Top 13 Female Hard Rock and Metal Drummers for 2015
Women have been ubiquitous popular music, dominating record charts and owning the radio airwaves for decades. Despite this, their presence in heavy music; hard rock and metal, which has long been male-dominated and testosterone fueled, has been limited. Only since the turn of the millennium are heavy music fans finding more women joining the metal fray, and even today, the percentage still barely represents more than 1-2% of hard rock and metal musicians. Fewer still are the number of women who play lead guitar, bass or drums in this genre we love, and for that reason Metalholic wants to spotlight these amazing ladies and their incredible talents.
The early metal years of the 70s and 80s saw few females backstopping bands behind the kit. Names like Denise Dufort of Girlschool, Sandy West of The Runaways, and Julie Turner of Rock Goddess were among the first to break out. More names would appear later like Martina Axén of Drain STH and Linda McDonald (featured below) of Phantom Blue, but in all, the numbers were, and to a great extent still are, infinitesimal. We are now starting to witness more women hammering away on the skins for heavy music, like Samantha Maloney (pictured above) who has spent time propelling the likes of Hole, Shift, Mötley Crüe, Eagles of Death Metal, and Brother Clyde over the course of the last 20 years.
Here we offer a baker’s dozen hard rock and metal drummers that Metalholic readers and staff voted for as the top female drummers of the year. They are not ranked and are in no particular order. This is by no means a be-all, end-all list, but simply a moment to recognize and appreciate a group of dynamic drummers too few are aware of. Our hope is that more fans will sound off in the comments below, adding more names for us to discover and spreading the word for those listed here.
Angie Scarpa – Black Sabbitch
Angie Scarpa found her passion for music early on. Her father plied his trade as a doo wop singer in the 60s and her path to music was initially informed by the likes of Elton John and The Who. Although she is a big fan of the late Keith Moon as well as Cozy Powell, John Bonham and guys like Guy Evans, Bill Bruford and even Phil Collins, it was Black Sabbath drummer, Bill Ward, that ignited Scarpa’s passion for heavy stick work. Angie has played in numerous bands over the years in the studio and on stage, but it is her alliance with guitarist Blare N. Bitch and her sisters in Black Sabbitch that fuels her fire. The all-female tribute to her favorite band of all time allows her to show off her chops nightly, including that magical Bill Ward swing that too few have mastered.
Jen Ledger – Skillet
English-born drummer, Jen Ledger moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin in the United States when she was 16-years-old. Prior to her stateside move, she was a finalist in a UK Young Drummer of the Year competition in 2006. Two years later she would be tapped as the new drummer for Christian hard rock quartet, Skillet. Now in her seventh year in the band, with two studio albums under her belt and a half-dozen years of touring, Ledger earned the regard and praise of critics, fans, and musicians for her skills behind the kit, as well as her notable vocals. In 2012, Drum Magazine gave her their “Rising Star” award.
Beata Polak – Wolf Spider
Hailing from Poland, Beata Polak is a graduate of the Academy of Music in Poznan at the Department of Instrumental Percussion. She was among the largest vote-getters in our poll this year. Her fans are clearly devoted. The 2Tm2,3 and ex-Infinity drummer has been the pummeling force behind technical thrash metal quintet, Wolf Spider, since 2011. Among her inspirations are Pantera and Hellyeah’s Vinnie Paul, Tool’s Danny Carey, and Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Philm, Grip, Inc.). Of playing the drums, Polak offers that it allows her to realize and release more of her nature – “spontaneity, expression, and a bit of madness…”. When not performing, she is a percussion teacher.
Pitchu Ferraz – Nervosa
Hailing from São Paulo, drummer Pitchu Ferraz brings the brutality to Brazilain thrash trio, Nervosa. The band released its debut album, Victim of Yourself, in 2014. Pitchu began playing at 15-years-old and studied drums and percussion with the “master” Dinho Gonçalves, graduating at the prestigious Conservatório Musical Souza Lima. She has recorded with virtuoso guitarist Kiko Lourero (Angra, Megadeth). Ferraz was one of the notable stand-outs at the 2012 Girls on Drums Festival in São Paulo. Ferraz also performs as part of Mercenárias and has worked and recorded with the bands Ajna and Hellsakura.
