At some point, all famous female rock bands of the past several decades have endured a similar barrage of insults: not being able to play their instruments, being dramatic, have too much sex appeal (or not enough) or being feminist man haters. Although most of those accusations are biases and downright sexism, one common similarity among all women rock groups is the tendency to make fun of the guys instead of trying to fit in among them.
Many rock and heavy metal subgenres inherently formed with a communal brotherhood of male fans, segregating many females from the scenes for decades. The few brave leaders who tried to break into the fraternity suffered a rough road of acceptance. This opposition is still seen today even by other female heavy metal musicians, quoting more male influences on their music than women.
Today, there are plenty of female bands who still aren't afraid to stand up and grab your attention. In some cases it ranges from societal statements such as being photographed with hairier body parts to serving time in prison for making political statements with music. Even with advances in civil rights and more depth in musical expression, current female artists are still battling some of the same stereotypes today as their predecessors did 30 years ago. The noise being made has sparked another revival of feminism that as brought back life to some of the greatest female rock groups and continued to inspire the next generation of women musicians.
Here are the top 10 best all female rock and heavy metal bands…
10) Pussy Riot
Russia's punk band Pussy Riot caused a global uproar and protests after their 2012 arrest in Moscow for performing “Mother Mary, Banish Putin!” in a cathedral. Performing the song, also referred to as the “punk prayer,” resulted in the imprisonment of the three young members, of which two faced harsh conditions for two years. Once released, the group sporting colorful dresses and balaclavas continued their speed-laden music about LGBT rights, feminism and Putin opposition at another protest performance at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Eventually, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, the two visible members, still live in Moscow where they continue to produce music on societal injustices, the latest being a haunting song sung in English called “I Can't Breathe.”
9) Dum Dum Girls
Often seen in all black on the stages of alternative rock music festivals and shows, the Dum Dum Girls band transpired as the creative musical child of Dee Dee Penny in 2008. The band has had several revolving members, but the sultry glaze of sound with the mix of minor and major keys throughout the three full-lengths attract all walks of indie-pop lovers.
8) Babes in Toyland
Babes in Toyland combines noise rock and grunge as one of the more spastic all female bands that surfaced in the late 1980s and early 1990s out of Minneapolis, Minn. The group stuck out for lead vocalist and guitarist Kat Bjelland's contrasting doll appearance and aggressive lyrics and singing. Babes gained more traction in the underground scene, although shared similarities to other bands in the “riot grrrl” movement. Their debut full-length album “Spanking Machine” released in 1991 received critical acclaim on independent charts, although their hit single “Bruise Violet” on the follow up album is said to criticize Courtney Love.
7) Deap Vally
Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards may be a small band, but the duo have more soul and depth in their songs than most bands twice her size. The Los Angeles-based duo released their debut album “Sistrionix” in June of 2013 with accolades already from rock songwriter and producer Linda Perry.
Sleater-Kinney is indie rock/punk's clit boner in the name of the 1990s “riot grrrl” feminist movement. Sharing the same hometown of Olympia, Wash. as Bikini Kill, the trio had a different political, instrumental and emotional impact in their music. Founders Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein share a musical connection that inaugurated the group and helped to bring the chemistry back after 10 years of silence to reinvent power and redemption. The band released their eighth studio album “No Cities to Love” via Sub Pop Records in January 2015, still without a bassist.
Brazilian trio Nervosa thoroughly ripped through the male dominated metal scene with their debut album “Victim of Yourself” in March 2014. The furious drumming, fast riffing and growled vocals make their gender a nonexistent difference and their musicianship the soul sucker, in true metal form.
4) The Runaways
The original Queens of Noise were only young Los Angeles teenagers when they signed to Mercury Records, soon to play to sold out shows across the U.S. and the world. The band produced four studio albums, with a continuation of solo careers from founding members Lita Ford, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie. Jett continued supporting the rock music of fellow female musicians, including a cameo in The Eyeliners “Destroy” video. Although Jett recorded several cover songs, her monumental musical accomplishments landed her in the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame with her band The Blackhearts in 2015. Despite all the recent controversy over the band due to a recent Huffington Post article about the alleged rape of their bassist Jackie Fuchs by manager Kim Fowley, it doesn't diminish the band's immense contribution to the presence of women in rock n roll.
3) The Donnas
From Palo Alto, Calif., The Donnas offer a hard rock edge to their satirical party and sexual vibe. The quartet gained more of a punk cult following after their debut album in 1993 and achieved more mainstream success in the 2000s compared to other all female bands. Much like other female rock bands, The Donnas formed in their adolescent years with different name and style changes before focusing on the similar monikers. Although their songs from “Spend the Night,” “Gold Medal” and “Bitchin'” appeared in numerous films, television shows and video games, their rough attitude was never compromised. After the departure of drummer Torry Castellano due to long-term shoulder damage sustained from drumming, the band continued touring but is currently on a hiatus.
2) Bikini Kill
Reportedly formed out of rebellion towards the male-driven hardcore scene, 1990s punk rockers Bikini Kill from Olympia, Wash. drove a movement of feminism referred to as “riot grrl” unlike any other all female rock band today. Bikini Kill's political and societal focused content partnered with their angst shed light on harsh issues such as rape, abuse and sexism that were not vocalized until Kathleen Hanna made them be heard on their debut album titled Pussy Whipped. It was no coincidence one of their most well known songs is called “Rebel Girl,” produced by fellow female rock pioneer, Joan Jett of The Runaways. Even though lead guitarist Billy Karren is obviously a dude, there's no way to keep the majority all-female band off this list for their contributions to punk. Not even Hanna's actual all-female band Le Tigre (formed in 1998) can outshine the impact she had with BK. Attending a Bikini Kill show also meant the women in attendance were called to the front of the stage instead of being pummeled in the back by men. Hanna and bassist Kathi Wilcox continued working together after Bikini Kill split including their current project The Julie Ruin. The Julie Ruin released a new album in 2014 and will be headlining The Observatory's female rock-focused one-off “Burger A Go-Go” on September 5th in Santa Ana.
Los Angeles' own grunge quartet “got so much clit they don't need no balls” as early influencers of the “riot grrrl” bands and activists for women's rights groups. Not only is sexuality referenced in their speedy “Fast and Frightening” song off of “Smell the Magic,” but is drenched throughout their six album discography. L7's unrivaled dirty and gutsy sound sets them apart from any other female band, personifying that same attitude on stage. A few select representations include memorable appearances of nudity and tampon removal during performances in the early 1990s. After a 13-year hiatus, L7 announced via their Facebook page they are reuniting to work on a documentary film about the band and perform on select tour dates. L7's May 28th show at the Echoplex in Los Angeles sold out as well as the Thursday, July 16th show at the Fonda Theater. Tickets for the Friday, July 17th show are currently still available.