For music lovers who like their music a bit darker and more off the beaten path, there’s often nothing better than a great goth band. But who are the best female goth singers?
Here are some of my favorites:
The best female goth singers include familiar names such as Siouxsie Sioux, Beth Gibbons, and Amy Lee, as well as newcomers such as Zohra Atash and Romy Madley Croft. Then there are also some debatable names such as Haley Williams or Elizabeth Fraser.
But what is goth or gothic rock?
Is gothic metal related? What about industrial music, darkwave, or post-punk?
There’s a lot of divisions & labels in music and a lot of opinions. There is also a lot of debate as to whether female goth singers are better than male goth singers.
In this post, we’re diving in deep, examining the origins of gothic music, and describing it as best we can.
But specifically, we’re listing out a rather opinionated list of the all-time best female goth singers. Give a listen and comment below with your favorites.
Ahhh ok so let’s. Siouxsie and the Banshees. pic.twitter.com/9ez64jgycS
— Luke (@TheTxSin) October 1, 2018
When did goth music start?
Goth music officially started in 1978 with the release of Siouxsie and the Banshee’s first album The Scream but was closely followed the next year with the Bauhaus classic Bela Lugosi’s Dead and the first release by The Cure.
As with most genres of music, there’s a lot of confusion about goth music.
There’s also a lot of splinter genres. Post-punk, darkwave, post-rock, and others all overlap a great deal. Then there’s gothic metal or gothic industrial too.
Musically, of course, there’s a great deal of difference between a band like The Cure and a band like Ministry.
And then we get into arguments over whether a band’s popularity affects their status as officially “goth”. Is Nine Inch Nails still goth since they’re hugely popular? Or are they industrial?
Personally, I’d rather focus on whether music is good and not worry so much about labels or popularity. For most musical purists, the origins of goth are from around 1978-79.
1978 saw the release of the first album by goth legends Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Scream. That album features classics like “Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)” and their version of The Beatles’ song “Helter Skelter”. Siouxsie, of course, rated #1 on our list below of female goth singers.
The next year, Bauhaus released the goth classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”.
But it’s also the year The Cure released their 1st album Three Imaginary Boys with classics like”10:15 Saturday Night” and “Grinding Halt”.
1979 continued launching classic goth bands like Joy Division and Killing Joke.
Sure you could make arguments about how The Doors and Black Sabbath had a dark side. You could mention the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ classic “I Put a Spell on You” from 1956 or talk about how cool The Velvet Underground were and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree.
But for me, goth started in the late 1970s.
— Metro (@MetroUK) May 22, 2018
Who are the best goth bands?
The all-time great goth bands include:
- The Cure
- Siouxsie & the Banshees
- Joy Division
- Sisters of Mercy
- Killing Joke
- Clan of Xymox
- The Birthday Party
But aside from ancient history, I think you could add the following bands to a list of great goth bands as well:
- Azar Swan
- A Place to Bury Strangers
- Cold Showers
- Dark Palms
- Masquerade as Angels
Without a doubt, I think most people would agree that The Cure is the most popular goth band of all-time.
The fact that they’re still going strong today is a testament to that.
Yes, you could definitely argue that some of the songs Robert Smith and company have churned out over the years don’t truly classify as goth.
Songs like “Love Cats” or Friday I’m In Love” would certainly be two.
Dinah Cancer, the singer for 45 Grave, is one of the most iconic female vocalists in goth. Style, hair, death, and glamour. A goth legend. pic.twitter.com/SZb7i8Fx2P
— HYAKINTHOS ☭ (@BatCaveFreak) August 5, 2017
So now let’s review the . . .
13 Best Female Goth Singers of All Time You Should Know
Aside from having Siouxsie be #1, the rest are not in any particular order.
1. Siouxsie Sioux
An oldie but a goodie! No list of female goth singers is complete without Siouxsie.
Siouxsie (Susan Janet Ballion) was born in 1957 and fronted the band from 1976-1996. She also had a side project with Banshee drummer Budgie (also her husband from 1991-2007) called The Creatures.
She released the solo song “Love Crime” in 2015 (on the Hanibal soundtrack) and that was her first release in 8 years.
Siouxsie and the Banshees are best known for songs like “Kiss Them for Me”, but many would point to the albums Juju or Hyaena as their all-time best work. Although my favorite Banshees album is the one that follows Hyaena, called Tinderbox.
Ironically, The Cure’s Robert Smith was a one-time Banshee in 1979 and then again from 1982-1984 on the Hyaena album and tour while The Cure was on hiatus.
2. Zohra Atash
A modern-day Kate Bush or Tori Amos (who, herself, was a modern-day Kate Bush of the ’90s), Zohra is the lead vocalist for Azar Swan.