Claire Percival – Dead Label
Percival is the heavy-footed backstop for Celbridge, Ireland metal trio, Dead Label. The band has recently finished recording its latest album, Throne of Bones. Percival is a passionate fan of metal music, citing Metallica, Machine Head, and Gojira as the three that most impacted her. She admits to a love of other rock as well: “I also love Blink 182 and have a very big soft spot for The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Simon and Garfunkel, Elvis, and Airbourne.” Claire hails Machine Head drummer Dave McClain as her primary influence: “If I could be half the drummer that he is I would be very happy. Even though he is amazing, he practices hard to always get better which inspires me to work hard at getting better every day.” Percival got the bug to drum watching Travis Barker: “He just looked and sounded like he was having so much fun!” Percival uses Zildjian cymbals, Yamaha drums and Vic Firth sticks: “I also swear by the DW9000 double pedal!” Claire’s drum kit is named Lucy and can be seen in all of the band’s videos. Offered Percival of making the new record: “I really enjoyed recording the drums for or latest album Throne of Bones as I got to record them in East West Studios, which has an amazing drum room. I used a Masters of Maple Bell Brass Snare and I fell in love with it. The snare sound achieved on this album is one of my favourite things about it!”
Clementine – Zepperella, AC/DShe, Stars Turn Me On
Certainly imitation is flattery, but when it comes to musicianship it is also a measuring stick for one’s talents. Bay Area stick queen, Clementine, is a prime example of the student rivaling the teachers. While making her mark touring heavily with metal outfit Bottom, Clem honed her skills behind the kit, finding a natural groove that resonates through all of her projects. This led to the high-profile tribute project AC/DShe where she plays the role of Phyllis Rudd, as well as recreating the thunderous aplomb of the late John Bonham in the acclaimed Zepperella. She has also refined her songwriting and playing skills backing such projects as Francis Bakin, The Solid and more recently, Stars Turn Me On. Regardless of the band or project, her first passion is drums, and she admits that if there is a set in the room, she’s probably not paying attention to a word you’re saying. Offered Clementine of bringing Zeppelin’s music to the stage: “Bonham is my very favorite drummer, and if I couldn’t do it the best I could I wasn’t going to do it. After years on the road playing my own parts, and then seeing how learning Phil Rudd’s parts in an AC/DC band expanded my playing, I decided it was time for me to take the step into the school of Bonham and I didn’t look back.” She admits that following in the footsteps of the master is not always easy: “It is an endless education, and honestly his right foot torments me. I’m always striving to improve my kick drum foot, and I realized early on that the only way to improve is to just keep trying those kick drum fills live, in front of many people. It’s unbelievably humbling to do that, but ultimately it has taught me to push myself into dangerous territory on stage.”
Linda McDonald – The Iron Maidens, Phantom Blue
One cannot talk about drum domination without mentioning Linda McDonald. A founding member of Phantom Blue, she became one of the first notable female hard rock/metal drummers on the scene. Phantom Blue became one of the first and only female heavy metal bands, and their debut album was co-produced by Marty Friedman (Cacophony, Megadeth). After a dozen years backing Phantom Blue, in 2001 Linda co-founded The Iron Maidens; the world’s only all female tribute to Iron Maiden. She remains the group’s only original member, and the band has been a breeding ground for highly talented and regarded musicians over the years. McDonald, who is a multi-instrumentalist, developed her interest in drums upon hearing Maiden Japan, though she was brutalizing her mother’s Tupperware as early as 4-years-old. Clive Burr and Nicko McBrain remain two of her most influential inspirations, but she has also noted the likes of Alex Van Halen, Phil Collins, Simon Phillips, and John Bonham among her other drum heroes. She has won several awards for her drumming chops over the years.
