Lists of Domination
GD's Top 10 Clean Singers
17/08/12 || Global Domination
Introduction by Smalley: Once you’ve delved deeply into the realms of extreme metal like I (and many other GD’ers) have, you can become a bit saturated with extreme vocals; y’know, the death metal cookie monster, the black metal gremlin, the thrash shouter… there are so many out there who practice these styles and these styles exclusively, that it’s easy to forget that there are some metal vocalists that just like to SING. Not growl, not shout, not shriek, just… sing (okay, so Halford and maybe some others shriek, but in it’s a different way and all). And, some of ‘em can even do it halfway decently, and this list is in honor of those guys, those vocalists who’ve kept it clean, and salvaged the physical integrity of their vocal chords at the expense of going against conventional metal pressure to harshen shit up. Good for them, I say, so here’s their moment in the spotlight; enjoy, you’ve earned it!
10. Warrel Dane – Sanctuary/Nevermore/Solo
I chose Warrel Dane because someone on staff said “Fuck Warrel Dane”, which is like telling Santa not to come down the chimney, give you gifts and fuck your mother. This man, although agreed his live performances are despairingly comical, is an incredible vocalist who has aged tremendously well over time, his voice becoming more strained in an almost oakwood whiskey kinda way.
I can’t speak for the days of Sanctuary, but from his early Nevermore days (“Politics of Ecstasy”), he hit notes of such soaring, crystal-clear, majestic emotion that to merge such with the power of Jeff Loomis’ guitars is sure to be such a hefty dosage of testosterone as to make men infertile and the waters of unpregnant women break. Sure, sometimes he misses the mark on the ballads (mainly lyrically), but when he wants to hit spite or anguish with that beat-down flavour, few in metal can match.
9. Alan “Nemtheanga” Averill – Primordial
When it comes down to pure, stripped down, raw passionate vocals there’s really no one better than Alan Averill, better known as Nemtheanga. Longstanding as the weary throat that belts for Primordial, the man’s also provided amazing guest spots for Desaster, Rotting Christ, Marduk and others, not to mention various other side projects. Instantly recognizable and the highlight of his band, Nemtheanga just exudes genuine emotion. I know there’s a small contingent of detractors towards his style, and while I respect everyone’s opinion and we’re all special snowflakes and it’s all music, man and * jerking off motion *, but if you don’t feel SOMETHING when the man pours his soul into his words then I really feel sorry for you.
His raw, wailing style exists outside any kind of traditional approach to singing in heavy metal, forgoing any kind of flashy or pretty technique in lieu of pure expression. Imagine if Quorthon’s talents in the vocal departments were to match his ambition; it’s no surprise that Alan is fronting a supergroup tribute to Bathory on the side. The sounds that emerge from this man’s lungs are the real deal and it’s nearly impossible for me not to sing along (inadequately) to Primordial every listen.
8. Mike Patton – Faith No More and a million other bands
To say that Mike Patton is a genius is… a lie. To say that he definitely brought some new things to the table with the amazing “The real thing” album by the legendary Faith No More back in (holy shit!) 1989 is not a lie. This fucko made a huge impact on me when I first heard him on said disc. On top of some killer music that was absolutely pushing the limits we had Mike’s contribution as the icing on the hairy fucken arsehole of Jesus. I applauded. I did backflips. And then I applauded some more and spent many years onwards worshiping this masterpiece of an album and Mr. Patton’s vocal talents. Can’t say I gave much of a fuck for anything else he did, though I always enjoyed the way he sang, no matter which project it was. There’s really no need to pick any specific song to show his skills, you can listen to anything he’s done, pretty much. This guy is always on top of his game, and if we were living in a fair world (which we aren’t, as shown by the success of Metallica’s “St. Anger”, to name but one thing) he would be considered one of the best of his time. He can sing, he can scream and he can do all kinds of wicked shit with the music given to him. I respect that.
Mike’s an interesting vocalist, something you can’t say about most singers out there. The fact he hasn’t really recorded anything remotely interesting since his FNM days is besides the point. He’s still one of the better performers out there in rock/metal/whatever. And no matter how many times you already heard this tune in your life. If you do not absolutely love it, you are beyond the borders of retardation and I hope you fucken devolve into a pile of excrement.
I salute you, Mike Patton. Now give me a guest performance in one of my tunes or I’ll delete this entry and replace you with Vince Neil. Or Devin Townsend. Eh… wait, now… I believe he’s already on this list. The universe is mighty fucked.
