which provides us with a good insight to how the band was perceived back then. Tony Iommi will never accept that he was aware of the existence of Coven, something that Jinx strongly disagrees and always has a bittersweet comment to make (and with good reason).
Regardless, her influence is evident in bands like Blood Ceremony, Witch Mountain, Jex Thoth, and more subtly for some of the bands listed below in this article. It’s hard to imagine these bands and dozens of others without Jinx and Coven, and in a way she offered heavy metal music and culture a lot without ever being part of this music. But this is what true art is about. Transcendent and interchanging.
The Old School
(Authored by Panos)
The picturesque medieval town of Bruges, Belgium gave birth to one of the earliest and best known speed metal bands in Europe, the ravaging Acid. Formed in 1980, Acid initially had the intention to play hard rock, though they instinctively played rawer and faster to the point they introduced a sound reminiscent of Motörhead and Raven with a significant twist: Katrien de Lombaert’s intense voice. She presented a powerful chains and leather image on stage that fit well the theme of Acid’s metal worshiping and slightly evil lyrics. Combined with double bass drumming and razor cutting guitar riffs, they quickly developed a unique sound that would predate and influence a large number of bands from the continent.
Due to lack of metal labels and promotion in Belgium, the band had to formed its own record company Giant Records which they used to publish their whole discography. Acid and Maniac both released in 1983, and they are considered the band’s most successful albums that will please all the fans of Girlschool and Exciter. In 1984 the band released the 4 track Black Car which is a tad more catchy and a bit cleaner than the the previous release, and finally in 1985 the band released their swan song Engine Beast ,their most melodic release, before disbanding.
Recommended listening: Maniac
(Authored by Panos)
Black Knight is an epic heavy / us power metal band from Canada who utilize Mrs. Lori “The Scream Queen” Wilde’s energetic voice to create a magical atmosphere in their songs. While she isn’t present in all of the band’s songs, it seems that Black Knight have a lot of compositions tailored to suit her vocals, since it is impossible to find a weak moment in her singing. Black Knight have a combination of epic and dark imposing atmosphere, and the riff-composing ability of the band is evident from the very first listen.
The Canadians released a demo of 5 songs in 1984, and they followed that with the 1985 EP called Master of Disaster presenting 4 new songs plus the rerecording of the self-titled track. Then 20 years later, Cult Metal Classics released a compilation of 12 songs in total titled Black Knight. Fans of Shok Paris, Omen, and Fifth Angel will find another great band to follow.
Recommended listening: Black Knight
(Authored by Panos)
One of our main goals in RiG is to try and give justice to bands that lacked the recognition that we believe they deserve, and Blacklace fits this category quite well. Frontwoman Maryann Scandiffio had a very passionate voice and performance back in the day, and the riffs and compositions are inspired to say the least, but the band run to a series of bad luck, forcing them to disband in 1987, just after 6 years of being active. First of all, Blacklace happened to start their careers in NYC and during their early years they played in blues rock and punk rock gigs due to lack of similar sounding bands. However, in one of those gigs met with Ross the Boss of Manowar fame who did the production on three of their tracks. Strike two was when their label, the Belgian Mausoleum Records, went bankrupt after the release of their second album. The third and final blow to their appetite for success was a series of lawsuits and management problems forced them to withhold the release of their third album, while they have already written all the material.
Still, Βlacklace got great reviews by major magazines, record sales went well and they even headlined a tour in Belgium, everything well deserved since they released 2 great albums, 1984’s Unlaced and 1985’s Get It While Its Hot. Both releases would greatly appeal to fans of Chastain, Bitch, and Warlock.
Recommended listening: Unlaced
Chastain / Leather Leone
What happens when you combine the vocal prowess of a banshee like Leather Leone with the virtuosity of a guitar god? The answer is Chastain. There are times when I make a concerted effort as an author to hide my apparent biases, but I will make no such effort here. Chastain are my favorite female-fronted band of all time without any questions. They play a no-frills brand of US power metal with plenty of variety and flair in their sound. Chastain explores blistering speed metal just as well as they do slow, emotional epic metal and Leather’s powerful vocals are the perfect compliment to the music.
