Top 25 Rock + Metal Replacement Singers
One of the most fearful things that can happen to a band is having to replace their lead singer. After putting in all of the hard work to establish the band, the departure of a singer can spell doom for some acts. But there are a number of instances where the new singer kept the momentum going and, in some cases, even elevated the band to new heights.
While we can get so attached to a singer’s voice, we never know what to expect when someone new takes the reigns. Below, you will find a host of singers who either replaced already legendary frontmen or kickstarted a band’s career as we presents the Top 25 Rock + Metal Replacement Singers:
Udo Dirkshneider was considered the only true singer for Accept, so when fans heard that the band would be reforming and writing new music without Udo, many had their doubts. Mark Tornillo’s gritty singing not only does justice to the classic Accept material, but he also does a stellar job on the pounding new albums the German band has contributed to its extensive catalog. The singer immediately won over the fans, which was a task considered nearly impossible.
Johan Längquist was hired as a session vocalist for the Candlemass debut ‘Epicus Doomicus Metallicus’ and parted ways with the band soon after, despite being begged to stay. Messiah Marcolin was brought in and his operatic style is a trademark of the Candlemass sound. The band, heavily influenced by Black Sabbath, is one of doom’s finest acts and certainly unmistakable due to Marcolin’s bellow. His style helped propel the fantasy-based lyrics, turning every song into an epic tale.
When Johan Liiva was let go from Arch Enemy for inadequate live performances, the band recruited Angela Gossow to front the band. Her mid-ranged growls were a stark difference to the more shouted and barked style of Liiva. Gossow’s vocals drew comparisons to Carcass frontman Jeff Walker, however, her aggression and energy prove she is not just a Walker copy, with her dominating stage presence rivaling the intensity of her voice.
After Jerry Cantrell’s decision to resurrect the legendary grunge metal outfit Alice in Chains, the most daunting task he faced was finding a replacement for the late Layne Staley. Rather than selecting a mere clone of Staley, Cantrell chose DuVall, who has a distinctly different voice to help ring in the new era of the pivotal band. He has not only proven himself onstage, but also on the band’s two most recent albums.
Todd La Torre
When tensions mounted between Geoff Tate and the rest of the band, Queensrÿche parted ways with the only singer they’ve ever had. In turn, former Crimson Glory singer Todd La Torre was sought as Tate’s successor. Initially just playing two shows under the moniker Rising West, the band played a host of old Queensrÿche songs to wild fanfare. La Torre became the new singer for the band featuring three remaining founding members and collaborated with them to release the self-titled album ‘Queensrÿche.’ La Torre has the ability to nail all of the old songs, while putting his own feel into them and distinguishing himself enough from Tate.
Upon the exit of John Arch from Fates Warning, the band wanted to change their name to reflect the new direction, shifting from power metal to progressive metal. Metal Blade denied their wish, and thus, they continued as Fates Warning. Ray Alder initially followed in the footsteps of Arch, maintaining the ear-piercing falsetto style, but soon stepped back from this approach in favor of more traditional singing. While his voice has lowered with age, Alder has remained impeccable, melding his beautiful voice over the heavier rhythms of Fates Warning.
Symphony X’s self-titled record served as a formidable debut album, but where they really stepped things up was the following year with ‘The Damnation Game.’ This album saw the entrance of Russell Allen, who replaced Rod Tyler after Tyler parted ways with the progressive metal act. His dynamic range brought just what was needed in the Symphony X mix. Over the last decade, Allen’s voice has taken on a grittier tone to compliment the more rhythmic driven music, though he still has the ability to let loose and belt out a few falsettos to show he hasn’t lost a thing.
Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza
Following the thrash classic ‘Bonded by Blood,’ Exodus moved on from the raspy shrieks of Paul Baloff and on to Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza. While his attack is more domesticated than Baloff’s, he brought a more fluid sound to the vocal section of Exodus records. His presence is truly best recognized on the live album ‘Good Friendly Violent Fun,’ which even includes an AC/DC cover of ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.’ Zetro has since been replaced in Exodus by Rob Dukes.
