German heavy metal/hard rock goddess Doro Pesch is best known for her years with the power metal band Warlock, but she has had a long solo career and continued to command a loyal following (especially in Europe) long after the group's demise. After releasing four albums with Warlock in the 1980s, Pesch set out on her own, touring and recording under her first name, beginning with 1989's Force Majeure. Dialing back on the gothic fantasy metal of Warlock, Pesch adopted a more pop-metal/hard rock sound, which she would continue to hone well into the next century. Shifting musical tastes in the early '90s resulted in Pesch finding most of her success in the European market, where metal still reigned supreme, but as the 2000s progressed, Doro once again found favor abroad via late-career standouts like Warrior Soul and Raise Your Fist.
Pesch, who only uses her first name professionally, was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, on June 3, 1964. Although she grew up in a country where German is the primary language, Pesch speaks fluent English and has done most of her singing in English, something she has in common with the Scorpions, Accept, and other German headbangers. Pesch was only in her late teens when, in the early '80s, she started singing lead for an obscure Dusseldorf-based metal band called Snakebite. But in 1983, she left Snakebite and became the lead singer for Warlock, a forceful yet melodic fantasy metal outfit along the lines of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Ronnie James Dio. At the time, heavy metal and hard rock were very male-dominated, but thanks to various ladies of loudness — including Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Heart, Girlschool, Lita Ford, and the Runaways — headbangers had grown more comfortable with the idea of women singing aggressive rock. But there weren't that many women singing gothic fantasy metal about witches, demons, ghosts, or sorcerers. So when Pesch belted out Warlock's fantasy-oriented lyrics and did so with as much aggression as Ozzy Osbourne or Ronnie James Dio, she stood out.
After playing the Dusseldorf club scene for several months and acquiring a small local following, Warlock recorded a demo and was signed by the independent Mausoleum label; after that, the band ended up recording for Mercury/Polygram (where Pesch remained for 11 years). Warlock's debut album, Burning the Witches, was released on Mercury in 1984 and was followed by Hellbound in 1985, True as Steel in 1986, and Triumph & Agony in 1987. That year, Warlock toured Europe as an opening act for Dio, but Warlock didn't tour the United States until 1988 (when the band opened for Megadeth on an extensive North American tour). Although Warlock had an enthusiastic cult following, it wasn't the huge following the headbangers were hoping for. So in 1989, the name Warlock was put to rest and Pesch started billing herself as a solo artist.
As a solo act, she didn't inundate listeners with the sort of gothic fantasy themes that Warlock was known for. Released in 1989, Pesch's debut solo album, Force Majeure, is more pop-metal/hard rock than gothic fantasy metal — the album is closer to Crimes of Passion-era Pat Benatar than Iron Maiden, Queensrÿche, or King Diamond. The singer's second album, Doro (which contains her cover of the Electric Prunes' psychedelic hit "I Had Too Much to Dream") was released by Mercury in 1990 and was followed by her third solo album, True at Heart (a European release), in 1991.
A few years after that, Pesch and similar artists suffered a major setback. When grunge icons Nirvana and Pearl Jam exploded commercially in 1992 and 1993, alternative rock became rock's primary direction, and all of a sudden the styles of metal and hard rock that had been huge in the '80s were out of vogue. There were still plenty of metal bands getting signed to major labels, but they were alternative metal bands — not hair metal pop bands and not gothic fantasy metallers in the Sabbath/Priest/Maiden tradition. In this brave new rock world, the women who defined heavy rock were folks like Babes in Toyland, L7, 7 Year Bitch, and Hole's Courtney Love; Pesch, like Benatar, Wilson, and Ford, was considered part of metal/hard rock's old school.
Nonetheless, Pesch continued to command a small but loyal following — especially in Europe — and kept touring and recording as a solo artist. In 1993, two Pesch albums were released by Polygram in Europe: Angels Never Die (her fourth solo album) and Doro Live (her first live album and fifth album overall). In 1995, Polygram released Machine II Machine in Europe; that year, her contract with Polygram ended and she signed with WEA in Europe. It was also in 1995 that Pesch made her acting debut with a role on the German television series Verbotene Liebe (Forbidden Love). The headbanger's next album, Love Me in Black, came out on Warner Bros. in Europe in 1998; that year, she parted company with WEA and signed two deals — one with Koch in the U.S., the other with SPV Steamhammer in Europe.
In 1999, Pesch recorded Calling the Wild, which was released in both Europe and the U.S. in 2000. Calling the Wild was her first North American release since 1990's Doro; True at Heart, Angels Never Die, Doro Live, Machine II Machine, and Love Me in Black had only been released in Europe, although the LPs were sold in U.S. stores as imports. Pesch remained prolific throughout the 2000s, issuing a flurry of well-received solo releases, including Fight (2002), Classic Diamonds (2004), Warrior Soul (2006), Fear No Evil (2009), and Raise Your Fist (2012), the latter three of which helped to re-establish her in the American market. In 2017, she released her first German-language LP, Für Immer, via Rare Diamonds Productions, and in 2018 she released the ambitious and anthemic double-album Forever Warriors, Forever United. ~ Alex Henderson