I would assert that most people are for gender equality in some form; most people would agree with the basic tenets of abolishing all types of women’s oppression. One moment in my life that really stood out to me in order to showcase the material imbalance of genders was in 2017, whereby a bookstore in the United States turned all the books by male authors around, leaving only the female authors facing out. This served not only the purpose of showcasing female literature, but to highlight the actual disparity in the world of fiction.
Music is no different. In high school and university, the ratio of women learning music sees a majority in high school throughout the years 2017 and 2018; university at the same time is almost equal. However, the music industry itself, is much poorer. Male music professionals make up 70% of the profession; Laneway Festival, Listen Out, Falls Festival, Splendour in the Grass and Groovin’ the Moo all had women representation between 35% to 21% in 2016, increasing to between 44% and 31% the following year. And that counts bands with both male and female members. The royalties paid to women paint an even more dismal picture. Women make up only 1 in 5 people paid royalties for their music, with the real income of women through royalties only equating 16.6% of all royalties paid in 2017.
If these statistics are hard to believe, it’s because they are. However, gains have been made in the last decade and awareness is rising. Wollongong festival Yours and Owls achieved a gender balance in their 2016 lineup and have kept up the trend between a third and half every year since. The wage gap has risen roughly 50c per dollar earned in 2012, to about 77c per dollar earned in 2017.
Statistics aside, there are so many good bands out there with women in them, and anyone who thinks any different is quite frankly, daft as a door nail. So here are ten bands that are roughly in the death metal and black metal camps. Enjoy. I hope you find something new…
This absolute insane duo released an EP and two albums in 2018, all of them quite fucking good. Reminiscent of Blut aus Nord and Gnaw Their Tongues, this band is just… extreme. Matricide in the Tomb of Omega, short of being one dark and twisted album name, is one dark and twisted album. Vocalist and multi instrumentalist Ascaris, shows her skill not only by being a conduit for the voice of the multitudes of the abyss, but playing cello and saxophone when required. She is also a strident advocate for trans rights which is worth a read if you can find any of her interviews.
A sickly blend of black and death reminiscent of old Behemoth. Danielle Evans is absolutely off the wall, not only with her demonic, throaty vocals but with her galloping lines of bass punching through the often murky wall of noise. This is straight up blackened death done unequivocally the way it should be done; evil, fast and brutal.Their latest release, Esoterica, only came out in October 2018, so it’s still relatively new. It’s a perfect representation of their sound. ‘Horned God’ has to be one of the heaviest songs of 2018 and is a great example of Evans’ range and skill as a musician. The song itself has more great ideas than many other bands have in their lifetimes, not to mention the rest of the tracks on the album.
If storytelling in music is something you look for, then travel no further than Taiwan’s Chthonic. Their lyrics often pull heavily from Taiwanese myths, or the real colonial history of oppression on the indigenous populations of Taiwan. Bassist Doris Yeh, on top of being an activist with her bandmates, is also internationally recognised for her musical skills, taking out a Terrorizer poll for 2nd best bassist, and 9th best individual performer of 2009. Latest album Battlefields of Asura was released last year and is another notch in their melodic black metal belt. An epic, sharing a common theme of being beautiful lyrically, and emotionally intense musically.
If the preceding bands have not been up your alley, Esben and the Witch scratch that itch for the frigidity of Drudkh but the vocal stylings of slowly melting ice on an autumn day. The German trio have perfectly balanced the essence of modern Mgła-esque black metal with a contemporary Chelsea Wolfe post folk gloss. Their catalog is quite varied too, so check it all out. Latest album Nowhere also came out in 2018, November to be exact, and it has gathered quite the number of playthroughs in my home. There’s something to be said about how this band captures black metal without actually being it per se. Rachel Davies’ smooth, smooth vocals play a part but, the music is slow and dark. Quite the outlier here but you won’t regret listening to them.
With a sound deeply rooted in the United States black metal scene, False are anything but regular black metal. The snarling, demonic vocals are equal parts hypnotic and terrifying; from howling lows to bone grating screeches, False are seriously one of the most unique black metal bands in existence. And not purely because of their sound; it’s pretty classic USBM really. But the composition of their songs, especially on Untitled, are astoundingly complex and fluid; jagged blasts and serrated atmosphere will cut into your brain and render you numb.
Okay. So this is a bit of an outlier. It’s more noise than black metal but let me tell you, it’s fucking dark and draining as any good black metal album can be so it deserves to be here. All their (her?) music is abstract; a deeply buried guitar, broken drum noise, a drowning sense of hopelessness spewed forth into the air. It’s a tempest of noise and hurt that can only be appreciated once before you have to stop and take a break. 2017 album IV – Memoirs of a Machine Girl is the epitome of inaccessible. Explore at your own risk.
Myrkur is pretty famous, but she really deserves to be on any list about female black metal. Mareridt is a fucking cool album; so abrasive and harsh at times, but contrasted with these beautiful croons and atmospheric, folky sections. Amelie Bruun really got the sharp end of the stick in regards to the black metal community too, which was fucking disgusting. It really just reduced her down to an identity without giving credit to how amazing her music is. Because I implore you to find something exactly the same; with exactly the same emotion and artistry. That’s right. You can’t.
Rheia was my favourite album of 2016, and it remains there. Oathbreaker have command of so much raw power in their music it’s hard to stop listening. Furious screaming and sorrowful moaning are the modus operandi of Caro Tanghe. She is honestly one of THE most powerful vocalists in metal. Every syllable drips with sadness and despair; every word rolls of a tongue coated in anguish and pain. Not to mention the music is as varied as her vocal delivery. Crushing black metal passages seamlessly sewed together with heart wrenching melody and atmosphere. It’s magical.
Sanzu are probably the greatest death metal band Australia has to offer at this point. Sounding like a mix between Meshuggah and Gojira. Packing some serious groove, and serious brutality, their latest album Heavy Over the Home, released in 2015, is a masterpiece of death metal. Absolutely grinding guitars and drums, all the songs hit like a freight train. However, one thing that really shines through at times is the bass. Fatima Curley seriously knows her stuff; the down tuned heavy goodness really lays a solid foundation for all the other instruments to blast away your skin and muscles. There might even be a new album in the works soon… Who knows.
This band is actually defunct now, but I love their music so much I couldn’t help but put them on this list. Their last album, Rooms came out in 2016, and it’s a great mixture of that melodic sort of blackened post rock that a lot of bands attempt to do and end up being really formulaic. Properly good screams courtesy of Marta J. Braun complement the dark and proggy musings of the guitar and piano, whilst media clips add a bit of atmosphere. It’s a mood swing sort of album, one full of unexpected musical turns and ups and downs throughout. Satisfying.