10 Mesmerizing High Notes by Metal Vocalists
Metal music rightfully claims the distinction of showcasing some of the world’s greatest voices. Regardless of metal’s evolution or trends, the high shriek, scream or clean note has always been welcomed by fans in most every metal subgenre.
In celebrating the most powerful high notes struck by metal singers, we’ve combed through heavy metal, thrash, prog, death metal, experimental metal and more to find singular moments that leave the jaw dropped and the spine tingling. From Judas Priest‘s Rob Halford and Iron Maiden‘s Bruce Dickinson to Tool‘s Maynard James Keenan and Dream Theater‘s James LaBrie, these are our picks for 10 Mesmerizing High Notes by Metal Vocalists:
Ronnie James Dio
When Black Sabbath parted ways with iconic vocalist Ozzy Osbourne in 1979, perhaps the biggest shoes to fill in metal were left empty. In a brilliant visionary move by Sabbath, the legends recruited Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio, and two albums into Dio’s career with Black Sabbath, ‘The Mob Rules’ was put to tape. Opening ‘The Mob Rules’ with a bang, Dio hits an insane note, which he continued to hit night after night until his tragic passing in 2010 at the age of 67. Only three years before Dio’s death, the Dio edition of Black Sabbath (under the name of Heaven & Hell) performed at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, and Dio nailed the soaring note with perfect precision.
The Judas Priest classic ‘Victim of Changes’ was unleashed through their 1976 studio album, ‘Sad Wings of Destiny.’ The epic already boasts one of the greatest riffs in rock and metal history, but the vocal performance of Rob Halford on the track displays the Metal God’s full range, but most notably, his high wails. Along with Halford hitting a shrieking reprise near the end of ‘Victim of Changes,’ he goes even higher while screaming “No!” multiple times. The greatness of Halford’s vocal part is documented beautifully during this performance of the song from 1982.
Judas Priest’s ‘Painkiller’ is easily one of the best metal songs ever written, but Death‘s cover of the classic track is one of the greatest metal covers of all time. There are some who feel Death’s version is even better than the Priest original, and the vocal performance of Death frontman Chuck Schuldiner is the leading point of that argument. The Death cover claims its own identity almost immediately as Schuldiner belts a sick ascending scream during the song’s intro, which was originally left untouched by Rob Halford in the Judas Priest version. Schuldiner’s ability to control his guttural was truly incredible, and is one reason why we miss the brilliant frontman so deeply.
Maynard James Keenan
This high note is a bit different from the others you’ll encounter on our list. It’s not a sky-high falsetto or a piercing scream … it’s simply Tool singer Maynard James Keenan‘s most spotlit note to date. Released on the band’s 1996 full-length, ‘Ænima,’ the near 10-minute ‘Pushit’ culminates with beautiful soaring vocals, most notably while singing the lyric, “I must persuade you another way.” The note hit on the word “way” causes time to stop and the soul to levitate, constantly inspiring frenzied roars from Tool’s audience when ‘Pushit’ is performed live.
The most recent track featured on our list, Overkill‘s ‘Wish You Were Dead’ showcases proof of why Bobby Blitz possesses one of metal’s finest voices. Appearing on ‘The Electric Age’ in 2012, ‘Wish You Were Dead’ begins with one of the sickest siren screams ever put to tape. Blitz puts out a crescendoed wail that rises rapidly in pitch, holding it at the highest point possible before violently dropping the scream downward. After nailing the huge note, Overkill’s dual guitar attack gives Blitz some well-deserved time to recover before launching into the song’s first verse.
Dani Filth is a human tea kettle. The vocalist’s range is devastatingly huge, and Filth constantly utilizes his unique abilities to inject a tremendous amount of character into Cradle of Filth‘s music. You can experience Filth’s high wails in much of Cradle’s discography, but the way Dani Filth sustains his shriek in ‘The Death of Love’ is simply inhuman. Hanging onto the word ‘Love,’ Dani Filth stretches the high note for almost 10 seconds. We’re sure the technique requires some serious concentration, but Filth makes it look and sound easy each and every time.
James LaBrie holds claim to one of metal’s most celebrated clean voices. From Dream Theater’s iconic album ‘Images and Words,’ this next high note is found on the record’s final track, ‘Learning to Live.’ During this particular part of the song, LaBrie continues to ascend in pitch, teasing a magical high note which fans mentally beg LaBrie to hit. After the build-up, the vocalist finally reaches the desired peak before guitarist John Petrucci transitions into a new part of the song with a mind-bending solo.
Dir En Grey vocalist Kyo has got some serious range. Sporting incredibly low death metal gutturals, Kyo can also turn a complete 180 as one of metal’s highest shriekers. The track ‘Dozing Green’ was released simply as a single on iTunes in 2007 and released once again on the band’s 2008 full-length album, ‘Uroboros.’ After a soft, creepy lullaby, ‘Dozing Green’ become terrifying as Kyo hits four high-pitched screams, putting 100-percent of his energy into the vocal part. Believe us, this is seriously impressive.
Perhaps metal’s most celebrated falsetto vocalist, King Diamond first gained his fame as a member of Mercyful Fate. However, after the group disbanded in 1985, King Diamond went on to create some brilliant solo works, including his 1987 opus ‘Abigail.’ The singer hits some of his greatest falsetto notes within the ‘Abigail’ album’s title track, brilliantly weaving the lyrics, “I am alive inside your wife / Miriam’s dead, I am her head / Soon I’ll be free!“
It’s the note. It’s the moment Satan himself entered the body of Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson and belted out an iconic scream … one which has never been replicated by Dickinson since. Iron Maiden recruited Dickinson right in time to record the classic album ‘The Number of the Beast’ shortly after classic member Paul Di’Anno left the group. The buildup to Dickinson’s scream is perfect, detailing an horrific Satanic nightmare experienced from the viewpoint of the song’s protagonist. Straight from the pipes of one of metal’s greatest vocalists, the high shriek within ‘The Number of the Beast’ is one of the most important moments in Iron Maiden’s history.