The 10 Worst Replacement Members in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal

Tim Ownes by Alexandre Cardoso (via Wikipedia). Buckethead by Jhayne (via Wikipedia)
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You can never really expect your favorite bands to go on and on until the end of time. Time makes every family grow apart, and some of the biggest bands in the world have fallen prey to losing a few great players along the way.

It’s natural to want to play with other people, but these might not have been the best people for the job. Before we get into this, that’s not to say that these people are terrible musicians at all. Quite the contrary.

In most cases, these are world class musicians behind their instrument and have been able to pump out some genuinely amazing stuff.

The problem here was simply how well they fit into the band they’re a part of, and something about these guys coming together didn’t seem to gel once they put on their instruments to write a song or play a show.

Although the albums they were a part of made for a handful of decent songs here and there, it wasn’t long for the fans to voice their disapproval as well, not showing up for the tours or buying their records and leading to the band either breaking up or getting the original lineup back together.

Even with all of the band drama that comes and goes, each of these replacement members tended to teach the band a valuable lesson. There’s a certain magic when you come together with the right musical team, so best to not sweat the small stuff and just enjoy the ride.

Dan Nelson – Anthrax

One of the biggest appeals of Anthrax was just how different both versions of the band sounded. Although Joey Belladonna may have given them a bit of a melodic edge in the days of Among the Living, the lion’s roar that came out of John Bush’s mouth every time he sang songs like “Only” gave them the same kind of edge that Metallica had, putting a lot more muscle behind Scott Ian’s riffs of steel.

By the time the band were looking to reunite for a tour though, the band’s choice to continue on with Dan Nelson seemed doomed from the start. While John Bush had the pedigree of being the singer in Armored Saint years before he joined the band, Nelson’s more throaty shout just doesn’t really fit well in either era of the band, being more suited to a heavier stripe of metal.

Being locked up in personality troubles with both of the other singers, Dan’s iteration of the band almost seems like a parody of itself, only to lead to something that was a lot more earthy when the band started to work on Worship Music.

Though the songs were great, the writing was on the wall that Dan had to go, bringing Joey back into the band and staying there ever since then. It would have certainly been interesting to see what would happen if the band had gotten their way the first time by asking Corey Taylor to sing with them, but apparently we live in the timeline where Anthrax lost themselves in the ‘00s. 

Gary Cherone – Van Halen

By the end of 1984, Van Halen had seemed to do the impossible. After losing one of the most charismatic frontmen in rock history with David Lee Roth, the band regrouped and found Sammy Hagar to lead them into the next generation, bringing with him a more down to earth persona that clicked with the audience in a much different way than Diamond Dave’s ultimate party animal persona.

Once Sammy felt that the lifestyle had gotten to be too much though, the third time didn’t really end up being the charm for Van Halen. While bringing in Gary Cherone from the band Extreme may have sounded like a decent choice at the time, what came together on Van Halen III feels completely misguided, with no one being on the same page and songs that feel like they were stitched together rather than thought over for a little while.

Even though Gary has boatloads of talent as a singer, his choice to basically copy Sammy’s schtick just feels all off on this record, at some points sounding like an animal that desperately needs to be put out of its misery. Compared to the blockbuster sales of before, this was the first massive disappointment that Van Halen ever had, going past just being boring and having their fans sit through songs that are either boring at best and annoying at worst.

When you look at both versions of the band, Van Halen always thrived on having a singer who was about turning Eddie’s genius into actual songs. Now that Eddie was taking the wheel, the whole thing goes from nonstop party rock to creeping dangerously close to dad rock territory. 

BucketheadGuns N’ Roses

It wasn’t necessarily a mistake calling Guns N’ Roses the World’s Most Dangerous Band in the early years of the group. This was the rock and roll equivalent of a street gang, and it was going to be one hell of a ride trying to keep up with the kind of excesses they were bound to get into.

That kind of lifestyle is bound to catch up with you though, and once Axl Rose’s ego spun out of control, the original band that we knew was dead. Although the band floated around with different members for decades before Chinese Democracy was finally released, there was no way in hell that fans were going to welcome a Guns N’ Roses without Slash with open arms.

Instead of the wild rock and roll guitar player that we all knew and loved, we had to settle with Buckethead, who seemed so unhinged in the studio he practically gave Axl a run for his money. Aside from his insane chops behind the fretboard, Buckethead was known to really get into his persona when he was in the studio, going so far as to ask that a real chicken coop be installed in the studio so he could have some place to relax during the sessions.

When we actually heard the final record though, the band was virtually unrecognizable, sounding like some generic version of a hard rock outfit along with guitar licks that fit somewhere between Yngwie Malmsteen shredding and a Tom Morello glitchy noise depending on what part of the song you were in. GNR may have died the minute that Slash walked out, but Buckethead deserves something more than just being a replacement for an icon. Given both men’s pedigree, Axl and Buckethead feel like they’re more suited as the focus of some big nutty cartoon show than actual bandmates. 

