Fire Woman ~ The Smoke She Is A Rising
When we say hottest, we aren’t talking about sexy, we’re talking about the steam coming off the fretboards when these ladies of the axe cut loose. No more is the guitar a boys only club, and it’s about damn time we celebrate and recognize. The frenzy of female fronted bands is a sight to behold and a leap forward from the 80s and 90s when metal bands were 95% testosterone. Despite all that, women who play instruments besides their voice are under-utilized and under-recognized. In Rolling Stone’s recent list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, only two women made the cut (Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell), and one could argue that Mitchell doesn’t even belong on that list. If you scour the internet you’ll find names like Nancy Wilson of Heart and Joan Jett, but neither are female guitar shredders or in the hard rock or metal vein. Simply put, they don’t wail or play lead.
This is Metalholic’s list of the 15 best female guitarists for 2012. A dozen women who can shred with the best of their male counterparts. They are not ranked, but simply acknowledged, and we raise our horns in headbanging salute! For each of these ladies brings something unique to the table. If ranking is however, your thing, please check out our list at Ranker.com and add your vote.
We must first acknowledge the high-priestess. Lita and sister Runaway Joan Jett were the emissaries of chicks who could sing, strut, and shred. But it was Lita who had the chops to play lead, and has done so with furious aggression for years. Forgiving 2009’s dismal Wicked Wonderland, which I’ll blame on ex-husband Jim “Caveman” Gillette, Ford has continued to put out heavy classics for decades. This June, the fret-terrorizing temptress will release her eighth studio album, Living Like A Runaway. Produced by Lita and guitar icon Gary Hoey, Lita said the new album was fueled by her ugly divorce from Gillette, and it is about reigniting the passions she started with. “Gary Hoey and I wanted to approach this record by getting back to basics. We want to strip away all the electronics and plug-ins and keep it to vocals, guitar, bass, and drums. Going back to basics is going back to what punk, metal and The Runaways was for me.”
Nili Brosh ~ Tony MacAlpine, solo artist
Nili is the younger sister of brother Ethan, who turned his sis onto Iron Maiden and the guitar. She quickly excelled as her brother did. A student of the Berklee School of Music and a summer instructor there as well. This year she released her debut solo album, Through The Looking Glass. She has also spent time performing with America’s top tribute band, the all female Iron Maidens, who churn out guitar goddesses by the score. Guitar legend Tony MacAlpine tabbed Nili to join him on tour in support of his latest album.
Tara started her music career by paying her dues on the Canadian bar circuit playing in a cover band until being discovered by the Lander sisters. The Queen shredder for London, Ontario’s Kittie, McLeod has been a driving force for the all-female metal quartet since 2005. She has made her six-string presence felt on three of the band’s six studio albums, including last year’s triumphant, I’ve Failed You. She is never without her trademark PRS and Gibson Les Paul guitars.
The haters are going to say, she’s a pop guitarist. She played with Michael Jackson. Yes, she did. And she is a brilliant guitarist who can shred with the best of them. That’s why when Damon Johnson moved over to Thin Lizzy, shock-rock legend Alice Cooper grabbed Orianthi to play along side his new band. Prompting him to say, “I replaced one hot chick with another.” At 24, Australian newcomer Orianthi’s melodic wailing has already been endorsed by Carlos Santana (“If I was going to pass the baton to someone, she would be my first choice,” he told the Aussie Today show) and Michael Jackson handpicked her for what would have been his comeback tour.
The Commander-In-Chief is an absolutely astonishing entry into the world of hard rock and metal. The 22-year-old Norwegian is a feral 7-string shred master. A relative unknown prior to 2012, the furious fretress is turning heads this year. Her debut EP, Evolution was produced by Sterling Winfield (Pantera, Hellyeah, Hatebreed) and Revolver Magazine is about to expose her to the masses. Learn more about her in our recent interview.
Ruyter Suys can throw down with the best of them. Her shirtless, whiskey brawling, bar queen antics aside, she has mad chops on the frets. She’s bluesy and aggressive, and she makes her strings weep Southern Comfort. Don’t let the bad girl, tit-tease demeanor make you overlook her real talent. Between her half-dressed performances and the name of her band, it’s almost hard to think of guitarist Suys as anything more that eye candy with an axe. Yet let’s get real, she could stand nekkid on stage, but after a while, she’s gotta have the chops to back it up. Suys has the skills to shred your face off.