Jesse Leach quit Killswitch Engage a few days before a show, leaving the band with a sudden vacancy behind the microphone. Blood Has Been Shed vocalist Howard Jones contacted the band upon hearing about Leach’s departure and quickly took over as the frontman. Jones made his debut with the band on the landmark metalcore release ‘The End of Heartache,’ which features one of the genre’s most notable songs, ‘Rose of Sharyn.’ Jones has since left Killswitch Engage, paving the way for Jesse Leach to re-enter the band.
Iced Earth mainman Jon Schaffer asked singer John Greely to take singing lessons before recording the followup to ‘Night of the Stormrider.’ Insulted, Greely refused and left the band, making way for Matt Barlow to take his place and cement Iced Earth’s legacy. Barlow’s staggering range and control gave Iced Earth what they were missing. After two stints in the band, Barlow is no longer in Iced Earth, with Stu Block serving as their current singer.
George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher
Chris Barnes helped put Cannibal Corpse at the top of the death metal heap with his ultra-low guttural vocals and vividly graphic lyrics. Following a lack of commitment and declining vocal ability, Barnes was booted from the band and George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher was named the successor. Fisher came from Florida death metal act Monstrosity and brought his rapid vocal delivery attack as a new dynamic to the controversial group. His stage presence is daunting as he windmill headbangs through nearly entire sets between spewing forth the brutality through his menacing voice.
Following Dimitri Minakakis’ departure from the band in order to focus on graphic arts and design, the Dillinger Escape Plan launched a search for a new vocalist. Greg Puciato won the job and has made a name for himself as the band’s frontman. Puciato ups the ante on the high-energy show from the rest of the band by climbing on top of things onstage and jumping off of them, among other dangerous feats. The depth of his lyrics mirror the technicality of the band, proving he was the best fit for the job.
Chuck Moseley was shown the door in 1988 due to his misbehavior, with the final straw coming when he fell asleep on stage at the ‘Introduce Yourself’ release party. Mr. Bungle singer Mike Patton was recruited and the new era of Faith No More was under way. Patton’s diverse and eclectic taste in music brought stronger vocal performances to the band along with his whacky and captivating stage presence. This combination was a perfect match for the expansive and dynamic music that the band would go on to release.
Barney Greenway sounds like a swamp monster rising from the murky depths in a violent rage. His style is taken from a self-professed adoration of Massacre’s Kam Lee. The departure from the barked style of former Napalm Death singer Lee Dorrian suited the new sonic approach of the pioneering grindcore band. Over time, Barney’s voice has become more frightening with each release. His stage presence is unparalleled as he seemingly throws a tantrum and fights ghosts on stage when he’s not shouting in a psychotic fit of fury.
Neil Turbin’s termination from Anthrax opened the door for one of thrash’s iconic singers to take to the stage and studio. Joey Belladonna brought a new element to the budding thrash genre, applying more of a traditional metal singing style to the fast-paced music. Most other thrash bands placed singing ability low on the priority list and were content with raw and aggressive singers who had a bit of a bite to their style. Belladonna’s style along with Anthrax’s stuttered riffing attack helped them sign to the major label Island Records in 1985.
Celebrated Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan had left the band in 1973, leaving the rock group without a singer. They hired bassist Glenn Hughes to pull double duty, but ultimately the band went with a two-vocal attack. After holding auditions for a new singer, they landed on the unknown David Coverdale. Fronting one of the biggest bands in the world as an unknown singer was a daunting task to say the least, but Coverdale handled it with aplomb and recorded three records with the band in just three years, including the exceptional ‘Burn.’
