Women in Metal Music – A Reading List

Ever since I got my hands on Kim Gordon‘s book “Girl in a Band,” I’ve been thinking about reading lists with female musicians- especially the lack of books and materials about female metal musicians. With all of the gender and metal research I’ve been doing, I found myself sadly unsurprised that there wasn’t very much commercially-written about female metal musicians in terms of bands, memoirs or biographies. I’m not quite sure why that is, considering that I’ve come across so much scholarly work by women in metal studies and I’ve met so many awesome musicians who are women.

In any case, I thought it would be helpful for me and other folks to have a reading list of more commercially-known books written by or about women and metal. I’m not sure if I’ll end up creating a list in Amazon’s Listmania but I might make an ongoing page here on my blog.

I also plan on compiling a scholarly list of articles, papers, and books written by female academics writing in metal studies, since much of my own thesis work has referenced women like Sonia Vasan, Gabrielle Riches, RoseMary L. Hill, RoseMary Overell, Jasmine Shadrack, Sarah Kitteringham, Kristen Sollee, Heather Savigny, etc. There’s lots more!

Below is a list I started compiling via my very random searches through Amazon as well as books that have been recommended to me during my research. By no means is this list comprehensive. All the books are available on Amazon, just follow the links and grow your library collections!

And yes.. compiling such a list appeals to the librarian side of me.

  1. Baulch, Emma (2007) Making Scenes: Reggae, Punk, and Death Metal in 1990s Bali
  2. Bond, Jaclyn (2009) The 100 Best and Absolute Greatest Heavy Metal Albums in the World, Ever
  3. Clerk, Carol (2002) Diary of a Madman: Ozzy Osbourne: The Stories Behind the Songs
  4. Dawes, Laina (2013) What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal
  5. Ford, Lita (2016) Living Like a Runaway: A Memoir
  6. Giroux, Annick (2010) Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook
  7. Herron-Wheeler, Addison (2014) Wicked Woman: Women in Metal from the 1960’s to Now
  8. Hughs, Jill (2014) Not Just Tits in a Corset
  9. Kajzer, Jackie, Lotring, Roger & Weiss, Mark (2009) Full Metal Jackie Certified: The 50 Most Influential Heavy Metal Songs of the ’80s and the True Stories behind Their Lyrics
  10. Leggett, Carol (1985) Heavy Metal Bible
  11. Mape Ollila and Olga Pohjola (2006) Once Upon a Nightwish: The Official Biogrpahy 1996-2006
  12. Napoleone, Amber C. (2015) Queerness in Heavy Metal Music: Metal Bent
  13. Nolteernsting, Elke (2002) Heavy Metal: die Suche nach der Bestie
  14. Phillipov, Michelle (2014) Death Metal and Music Criticism: Analysis at the Limits
  15. Purcell, Natalie J.(2003) Death Metal Music: The Passion and the Politics of a Subculture
  16. Roccor, Bettina (1998) Heavy Metal: Kunst, Kommerz, Ketserei
  17. Roccor, Bettina (1998) Die Bands, Die Fans, Die Gagner
  18. Roxx, Rita R. (2012) Once Upon a Rock Star: Backstage Passes in the Heavy Metal Eighties- Big Hari, Bad Boys
  19. Weinstein, Deena. (2000) Heavy Metal: The Music and it’s Culture, Revised Ed.
  20. Weindl, Dina (2006) Musik und Aggression: Untersucht anhand des Musikgenres Heavy Metal
  21. Weiermann, Ursula (2010) Heavy Metal: Entstehung und Entwicklung
  22. Yseult, Sean (2010) I’m in the Band: Backstage notes From the Chick in White Zombie Heavy Metal
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Heavy Metal – Women and Perception

All-Female Blackened Doom Metal Band (Japan)

I’m constantly scouring the internet in hopes of finding new articles, books, and comments regarding women in extreme metal, let alone heavy metal, for my research. So it was nice to see this post over at The Metal Advisor blog. http://www.themetaladvisor.com/2013/07/a-maze-of-thoughts-women-and-heavy-metal.html

The author rightly points out some of the most interesting female musicians who often go under the radar. What’s nice to see is that the author (whom I can only guess is male) validates some of the typical misconceptions and stereotypes female musicians receive, almost always having to do with their not being judged on musical ability, but rather on their appearance. Vocal quality and it’s likeness to how male metal vocals are produced is mentioned, though if you ask me, it interesting to note how women have to negotiate both vocal and bodily acceptance in the hyper-masculine environment; meaning recognition is given when a woman can sound undecipherable from male vocals/growls/shrieking or if she embodies the male musician look/style.