Leather recorded five albums with the Chastain before departing from the band. She recently returned in 2013 and has since recorded two albums with Chastain. She also recorded an album in her own solo project in 1989 titled Shock Waves. Still active, Leather released the solo album II just last year! Her voice is still just as strong as ever and all of the previously mentioned albums are quality listens.
Recommended listening: Ruler of the Wasteland
Firmly rooted in their country’s melodic and ever so catchy brand of heavy metal we have Crystal Pride from Sweden. Crystal Pride were shamefully short lived and really only managed to record two EPs, a handful of demos, and a full length album before dissipating. They experimented with their sound during their short career, but regardless of the approach that Crystal Pride took frontwoman Sussie Christensen’s vocals drove the music.
Silverhawk, the band’s first EP, was far ahead of its time and represented a tremendous exercise in epic heavy metal. With memorable riffs, doomy touches, varied tempos, and Susie’s killer vocals Silverhawk is a must listen for fans of Heavy Load and Manilla Road. The band went for a much more melodic and hard rock influenced sound on their debut album, but that’s still an excellent listen as well.
Recommended listening: Silverhawk EP
Hailing from Los Angeles, we have the mighty Hellion. Like many of their peers in the 80s, their speed metal style was rooted in Judas Priest’s signature twin guitar attack, but with one special twist – Ann Boleyn’s tremendous vocals. She has a one of a kind voice that is just unforgettable the moment you hear it. With Boleyn firmly at the reins, Hellion enjoyed some commercial success.
Hellion formed in 1982 and toiled away for a number of years releasing a multitude of demos, singles, and splits before arriving at their seminal debut album, 1987’s Screams in the Night. Just three years later in 1990 they released the equally excellent The Black Book. Hellion are still active today releasing material steadily and although they’ve gone through a number of lineup changes and a break up during the 90s, founding member and vocalist Ann Boleyn has always been the driving force behind it all.
Recommended listening: Screams in the Night
Lordian Guard is the brainchild of William J Tsamis of Warlord fame. It combines Tsamis’s affinity for the epic with the unique vocals of his late wife, Vidonne Sayre-Riemenschneider. Lordian Guard released two full lengths, a self titled debut and Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, as well as a single in the mid to late 90s. As you might expect, there are a lot of similarities with Warlord and in fact many Lordian Guard songs were originally Warlord demos, but the overall feel of the two bands is very different. The Lordian Guard material retains the signature melody-laden style of Warlord, however it moves at a much slower and more deliberate pace. The emphasis here is on atmosphere and story building, and that’s not to mention the special touch Vidonne brings to the music.
Vidonne’s haunting and unusual vocal delivery intertwines with Tsamis’s unrivaled sense of melody and brings to life his epic and religious themes. I will admit that Lordian Guard just did not work for me the first couple of listens. I just wasn’t an immediate fan of Vidonne’s vocals, but revisiting Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God after a while made me realize how well they fit into the overall motif of the band. There really isn’t anyone else like her and for that alone it’s worth a listen!
Recommended listening: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
Messiah Force are a band I will talk about at every given opportunity. They’re a personal favorite of mine that I’ve kept in regular rotation ever since discovering them. Imagine for just a moment that Agent Steel was fused with Warlock – Messiah Force is the closest we would ever get to that sound. They only managed a single album before fading away into obscurity, butThe Last Day is more than enough to give us a glimpse of brilliance. It’s a straight forward, melody-tinged speed metal affair with plenty of energy and a never ending stream of memorable riffs.
Frontwoman Lynn Renaud is one of the best features of Messiah Force. She has a lot of power and range to her voice with plenty of vibrance and charisma to boot. She displays her mastery with high notes just as well as she does with catchy choruses. What I really like about Renaud is that although she has plenty of power behind her voice, she still embraces her femininity. There are vocal lines here that just would not work the same if replaced by a guy and it adds a very unique touch to Messiah Force.
