Top 10 Best Replacement Singers in Rock and Metal
Dio-era Black Sabbath
One of the biggest stories in metal this year is the revolving door for vocalists. Jesse Leach has returned to Killswitch Engage. Iced Earth played their first L.A. show with new vocalist Stu Block last Saturday at Club Nokia. Dragonforce will soon release their first album with new frontman Marc Hudson. We're sure that with these moves, all of these bands hope to end up on the below list of most successful replacement vocalists in rock and metal.
10. Angela Gossow
Arch Enemy (2001-present)
Michael Amott's soaring guitar melodies have always provided a strong backbone for Arch Enemy's brand of melodic Euro-death. But it was the addition of Angela Gossow on the band's fourth album, 2001's Wages of Sin, that propelled the band to a devoted worldwide following. The act's previous vocalist, Johan Liiva, relied mostly on monotone barks. Gossow has a voice that can hit all ranges of vocal brutality, and it won over U.S. audiences on tours with Ozzfest, Slayer, and Iron Maiden.
9. George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher
Cannibal Corpse (1996-present)
After Cannibal Corpse became death metal's most commercially successful band in the early '90s, disagreements with original growler Chris Barnes saw the entrance of the man called "Corpsegrinder" in 1995. Fisher has provided a solid anchor for the band to continue their gore-obsessed mayhem on albums such as 1996's Vile and the soon-to-be-released Torture. He has helped them remain relevant through numerous metal trends, while Barnes has succumbed to self-parody with subpar originals and cheesy death metal AC/DC covers with his outfit Six Feet Under.
8. Howard Jones
Killswitch Engage (2002-2011)
Longtime fans are excited about the return of Jesse Leach to the fold, but it was Howard Jones that led the band to their largest commercial success with 2004's The End Of Heartache. The undoing of many promising metalcore acts was the comparative wussiness of clean vocal choruses to ferociously barked verses. Jones was capable of pulling off both while still sounding like he had balls. Live, he projected a likeable teddy-bear persona.
7. John Bush
Anthrax (1992-2004, 2009-2010)
Joey Belladonna's anthemic vocals were the right fit for the moshable-thrash of '80s Anthrax. But on 1993's Sound Of White Noise, John Bush's vocals provided the proper amount of world-weary roughness to help the band adjust to the changing '90s metal scene better than some of their contemporaries. The argument of Ozzy vs. Dio will always be a hot topic of metal discussion, but the topic of Bush vs. Belladonna is also a good way to get tensions running between metal fans.
6. Sammy Hagar
Van Halen (1985-1996, 2003-2005)
Let's get one thing clear. We are very stoked that A Different Kind of Truth, Van Halen's first album with David Lee Roth in a quarter-century, turned out awesome. But we also feel that the Hagar era gets a bad rap. His vocals provided a strong base for the band to build expertly-crafted pop-rock that kept Van Halen one of the biggest bands in the world. 1986's 5150 and 1988's OU812 would have been outright disastrous if DLR's over-the-top histrionics were present. (Okay, we admit that 1995's Balance sucked ass.)
5. William DuVall
Alice In Chains (2006-present)
It's always a daunting task to replace a beloved vocalist, even more so when that person has died. William DuVall rose to the task of filling Layne Staley's shoes on the band's 2009 comeback, Black Gives Way To Blue. Live, DuVall's spin on AIC's old material provides a fitting tribute to Staley's original performances, while also taking possession of those songs as his own.
4. Mike Patton
Faith No More (1989-present)
The band's musicianship and mastering of different rock and metal styles on 1987's Introduce Yourself put them on the map. But it wasn't until the addition of crazed vocal genius Mike Patton on 1989's The Real Thing that the band reached the legendary status they have today. The band finally had a vocalist that could go toe-for-toe and match their each musical indulgence. The rapped verses of "Epic," the beautiful melodies of "A Small Victory," the sleazy lounge-croon of "RV" and whatever the fuck he was doing on "Cuckoo For Caca" kept fans on their toes through every album until their 1998 breakup.
3. Bruce Dickinson
Iron Maiden (1982-1993, 2000-present)
Original vocalist Paul Di'Anno's punk-flavored inflections were fine for their first two albums of well-done New Wave of British Heavy Metal, but his 1981 exodus from Iron Maiden was the best thing to happen to the band. Bruce Dickinson's massive pipes allowed them to evolve into the most lyrically ambitious non-prog rock band on the planet, and his incredible stage charisma allowed them to become one of the biggest stadium/arena bands ever, despite receiving no love from radio or mainstream press. It is telling that when Dickinson left the band in the 1990s, they were reduced to playing smaller clubs and theaters. Upon Dickinson's return with 2000's Brave New World, Iron Maiden immediately returned to playing arenas and stadiums, where they have remained since.
2. Ronnie James Dio
Black Sabbath (1979-1982, 1980-1992, 2006-2010)
By the end of the '70s the Ozzy-fronted version of Black Sabbath was drug-addled, uninspired, and creatively bankrupt. The entrance of ex-Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio pumped new blood into a band that was on life support. Dio's vocals are known to be powerful, but his lyrical contributions on 1980's Heaven and Hell and 1981's Mob Rules were the real unsung hero in the early '80s renaissance of Black Sabbath. Dio's dark fantasy-obsessed lyrics helped propel the band back to being one of the heaviest bands in the world for a new generation of teenagers scaring their mothers by listening to Satanic devil music.
1. Brian Johnson
By 1979, AC/DC was already on the verge of becoming one of the biggest bands in the world with Highway To Hell. But alcohol-fueled misadventure led to the death of vocalist Bon Scott. The band bounced back quickly from the tragedy, recruiting new vocalist Brian Johnson into the fold for 1980's Back In Black. Johnson proved capable of delivering the sleazy-blues of his predecessor, while also having a filthy rasp that sounded like he was gargling razor blades. This allowed AC/DC to continue on their path of being the sleaziest blues-rock band in history, while also providing a backdrop to turning their amps up to 111 (one hundred more than eleven) and becoming perhaps the loudest (and most popular) rock band in history.
Even if none of the above were true, the fact that Back In Black has sold 50 million copies and fluctuates with Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon for the second highest-selling album in history would still force us to put Brian Johnson at number one on this list.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.