This past July, NPR released their list of the 150 greatest albums made by women. On first glance, the list appears to be wide-reaching in its scope. Meshell Ndegeocello, Sleater-Kinney, and Egyptian superstar Umm Kulthum all make appearances, with iconic figures like Nina Simone and Joni Mitchell nabbing the top spots. However, renowned metal critic Kim Kelly quickly noted on Twitter that the the “definitive” countdown failed to include any albums metal albums by women—so she Tweeted out a list of her own.
Given that metal often embraces envelope-pushing shock value as a statement of apolitical art, its omission from NPR’s list reveals a common misconception about the music: that it is dominated by men. Kelly’s comprehensive breakdown tells another story, and the majority of her list comprises catharsis-inducing extreme metal that seeks to both agonize and empower through its sheer heft.
Her expert selection spans traditional early ’80s heavy-metal bands like Chastain and Bitch all the way to the sludge-fueled prowess of Windhand and Trish Kolstad’s screeching one-woman experimental project, DödsÄngel. Also making the cut are already canonical standouts by newcomers like False, Dakhma, King Woman, and Cloud Rat.
Kelly’s list serves an additional function of dispelling the assumption the women who do make metal music fall into a specific category: white, straight, and cisgendered. The Chilean speed-metal group Demona, the Japanese black-metal outfit Gallhammer (pictured), and the acclaimed Santa Cruz grindcore band Cretin (whose frontwoman, Marissa Martinez-Hoadley, came out as transgender in 2008) serve up some of the most memorable moments on the list. Kelly’s crash course does more than simply construct a history of women in metal; she highlights the diversity in female and non-binary artists who have transgressed the genre itself.