In some of the research I’ve come across, this issue of negotiating the female body and it’s place in the heavy/extreme metal scene seems to be very black and white. Women are judged not only by the males in the scene (both musicians and fans) but by other women as well. What results is a very simplistic perception of female participation as either “hyper-serialized feminine personas” or “masculine ones” (Walser 1993).

Sonia Vasan’s analysis of this very issues applies a social exchange theory in order to make sense of what is sacrificed by the female fan in being included in the Death Metal scene. In her paper, “The Price of Rebellion: Gender Boundaries in the Death Metal Scene“, Vasan argues that in order for female death metal fans to be perceived as authentic, they must be willing to conform to a hegemonic masculinity.

It’s this questioning of negotiation and sacrifice that is extremely fascinating to me. With my own research, I hope to answer what these characteristics might be, not just for female fans who are accepted into the scene, but for the female producers/creators. I wonder how this negotiation impacts female musicians and their artistic vision within the scene. Are they able to re-appropriate commonly masculine themes within the genre and make it their own or do they submit the to hegemony? Can they approach themes of death, rape, brutality, and violence through a gendered lens of feminist theory? And how would/has that changed the common themes written about in heavy metal?

Women in Death Metal

crisis1For some time, I’ve been curious about the absence and marginalization of women in an already marginalized musical genre like Death Metal. I was first introduced to the genre back in the early 2000’s by my then boyfriend, now husband. I’ve mentioned this before in one of my earlier posts, but back then I couldn’t grasp why the music was so appealing to my husband. Over the years though, I’ve grown to like the music,  I’m not comfortable calling myself any kind of expert on Death Metal but I’ve become a fan.

This newfound interest in all things Death Metal led me to question how other women perceive the genre. I, myself, did not gravitate to it until after my adolescent years, in my early 20’s. I attributed this gravitation to having endured a death in the family that changed my whole perspective on life.  The down-tuned guitars and growling guttural vocals correlated with the grief I was feeling. I did not embrace Death Metal with the angst of youth that so many males have and seem to do. So then, how do other women gravitate to it? It’s this and a slew of other questions regarding women and Death Metal I seek to answer with my marinating thesis.

During the course of my research, I’ve read many articles which present women participating in Death Metal on the sidelines; we know they are there, we see them at shows, we see their comments on threads, we even see them in some of the bands – though this is still a minority – and yet, for all their visible presence, it’s a seemingly silent voice.

Is this silence attaining a louder presence? With the rising growth of such groups as the International Society of Metal Music Studies, I can see women taking up about half of the conversation, discussing right along with their male colleagues topics of gender in heavy metal music, nationalism, the economy of metal music, and even such things as how metal music is perceived by both the public and academia. So why is it then, that women’s participation as both consumers and producers is so lacking in media?

The picture above is of the band Crisis, one of my favorite female-fronted death metal bands, now dismantled. Karyn Crisis is probably the second reason for my pursuing research on this topic, aside from my husband’s encouragement. I’m curious about her as both a creative and innovative producer, as well as consumer of the genre. From where do female producers draw their influences and inspirations? How do they balance femininity in a hyper-masculine environment? What challenges do they face with their own gender perceptions from other women? I’d love to see how other musicians like Jo Bench, Dawn Crosby (RIP), or even Krysta Cameron, would answer these kinds of questions.

As you can see, I have a lot of questions! I’m hoping the community and my research will help me to answer them as this blog continues (though slowly). and as I gain my balance between being a new mom, working full-time, and attending graduate school – I hope to answer these questions and many more.