The 5’2″ Tower of Vocal Doom

May 29, 2008

Dear Dude,

I have been observing your nuggets of wisdom, and I am hoping you can help me. I am currently 18 years old, and I am a 5’2″ female death metal vocalist. I have been developing my own style for more than 2 years now, with all my own original lyrics and I have even done a home recording of a cover of ‘Eaten’ by Bloodbath to showcase my sound. Despite this, I have been unsuccessful in obtaining a position as a vocalist, and have even had trouble getting replies from bands searching for vocalists! Although the presence of females within all genres of heavy music/metal has become more noted in recent years, it seems that within a male dominated music scene there still is a stigma attached to female vocalists, especially if they can hold their own against their male counterparts of today!

I am not exactly a feminist, but I am wondering the reasons why I can be overlooked, or even dismissed, before guys want to give me a shot, because at first glance… a petite, 5’2″, female does not exactly epitomize ‘brutality’. Also, I am looking for some other measures to undertake, so I can be noticed, and be considered as a legitimate vocalist???

The 5’2″ Tower of Vocal Doom!

Dear 5’2” Tower of Vocal Doom,

Metal, punk, and hardcore have always been boys clubs. I remember when I went to my first hardcore/punk show there were maybe ten girls out of a crowd of three hundred or so. The same holds for the first few metal shows I went to (in fact there were even less girls around at those shows). Truth be told now a days there are definitely more girls at shows, and more importantly in bands. And this new breed of metal rocking chick isn’t your old coat hanger groupie. Ah no sir, some of the women I have met who are in metal, punk, and hardcore bands now a days know their shit! So why would dudes who are looking to start a sick ass band overlook or dismiss a female singer? And what things can you do as a female vocalist to get noticed, taken seriously, and break your way into the boys club of metal

1. Break Preconceived Notions.
Some dudes may never have seen a girl sing in a metal band and thrash it up! It’s a fucking shame but there have been very few metal bands who have female singers who have really broken out. Sure there have been women who have paved the way like Arch Enemy, Lacuna Coil, Otep, Kittie, Crisis, and even Lita Ford! Metal has had all different types and styles of front women. But for every few bands that have a kick ass front woman there are millions of metal bands out there with menacing dudes screaming as low as they possibly can. Dudes in bands tend to want to emulate the bands they love. I mean I didn’t buy an SG as my first guitar for any other reason then I wanted to be Angus Young. Although that’s a really simple way to look at it you have to remember when you’re out there looking to start or join a band some dudes may never have even considered finding a girl singer.

I haven’t heard your cover of Bloodbath, but I bet since you know who they are it sounds pretty good. Most dudes have preconceived ideas about what they think a girl who sings death metal sounds like. It’s not the typical voice you would expect to hear from a woman, so its natural that dudes would be concerned that your voice wouldn’t sound as strong or as similar to all the bands they love or are influenced by

Women have unique outlooks on life, not to mention they sometimes can have very unique qualities to their voices. Have you ever wondered why some people think its normal for a man to sound the way he does when he sings death metal? If your going for a Chris Barns type low Death Metal voice then sure you expect to see a big ass dude with dreads bellowing it out. But what about the other type of death metal vocal, you know the super high Swedish scream? What about that is exactly manly? I mean its super high screaming, why cant a woman do that? I would argue that good vocals are good vocals and that there are female death metal vocalists out there who can bellow with the best of them and shrill with the sickest of them

2. Hanging with the Dudes
Some guys (and girls) can’t deal with co-ed life in a band. Touring can be hard, it is like living together, running a business, and being an artist with 5 other people all rolled into one. A lot of dudes just aren’t that comfortable being around girls all the time. It seems crazy but let me tell you having a female dynamic around your band is a different thing. It is something that should not be feared, but regardless, is something that can be an issue for some dudes

Sure life on tour is hard and having that female element can change the dynamic of your band but it actually can change that dynamic for the better. I have observed many bands with female members and they function just a good (or bad) as most all male bands. Shit there are examples all over the place outside of metal where female fronted bands function just fine. So why should it hold that it always has to be this way in metal? Fuck, if the idiots in country music can make it work, so can metal

3. Sex Appeal
Image sells and un-sells: The world views your band differently when you have a female lead. I mean I haven’t seen Revolver do the ‘hottest MEN in metal issue’. Flip through the latest edition of any guitar, bass, tuba, whatever, magazine and probably the first girl you’ll see is in the back wearing a bikini, selling a guitar strap. Sex sells, image sells, and when you have something like that TO sell, people will want to exploit it. This can make things difficult for a band, to say the least, and it’s quite likely your potential band mates don’t even want to think about dealing with those issues. They would rather go with the dude in the Slayer shirt; it’s the norm, its easy, its simple, and worst of all its been done a million times so you know there is little or no actual risk in it

Now, this might be a reason why dudes would overlook a female singer but let me say this; this issue really doesn’t affect the bands I know who have female singers or members. Sure, it’s not the norm but the bands with girl members use this to their advantage. That doesn’t mean they sex up their female members on purpose, it just means they use it to make their band original. Lets not forget that women buy records too! And if you have the ability to reach both sexes with your music then you have the ability to take metal to a whole new place and that’s really exciting

I suggest you keep searching. You are going to find that band you want to join. Or, this may even blow your mind, you may just find yourself starting your own band! All you need to do is find musicians that want to jam and have just the slightest open minds. Recording that demo is a good step. Put that thing up on your Myspace, launch your own website. You need to get that recording out there. Hopefully your vocals will speak for themselves and if they don’t, well you’re going to have to work on them until they do. Musicians respect other musicians who have worked hard at their craft and show a true love for what they do. If you continue to work on your own music and get your take on metal out there, then you will find that musicians of both sexes are going to take you seriously and see you as the legitimate singer that you are.

The Dude

P.S. For a woman’s perspective on what it’s like to be a metal singer in today’s scene check out Ask the Dude’s interview with Laura Nichol from Light this City.