Azar Swan is her project with Atash and Joshua Strawn, created after dissolving their previous band Religious to Damn in 2012. Being a child of Afghan refugees, her lyrics often reflect “living in the space between dreams and reality”.
While not their most recent CD, Savage Exile, from 2017 still ranks as their best work to date.
3. Anka Wolbert
OK, many of you may be saying who?
After all, she wasn’t the front-woman for Clan of Xymox and she hasn’t been in the band in decades.
Nonetheless, I include her. Why?
Because she did sing lead on at least 1 song on each Clan of Xymox album she was on, a band she co-founded with Ronny Moorings in 1981. In fact, with each release, I would first seek out the songs she did sing because of her haunting style.
The song from the video above is from their fantastic self-titled debut album, Clan of Xymox.
She also provides some incredible bass playing to the band as well. Clan of Xymox put out 3 excellent albums before succumbing to label pressures and releasing the pop album Phoenix, which, while successful, ultimately broke up the band.
Moorings picked up the pieces of Clan of Xymox alone a few years later, returned to their classic sound, and has kept the band going to this day.
While Wolbert has since collaborated with Toni Halliday of Curve and been signed by The Eurythmics Dave Stewart, she appears to have retired from music after the 2006 solo release “Cocoon Time”.
4. Amy Lee
OK, so I can hear some debate here. “Evanescence is not goth, they’re emo.” Or maybe nü-metal (I personally hate that term) is a better descriptor?
Maybe the critics are right.
But Amy Lee is still a great female goth singer. Formed in 1995, the band has taken a couple of small breaks but continues to record and tour to this date.
She’s also released a small amount of solo music as well as having appeared as a guest vocalist with bands such as Korn and Seether.
Their debut album Fallen, still ranks as the fan-favorite.
5. Toni Halliday
Toni Halliday was the lead singer of the 90’s shoegazer band Curve who were contemporaries of My Bloody Valentine. They took a brief hiatus in 1994 before continuing up through 2005.
She also contributed vocals to The Killers holiday song “Great Big Sled“.
If you don’t know Curve but are familiar with the band Garbage, just know Curve came first as the 2 bands share a great deal in common sonically.
Curve just never quite went the pop route that Garbage did, preferring an almost electronic version of Sonic Youth’s style.
While she does occasionally release new material, she is very reclusive and isn’t heard from much.
Also noteworthy is she is married to Alan Moulder who has worked as producer or engineer with bands such as Depeche Mode, Jesus and Mary Chain, and Nine Inch Nails among many others.
The compilation album Pubic Fruit captures the best songs from their 1st 2 albums along with some singles that were never on an album.
6. Elizabeth Fraser
Elizabeth or Liz Fraser is the former lead singer of The Cocteau Twins.
She’s also occasionally filled in as vocalist for Massive Attack and perhaps most famously, sings the lead on This Mortal Coil’s haunting cover of Tim Buckley’s “Song To The Siren“.
She hails from Scotland and is notoriously reclusive. She’s also known for her lyrics being almost unintelligible.
The Cocteau Twins (and also Massive Attack and This Mortal Coil) don’t fit neatly into the goth category, but nonetheless, I had to include Liz Fraser on this list of best female goth vocalists.
Her songs are hauntingly beautiful and often contain backing tracks of her vocals that are almost more instrument than vocal.
The Twins broke up in 1997 following her breakup to Twins guitarist Robin Guthrie.
She contributed vocals to a few songs on the Massive Attack album Mezzanine in 1998 and has occasionally toured with them as well.
I have been lucky enough to not only see the Twins twice in their heyday, but I’ve seen Fraser live twice with Massive Attack also.
Her song Teardrop on Mezzanine is perhaps Massive Attack’s best-known song thanks to being selected as the theme song to the TV show House.
She rarely performs or releases material these days, but did perform in September 2018 in a one-time invitation-only performance.
The Cocteau Twins album Blue Bell Knoll still ranks as the fan-favorite.
7. Haley Williams
Another female goth singer I’m likely to get criticism over being on this list.
Because many would classify her band, Paramore, as emo. And, she’s also contributed vocals to hip-hop’s B.o.B.’s “Airplanes” (a great song, actually).
Haley is an awesome vocalist though.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say she was better than the rest of her original band (although she is the only consistent member these days).
Formed in 2004 and continuing to this day, Paramore has seen modest success.
They were launched to prominence with the single “The Only Exception” in 2010, off their 3rd album, Brand New Eyes, largely thanks to its inclusion in the Twilight soundtrack.
8. Bilinda Butcher
My Bloody Valentine is a legendary shoegazer band and admittedly not a goth band in the traditional sense.