Cindy Chaco – Embodied Torment
Cindy Chaco was born and raised in Riverside County, California. By the age of 14, she found a passion for metal, listening to Metallica, Iron Maiden and Megadeth. Two years later, Chaco discovered death metal when she heard Deicide and Dismember for the first time, and she says she was hooked. By 18, Chaco journeyed north to Sacramento for college. Cindy was gifted her first drum set by her fiance’ (now husband and vocalist) “I didn’t start playing seriously until I was 21,” offered Cindy. She shared that her journey began through the notable influences of black metal drummer Hellhammer and death metal drummer V-Tek (Decapitated). Cindy began to study brutal death drum masters including Lille Gruber (Defeated Sanity), John Longstreth (Origin), and Jon Engman (Brodequin), among many more. At that point, she and husband/vocalist Matthew Chaco started a band, Sever Dismember, in the vein of old school, technical death metal. After solidifying the line-up with bassist David Ko and guitarist Joaquin Chavez, the group’s style evolved into something more brutal and the name was changed to Embodied Torment. The evolution of the band’s sound has continued to develop a dark, blasting and relentless signature which can be heard on their debut album, Liturgy of Ritual Execution.
Aira Deathstorm – Fiend
Hailing from Russia, 25-year-old Irina Sytnik is better known to metalheads as Aira Deathstorm, the skins-crushing. stick-splintering backbone of Moscow’s melodic death metal-metalcore titans, Fiend. She is also a noted drum teacher, and her many drum play-throughs can be viewed readily on YouTube. Aira joined Fiend in 2009 and made her debut appearance on the band’s 2011 release, Before My Eyes. as well as last year’s EP, 2012: The Story of Another World. She and Fiend are currently recording demos in the studio for the band’s follow-up album, The Legend of a Thousand Years. Aira is also the General Manager of Hellscream Academy.
Nicki Wicked – Crucified Barbara
Nicki Wicked is a founding member of Stockholm, Sweden’s Crucified Barbara and has backstopped all four of the band’s explosive albums, including 2014’s dynamic In the Red. Nicki is a self-taught drummer who has never had lessons. Her chosen implements of destruction are Maple Custom Absolute Yamaha drums with Remo and Evans heads, Sabian cymbals and Artbeat sticks. Her childhood dream was to be a dancer, but she soon discovered she had a natural rhythm and aptitude for music. Prior to joining Crucified Barbara, Wicked played in a hardcore band. Nicki and Crucified Barbara just wrapped a month-long North American tour with NWOBHM legends, Girlschool.
Meytal Cohen – Meytal
Israeli-born drummer, Meytal Cohen, may be one of the least known name on this list to many metalheads, but she’s a sensation across the internet. Meytal has over 1 million Facebook fans, has recorded over 100 drum play-throughs that have garnered over 120,000,000 views, 800,000 subscribers on YouTube, and this July she and her band will release their debut album, funded through fan support on Kickstarter. Meytal is the youngest of seven children. She did not start playing drums until she was 18. After serving her country for two years in the Israeli Defense Force, she moved to Los Angeles at 21. Once in Southern California she attended the L.A. Music Academy; a stint that was slowed by a car accident that broke her back. The determined Meytal persevered and the pay-off from fans has been rewarding. But the journey is just beginning.
Mercedes Lander – Kittie, The Alcohollys
One can hardly talk about female percussionists in metal without mentioning the explosive talents of Canada’s Mercedes Lander. Although Kittie has been somewhat quiet in terms of recording for the last few years, Mercedes has kept busy with her other project, The Alcohollys. Mercedes was only 12-years-old when she and her sister Morgan started Kittie, and only 15 when the debut album, Spit was released in 1999. The band has spent the last year or so working on a 20th Anniversary documentary project, including raising $40,000 through a crowd-funding campaign. Mercedes drumming style is heavy and powerful, and she is a beast behind the kit. Her timing and style are impeccable. She claims Nirvana as her prime inspiration early on, and is an avid fan of the WWE and professional wrestling. Mercedes and Kittie are currently on tour.
Big votes and honorable mentions also go out to Laura Derig (Hell’s Belles), Natalie Mustang (Thunderbox), Kaleen Marie Reading (Mannequin Pussy), Leesa Harrington-Squyres (Lez Zeppelin), Tilda Stenqvist (Thundermother), Hillary Blaze (Jaded), and Fanny Themlin (Defaced).
Let us know who you think belongs on this list in the comments below!