Recommended listening: The Last Day
Original Sin’s story is a peculiar one. The band was paraded around as an all female band with aliases such as “Pandora Fox”, “Darlene Destructo” and “Cynthia Taylor”. In reality, the music was written by the musicians responsible for Exorcist’s Nightmare Theater with the addition of Danae DeFeis (sister of Virgin Steele’s David DeFeis) on vocals. While the origin story of this band is a bit deceptive and Danae is the only true female member, she absolutely hits it out of the park. Vocal talent must run in the DeFeis blood because like her brother, Danae is a powerful and uncompromising singer.
Original Sin only managed to release one album, 1986’s Sin Will Find You Out, and what an album it is. Fast-paced, power-tinged, speed metal with riffs galore all topped off by Danae’s soaring voice. If you’re a fan of Agent Steel and Exciter then make sure not to miss this one!
Recommended listening: Sin Will Find You Out
(Authored by Panos)
It was the year 1977 in Wandsworth, London when sisters Jody (vocals, guitar) and Julie (Drums) decided to form a rock band with their school friend Tracey Lamb (bass). Five years later, just before the sunset of NWOBHM they released a 2 song 7” when they met legendary producer Vic Maile (Girlschool, Motörhead) who acted as a mentor to the band, and helped them to join the ruckus of the scene. The bands cites their influences to be Kiss, Def Leppard, and Iron Maiden, while some Girlschool influences are obvious, since they ran to each other a lot of times and developed a good relationship.
Rock Goddess released 3 albums, progressively adding more and more of the American glam sound until the group eventually disbanded in 1987. In 2013, the group got together again and since then they started to perform live together, and after some delay and adding new bassist Jenny Lane to their ranks, the band released their new album titled This Time just two weeks ago, which is a very modern sounding Hard n Heavy record.
Recommended listening: Rock Goddess
(Authored by Panos)
Among the numerous speed/ thrash that emerged from California in the mid-80s, Sentinel Beast presented enough qualities that set them apart from the rest of local bands. First and foremost, they had Debbie Gunn on vocals, who was extremely versatile and performed extremely well on both melodic parts as well as the more aggressive parts. Sentinel Beast surely had a lot of those interchanges, since their music is rooted heavily on first 2 Iron Maiden albums, as well as the more melodic thrash bands of the era such as Testament and Exodus. Highly melodic and technical, their music is moving on the borders of speed, thrash, power, and NWOBHM.
After a series of demos, Sentinel Beast managed to release one album called The Depths of Death in 1986, before the band’s dissolution one year later. The story goes that in 1985, after a phone call from Kerry King to Brian Slagel (Metal Blade) he got the last bet of assurance and released the album which sold quite well, with decent worldwide distribution. Ten years ago, Debbie Gunn presented the band’s latest incarnation and recorded 10 years ago the 3 track demo EP called Risen.
Recommended listening: The Depths of Death
(Authored by Tadakatsu)
Taking things to the far East, we have Show-Ya. While not exactly a household name away from home, they’re one of the best-selling and most influential metal bands in Japan’s history with several million records sold across a career spanning nearly 40 years. Beginning their career with dominating performances at major Yamaha band-battle tournaments, Show-Ya seemed destined for a good run. The band was picked up by Japanese record giant Toshiba EMI quickly after and got right to work on what would be a staggering run of eight albums in only five years, which included two of the only metal albums to ever go platinum in sales in Japan’s history.
Show-Ya’s star fizzled in the mid to late 90s and the band parted ways, however they would return in 2005 with a new found passion and unfinished business, remaining active to date and recording a further five albums since. The face of the women’s rock and metal scene in Japan since their earliest days, not to mention the first all-female metal act to release studio albums there, a whole legion of inspired women started and continue to start bands in Show-Ya’s footsteps, creating one of the largest women’s metal scenes in the world present day.
Recommended listening: Outerlimits
Taist of Iron
(Authored by Crucervix)
Formed in 1982, this powerful US power metal band’s initial run would last only 4 years. Within those 4 years, they managed to release an album and an EP of uncompromisingly fierce and unique USPM. Taist of Iron were, and are, fronted by Lorraine Gill- a force of mid-range vocal delight. While she isn’t the most technical singer around, the charm and memorable vocal lines she brings to the table are undeniable. Mostly lingering in the mid-range but not afraid of frequent raspy highs, her vocals have always reminded me of such vocalists as Glen May (Tyrant (Pasadena)) and JD Kimball (Omen).