Kai Hansen was handling guitar and vocal duties on the first Helloween album and expressed his desire to step away from fronting the band. In a search for a new singer in 1986, the German group discovered Michael Kiske, who was a mere 18 years old at the time. Despite his age, Kiske had incredible vocal control and a soaring range that propelled Helloween as they unleashed ‘The Keepers of the Seven Keys Pt. I & II’ in 1987 and 1988 respectively. His style along with Helloween’s blend of speed and melody helped spawn the power metal genre.
Two years after letting go of Charlie Dominici due to the limitations of his style, Dream Theater recruited James Labrie after hundreds of singer auditions and a short-lived hire of one. Labrie’s control was something the band desired and is an aspect of his singing that is regarded so highly among fans and fellow musicians alike. The progressive band analyze every nuance of their music, ensuring everything is perfect, and Labrie’s more than capable singing fits this ethos.
Tensions rose in Van Halen after the 1984 Tour, with each band member citing different reasons that ultimately lead to David Lee Roth parting ways with Van Halen. In one of the most divisive moves in rock history, Sammy Hagar became the new frontman for the band. This also reflected a change in style for the band, to which many fans cried foul and others reacted with overwhelming positivity. Regardless of which side you take on the split, every Van Halen album with Hagar hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
Ronnie James Dio
As Black Sabbath hit a wall in the late ’70s with two underwhelming albums, tensions came to an apex and Ozzy Osbourne was ousted from the group. The remaining members dialed up Ronnie James Dio who was fresh out of three spectacular albums with Rainbow. Black Sabbath overhauled their sound, which was a perfect fit for the fantastical lyrics penned by Dio. Despite such a short tenure with the band, ‘Heaven and Hell’ and ‘The Mob Rules’ are still regarded as legendary releases and serve as a testament to the power of Dio’s presence.
Although Slipknot don’t acknowledge ‘Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat.’ as their debut album, when push comes to shove, it is their first disc. The band was then fronted by Anders Colsefni, who dropped back to perform backing vocal and percussion. Slipknot sought more melody with a singer and recruited Corey Taylor from Stone Sour. Ever since, Taylor has been a lethal force onstage, commanding the crowd and countering his barking vocals with catchy, clean-sung vocal hooks that helped the band to be so successful.
After three albums with Rod Evans handling vocals, Deep Purple decided to move in a heavier direction and needed a new singer who would fit the style. Evans went on to form Captain Beyond while Ian Gillan was brought in and the MKII lineup of the band was formed. They saw massive commercial success with Gillian, contributing some of the most essential albums to the rock pantheon like ‘Deep Purple in Rock,’ ‘Fireball,’ ‘Machine Head,’ and ‘Who Do We Think We Are.’
Desiring to get heavier in the late ‘80s, Pantera decided singer Terry Glaze would not fit the new direction and they sought a replacement. After a couple temporary singers, Pantera landed on Phil Anselmo. They recorded the underrated ‘Power Metal’ with Anselmo singing in a falsetto voice and promptly switched styles under Phil’s influence. What came was total heavy metal domination in the ‘90s with Anselmo’s bobcat-like shrieks and menacing stage presence laying waste to ears.
In the wake of Bon Scott’s tragic passing, AC/DC considered hanging it up, but persevered under the insistence from Scott’s parents. Brian Johnson was brought in for an audition and was hired shortly after, immediately delivering vocals on the landmark disc ‘Back in Black,’ one of the most successful albums in music history. This was the beginning of the rebirth of the band and they’ve continued to dominate airwaves ever since.
Paul Di’Anno’s drug habits and declining performances lead to his departure from Iron Maiden. Samson singer Bruce Dickinson was auditioned to fill the void and immediately won the job. He debuted on ‘The Number of the Beast’ with a dazzling vocal performance which was just the beginning. His stage presence and control of the crowd is a feat to behold as he leaps and runs around the stage, never missing a word. Bruce’s return to Iron Maiden in 1999 has seen the band take the world by storm all over again, selling out stadiums around the globe and proving that he is the unparalleled best replacement singer any band has ever found.