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by Justin Farrar

March 19, 2014

Fist-Pumping Divas of Modern Rock

by Justin Farrar  |  March 19, 2014

When I was an adolescent coming of age in the '80s, hard rock and heavy metal were dominated by my fellow dudes. Outside a small handful of exceptions (Joan Jett, Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson, Lita Ford, Wendy O. Williams), women didn't make the music. They instead were objectified by it. This was made painfully clear in videos by Mötley Crüe, Poison, Warrant and nearly every other pop metal outfit. Frequently caught on film traipsing about in leather, lace or bikinis, women were relegated to the role of pin-up stereotype: the stripper, the angel, the groupie, the farmer's daughter, the lady of the night, the victim, etc. Things began to change in the '90s when self-empowered females such as Courtney Love, Alanis Morissette, P.J. Harvey and Boss Hog's Julie Cafritz all began churning out top-notch hard rock while simultaneously rebelling against or cheekily subverting those pin-up stereotypes.

Thanks to these inspirational pioneers (as well as Evanescence's Amy Lee and White Stripes drummer Meg White, both of whom came on the scene a few years later), the number of young women churning out meaningful hard rock and heavy metal in the 21st century has grown. Among the latest generation of fist-pumping divas is a trio of real bruisers: Lzzy Hale of Halestorm, The Pretty Reckless' Taylor Momsen and Maria Brink of In This Moment. Hale, a total guitar geek, is about as old-school rocker as somebody born in 1984 can be. She wants to be respected as a musician regardless of her gender. Momsen and Brink, in contrast, are provocative performers who employ exhibitionist tactics to explore notions of sexual objectification. They certainly aren't shy about baring skin. Particularly over the top is Brink, whose onstage persona is a Marilyn Manson-inspired hybrid of buxom burlesque performer and gore-stained scream queen.

In addition to these three, there exists an impressive variety of heavy metal and hard rock groups currently boasting female vocalists, musicians and/or songwriters. Among them are Sick Puppies, All That Remains, Lacuna Coil, The Dead Weather, Flyleaf and Huntress. Also worth noting is the subset of extreme metal bands featuring women on vocals. Sweden's Arch Enemy were one of death metal's first acts to experiment with female cookie-monster vocals when Angela Gossow joined the fray in 2000. More recently, Straight Line Stitch's Alexis Brown -- a total badass -- has proven that violent metalcore isn't for the boys only. Meanwhile, Tokyo's Gallhammer features Vivian Slaughter and Risa Reaper, both of whom are vile throat-shredders influenced by crust punk, grind and black metal.

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