Speaking of Tyrant and Omen, there’s some musical similarities from both bands sprinkled in throughout the course of Resurrection– the debut album, and Metal Beast– the subsequent EP (with a lot of overlapping songs). The lower-pitched, sometimes doomy riffing, most evident on “Bloody Axe”, sets an eerie vibe that goes well with the monstrosity of Lorraine’s vocals. I do, however, believe Taist of Iron are at their best when they’re doing mid-paced riffs with a strong melodic edge, which is why “Evil” remains my favorite song they’ve ever done. Either way, the output of the initial run is mostly strong and perfect for when you’re in the mood for this sort of tough USPM assault.
Recommended Listening: Resurrection
Warlock / Doro
Doro Pesch is a vocalist that needs no introduction. For the uninitiated, Doro was the vocalist and star of legendary German band Warlock before transitioning to a self-titled project of her own. With Doro you know you’re always going to get one thing: uncompromising, high energy, powerful vocals. Stylistically speaking, both Warlock and her solo project are catchy traditional heavy metal bands in the vein of 80s Judas Priest and Accept.
Doro managed to record four high quality, classic albums with Warlock in the mid 80s. Warlock were starting to breakthrough, but there were some line up changes that resulted in Doro being the only original member left. She took this as an opportunity to start a solo career under the name Doro so she could dodge any legal troubles that were tied to Warlock’s record label. She’s been active since 89 with consistent output from her solo project. She even put out an album last year with an EP on its way in 2019. She’s still regularly killing it live, so if you get the chance to catch her show make sure you take that opportunity!
Recommended listening: Triumph and Agony
(Authored by Panos)
The 90s were a difficult era for most of traditional heavy metal bands, and a controversial period for power metal. So White Skull were bound to have a rough time since the beginning, but they manage to pull through and succeed due to enormous musical talent and song writing capabilities of all the band members. Then in the late 90s many fellow Italian bands developed a musical style that would dominate EUPM for the next couple of years and in that group White Skull were among the forerunners. Their not-so-secret weapon? The voice of Federica de Boni. Her amazing vocal range can hit those high pitched vocals and low key notes with phenomenal ease, and that adds an extra theatrical element to the band’s epic power metal style.
In their 30 year career the band evolved and developed their epic power style on their 3rd albumTales from the North, which is considered their magnum opus. Their winning streak continued on their next albums with Public Glory, Secret Agony and The Dark Age occupying the most prestigious places of their discography which fans of Domine, Warlock, and Grave Digger would love to dive into.
Recommended listening: Tales from the North
The New School
(Authored by Rhandgar)
Annick Giroux is a very prevalent figure in the underground metal circles. Her activities go beyond being a band member: so far she’s got a production label/distro, a book on heavy metal cooking, several zines both in English and French, a travel blog, festival organisations, and graphic/layout design with many more other achievements under her belt. At the band front, her main act is the Quebecois traditional doom metal band Cauchemar. The current and past band members are active in the different bands of the rising modern Canadian underground metal scene playing heavy, speed or black/thrash metal. Cauchemar, on the other hand, is not one of these and is instead pure old-school no-frills doom worship for fans of the timeless classics like Black Sabbath, Pagan Altar, or Witchfinder General.
The riff-centric song writing of the band is accompanied by the French lyrics about horror, occult magic, dead and the dying in the true doom metal fashion. From the very first EP, the band have been working with Nuclear War Now! Productions, one of the biggest contemporary names in underground metal, managing to be one of the few clean/traditional metal band on the roster of the label. Besides their own releases on NWN!, Cauchemar contributed an exclusive song toTrapped Under Ice, one of the best compilations in the recent heavy metal history along with nine other Canadian heavy metal bands and the compilation came out on Annick Giroux’s own label, Temple of Mystery Records.
