I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked me, “Hey Brainfart. Who are your favorite heavy metal vocalists. I feel like I answer this question differently every time I’m asked but for some reason I find myself picking pretty much the same ones all the time. I never really get asked to put them in any kind of order but for the most part, I always seem to pull from the same roster of singers. This had me thinking that it was time for a challenge.
I decided to challenge myself and make myself pick 20 metal vocalists and split them into two Top 10 lists. The first list which you see here is my list of my Top 10 Classic Metal vocalists. If there is a singer that did not make this list, that doesn’t mean that I think they suck or anything like that. What this list shows you (and myself) is that when put on the spot to list my 10 favorite classic metal singers, these were the ones that came to the top of my head first and foremost. Once that list was compiled I struggled to arrange them in order of greatness in my mind. I’m sure this will generate a shit storm of sorts so bring it on. For now, enjoy my Top 10 list of my favorite classic metal vocalists.
#10: Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P
Highlights: I Wanna Be Somebody, The Headless Children, Forever Free
Blackie will always be one of metal’s most underrated vocalists. He never seems to make any lists but the man’s voice is out of this fucking world. Blackie’s voice is a very distinct one and from what I have heard he has managed to maintain it pretty well over the years. Originally the bassist/vocalist for W.A.S.P, Blackie switched to guitar/vocals when the band recruited bassist Johnny Rod for their 1986 album Inside The Electric Circus. This allowed Blackie to also show off his chops as a really great guitarist as well. Much like Paul Stanley, Blackie can work an audience like it’s nobody’s business and his depth and range as a vocalist never ceases to amaze me.
#9: Paul DiAnno
Highlights: Remember Tomorrow, Purgatory, The Living Dead
Paul DiAnno did in two albums what most singers don’t do in a fucking life time. DiAnno was the voice on two of the most influential heavy metal albums to date and some will even argue that they are Iron Maiden’s best albums. I personally feel that with DiAnno, Iron Maiden was a different band. DiAnno had this natural, street voice that embodied a punk influence. His voice didn’t have much depth but the guy could push his voice to the max and really tear through that ceiling. This is probably why the poor bloke doesn’t have much of a voice these days. Aside from his work in Iron Maiden, he did have some pretty cool moments afterwards like his work with Battlezone and even his Living Dead album from 2006 which was actually quite stellar and didn’t get nearly the attention that it should’ve received.
#8: Rob Halford of Judas Priest
Highlights: Electric Eye, Painkiller, You’ve Got Another Thing Coming
How can you have a list like this and not include Judas Priest? As a whole, Priest’s catalog might not be all that consistently great but Halford has forever been one of metal’s reigning kings. While people hold him so high up on the pedestal, I personally don’t consider him the best. Halford is an amazing vocalist with a range that will blow your damned face off but watching the man perform is like watching paint dry. He really lacks any kind of stage presence but chooses to let his voice do all the work. Over the years, Halford’s voice has lost its dynamic range and he really struggles with his upper register but the work that he has done over the years just solidifies himself as a true metal god (pun intended).
#7: Doro Pesch
Highlights: All We Are, I Rule the Ruins, Whiter Shade of Pale
Doro Pesch. The female Dio! For nearly 30 years, Doro Pesch has been the reigning queen of metal. Much like Dee Snider, Doro’s voice may not be all that dynamic but it’s powerful, it’s distinct, and the range of her voice makes the hair on my arms stand up at full attention. Her work in Warlock and as a solo artist has been some of my favorite metal and finally getting to see her live this year was something to definitely scratch off my bucket list. Doro really looked to Ronnie James Dio as more than just a peer. She looked to him as somewhat of a teacher because you can tell by just watching her live that she went to the Dio School of Awesomeness and graduated with honors. Her voice is every bit as strong now it not more so than it ever has been.
#6: Dee Snider of Twisted Sister
Highlights: The Kids Are Back, Stay Hungry, The Widowmaker
Dee Snider is yet another singer that never seems to make any lists which I will never understand for the life of me. Dee has been a voice to be reckoned with for well over 30 years and has sang on some of the most unsung classic metal albums. Dee is an amazing front man live and just like a great front man should, he knows how to deliver the goods 100% live and engage a crowd. Aside from Twisted Sister, Dee has done vocals for Desperado, Widowmaker, and even this Halloween stage production Van Helsing’s Curse. Dee’s voice isn’t a really versatile or dynamic one but it’s a very distinct voice and 30+ years later his voice hasn’t changed a bit and still possesses all the power and glory that it did so many years ago.