Most people have never heard of Voyager, much less, Simone but Red can shred. The blue-eyed, ginger-haired beauty of Australia’s prog-metallers is perhaps the quietest member of the band: At least so far as the press goes. She quietly roars through her Ibanez guitars and Mesa Boogie amps. While many metalheads have yet to discover either Voyager or Dow, the time is coming for both. The band recently released its fourth album, The Meaning of I which is arguably the band’s best effort to date, and a grand showcase for Dow’s fretwork. Dow says performing live is “bliss” and she can easily get lost in the music. Her favorite album is Opeth‘s My Arms, Your Hearse. The fiery 27-year-old guitarist originally hails from Scotland, but has spent 20+ years in Perth, Australia. Dow and Voyager just completed a U.S. tour alongside Rhapsody of Fire. Check out our interview with Simone.
Pleasants supplies the grit and weightiness to the signature sound of Savannah, Georgia’s swampy psychedelic sludge metallers, Kylesa. Her acid-throated vocals carve into the soul while her penchant for tasty and memorable leads wedge into your cerebellum. Both Laura and Kylesa love to push the boundaries of their music. While she can certainly shred, Pleasants’ guitar style is more about gut instinct, heaviness, and emotive rumination rather than speed.
Woodward may be one of the least known names on our list, but her talents are mind-numbing. In 2010, she connected with former Sikth guitarist, Pin. From this unholy union came Aliases. The band calls its sound “brutiful”, but if you like math metal and most genres of extreme metal, you’re bound to find a passion for Woodward and company. Leah’s guitar playing is devastatingly wicked. Simone Dow of Voyager stated: “I think the only [female] metal guitarist I’ve seen ripping it up is Leah Woodward from Aliases. More please!” High praise indeed.
Unless you are particularly savvy to up-and-coming talents, or simply spend hours poring over YouTube in search of hotties shredding the guitar, then you’ve probably never heard of Wisconsin’s Longfield…yet. The 19-year-old has been an internet buzz for several years with her 8-string pyro-wizardry. She is a deftly talented multi-instrumentalist. While she’s been known to dabble in all types of sonic wondrousness, her heart and she is an indjentured servant of the shred. Check out her album, Par Avion at Sarahshreds.bandcamp.com
Another amazing talent to be birthed from the world’s most notable tribute band. Nita not only blazes her path night after night with the ladies of The Iron Maidens, she is also the warp-speed six-string vortex for Consume The Fire. CTF is a Los Angeles based metal outfit that is being produced by Logan Mader (Soulfly, Machine Head, Fear Factory). Her playing is feral, dynamic, and melodic.
Arguably one of the most eclectic talents on this list, San Francisco based Menn is a poster child for sonic diversity. She plays the role of Jimmy Page in the all-female tribute Zepparella, and half of the acoustic jazz-rock guitar duo Lapdance Armageddon (which may be one of the best band names ever), and one-third of the instrumental, guitar driven, Sticks and Stones. Still she finds time for her solo career, which includes her 2011 album, Hale Souls.
One could argue that the art of female shred began with 46-year-old speed demon, Katherine Thomas aka The Great Kat. Beginning in 1986, Kat began playing her own speed-metal versions of classical compositions. The Julliard trained musician has won numerous accolades as one of the fastest guitar players in the world. Her talent is undeniable, and her over-the-top self-sexploitation has made her the first name to most casual metal fans lips when female lead guitarists are mentioned.
Philadelphia born Cox is a guitar prodigy, the third name on this list associated with The Iron Maidens, the world’s only all female tribute to Iron Maiden. Cox takes on the role of “Adriana Smith” along side Nita Strauss’ “Mega Murray”. Cox is an undeniable force with a guitar in her hands, and her dexterity and skill may lead you all to wonder why she isn’t doing something bigger than she is already. Have no fear, the future is coming, and Cox will open some eyes and ears.
London, England’s Mannering came to the attention of the masses via her shredding covers on YouTube. A graduate of The Institute Of Contemporary Music Performance, Jacqueline has nearly 90.000 likes on her Facebook page. Her unique, coy-yet-coquettish image belies her amazing talents with the guitar. While her musical palette is quite diverse, her metal shredding is what first catches the ear.
Other notable talents include: Lori Linstruth and Jennifer Batten
So who did we miss that should be on this list? Sound off below. And don’t forget, lead guitarists only…