Recommended listening: Chapelle Ardente
(Authored by Rhandgar)
With their first demo in 2017, Chevalier gained the attention of the underground very fast. Two years later, it is proven that speed is still the main thing on their mind. What’s also important for this Finnish band is that the dirty, raw, almost DIY approach to heavy metal. Their first output, A Call to Arms, was initially put online by the band and from the first note it warns the listener loudly that this is a demo recorded live in their rehearsal dungeon – such a fitting setting for the sound. Sharp and fast guitar riffs that worship at the altar of old school (inspired by bands like ADX or Acid) surround the vocals of Emma Grönqvist that rise from the deep with such high power that it feels like the chains in the band logo can barely keep them from destroying the listener with their high energy.
The band released a split 7” with the like-minded countrymen Legionnaire as well as an EP of their own (for the vinyl issue of which they also covered Brocas Helm) in 2018. This was also the year they decided to double up their bass guitar sound. The EP that was the second chapter in the story of Chevalier, aptly titled, Chapitre II, has one of the most delicious and clearly pronounced bass guitar tones in the recent years of heavy metal. The first full-length of the band is coming out in early 2019 from Gates of Hell / Cruz del Sur and it’s already going to be one of the best albums of the year (more on that coming in a future review). Chevalier still remain as an unstoppable force rising from the north.
Recommended listening: A Call to Arms
Predating the NWOTHM by a couple of years, Christian Mistress in the US formed in 2008, and we owe Mr. Fenriz for the favor he did to bring this great band to our attention. The band plays refreshing traditional heavy metal with many New Wave influences, with a mix of 70s hard rock like Blue Oyster Cult and a heavy dose of Tony Iommi riffing style. On vocals, Mrs. Christine Davis does a phenomenal work, presenting intricate and inspiring vocal melodies that often result to an intoxicating heavy metal crescendo. Unlike many hit and miss new traditional bands, Christian Mistress don’t try to copy the legendary acts of the 80s and instead they present their influences in a unique and modern way, segregating them from the mediocrity.
Their debut album Agony & Opium released in 2010 and the band features a rawer approach to music, akin to Acid. It wasn’t until 2012 and the release of Possession, where the band really exploded in fame and settled comfortably in their slightly darker tone. With the audacity granted by a great album in their bags, Christian Mistress evolved their sound even more in 2015’s To Your Death, adding more occult rock and doom elements to their sound. The band has something for everyone, whether you enjoy the classic 80s heavy metal sound, or the 70s hard rock, or even the 60’s occult rock scene.
Recommended listening: Possession
Crystal Viper were formed all the way back in 2003, quite a few years before most of our “new school” bands listed here. However, it took them a few years of jamming and recording some demos before releasing The Curse of the Crystal Viper in 2007. Founding member and then vocalist Marta Garbriel was one of the band’s highlights. Her soaring soprano was the perfect compliment to the band’s high energy, power metal influenced style of riffing. The band’s pronounced flair drew them comparisons to bands likeChastain, Warlock, and pirate-era Running Wild.
Marta has been the driving force and face of the band ever since. She transitioned from just doing vocals to also performing guitars for the band after the release of their second album Metal Nation in 2009. Crystal Viper now have a total of six full length albums under their belt with no sign of slowing down.
Recommended listening: The Curse of the Crystal Viper
(Authored by Rhandgar)
Oskari Räsänen, the drummer of Mausoleum Gate, started writing Iron Griffin material when he had the idea of having his own side-project. Releasing his first output under the name Iron Griffin in 2017, he played all the instruments for this mainly solo project, however, he would hand vocal duties to someone else. While the first EP with Toni Pentikäinen on vocals was very promising and a great showcase of what Räsänen wants to do with this project; Iron Griffin would actually reach its full potential with their debut full-length, coming in March, 2019. One of the most important factors that elevate the full-length to a level above the previous material is the new vocals. Maija Tiljander is the person behind the vocals this time around and after hearing the album it is obvious that this was an extremely good decision to have her on board to take on vocal duties.