-Lord K Philipson
7. Chris Cornell – Soundgarden/Audioslave/Solo
If you check out the big four grunge bands, you’ll find that dirge is usually the name of the vocal game. Chris Cornell defies this many a time, is probably the most rock-influenced vocalist of the scene, and probably better than Staley. The guy has had some troubles battling alcoholism, or maybe he just likes a drink, either way, the performances down his career have steadily become more restrained, but if you want to catch him at his peak, check out “Slaves and Bulldozers” from “Badmotorfinger”; that is some control and passion there. That’s not to say he doesn’t deliver the goods on later records, “Superunkown” and the first, self-titled Audioslave records sealing the deal on one of the greatest rock and roll vocalists to have lived.
Also, Chris Cornell is so used to eating pussy, a vagina is permanently imprinted onto his face, as seen in the picture. I am almost certain he has never once heard this joke in his life.
6. Mikael Åkerfeldt – Opeth
Look at this list right here. Now, look at THIS list. See any similarities? You should, which is that Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth is the only vocalist to make it to both lists, and there’s a damn good reason for that. You see, the beauty of his band comes from their genius balance of beauty-and-the-beast dynamics; y’know, abrasive & melodic, hard & soft, loud & quiet, et cetera. And, while I know we’re supposed to be talking about clean singing here, I don’t think Mikael’s would nearly as effective if it wasn’t contrasted so beautifully with his growling.
For the best example that comes to mind, take ”Bleak” off of “Blackwater Park”; after the mostly harsh first 2 & 1/2 minutes, the songwriting gradually builds up the melodiousness, and it culminates at 3:25, where the roaring beast from before vanishes completely, and is replaced by this unbelievably smooth, soaring, angelic voice, singing absolutely brilliant melodies & lyrics: “Devious movements in your eyes, moved me from relief/Breath comes out white clouds with your lies, and filters through me/You’re close to the final word/You’re staring right past me in dismay/A liquid seeps from your chest/And drains me away”.
Chills… just fucken chills. I can’t begin to guess how many times I played “Bleak” when I first bought “BWP”, and it was mostly because of beautiful moments like that. Anyway, the golden-voiced angel sticks around for quite some time in that masterpiece, which is another factor that contributes to Åkerfeldt’s inclusion here, since he doesn’t just do one designated song per record where he clean sings, but rather, uses it as much as his songwriting dictates. He’s even done entire albums completely free of growling! And, while I can’t be sure, it’s possible he sings about as much as he growls even; it kind of feels that way in memory, so big an impact his vocals make. But, regardless of an exact answer, all you really need to know is when Mike sings, he’s got it all; beauty, passion, emotion, he can pull off the “big” and the more intimate moments, and he actually knows how to make it work in a band with heavy death metal influences. What else do ya fucken need then?
5. Geoff Tate – Queensrÿche
The first time I heard Geoff Tate sing was on video for “Anybody Listening” from Queensryche’s commercial breakthrough album, “Empire” at some point in the early 90s. That song is still one of my favourites from the band and Tate has remained a favourite vocalist even if later Queensrÿche material has gotten progressively weaker. Still, when the band first debuted with the “Queensrÿche EP” Tate’s voice was front and centre and dominated what was essentially pretty basic late 80s heavy metal. His voice, a combination of Halfordian highs and superbly thought out melodies made songs like “Queen of the reich” and “The lady wore black” really memorable. Then, a few years later, the band released what I consider to be one of the finest hard rock/ metal concept albums ever made in “Operation Mindcrime” and while the band had become accomplished musicians, it was Tate once again on songs like “Revolution calling” and “Spreading the disease” who lifted that album up to classic status. The next album, “Empire” hasn’t really stood the test of time as well as “Mindcrime” but Tate’s finest hour came with what I consider to be the band’s last really good album “The Promised Land”. Released just as grunge exploded and MTV’s alternative nation was all the rage, it showed a heavier, meatier bunch of songs and Tate’s voice had gotten richer, had more depth and his control on the sparse, piano driven “Someone else” was truly astounding.
I guess the dream was over when news trickled out that Tate had had enough of Queensrÿche and was auditioning for Journey sometime in the mid 90s but that didn’t work out. Tate and Queensryche soldiered on through a few more albums and proceeded to squeeze the life out of “Operation: Mindcrime” with a pointless sequel. Just recently Tate’s ego seems to have finally exploded and he was fired from the band. Still, he’ll always be one of my favourite vocalists and just based on that first EP, “Operation: Mindcrime” and “The promised land” Tate will go down as one of the finest heavy metal vocalists ever.