#5: Geoff Tate of Queensryche
Highlights: Take Hold of the Flame, Anybody Listening?, The Real World
What can be said about Geoff Tate that hasn’t already been said? Geoff is without a doubt a cut above the rest when it comes to dynamics, range, and just flat out amazing vocals. As the singer for Queensryche, Geoff Tate made his mark on the metal world with a distinctive voice and showmanship that has left many audiences with their jaws on the floor. Over the years, Geoff’s role in Queensryche became somewhat questionable as the band’s material seemed to steer into some truly strange waters. Even Geoff’s voice over the years has lost a lot of its dynamic range but like any other great singer has found a way to embrace it and truly make it work. Geoff Tate is a very passionate singer and without a doubt an iconic heavy metal vocalist.
#4: Paul Stanley of KISS
Highlights: Black Diamond, I Still Love You, Creatures of the Night
Many people will argue over whether KISS is actually metal or not but this is my site and what I say goes. I say KISS is every bit as metal as any band. They totally embody the attitude, the volume, and the power that makes up a true metal band and they’ve been doing it for a long time. There’s no denying that Paul Stanley is one of the greatest frontmen of all time. He can work an audience like nobody I’ve ever seen and his voice alone is full of soul, passion, and just plain out awesomeness. Let’s not forget too that Paul is really quite a great guitarist. Forget about that crummy solo he does on Animalize Live but just as a whole, his rhythm work is really quite great and he never gets attention for that either.
#3: Alice Cooper
Highlights: Teenage Lament ’74, Generation Landslide, Public Animal #9
Alice Cooper never gets his credit as being a really great singer. I mean, he may not be as operatic as Geoff Tate or as dynamic and strong as Bruce Dickinson but Alice has a really strong voice that in my opinion sets him apart from the pack. Alice’s voice is a gritty, rock n’ roll voice that is full of character and surprising range. I mean, he’s not hitting those insane Rob Halford notes but he has a great way of singing with some unbridled emotion and at times some soul. When I sit down and really listen to Alice sing I hear a singer who is giving it all he’s got and really feeling the songs that he is singing. When you hear an Alice Cooper song, you know it’s Alice Cooper. Alice has been at it much longer than any of the others on this list and I can honestly tell you that he’s still got it. He still brings it to the stage and gives 100% every night. Alice Cooper has the kind of voice that you can’t go to school to get. It’s a natural rock n’ roll voice that’s all his.
#2: Ronnie James Dio
Highlights: Temple of the King, Sign of the Southern Cross, Holy Diver
Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio, and Heaven & Hell. There’s a reason why Ronnie James Dio has the god status that he has. Dio had a voice that was so dynamic and versatile. He could sing this beautiful, mellow intro to a song with a pristine falsetto and then all of the sudden just drop the wrath of metal right on your ass like an atomic bomb. Dio was a vocalist with a voice that was 10 times larger than many of his peers and at 5’4, he had a stage presence that made him larger than life. Ronnie James Dio is a truly eternal legend with a voice and a legacy that will carry on for many generations to come. As long as there are kids out there just trying to find their way, Dio will always be there to guide them through with flaming sword in hand. LOOK OUT!
#1: Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden
Highlights: Revelations, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kill Devil Hill
Bruce Dickinson is my all time favorite heavy metal singer and has been since first hearing him in 1984. Powerslave was the first time I ever heard a singer like that and my 11 year old brain was forever blown. At 54 years old, Bruce super close to getting those discount meals at Denny’s and IHop but more importantly, he’s still blowing minds and melting the faces of a whole new generation. From his work with Samson, his work in Iron Maiden, and his even more impressive and stellar career as a solo artist, Bruce Dickinson has proved to be heavy metal’s complete and total package. He has the range, the depth, the heart, and the unbridled passion now that he had has a young man trying to make his mark on the face of heavy metal. On the bands 2012 Maiden England tour, Bruce was proving to the masses just why he is the greatest singer and front man the in world. It’s my guess that at the rate he’s going, we’ll be seeing Bruce Dickinson continuing to rule the roost for many years to come. Even long after he’s gone, much like Ronnie James Dio, there will never be another to even compare to.