With the mid-paced, calm, melodic approach to heavy metal with plenty medieval melodies and acoustic touches as well as strong 70s influences, Iron Griffin’s sound gives vocals enough room to lead the way and this is exactly what Tiljander does with her vocals that are sometimes reminiscent of Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane: carry the songs with some strong vocal melodies, gentle as a breeze at times, roaring like a thunder at others. A mostly tame approach to epic metal that does not shy away from hitting some trembling highs occasionally in its short runtime, Curse of the Sky is a candidate for the most listened 2019 albums on repeat.
Recommended listening: Curse of the Sky
(Authored by Panos)
Madrilenos Epic heavy metalers Kramp joined the world stage in 2010, when vocalist Mina Walkure and bassist Lap with start to search for members to record a demo. After a series of replacements, the band’s line up solidified in 2015 with the enlistment of J. J. Negrete and Sara Carretero Muñoz and they record the EP Wield Revenge one year later which was released by the local label Metal Crusaders. The 5 tracks that were released deal with various epic and fantasy topics and similar musical tone, with the guitars and vocals at the forefront. Mina’s soprano voice has the ability to sound aggressive as dictated by the lyrical themes, but she also exhibits variety with skillful vibratos when the occasion arises.
The band is a great addition to the past decade’s wonderful epic metal bands like Gatekeeper and Visigoth and they follow a similar songwriting approach. Among the discernable influences of the band is Running Wild, Manowar, and Accept. Kramp announced a little while ago their first full release titled Gods of Death is expected to arrive within 2019.
Recommended listening: Wield Revenge
(Authored by Rhandgar)
In some ways a similar story to Iron Griffin. Lethean, a solo project of an artist who has previously been in some other bands, is carefully crafted and given birth in the hands of James Ashbey who had the experience of a lot of different ends of metal (like black/thrash with Craven Idol and epic doom with Solstice). He was initially joined by Greek epic heavy and speed metallers (from bands like Wrathblade, Arpyian Horde, and Convixion) to help materialize his ideas. Over time, he met Thumri Paavana – her enthusiasm and knowledge in heavy metal need no further evidence than her USPM blog– and they ended up joining their forces for the Lethean full-length.
Removing any trace of the pre-debut efforts online to keep the focus strictly on the upcoming album and the new sound of the band, Ashbey and Paavana presented their calm yet powerful creation to the Earth in 2018. The huge contrast between epic guitar work and calming vocals catches the listener off-guard at first but it’s extremely easy to get used to and once that point is reached, the beauty of the album is not going to wear off any time soon. The Waters of Death was one of the strongest albums of 2018, especially for fans of Atlantean Kodex, Solstice, Dark Quarterer as well as gentle vocals. You can read Marco’s review of it here.
Recommended listening: The Waters of Death
From the very heart of Spain, we have Lizzies. They play a hard rock infused style of easy going heavy metal that takes cues from bands such as Girlschool, U.F.O., and of course Thin Lizzy. Their laidback approach to heavy metal always makes for a nice, relaxing listen. Elena Zodiac’s smooth vocals have just the tiniest hint of an accent that help bring the Iberian flair to Lizzie’s sound.
Lizzies have two full length albums released so far that include 2016’s Good Luck and the more recent On Thin Ice from 2018. Their catchy rockin’ sound and quality music has gotten them some much deserved attention lately with fests such as Up the Hammers taking notice and inviting them to play. With Elena firmly at the helm, Lizzies are making a splash and we’re here to enjoy the ride!
Recommended listening: Good Luck
(Authored by Panos)
Since the release of their 2 song demo in 2018, the Swedish quartette has raised the alarm in all over the world with the high quality melodic speed metal they play. It may be a little early but Julia von Krusenstjerna may as well be one of the best vocalists of our era and we are expecting a lot from the band in the years to come, judging from what we heard on Demon 2 years ago. The band handles backing vocals in a haunting way, that add a mystical atmosphere to their songs. The adrenaline packed guitars pummel with each riff, while the rhythm section follows in a similar aggressive manner. The first bands that come to mind are Acid, Black Knight, Sentinel Beast, and of course Original Sin, but to be honest Mystic are so talented that have the potential to set a path of their own.
