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From AC/DC to Behemoth, Metallica to Within Temptation, metal music has justified its rabid fanbase since the late ’60s. It’s loud, it’s got screaming, and sometimes even growling—all things that can be strange to those who aren’t familiar with the genre, but are sublime to adherents. It takes tremendous talent to be a metal vocalist, and these singers don’t get to rely on autotune as most pop artists do.
Ready to learn more about metal music and the vocalists behind the genre? Read on to discover the best 20 metal vocalists of all time.
1. Brian Johnson
It was hard to pick just one of the best metal vocalists of all time to be the top one, but Brian Johnson can’t be beat. Known for his work with the band AC/DC, there are millions around the world who know his voice, even if they don’t know his name. AC/DC may have never reached widespread success in the 80s without his distinctive voice and accent carrying their famous tunes.
Related: 51 Best British Singers
2. Rob Halford
Judas Priest was formed in 1969 with Robert Halford as the lead vocalist. One of the best metal vocalists of the 20th century, Rob can sing everything, from growls and grunts to operatic notes, which is something that can’t be said for every metal singer—as many rely on a backup singer to provide grunt vocals.
3. Ronnie James Dio
Ronnie James Dio of Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and a celebrated solo career is highly regarded by his fans for his amazing voice. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2010, but his distinctive voice will never be forgotten in the metal genre.
4. Sharon Den Adel
Women can sing metal, too. Don’t believe us? Give Within Temptation a listen. A Dutch metal band formed in the 1990s, lead singer Sharon Den Adel is regarded as one of the best female singers of all time. With a range that includes high operatic notes, as well as screaming, she’s definitely earned her spot as one of the best metal vocalists of our generation.
Related: 25 Songs That Make You Smarter
5. James Hetfield
Famed for his work with the band Metallica in the 1990s, James Hetfield is technically a guitarist first, but when he does sing in Metallica songs, it takes listeners to another dimension. While he may have spent most of his career on the guitar, we just know he was born to sing metal music.
Related: 35 Best Metallica Songs, Ranked
6. Floor Jansen
The second woman to be regarded as one of the best metal vocalists, Dutch singer Floor Jansen is currently the lead singer of Nightwish, taking over for Tarja Turunen when she left to focus on her solo career. With an impressive range that she has been exploring since the age of 16, Floor Jansen is still at the beginning of her career, and we are curious to see what she accomplishes during her lifetime.
7. Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy Osbourne didn’t earn his name “Prince of Darkness” for nothing. His talent as a metal singer and performer has led to his well-earned legendary status.
Related: 10 Best Ozzy Osbourne Songs
8. Phil Anselmo
You know you’re one of the best metal vocalists of all time when you’ve played in not one but three celebrated heavy metal bands. Most well-known for his work with Pantera, Phil Anselmo also brought his vocal talents to Down and Superjoint and has even formed his own record label for metal bands.
9. Klaus Meine
Of course, we had to add Klaus Meine to the list. While he is more well-known for the rock music he produced with The Scorpions, he’s performed numerous screaming parts in songs, leading to him having two vocal surgeries during his extensive music career.
10. Axl Rose
Fans of Guns N’ Roses know that the band wouldn’t be the same without Axl Rose. With a wide vocal range, Axl Rose isn’t just known as one of the best metal vocalists, but he is also regarded as one of the best singers of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine.
11. Corey Taylor
Famous for his work with the metal band Slipknot, Corey Taylor has a range that is unparalleled. Whether he is singing to the melody, growling the under lyrics, or screaming, he’s truly one of a kind, no backup grunt vocalist is needed.
12. David Draiman
David Draiman is the lead singer of Disturbed, which is arguably the band that brought metal music to the mainstream in the late 90s and early 00s. While his vocal quality has sadly degraded with age (and too much screaming over the years), we still think he is truly one of the greats!
13. Amy Lee
Amy Lee is the lead singer of Evanescence, which she formed by herself at the age of 13. With an astounding voice that can hit highs as well as scream lows, she is not only one of the best singers, but she is also regarded as an amazing songwriter by the National Music Publishers Association.
14. Tarja Turunen
Tarja Turunen started out with the Finnish metal band Nightwish before branching off to focus on her solo career in 2005. Known as one of only 52 famous singers who have a three-octave vocal range (Floor Jansen, Celine Dion, and Chester Bennington are a few others), Tarja’s masterful operatic vocals make her a legend in metal music history.
15. Simone Simmons
The last female singer to be labeled as one of the best metal vocalists, Simone Simmons is famous for her work with the Dutch metal band Epica. While Simone mostly focuses on operatic vocals and leaves the growling to grunt vocalist Mark Jansen, their songs have some intense screaming moments by Simone, which are awe-inspiring to metal heads around the world.
16. Dave Mustaine
No one does metal like the band Megadeath, so it’s no surprise that Dave Mustaine is one of the best metal vocalists. What’s even more impressive is that Dave Mustaine continues to sing to this day, even after battling throat cancer in 2019.
17. Joey Belladonna
Joey Belladonna is the only one of the best metal vocalists to be born of Native American descent (Iroquois, to be exact). Known for his time with the band Anthrax, Joey actually started his career as a metal singer in 1983 with the band Bible Black. Although he’s now in his 60s, Joey continues to focus on his singing career, releasing the song “For All Kings” in 2016, which topped the charts at position 9.
18. Bruce Dickenson
Best known for his time with Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickenson was named the best metal vocalist by London’s Singing Institute. Although we think their pool of candidates was a bit on the small side, there is no denying that Bruce has raw talent, which is partially responsible for the fame of Iron Maiden.
19. Chester Bennington
Chester Bennington was the lead singer of the band Linkin Park before his death in 2017. While Linkin Park was widely categorized in the rock genre, Chester was able to scream in a raw voice, making him one of the best metal vocalists even though he wasn’t often performing in the genre.
20. Lemmy Kilmister
Lemmy Kilmister is known around the world for his raw, gravelly voice, which would hurt most bands but, in his case, served to make Motorhead famous. He is most well-known for his performances in the songs “Ace of Spades” and “Overkill.”
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