All the Rage: Our Favorite Vocalists In Metal
Posted Monday, June 13th 2022 by Brendan Houdek
The voice can do some amazing things. We admire singers with powerful belts, perfect mixes, and agile riffs. But singers in the metal genre tend to get a bad rap...
“They’re just screaming!,” many would say. On the contrary, metal singers are some of the most technical vocalists out there! Check out some of our favorites below.
Howard’s sound is unmistakable. Like many metal singers, he has some incredible harsh vocals. But what sets him apart is the beauty of his clean vocals. He certainly has the fullest, most open sound of anyone on this list, hitting those high notes with a lowered larynx allowing for a wonderful depth to his voice. Combine that with his fantastic vibrato, and it’s obvious why he is one of the greats. To hear what we mean, check out the classic “My Curse” by Killswitch Engage.
“Sequoia Throne” is a perfect example of what Rody Walker of Protest the Hero is capable of. Bouncing from soaring melodic lines, to intense belts with distortion, to high screams, low growls, and even some reinforced falsetto, he is all over the map on this one and we’re here for it. You can expect this level of vocal insanity on any track with Rody singing.
Frontman of the “djent” masters Periphery, Spencer Sotelo is a POWERHOUSE. The track “Muramasa” open’s Periphery’s sophomore album “Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal.” Upon hearing this intro track, metal fans knew they were in for something special. The melodic opening hook transitioning to raw distortion followed then by some prime belting is a perfect display of just what Spencer is capable of.
Somehow the awards for both the smoothest, silkiest baritone vocals AND the most horrific guttural distortion go to Mikael Åkerfeldt of the band Opeth. Within the first 35 seconds alone of “The Lotus Eater” you’ll be able to hear the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Åkerfeldt’s voice, as he begins with a gentle hum transitioning to some intense growls.
Mastodon (Troy Sanders, Brann Dailor, and Brent Hinds)
Okay, we’re cheating a little bit on this one by not choosing one vocalist. While all three singers from Mastodon are great in their own right, some metal magic happens as they share vocal duties. It’s the interplay between them that makes them stand out above the rest. Each of them having a very distinctive timbre makes for a listening experience where you can’t help but play the album on loop. Give a listen to “Oblivion” where you can hear drummer Brann Dailor on the verses, bassist Troy Sanders singing the pre-chorus, and guitarist Brent Hinds on the chorus.
There was no way we couldn’t include Chester on this list! While Linkin Park often leaves the metal genre for more pop rock and hip hop stylings (and Chester is great at those styles too) it’s when they tap into the heavier parts of their discography that Chester really shines. The grit and distortion he brings is one of a kind and he is able to bring some truly heavy moments. (Who can forget the 17-second-long scream on “Given Up”?) Chester gives it all in every Linkin Park track, but check out this oldie but goodie “One Step Closer” to hear one of the first tracks that demonstrated his sound to the world.
Tommy Rodgers fronts the masters of progressive metal, Between the Buried and Me (BTBAM). BTBAM’s music is known to jump from death metal, to prog, to 12-bar blues surf rock in the blink of an eye. Tommy’s voice has the versatility to match, incorporating delicate mixes, growls, screams, clean vocals, and even the occasional character voice. You can hear some of those fun character voices in the track “Bloom” below!
Most of the vocalists on this list have had a balance between melodic and harsh vocals, jumping back and forth between the two. While Joe primarily uses harsh vocals, he has an incredible ability to use harsh and melodic vocals at the same time. More than simply adding a little distortion to a melodic line, he’s able to have fully distorted vocals lines have melodies within them. Listen to the chorus of “The Gift of Guilt” to hear what we mean. (Jump to 1:29) It is very clearly a screamed vocal, and yet, a catchy melodic line! Beyond that incredible balancing act, the power behind Joe Duplantier’s voice is unmatched.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a metal fan who doesn’t love Devin. Calling him solely a metal singer doesn’t do him justice, since Devin’s catalogue is a prolific one, with countless genres thrown into the mix. His vocal styles are just as varied as the genres he writes within, ranging from delicate head voice work, to operatic lines, to full-on metal intensity. You can see him seamlessly transition between these styles in this video of him singing “Kingdom.” You’re also sure to have a laugh or two at his antics.
A vocal coach himself, Daniel Tompkins is a voice technician through and through. The singer of numerous bands and projects including TesseracT, Skyharbor, White Moth Black Butterfly, and his solo work, Daniel Tompkins consistently proves his mastery over the instrument. Check out this live version of Tompkins performing Skyharbor’s “Maeva.” No studio magic here!
Courtney LaPlante (Spiritbox)
Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour)
Jonathan Davis (Korn)
Brendan’s deepest satisfaction comes from his work leading group and private sessions across the corporate world, where he enables companies and individuals to transform communication from being a liability to among their greatest assets.
Using his voice across multiple mediums, Brendan is a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and voice impressionist, hosting the show Voice Breakdown on YouTube. While entertaining, his impersonation skills also provide valuable insight into speech and vocal production, fostering both precise and intuitive instruction.
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