Following the recent departure of guitarist Lo Wickman, Julia will switch instruments to guitar and the band will temporarily hire a session bassist for live shows. We hope that these changes will not hinder the band’s plans to release their first, highly anticipated album in April.
Recommended listening: Demon
(Authored by Panos)
Five-year-old Night Viper from Gothenburg, Sweden play a riff based, bass distorted, brand of heavy metal consisting of interchanging tempos and atmospheres. Vocalist Sofie-Lee Johansson transforms her highly expressive voice according to the style of each song, to the point that if it wasn’t for her very identifiable voice complexion, one could think the band used different singers. The dual guitars form a creative ruckus full of intricate and refreshing ideas. And then we come across the drums and bass of Night Viper, which are one of the tightest rhythm sections that could be found in today’s traditional heavy metal scene.
In their first album Night Viper of 2015, the band manages to put in the same album slow Black Sabbath-like influences, as well as NWOBHM infused songs that harmonically coexist with each other. It seems that the band have found so early in their career an identifiable sound, and one could probably expect them to exploit it for the years to come, however the band’s second album Exterminator, the doom elements of Ozzy era Sabbath, give way to Dio’s more heavy metal period, and the speedier bits are more and more present. Sofie-Lee Johansson’s voice has evolved as well, giving a more composed and balanced performance of the same power as the debut’s.
Recommended listening: Night Viper
(Authored by Rhandgar)
The three-piece US heavy metal band Sanhedrin have been active since 2015 with bi yearly new releases. The most recent step in the small but consistent discography of the band is their fresh 2019 album, The Poisoner. The band have their moments of going fast as well as taking things slow, but while playing both fast heavy metal and doomier tracks they’ve got one thing in mind: keeping the 70s and 80s old school spirit alive.
The vocals of Erica Stoltz, who also handles the bass duties in the band, are the perfect match for the level-headed sound of Sanhedrin. Even when they’re playing their speediest and hard rocking parts, the band manage to keep their calm and gentle atmosphere which is one of their unique charms. Another charm of the band is their masterful blend of early heavy metal / hard rock sound with slower mid-tempo doomy parts to create a very distinct sound. To get a quick taste of everything Sanhedrin have in stock, one can listen to the second half of their 2019 album. The title track is a beautiful epic ballad with small violin touches, it is followed by “The Getaway” and “For the Wicked”, the songs that feature some of the best speedy riffs of the band, they are followed by “Saints and Sinners” with its extremely catchy choruses. Their albums never get monotonous while staying consistently on the same level of quality.
Recommended listening: The Poisoner
Known for their enaging live peformances, Savage Master are a band that proudly wear their influences on their sleeves. They are the bastard child of Bitch/Betsy and Mentors, both visually and musically, with a healthy dose of Cirith Ungol influence and a decidedly modern touch to it all. Their riffs are catchy as hell and truck along at a steady, mid-pace with plenty of doomy undertones. Stacey Peak is our mistress of the dark and her rough around the edges snarl brings an enormous amount of character to Savage Master’s music, bringing to life their brand of metallic debauchery.
Savage Master formed in 2013 and have consistently been putting out material since their inception. They already have two full length albums, 2013’s Mask of the Devil and 2016’s With Whips and Chains, as well as two EPs under their belt with zero signs of slowing down at all and for that we are thankful. The world needs a little more hedonism anyways.
Recommended listening: With Whips and Chains
Sign of the Jackal
(Authored by Rhandgar)
Sign of the Jackal is what happens when a group of horror film fans come together and decide to play heavy metal. Not that old school horror movies are far away from metal in the first place (on the contrary, they appeal directly to many metal listeners), but people in this band have taken that route in particular. Some previous bands of the members broken up completely, and some others they left over time; the outcome of all these adventures is that eventually they formed Sign of the Jackal (paying their tributes to the debut album of Damien Thorne with the name as well) to initially play covers of their favourite deeper cuts. Unlike a lot of cover bands, they eventually moved on to doing their own thing and they released a demo tape of original material in 2008.
By the time they released their full-length albums, they had completely embraced the horror movie themes. For example the instrumental they used both on their EP, The Beyond, and the debut album, Mark of the Beast, “Paganini Horror” is named after the 1989 horror movie of the same name and is band’s version of the main score of the movie.