4. Devin Towsend – Solo/Strapping Young Lad & many more
The same way it happens with Ronnie, Devin Townsend might belong to this list, but no way should he be so high on it. Just look how he mocks the rest of the competitors! The reason? Devin is much more of a composer, guitar player, producer and ugly bipolar bastard than he is a vocalist or a singer. Make no mistake, Mr. Townsend proved since the very beginning he can sing, and his screaming career took off with almost metal enough Steve Vai’s finest, “Sex & Religion”, as early as almost 20 years ago.
Perhaps the reason why he is considered once and again among top singers worldwide is his versatility rather than his virtuosity: no matter if you need a hard-rock singer, a harsh vocalist or 70s progressive band-like vocal work, Devin’s multiple personalities – did I say he’s bipolar? I meant schizophrenic – come with different voices each, and these are always to be trusted.
3. Ronnie James Dio – Solo/Black Sabbath/Elf/Rainbow/Hear n’ Aid/Heaven And Hell & many more
Dio belongs to this list indeed, yet he should be on the very top of it. Not only was he the most vibrant, powerful, clear and charismatic voice in metal, but probably of our time when it comes to the subject of any kind of non classical stuff. He’s also credited the one who instituted malocchio as a salute in metal imagery, and responsible for revitalizing the godfathers of metal in their worst moment. No matter what Dio did, he would always do it classy, up to the point he could totally reinvent a song just by adding his magical vocals to it.
Despite how short he was, his presence on stage was always remarkable and while other frontmen have always resorted to rampage like wild cats in front of an audience to impress, good ol’Ronnie used to remain elegantly calm and fresh, and focus and what really matters: air. That he did and did well, for one could easily confuse him with a damn compressor or something. That’s right, against all odds, Dio sang almost equally well for around half a century. How many in this list can brag on such an accomplishment?
2. Rob Halford – Judas Priest/Solo
TWISTIIINNNNNNG THE STRANGLE GRIP WON’T GIVE NO MERCY!!!
FEEEELIIINNNNNNNG THOSE TENDONS RIP TORN UP AND MEAN!!!
If you get away with an ear-piercing shriek like that, you are on to something. If you sing about sucking the living hell out of another person (see “Eat me alive” – Does he say “close to your lips” or is that rather a “hips” I hear there?) and everybody’s like “Fuck yeah, Metal!”, you are officially on to something.
That something is Heavy Fucken Metal. Rob Halford is the Heavy Metal singer. Cliched, snarly, catchy, ridiculously over the top. I hate falsetto singing with a passion, but I follow along to Rob’s soaring endeavours just fine, as they always seem to be there for a reason and complements his defiant snarl perfectly. Sure, he might not be able to do all that shit anymore, but the ease with which ole Rob has been pulling off most of his vocals (those within human ranges) keeps him running well, what, THIRTY-NINE YEARS! into his career in Priest. Jesus fucken Christ. Now the thing with vocals is, you will always find somebody who can’t stand something about them. That’s life. One thing that is definitely not up for debate however is what Rob Halford sings. His lyrics fucken defined metal, while Dickinson just rambles on about some book Steve Harris read. And who needs books when we can have robots, mansex, leather, motorcycles, highways, guitars, hammers, anvils, robots, mansex, leather…
1. Bruce Dickinson – Iron Maiden/Solo
The man. The Air Raid Siren. The solo artist. The fencer. The pilot. The legend. Bruce Dickinson is, without a doubt, the single greatest vocalist who has ever lived. This is not my opinion. This is a fucken fact. Unless you’ve been living under some kvlt rock for the past 30 years, you probably fully understand Dickinson’s historical impact on the metal scene as a whole. Before his arrival in Iron Maiden, the band was absolutely world class, but following his induction with the indescribably classic “The number of the beast”, the band became larger than life, becoming something almost unreal, titanic and legendary, and it was really his doing.
Even when he left Iron Maiden to focus on his surprisingly impressive (albeit noticeably different from Maiden) solo career, the world, and Blaze Bayley in particular, found out just how irreplaceable the man is as a vocalist, showman, and figurehead. Even his charisma on stage is unmatched, as he has demonstrated over the past three decades by figuratively holding his entire audience firmly in the palm of his hand night after night. There has never been and never will be another like Bruce Dickinson. He’s the best there will ever be. And there are millions upon millions around the globe who will agree.