Some vocalists choose to express emotion through carefully calculated notes; some choose to throw those notes out the window and let the abrasion of their vocal chords send the message. Though there’s no right or wrong way to channel your lyrical efforts (unless you happen to remember brokeNCYDE), the following vocalists give us the best of both worlds, delivering elegant melodies with ease and descending into demonic verses within the same breath. Move over Mariah – these guys are here to give vocal range a whole new meaning.
Quantifying Mike Patton’s talent would be as difficult as confining the Faith No More singer to a single genre. Surpassing all expectations and boundaries, from rap to jazz to the absolute bizarre, Patton can be a smooth and sensual crooner in the context of his Italian orchestral project Mondo Cane, and a shiver-inducing maniac when fronting experimental metal bands like Mr. Bungle, Fantomas or Tomahawk. To put things into perspective, Patton’s unhinged screeches and blood-curdling gurgles have even earned him voiceover work as ungodly creations for video games like Left 4 Dead and The Darkness.
Distinct for his reverb-dripping lulls that can soothe even the most savage beast, the Deftones frontman’s voice is the calm before the storm when he wants it to be, before erupting into voice box-breaking screams over guitarist Stephen Carpenter’s thunderous seven-string chugs. Having softened his approach on recent recording efforts after relentless touring in the past shot his voice to sh*t (that’s the correct medical terminology, right?), Moreno still has the cojones to explode with piercing shrieks at critical moments, and then recoil into fragile verses to put you back to sleep.
Whether the mask is on or not, Corey Taylor’s characteristic pipes are rage and vulnerability rolled into one throat. While his Slipknot debut was a jaw-dropping wall of aggression that had listeners pleading for him to take a cough lozenge, the vocalist has since proven that he’s not too shy to throw in some melody while commanding devout “maggots” through impassioned growls. The side project Stone Sour is a safe choice for the uninitiated in exploring Taylor’s deeply personal lyrics, but nothing comes close to witnessing the headbanging fury of the singer when with his eight other masked madmen.
The self-described prophet has gone from strength to strength with each album under DIR EN GREY’s belt – so much so that comparing the band’s first album to its most recent would lead to the assumption that there’d been a change in frontman. From soaring, operatic vocal exercises to demon-conjuring death growls and deafening screeches that’d put a wailing witch to shame, Kyo is a seasoned master of transforming the human voice (just look at what it’s done for his abs). Exploring the themes of despair and suffering, we couldn’t think of a more fitting voice to get the message across.
Perfectly blending beast-mode growls with the operatic tenor of Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, the Protest The Hero vocalist is as skilled with his chosen instrument as his fellow bandmates of the math/metalcore outfit. While he’ll make you belly laugh for his infectious personality off-stage (see his Asking Alexandria “audition” if you need to turn around a bad day), there’s nothing funny about his ability to switch from soft falsettos to jazz-like scat-screaming in a heartbeat, before delivering powerful soliloquies of epic battles in the same vein as Dio.
While there’s much (constant) debate surrounding who’d come out as the victor in a sing-off between Howard Jones and ex-turned-current Killswitch Engage singer Jesse Leach, there’s no denying Jones’ sheer force when the mic was under his reign. With a majestic baritone register that could lead men into battle and cement mixer screams that could send enemy forces running, the vocalist has come back with a vengeance in his new group, Devil You Know – and to show that they mean business, they’ve even reimagined Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” in glorious metal splendour.
With AFI’s roots in hardcore and punk, Davey Havok was accustomed to vocal ferocity at breakneck speeds early in the game. While the frontman might not be pulling off the same characteristic yells that he used to today, there’s still plenty of gravel in Havok’s voice to balance out his masterful high-pitched melodies. After 21 years of exploring the darker side of punk rock (and pioneering glittering eye shadow to make it acceptable among the emo movement that followed), the singer has gone from appearing on Broadway as the lead in the American Idiot musical to returning to snarling straight-edge hardcore in XTRMST.
The distinction between clean and growled vocals may divide many, but there’s one thing that all fans of metal can agree upon: Mikael Åkerfeldt. Whether he’s blowing your mind with technical precision and angelic vocals in Opeth, or inspiring destruction with demonic aplomb in the aptly-named super-group, Bloodbath, Åkerfeldt undisputedly remains a forerunner of the Swedish metal elite. Although he’s hung up the spurs on being the devil incarnate in the latter outfit, the musician continues to wake metalheads from the slumber he put them in with merciless growls in the progressive opuses of the former.