Like some other bands covered in this article, Sign of the Jackal released a full-length in 2018: their sophomore effort, Breaking the Spell. The band, led by the vocals of Laura “Demons Queen” Coller, are still playing high energy heavy metal that is strictly following the old school path that was originally opened by the bands in the first section of this article like Blacklace, Taist of Iron as well as other pioneers like Lizzy Borden or Judas Priest.
Recommended listening: Breaking the Spell
(Authored by Panos)
Since the release of The Sword Woman one year ago, epic Heavy/ Doomsters Smoulder got the metal underground excited with their music and everyone’s been eagerly waiting for the band’s full release. At this point, the band has just started releasing tracks from their upcoming album Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring, so judging by the result it safe to say that the wait was well deserved. One of the most defining elements of Smouder’s music is the intensity and passion of Sarah Kitteringham, who delivers a relentless vocal performance. She has the ability to paint evocative pictures, sometimes of grim atmosphere and some others of heroic deeds, instantly transferring the listener to the Mythical & Magical world of their lyrics.
Sarah’s voice is complimented by the epicness of the guitar riffs that have the weight of thousand tons of metal. Smoulder is set to make a very distinct path of their own, following in the footsteps of Candlemass, Tales of Medusa, Reverend Bizarre, and Pagan Altar who the band consider their influences. The new album is set for release on April 26 by Cruz del Sur Records – watch out for a review from us as well as some other Smoulder related content in the near future!
Recommended listening: The Sword Woman
(Authored by Panos)
Hailing from Argentina, Xenotaph play a no frills, speed metal with bombarding drums, razor cutting guitars and screaming female vocals, courtesy of Mrs Danielle Benvenuti. Her voice has the necessary amount of aggressiveness to fit the themes of the music, but she is still able to handle the more melodic vocal lines with ease. The dual guitars are constantly playing ravaging riffs, without neglecting the powerful melodies.
Xenotaph’s first 7” was released shortly after their formation in 2012 and bears the title Lucifer. The band’s first album Rock Is the Force released in 2013, and is a very high quality album that stands among the best in recent years. It’s especially tailored to fans of bands like Acid, Exciter, and Razor.
Recommended listening: Rock is the Force
Our “new school” section focused entirely on bands that are still active in the scene and producing music today. There are however a couple examples of bands with strong female vocalist and equally strong instrumentation that have recently broken up. It would be egregious not to quickly mention these absolutely excellent bands.
Satan’s Hallow put out one of the strongest albums of recent years and arguably the absolute best traditional metal record of 2017. High energy, NWOBHM inspired guitars are the signature of Satan’s Hallow’s sound. The songs are incredibly catchy with a never ending stream of riffs and dual guitar melodies with each song better than the last. The Satan’s Hallow debut stands out for its excellent songwriting but vocalist Mandy Martillo kicks things up a notch and really made Satan’s Hallow a force to be reckoned with. She captivated the metal world with her powerful performance that so vigorously energizes the songs.
Unfortunately, Satan’s Hallow broke up very shortly after the release of their debut album in 2017. It’s not all lost however as Mandy Martillo and other members of the band have recently formed Midnight Dice – so watch out for this band here!
Recommended listening: Satan’s Hallow
Hailing from the pacific northwest, Seattle’s Substratum share the same unfortunate fate of Satan’s Hallow. Substratum formed back in 2013 and released two full length albums and a strong EP as well as some splits and demos in their short career before disbanding. The few releases they gave us are excellent testaments to the metal days of yore with plenty of inspiration from bands like Judas Priest, but with strong female vocals coming from Amy Lee Carlson. Substratum unfortunately broke up in late 2018.
Again like Satan’s Hallow, Amy Lee Carlson is keeping the flame alive. While Substratum met an untimely end, she was determined to pick it right back up. She’s joined by former Substratum band mate Matt Vogan in the new speed metal band Sölicitör who just released their demo earlier this year. It absolutely rips and Carlson has shown how well she can adapt as a vocalist!
Recommended listening: Stratosphere