Their reputation is ironic in that they really only have 1 album that fans rave over, 1991’s Loveless. The band went on hiatus in 1997 but returned in 2007 and has been going strong ever since.
They released their 3rd studio album in 2013. Butcher is one of 2 vocalists and also guitarist alongside Kevin Shields, her one-time romantic partner.
My Bloody Valentine is known for creating a sonic wall of noise from Butcher & Shield’s guitar work while having relatively poppy vocals on top.
Having seen them in 2009, I can personally attest it was the loudest show I’ve ever been to, and I’ve seen a lot of bands!
Butcher’s vocals, in particular, are breathy, soft, and understated, but the band as a whole is a force to be reckoned with, so she deserves inclusion on this list of best female goth singers.
9. Beth Gibbons
Gibbon’s band Portishead also doesn’t fit neatly into the goth category.
Like Massive Attack, they blend trip-hop and downtempo beats blended with somber dark tones and lyrics. Portishead formed in 1991 but went on a 6-year hiatus until 2005 and have been going strong ever since. They have not, however, released any new music since 2009.
She’s also done a little bit of solo work and collaborated with the likes of Annie Lennox and Joss Stone.
Fans are a little divided over which Portishead album is best, but their debut Dummy still probably makes most fans list as their best work.
10. Romy Madley Croft
The xx’s Romy Madley Croft is a great female goth singer.
The xx, like many on this list, aren’t neatly pigeonholed into the goth category. But they were clearly influenced by Siouxsie and The Cocteau Twins, so in my book, she well deserves to be on this list.
The London band formed in 2005 but are slow to put out music, having only 3 full-length releases since 2005. As of this writing, it’s been 3 years since their last release, I See You. They also put on an excellent show which I was lucky enough to see around 2008.
Their debut album, self-titled xx, still stands as absolutely brilliant.
11. Hope Sandoval
Mazzy Star probably isn’t really a goth band at all.
A little bit Velvet Underground, a little bit psychedelic alternative rock, and sometimes even a folksy or bluesy leaning.
Nonetheless, I still think Sandoval deserves to be on a list of the best female goth singers.
Few can deny her incredibly dark, distant yet sexy vocal style. The fact that she’s horribly introverted comes through in her delivery as well.
While their 1st 3 releases are all excellent, most fans agree that their debut, So Tonight That I Might See, still ranks as their best work.
Mazzy Star initially broke up in 2003 but did reunite several years later, with founder/guitarist/songwriter David Roback, unfortunately, passing away in February 2020.
Their recorded output has been minimal since their 90’s heyday, but they did release an EP in 2018, their first release since the mixed effort Seasons of Your Day was released 5 years earlier.
Sandoval has also performed with The Jesus and Mary Chain, Massive Attack, Air, and The Chemical Brothers.
12. Tina Root
Tina is best known as the lead singer of the 90’s goth-darkwave favorites Switchblade Symphony.
In more recent years, she’s released works from her projects Tre Lux and Small Halo. But for the most part, she keeps a low profile these days.
Serpentine Gallery, their debut album, still ranks as their best work by hardcore fans.
13. Free Dominguez
Free is the lead singer and 1/2 of the goth-industrial band Kidneythieves which formed in 1998.
They rose to prominence when their song “Before I’m Dead” was featured on the soundtrack to the movie Queen of the Damned in 2002.
Unlike the quiet, artsy demure of some of the female goth singers I’ve listed here, Free is a powerful force to be reckoned with, delivering in-your-face energy and bite.
They tend to release material slowly, having only 4 full-length releases from 1998 to 2016. Their debut album, Zerospace (which contains “Before I’m Dead”) still ranks as the fan-favorite.
As an aside, you might be wondering why a “middle class dad” is writing about goth music.
In fact, once upon a time, I played in a couple of bands you could classify as “almost made it”. I also served as bass player and bandleader for new wave diva Lene Lovich for 3 years.
The band I had which had the most amount of followers was a dark electronic band called Tanz Waffen (which did feature an outstanding female goth singer named Nanz).
These days, among a lot of projects, I have a band called Masquerade as Angels which could be described as goth, although we have a few other influences as well.
But our drummer is from Ministry, so that counts, right? lol
Did I list all your favorite female goth singers?
In this post, we took a look into goth music; the origins through today.
We examined the most popular bands in the genre over the past 40 years and took a look at some sub-sets of the genre.
Specifically, though, we listed the 13 best female goth singers of all-time.
It’s all opinion and everyone’s got one, so don’t hesitate to leave a comment if I left out your favorite female goth singers or if you disagree with one of my choices.
Pictures which require attribution: