Washington Think Tank with W.: What makes a metal vocalist great?

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Greetings, friends. I come bearing word from our good buddy and power-user George Lynch. GL is taking a break from his busy schedule of running, designing top-secret government aircraft, and laying down sweet licks to ask you a burning question. So please, lend Mr. Scary your hearts and minds and riddle him this.

Today’s Question: What makes a metal vocalist great?

Metal vocalists are a fundamental component of any heavy metal band. I’ve even gone so far as to say that a vocalist can easily make or break a band. Therefore, our question today focuses not on whether or not a vocalist is important but how a singer comes to be acknowledged as one of the greats. What is it that distinguishes an unremarkable vocalist from an exceptional one? Our pal GL has established three criteria that must be met.

Vocal Ability: A great vocalist must have a great voice. This is the first and foremost skill that a singer must possess. However, I surmise that we here in the Toilet will disagree regarding how to qualify the abilities of different vocalists. If we are judging purely on vocal range and projection, few singers can match traditional metal and power metal vocalists. In this regard Hansi Kürsch and Bruce Dickinson are not to be rivaled. However, some here may value the more extreme abilities of screamers/growlers like Travis Ryan. Vocalists of this ilk, in my opinion, are set apart by their ability to horrify/disgust with their vocal apparatuses. It seems, then, that the quality of a vocal ability must be measured corresponding to the particular subgenre in which that artist performs.

Showmanship: A frontman must be able to engage and command the attention of the audience. This is paramount to building rapport and maintaining crowd interest. Great vocalists, then, are often those we consider able to supply us with a great show while maintaining their vocal presence. Greg Puciato and Ryan McKenney immediately come to mind, although older giants like Rob Halford still loom tall in the scene. Each of the mentioned vocalists has a different style, but all of them is able to make you feel utterly entranced and part of something far greater than yourself at a gig.

Longevity: Vocal ability and showmanship are nothing if a singer burns out early in his career. Studio magic may cover an abundance of faults, but metal has always thrived in a live environment. Those who can’t perform in front of a crowd will be quickly burned in effigy on every metal blog across the entire web. A good performer, then, must be able to sing old songs with the passion and fervor of an angry teen well into his later decades. A shining example in my mind is Sanctuary/Nevermore vocalist Warrel Dane. There’s been some talk as to whether or not his voice is altered in studio, but if this concert footage from The Year of the Voyager is to be believed, he was still able to embody the mouthpiece of the end of days in a live setting at least 20 years into his career.

Well then, you now know George Lynch’s patented recipe for a great metal vocalist. So now it’s your turn. In your mind, what truly sets the greats apart? What distinguishes an amazing vocalist from the run-of-the-mill growlers clogging the gutters of the metal underground? Sound off in the comments below.

Big thanks to GL for this idea.

P.S. Do you have an idea for Think Tank? Send it to toiletovhell@gmail.com! I’d love to collaborate.

Don’t know what the Washington Think Tank is? This is a weekly column where your former President poses a pressing question and allows the top minds at the Toilet ov Hell to investigate his query.

  • Scrimm

    There is no rival for Bruce.

    • Except when he gets way too carried away with the vibrato. Like on the chorus of Caught Somewhere in Time.

      • Scrimm

        GAH! I love that song, I think he’s perfect on it.

        • The overuse of vibrato always kinda embarrassed me. I remember playing that tape in 8th grade and all the girls laughing their asses off when the chorus kicked in.

          • Scrimm

            Girls in 8th grade are stupid.

          • And boys in 8th grade are HOT FOR TEACHERs, Scrimm!

            GL

          • Scrimm

            Fuck I sure was.

      • Guacamole Jim

        Correct. I saw them live, and I don’t know what was going on, but he just vibrato-d the shit out of everything. Ruined every fucking song, because the mix was so bad all you could hear was him anyway.

        • Scrimm

          OK then, see you guys later!

          • Guacamole Jim

            hahaha normally I like him. It’s just that out-of-control vibrato annoys me to no end.

          • Scrimm

            Too much of a Bruce superfan, I must remove myself from any conversation knocking him or I will become unreasonable angry.

          • Guacamole Jim
          • Scrimm

            Getting there

        • Last thing I wanna do is come across as a Bruce-hater. I love the guy but sometimes IMO he oversings stuff. I don’t want to incur anyone’s wrath for pointing that out though haha.

          I really liked Kilers and Paul sounded great for that material but they would have went nowhere with him. Bruce isn’t always as easy to listen to but the challenge is often worth it because he has moments of brilliance…and I couldn’t imagine anyone else singing those songs.

  • EASY: SIKK LOWS

  • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

    That’s a good question W. What makes a metal vocalist great is if he has a stage presence. Ozzy, Dio, Bruce, Ian Gillan, Lemmy and all the great metal vocalists have stage presence. Not many current metal singers have a good stage presence. It’s very hard to find a singer with that sort of presence though.

    • DDubya.

      I’d disagree that modern singers don’t have good stage presence. I listed three examples right in the article.

      • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

        I never said that no modern singers don’t have stage presence. There’s just too few that do have a stage presence.

        • DDubya.

          Also: Chuck Billy (since he’s still in the game), Randy Blythe, Barney Greenway, Jens Kidman, Will Smith, Doug Moore, Ezra Hayes, Devin Townsend…

          • Scrimm

            King Diamond…

          • CT-12

            This is unrelated and not trying to piss you off haha, but Warrel Dane just can’t sing the old Sanctuary stuff as good as he used to (and I’m not just talking about “Battle Angels” haha). Still a hell of a frontman and I like his current singing style too, but yeah, just can’t nail some of those older tunes.

          • DDubya.

            Actually, that doesn’t surprise me. His highs used to be insane, so i can’t fault him for it nowadays.

        • Scrimm

          There’s a ton.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I mean singers from the 2000’s. Chuck Billy, Barney Greenway, King Diamond and singers from now prominent old bands are not what I was referring to. I was referring to singers from newer bands.

          • Scrimm

            So do I, I can read. I’m talking about current. I’ve seen many that handle a crown just fine.

          • Guacamole Jim

            Roy Khan? He’s stepped down now, but he had a hell of a commanding stage presence.

          • Nordling Writes ov Karhu

            Too bad he (liked to) suck(ed) Donkey balls.

          • Guacamole Jim

            Those donkeys were (mostly) into it!

    • MoshOff

      Ozzy’s stage presence is that he barely has it… right?

      • He is technically present.

        • EsusMoose

          Mentally he’s probably elsewhere

          • I like the thing he does where he jumps and kicks himself in the ass while clapping.

    • EsusMoose

      But Ozzy is terrible outside of his stage presence.

      • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

        If you can keep a crowd interested in your singing and know how to work a crowd you’re basically set. Talent is a whole other category than stage presence, which Ozzy does not really have. There are talented singers who have no stage presence such as Tony Martin and then there are singers who are awful yet have stage presence such as Geoff Tate.

        • Scrimm

          Geoff tate’s stage presence is LOLBUTTZ.

          • MoshOff

            C’mon, his stage presence is the vest.

          • Scrimm

            Uncle vester tries his vest.

          • CT-12

            ^^^ Can vouch for this shit hahaha. Saw both versions of Queensryche at the height of their legal battle, Geoff’s show was honestly way better, but holy shit I didn’t even try to hide my laughter at some of his fucking goofy stage moves.

          • Scrimm

            I bet

        • EsusMoose

          I’ll throw out my joke about most Ozzy fans being the equivalent of turkeys in a rain storm (stupid and gawking at nothing) and on topic at least in many older artists case they have a cult of personality surrounding them. So with an inherent connection with the fans before the show, he can capitalize on it with his (probably) only skill, stage presence.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      I don’t care what anyone says, I’ll always love Ozzy. FITE ME

  • Nordling Writes ov Karhu
    • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

      I heard about it. The singer of Aphrodite’s Child also died. RIP.

      • Not The Ideal Tapir

        DEMIS ROUSSOS IS DEAD TOO WHAT THE FUCK

        • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

          You didn’t hear about that?

          • Not The Ideal Tapir

            What do you think, Billy? No, I hadn’t heard of that. 666 was such a guud album. FUCKING SHIT

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I loved the album too. He will be missed.

          • Not The Ideal Tapir

            He’s better know as a pop singer.

    • yessss

    • Not The Ideal Tapir

      EDGAR DIED WHAT THE FUCK WHY WHEN?

      • Nordling Writes ov Karhu

        25, I think. 🙁

        • Not The Ideal Tapir

          WHY ARE THINGS HAPPENING

          • Nordling Writes ov Karhu

            I HAB NO IDEA. ‘TIS A CRUEL WORLD WE LIVE IN.

          • Not The Ideal Tapir

            TULESSA HALUAN KATSOA MAAILMAN PALAVAN

          • Nordling Writes ov Karhu

            TAHDON TUSKAN TAHDON VAIVAN, SAIRAUKSIEN ARMEIJAN

          • Not The Ideal Tapir

            “LUOJAN LEMPILASTEN NÄHDÄ IKEEN ALLE KAATUVAN” jäi välistä, senkin törppö.

          • Nordling Writes ov Karhu

            (Tarkoituksella)
            Kato sopi tunnelmaan paremmin noin.

          • Not The Ideal Tapir

            Tunnelmaan sopimisella ei ole mitään seksuaalista merkitystä. Vittu jos laulua lauletaan niin sanoja ei vittu jätetä välistä!
            VITTU MÄ VIHAAN PUNKKIA!

          • Nordling Writes ov Karhu

            KAHVIA EN SITTE VITTU KEITÄ!

          • Not The Ideal Tapir

            *Tervetuloa kylään vittu, en muuten vittu keitä kahvei
            Fucking Virgin Mary,

  • EsusMoose

    To hit that perfect balance between being both a terrible singer and an annoying human being

  • What makes a vocalist great in Metal Blogosphere Groupthink:

    Must be audibly indistinguishable from tens of thousands of other vocalists cos that’s metvhl as phuck.

    …I’ll go ahead and get out now.

    • Hubert, Goat ov/of SATAN!!!!!

      Agreed. Death/Black metal needs to shake up their vocal uproach. Hearing the same growl is getting awfully boring, and metal shouldn’t be awfully boring.

      • I hurt somebody’s butt and they downvoted a light-hearted comment because they took the actual truth more seriously than I did. Some people really are just too metvhl haha.

        • some people must get down of the merol clovd!

        • Lacertilian

          How can you tell if someone has downvoted?
          I’m a n00b.

          • It’s evident when a comment has more upvotes than those that have made their way to the top.

          • Lacertilian

            I’m not sure I follow you.
            Why doesn’t Disqus just show the downvotes next to upvotes? Kinda weird.

          • They used to show the downvotes but were trying to soothe the butthurt of those who are concerned about their comments getting downvoted by those who were butthurt by said comments.

            But you can still tell simply because the comment section is default sorted by “Most Popular.” Thus when an OP commenter has more upvotes than those that appear in order above theirs it’s because their comment was “Less Popular.” …that’s because of downvotes. If you look in the upper-right of this screen-grab you’ll see the dropdown that sorts the comments by “Best” ie: most popular.

          • Lacertilian

            Ahh, cheers JAG.
            I sort by Newest due to my time-zone (+11UTC)

      • Max

        I’m not an expert on vocals, but my theory is that everybody’s technique became formularized at one point.

        Growling isn’t good for your throat, but there are methods to doing it that will prevent your vocal cords from getting shot after about one-and-a-half gigs; such as singing from your diaphragm, etc. Once these techniques became popularized through such things as instructional YouTube videos and that coaching book (Zen and the Art of Screaming), there started to be a lot more homogeneity in how everybody sounded.

        That’s why, I believe, if you listen to Glen Benton on the first few Deicide records, he had a distinctive character – as many from his era did. Whereas by, say, In Torment in Hell or The Stench of Redemption, he started to sound a lot like many others of the more recent crop.

    • Dagon

      Sometimes having the same vocal approach adds to the material, but usually it’s only detrimental and boring.

      • Well, to be fair there’s only so many ways to do “death vox” or “black vox.” I just think the market is oversaturated with tryhards. What aggravates the situation is that few of the Me-Toos can be bothered to distinguish themselves by writing memorable songs or albums.

        One of the last truly exceptional DM albums I bought was Krisiun’s The Great Execution in 2011. That was really good songwriting and still managed to convey brutality. Never boring and/or samey.

    • Dagon

      It’s the reason I never got into Sylosis and why I only started liking Revocation after the last album, which showed a lot of improvement in the vocals.

      • Lacertilian

        I didn’t enjoy it when the Sylosis vocalist started doing cleans more often on Monolith, thus hoping that there would be less of them on Dormant.
        Upon hearing Dormant, I was happy there weren’t many cleans but it kinda made me realise that I find him to be very plain in general.
        Whereas, Dave from Revocation has been getting steadily more distinct from Teratogenesis onwards.

    • Agree, you need a signature voice to separate yourself from the generics. All bands that bring out crowds have that.

  • MoshOff

    Good point about Longevity W. I think a good example of someone who’s voice has aged well is Russell Allen from Symphony X; his range has actually improved because he started incorporating a lower/more “gruff” style into his songs.

    • DDubya.

      It’s all GL’s doing. i just fleshed the ideas out.

      • MoshOff

        …and that’s why you don’t skip introductory paragraphs.

        • I would love to hear Russell Allen do some Dio covers. He doesn’t sound like Dio but I think his vocals would do them justice…and not make me want to kill him like other vocalists who tried to ruin Dio songs.

          • MoshOff

            The Dio comparison is actually one that’s popped into my head several times, I don’t think it’s that far-fetched. Take the part starting around 5:40 in Smoke and Mirrors:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhUWYOnTV3c

          • That did sound very Dioesque. (New word.)

          • MoshOff

            *Patent pending.

          • MoshOff

            …and lo and behold, he actually did cover Dio and killed it:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGNe17BVuCA

          • Nice. Never heard this before. Not as good as the original but what is when it comes to Dio?

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            This band name makes me cringe so hard, but Russel is a beast. A highlight of my concert-going career was helping to hold him up after he stage dived during the Odyssey.

          • MoshOff

            Scratch that, TWO Dio covers:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b70_aic1FZY

          • Wow, this is an incredible cover!

            GL

          • DDubya.

            Many, many moons ago I was at a gig here watching Killswitch Engage play (I went for the openers, whoever they were), and this older guy in the back looked totally unamused through the entire set until they played Holy Diver.

          • HA. I admit to this day that the most intense show I have ever been to was Killswitch in Fall of 2006. The opened the show with A Bid Farewell and the place was straight chaos from start to stop. I literally thought I was not going to make it.

            GL

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4gKsrENLkQ

    • Pagliacci is Kvlt O)))
    • EsusMoose

      Is he making love to a stage monitor?

      • he is farting in that guys face from yesterdays Photochop. Mystery solved!

        GL

    • Tyree

      Beat me to it. I knew it would be a race with you.

  • Scrimm

    As a vocalist myself(however terrible), I think the most important thing is character. This ties into vocal ability, but can also contradict it. Look at someone like Danzig. Does he have a great singing voice? Hell no, but the guy’s voice has a ton of character. Martin Van Drunen or Matti Karki. Neither is the most technically talented in their styles yet they are two of my favorites because of the character their voices have. You have to stand out to me in someway.

    • DDubya.

      Hey, that’s a great thought!

      • Scrimm

        For me that’s probably the most important thing.

        • DDubya.

          One thing I like about Triptykon is that Tom Fisher’s voice really resonates with me for some reason.

          • Scrimm

            Exactly. The ones that can do that for me usually end up in my favorites.

    • Guacamole Jim

      That could be the reason Claudio Sanchez from Co&Ca is so popular. There aren’t many voices like his.

    • Dagon

      Martin Van Drunen is a beast. He sounds like pure madness. Like hitting someone in the head with a spiked club over and over.

      • Scrimm

        He sounds like a military commander that has his throat shot out. Read that in a review somewhere and it fits well I think. Guy is my favorite death metal vocalist easy.

    • Howard Dean

      I actually think Glenn Danzig has a pretty solid singing voice–especially if we compare him against other metal vocalists. I agree that the character of his voice and his presence are the sellers, but his voice is pretty good.

      • I think that too!

      • Scrimm

        Oh make no mistake I do too. I just don’t think it’s his number one draw. Good to see you Mr. Dean!

    • Good idea. When I think about a lot the music I like, character would be a quality I would attribute to them. I think this would apply well to Black Sabbath’s first eight albums. Ozzy can’t sing for shit but his voice had character back then. Too bad he didn’t have longevity.

    • Coolstorybro

      Say what you want about him, Danzig puts on a fucking show. Saw him last year, and within 5 minutes he got in a shouting match with an audience member then hit him in the face with the microphone. Then proceeded to totally rock the remainder of the song. Best $30 I’ve ever spent.

      • Scrimm

        I love Danzig.

  • Thanks for the kind words W. This whole idea stemmed from my favorite vocalist Dave Meniketti ( of Y&T). Last year with their 40th anniversary. 40TH!!!! Listen to this guys voice!!! He is a great performer, great artist, and has a killer voice.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjTwhXPYQQE

    GL

    • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

      I saw these guys in 2012. I hope to see them again in April because they’re coming back to my area.

  • This makes me wonder, have we done an article about what makes a great live show?

    • DDubya.

      I think Stockhausen tackled that some time ago

    • Ice cold PBR.

      • Scrimm

        That’s definitely made a show or two better for me.

      • Stanley

        I tell you what doesn’t make a great live show. $12 beers! Seriously!

  • Tyree

    Being a drunk/doped-up asshole to all of the fans and to all bands you are playing with while barely being able to perform makes for a great front man. Just being a shitty/awesome person. Hail Seth!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6MfmpN_joM
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUJf3YSz0sI
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0R9sviIQcOw

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    1st vid muted
    2nd vid-full vol

    http://youtu.be/AKC7Oz6ZrRU

    http://youtu.be/4xmckWVPRaI

  • I also think it is interesting in the age of self produced bands that the idea of being a “vocal god” I.e Hagar, Dio, Halford…. is no longer necessary/required.

    Any thoughts?

    GL

    • I’ll paraphrase this by saying that the vocals in Periphery are a total turn off for me. That being said, their dude can sing his balls off and it has earned them a ton of backlash.

      • What is interesting to me is that I also cannot stand his vocals but I love the shit out of Rody Walker’s of Protest the Hero. Very similar styles – one is just way more atrocious!

        GL

        • Spencer from Periphery just has a higher and less controlled voice when compared to Rody’s. It just has this whiny tinge to it about 60% of the time.

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            Saw them live last night and the whinyness is less apparent live. He absolutely killed on the Juggernaut songs they played. As much hate as he gets, hes a friggin great frontman. Also, Thank You Scientist playing for like 25 minutes was worth the price of admission alone.

          • i’m quite gelatinous. love both bands.

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            I wouldn’t be too jealous. As awesome as they both were, the two middle bands, Wovenwar and Nothing More, brought out some fucking cringeworthy crowds. Lots of high school girls and emo kids. Luckily they all went to the back when the real band was on,

          • i’ll tone it down a bit. wovenwar is terribro.
            high school girls? hawt!

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I hate Wovenwar.

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            I never heard them before but they were so terribly generic. No hooks, no interesting gimmicks, nothing of interest whatsoever.

          • Got dat MS endorsement doe!
            /I count 25 different posts tagged “Wovenwar” in the archives. Jeez.

          • Gotta keep Misha around! Celebrity status bro!

            We have GC though! lol

            GL

          • Stanley

            They are probably all mine. 🙁

          • aw, we still wuv you!!

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            We sure do.

          • Stanley

            Thanks guys. I’ll go seek some help. Actually, that’s why I visit the toilet.

          • Stanley

            No hooks? WAT?

            They have more hooks than a fisherman’s tackle box.

          • Dude I just bought the album this morning. $5.99 on itunes. I figured it was worth a chance. I was a huge ASLD fan – so I figured I owed them a shot. Even though I passed on them at first!

            GL

          • i too love me some AILD. and though i’m not a religious person at all, i find no joy in criticizing bands for choosing a specific faith, be it christianity or even satanism. having said that, AILD definitely cut off their own balls when they hired that handsome fella from Oh, Sleeper and now just sound like stereotypical christian metalcore. and i bet they’re making more money now…

          • Here is a picture of me and my buddy with Tim. refresh
            I cant honestly say I have never had my picture taken with someone who ended up in prison/or tried to have someone murdered!

            GL

          • Stanley

            I really like the dual vocalists on top of AILD riffs. It works for me.

          • Wovenwar is 100% terribro. Sooo fuh-reaking boring.

          • Stanley

            Wovenwar>>>>

            Nothing More certainly were nothing more than a shirtless dude prancing around the stage.

          • Stanley

            There weren’t that many chicks at the Fillmore show. It was half empty though. I don’t remember going to the Fillmore and seeing so few people. Then I remembered that Periphery were headlining. 🙂

          • Emo kids still exist?

          • I’d like to catch them live, haven’t yet. For the record, I like his voice 90% of the time, and I like Periphery.

          • Stanley

            Thank You Scientist were pretty good live. Especially when the least metal looking guitar player of all time let it rip towards the end of their set. It didn’t make me want to rush out and buy there records, but they were an interesting sight to behold.

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            Check out their record, it’s so worth it.

          • if nothing else, give “Blood On the Radio” a full listen, it’s 9+ minutes of stellar musicianship (but still a very well written song)

          • Stanley

            I checked out a few songs on youtube (including this one) before the show to know what I was getting myself into. Based on that song alone I got to the show early to make sure that I didn’t miss them.

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            I would have agreed like two years ago that is was uncontrolled, and kinda up and down live, but he’s working hard to tame that beast.

    • Hagar? Did you say Hagar??

      • Yes. I am not saying I proclaim they are, but the age of legendary singers (in my opinion) is over.

        GL

        • Yeah, I agree. I was just giving you shit because I think Hagar’s vocal “ability” could actually benefit from some judicious use of autotune.

          • Really? Interesting.

            GL

          • Tyree

            The beginning of Poundcake is so embarrassing to listen too. What was he fucking thinking

          • Tyree
          • The lyrics on that whole album are pretty awful. I would argue that the tunes are top notch though.

            GL

          • Tyree

            That opening note that he screams out makes me want to smash my face into a spike though.

          • Our world is a much better place due to Eddie’s existence. This is a fact.

          • Scrimm

            Not MY world.

          • You feel about VH the way I feel about Queen haha.

          • omg I get sick just reading the name Queen.

            GL

          • word to the wise: good Queen songs are few and far between after Sheer Heart Attack. you gotta dig deeper! don’t let the bishes singing karaoke sway your opinion of Queen!!

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I cannot tolerate Queen because of the overexposure of their hits. I do think their albums after Hot Space are underrated and their soundtrack for Flash Gordon is the best.

          • you can’t let a band’s greatest hits ruin them for you, just avoid the shitty songs. listen to their first three albums, they’re heavy metal

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I liked the Flash Gordon soundtrack and I do like their album The Works.

          • My feelings about Queen can be summed up by the folks at /r/lewronggeneration

          • Scrimm

            I really wanted to agree with you today 🙁

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I despise Queen, especially the versions without Freddie Mercury. Adam Lambert is the current singer for “Queen”. I don’t support that.

          • I like maybe three songs by Queen. Grand total.

          • Scrimm

            I feel that way about Queen too!

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            This song is awful. The instrumental work on the album is much better than the lyrics. I’m excited for the new live album they’re releasing from Tokyo from the 2013 tour because it has DLR.

          • Scrimm

            You fuckers are killing me.

          • I always think of the song “Dreams” where he “sings” “Weee..belong! …in a world that must BE STRONG!” Instead of singing in key and hitting the higher note he just yells louder.

            I’m not a mixtape/playlist sorta person but I could go through every Sammy solo album and come up with about one good song on each. VOA was big when I was a kid but it had like one and a half good tunes.

          • Tyree

            I never listened to much of his solo shit, but there is always something cringe worthy with his VH work. At least Roth didn’t try hard to sing. Sammy forces the fuck out of it and just makes for an embarrassing time.

        • i think the age of rock legends is over (except in South America of course!).

          • It will be interesting to see who the “media” portrays as the new “legends” once all old farts die off. Ie Hagar, Halford, etc…

            GL

          • M SHADOWS!

          • CT-12

          • I’d bet a lot of money it won’t be those that many who read metal blogs think it will be.

            People are always saying “popularity is not a measure of quality” …well no shit. But neither is one IMN’s opinion. It’s all subjective and those who are remembered is usually based on…you guessed it: popularity.

      • Furthermore, Hagar still has incredible pipes. He is almost 70! Holy crap right!?

        GL

        • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

          His work in Montrose was much better than most of his VH work. His solo career was also good in my opinion. He still has the pipes though, as does DLR.

      • Tyree

        Bro do you even Mas Tequila BRAH!?!?!?!?!

    • To the naked ear, you may not be able to tell. Everyone uses effects because you want enhance your recording but the degree to which they are being used varies. It’s pretty easy for me to hear when someone’s layered in effects. Earth Crisis’ Slither is a great example. The dudes singing voice is loaded with effects because he could not carry a tune to save his life.

  • Tyree

    The Dragged Into Sunlight vocalist doesn’t even face the crowd when he is on stage. Now that’s some kind of statement right there.

    • DDubya.

      Maynard from Tool used to do the same thing.

      • Maynard was probably just farting on the audience because Tool fans.

        • What a tool!

          GL

        • DDubya.

          As much as I love Tool, I’m sometimes embarrassed to be a fan.

          • Tyree

            They are some of the worst people.

        • “OMG, Maynard farted in my face. I will never wash my face. EVER” – Tool Fan when Maynard farted in his/her face.

      • Tyree

        Just his back to the audience with his hood up. Super menacing and creepy. Sweet guy though, I talked to him before the show. You’d never think the guy I talked to was the hate-filled guy on stage.

  • Stockhausen

    Aesthetics of metal is such an interesting topic to me. When it really comes down to it, we like growled/screamed/harsh metal vocals just because we do, basically. I’m sure there is an academic way to put it, but I really can’t think of a better way of saying that I like the Keeper vocalist’s voice “because it’s nasty and that’s awesome.” How does that compare to another harsh vocalist with more range (i.e. low growls to high shrieks, etc)? I don’t know. I don’t care that there’s almost no vocal variation with Falls of Rauros, but I love it just as much as I love the range that Black Crown Initiate displays. I have no good reason for that perceived equality, other than “cause I like it.” It’s an interesting thought.

    • Scrimm

      ^Character

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Well put.

    • Lacertilian

      After hearing Keeper yesterday, I can only add that his voice =

    • Brouroboris

      I was having this conversation with my sister, trying to get her to listen to Birdflesh (thanks @tyreegearhart:disqus ). She told me it sounded terrible to which I replied: thats what makes it awesome. One of the best things about metal is the challenge it presents, and the thought and revelation needed to begin to enjoy something that essentially sounds unpleasant.

  • Stanley

    Agree with all the points above. Additionally, often times the vocalists are responsible for the lyrics. The subject matter isn’t that important to me but the lyrical pattern and phrasing is. It’s what makes each song unique. One of the best in the game is John Henry.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPQ00DEUnl4&spfreload=10

    • Stanley

      Rody Walker also fits into this category. It’s amazing how his vocal patterns turn a 7/8 time signature into 4/4 so that you can sing along (if you have the pipes).

      • YourLogicIsFlushed

        Hasn’t he admitted that he knows nothing about time signatures so he just sings in 4/4? I think it’s hilarious and it’s unreal how well it works.

        • Stanley

          Yep. That’s were I got it from. He mentioned it in some interview that I saw.

          • I want to start a PTH circle jerk. Here is my favorite song of their new album.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMPd_WEMrLM
            GL

          • Stanley

            The circle has been completed as that is mine too.

          • BLXKKBEXRD

            I wonder if they’ll crowd fund their next one too

          • Stanley

            That’s an interesting question. Even if they don’t require the money to make the record, it’s a great way to get all the pre-orders. Obviously they were wildly successful the first time but would fans be so susceptible again? I certainly would.

          • BLXKKBEXRD

            I might would this time around

          • THEN IT IS NOT A CIRCLE, IT IS JUST A POINT!!! lololol

            GL

          • Stanley

            But that doesn’t mean that we can’t start a venn diagram.

            Here’s my second favorite.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wu1HuMhEk8&spfreload=10

          • Those vocals at the end, always great!

            GL

          • Stanley

            Yep. She crops up a few places and they are always memorable moments. She also cropped up in Hair Trigger off Scurrilous.

          • …I Don’t Care That You Do
  • Mother Shabubu III

    My dumb things:

    1) sound intelligible as much as you can, unless you play something so savage it’s supposed to sound barley human.

    2) have an interesting angle. Don’t just sound like another guy yelling or singing. Don’t cherry pick ideas, be yourself.

    3) be able to actually pull it off in a live setting. I don’t want to hear a crappier sounding version of an album or song.

    4) don’t have an obnoxiously off-putting pitch. AKA Periphery.

    5) don’t do friendly interviews if you sound menacing. It ruins the mystique.

  • Dagon

    Your post is precisely why we have a No Maiden clause – Bruce Dickinson nails all of those criteria.

  • BLXKKBEXRD

    Whomever said Claudio Sanchez was spot on.

    I’d also like to submit Johan Hegg. It’s undeniable

  • Dagon

    I might be stoned to death for saying this, but I like Derrick’s voice more than Max’s. Even though Max-era Sepultura has the best songs.

    • Lacertilian

      I like them both for different reasons, although Max has deteriorated into the most basic lyricist in metal since his infamous Jumpdafuckup days.
      Seems like Derrick is doing a bit of writing but I think Andreas still writes alot of lyrics.

  • JamesGrimm
    • BLXKKBEXRD

      Another vocalist who put on a pretty incredible show, even though I’m no huge fan

      • JamesGrimm

        He’s gone soft, but still one of the best.

    • Between The Buried & Smee

      If Trent Reznor counts, so does Les Claypool:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1Nk5XpWwEo

  • Hard question. had 6 years of opera training (some of which I’ve killed with smoking). Inflection and emotion are key. Blaze Baley’s solo stuff is a prime example. He doesn’t have much range at all, but with his solo stuff, he does wonders with what he has.

  • Dagon
    • *mic on the stand* *mic off the stand* *mic on the stand* * mic off the stand* * waddle this way across the stage* * waddle back over that way* * waddle waddle*

      Classic!

      GL

      • Dagon

        The man makes clapping metal. He was so coked out on this tour he kinda resembled my grandmother raising her tiny T-Rex arms with excitement.

  • Agree with all GL’s points on this. A good lyrcist is also another ingredient that makes you a cut above the rest. I don’t read much lyrics myself but Cursed lyrics are great – read the lyrics to “Friends In The Music Business” or “Hell Comes Home”, every line is artfully crafted and memorable.

    Good stage banter is good to have as well. Saw Iron Reagan with Napaln the other night and Tony is a very entertaining frontman.

  • For different reasons and to support this topic. These are my favorite frontman and frontwoman:

    – Angela Gossow: Yeah,.she sounds monotone and I liked more the first three records, but in her best years she could play a 1 and a half set while still jumping and scream like a maniac without losing any puff of air.

    – Mikael Stanne: he’s a hit and miss as far as I saw some videos. But I really like his engagement with the audience. Always using his corporal language to make the songs more vivid.

    – Dave Mustaine: the dude’s a bad person (he made cry a lot of people). But he got a weird badass aura when he’s in the stage. He can’t sing very well and his solos are always sloppy, but he got the punky attitude even when he’s more rich than all of us together, lol.

    – Paul Masvidal: he dances and make yoga with his crowd. Period.

    – Robert Smith: I always see myself as a Robert Smith-typeoffrontman if I ever do the vocals in a band. He’s kind of introverted, but he can unleash some good music and still have his style intact over the years. A legend, to me.

    – Jeff Walker: I love his goofy monologues in the middle of their set. Also, he’s very engaging with his band and play a massive bass too 😛

    – Billie Joe Armstrong: yeh, that guy from Green Day. Sloppy, but energetic. I always have fun watching that midget running in the stage.

    – Floor Jansen: very impressed of her performance and vocals in the last Nightwish DVD, for real.

    This is a bonus track, because I’ve saw wonders in the live videos: Barney Greenway, theguyfromTwilightForce, Mikael Akerfeldt, those guys from Anti-Flag, the frontwoman in Avatarium, Fabio Lione in any of the 98439284892739 bands he’s playing, Roy Khan, Dani Filth lol, Steven Wilson, JB Christofferson. And from the classics: ROB FREAKING HALFORD, and Ozzy :3

  • JamesGrimm
    • I thought that Peter Steele must have a lot of groupies in every concert of them jajaja.

      • JamesGrimm

        ……..he did.

  • To the #BlackMerolParty here, I’m curious to see your response: Which was you favorite frontman/singer/shireker/whatever in Mayhem? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UdswhRuj4c

    • Max

      It’s the boring answer, but for me – Dead.

      I’ll never forget the first time I heard Live in Leipzig. I’d bought Deathcrush some months before and among the several things about it which underwhelmed me were Maniac’s vocals.

      When I then put on Leipzig in a record shop while considering buying it, I was astonished at how the first song, “Deathcrush”, had been totally transformed by the newer line-up in its interpretation; particularly Dead’s delivery. In a scene that always talked about hate, he was the first vocalist I’d heard who sounded literally hateful. And he kept it up for the whole set. The impression has never left me.

      That said, he’s followed closely by Atilla. The guy is certainly more of an acquired taste and doesn’t always pull off what he’s trying credibly, but I don’t care. Having to follow an act like Dead was always going to require a distinctive approach, which he had in spades. I totally saw what he was trying to achieve on De Mysteriis and to this day I think his performance on the title track is a tour de force, even though, as many say, he didn’t quite pull off the opera-style singing.

      Maniac I don’t actually hate; I just cringe a bit sometimes. Other times I think he’s great. Messiah I’m indifferent to. Cultoculus I don’t think I’ve actually ever heard – he was only in the band about five minutes.

  • JvRv

    Ability to perform live really seals the deal for me. Now, just because you are a one person black metal outfit from Some Made Up Place who can’t do “live” doesn’t mean you can’t be a good vocalist, it’s just…

    Really there’s nothing more disappointing to me than going to a show for a band you’re really into, only to find the musicians can’t into playing their own stuff.

  • JWG

    All three definitely apply also to a wide range of other genres. It’s almost as if you could have written an article about vocalists in modern popular music in general, then tacked on the word metal here and there and threw in some references to metal vocalists.

    Although… longevity is so much less of a concern in any musical genre that doesn’t strain itself with vocal acrobatics or Cookie Monster-ing.

  • BTW, secured an interview with Drew Stone, if anyone has any questions, especially about his new film.

  • Hayden Clifford

    I saw Suicidal Tendencies a few months ago playing before Slayer and their singer is CRAZY. He just jumped around the stage the entire time and whenever he wasn’t yelling into the microphone he would repeatedly punch the air in front of him while jumping up and down.

    • Lacertilian

      He may have wanted a Pepsi.

  • john

    As a power metal fan FIRST, what sets apart the good power metal from the sea of “meh” is the vocalist. Pretty much all of them are going to have your memorable riffs, your crazy solos, your galloping melody, all that good stuff. But there are SO many bands out there that just have a generic “guy who can kinda sing falsetto and sorta sound like a normal guy.” I barely give them a moment of my time.

    The vocals must be unique, powerful and draw you in. Matt Barlow, Bruce Dickensen, Rob Halford, Hansi Kursch, JB Christofferson, Warrel Dane, etc… They are all unique, while also adding elements of each other. Even guys you don’t typically call “great” singers, like Ozzy Osbourne or James Hetfield, are so unique that they stand out and do well.

    Same goes for female vocalists, there’s a sea of “meh” women, and some who stand out. Operatic or not. Kobra Paige, Nina Osegueda, Ida Haukland and the like tend to stand out over the “standard” female vocalists.

    It’s probably the same reason that the Death and metalcore bands I tend to like are those with unique vocals too. Even growled or screamed, they have to stand out for me. Randy Blythe, Josh Middleton, Howard Jones.

    Still gotta be able to carry a tune though. One way or another.

  • Not The Ideal Tapir

    Vocals suck, metal sucks, metal vocalists suck.