Tim Ripper Owens – Judas Priest

Without Rob Halford fronting Judas Priest, one of the founders of heavy metal were as good as dead. While the band may not have started with Rob out front, his amazing screams was what made people want to come back for more every time they heard a song like “Painkiller.”

There’s no way to replace a Metal God, so when Rob left to do his own thing, the band settled on the next best thing: the cover band circuit. Bringing in Tim Ripper Owens because of his accuracy at singing Rob’s classic stuff in his tribute act British Steel, the new era of Priest in the ‘90s was frankly pretty underwhelming. Even though Halford’s efforts with a band like 2wo may have been divisive, Priest’s album Jugulator just sounded like playing the same old songs from Painkiller but with a new singer this time around.

Since Tim is known for singing some of the most high register parts of Rob’s repertoire, it was also strange to see them turning a corner on Demolition, tuning down to get in the nu metal crowd’s good graces and kneecapping Tim’s impressive range. Other bands on this list might want to try a new sound every now and again, but every metalheads’ prayers were answered when Rob finally came back in the early ‘00s, bringing together Angel of Retribution with the same kind of intensity that they had back in the early ‘90s.

For all of the bad blood that may have gone down with Rob’s dismissal in the first place, the Metal God deserves a place on his throne until the end of time. 

Franz Stahl – Foo Fighters

When the Foo Fighters were first getting started in the music industry, they were still a baby band. Since this was just a fun experiment that Dave was doing out of a studio in Seattle, all the attention that was generated their way made for some of the most high profile growing pains of all time, with Pat Smear quitting and William Goldsmith leaving after The Colour and the Shape when Dave overdubbed over his drum parts.

Taylor Hawkins may have served just as well behind the drum kit, but it would take a little while before they realized that Franz Stahl wasn’t the right fit. That’s not to say he didn’t make a bold entrance, with Franz’s first gig being on top of Radio City Music Hall, as Pat quit halfway through the set and handed the reins over to him. Knowing Franz from his days in the punk band Scream, Dave assumed everything would fall into place on the press tour, only for things to hit a snag when it was actually time to write.

Although Franz admitted that he loved playing the songs, he found himself increasingly not on the same page when it came time for the band to write, always clashing with what Dave was doing and messing up some of the arrangements. By the time that the band got around to making a new record, Dave was a lot more conflicted, having to ask Franz to leave the band just because he wasn’t able to gel with the rest of them.

Breaking up over a phone call business meeting, the band didn’t even bother getting a new guy for the next record, finishing off There is Nothing Left to Lose as a three piece before drafting in Chris Shiftlett. There may have been that childhood bond left over from Scream, but Franz’s involvement in Foo Fighters was just proof of how much old friends can drift away.  

Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden’s choice to replace Paul Di’Anno for Bruce Dickinson may have been the single greatest stroke of genius in metal history. While there was nothing wrong with Paul’s punky delivery on the first few albums, we knew that things were going to get wild the minute that we heard Number of the Beast, as the Air Raid Siren took his place behind the microphone.

Everyone needs some time apart though, and Maiden’s choice to move on without Bruce made the ‘90s one hell of a decade to get through. Bringing in Blaze Bayley, both albums that Maiden released during the alternative era just don’t seem to have the same punch that their classic material did, with Blaze not really being able to match Bruce’s intensity.

As much as he might be able to hit the same high notes and operatic structure, you can tell that the band just feel tired going through some of these songs, with Blaze not really reaching the same peaks in his vocal range and Steve Harris’s trademark gallop on the bass being reduced to just a general timekeeping technique.

Once Bruce got his solo years out of his system though, fans were all too happy for Brave New World to come out, bringing with it the same kind of gravitas that we hadn’t seen since Somewhere in Time from years before. The glory era of Bruce may have already passed us by the time he left, but no one expected the band’s star to fall this quickly.

Randy Castillo – Motley Crue

Up until this past week, Mötley Crüe is still going through current shakeups. After being known as the most dysfunctional family on the Sunset Strip, the band always found a way to come back together and make something great, no matter what trend was standing in their way. And while it looks like John 5 is going to do a fine job relieving Mick Mars’s duties behind the fretboard for tours, metalheads are probably flashing back to the last time that the band had to lose a founding member.

Although Vince Neil’s replacement John Corabi may have been a bit of an odd choice at the time, the real attitude of the band seemed to shrink once Tommy Lee left in a huff in the early ‘00s, leading to the band replacing him with Randy Castillo. For what he does though, Randy was one of the most powerful drummers the metal world has ever seen, and his energy definitely turned up on the album New Tattoo, which gave us the same Crue that we knew and loved.

At the same time though, this is TOMMY LEE, a man who could practically be the frontman of any other group but decided to stay with Motley behind the drumkit. Aside from his drum skills, his personality was the biggest thing missing from the band when he left, always addressing the crowd and acting like the king of excess wherever he went.

By the time the band were looking to make their last true record on Saints of Los Angeles though, the writing was on the wall and Tommy was right back where he belonged, hammering out the beat. Compared to the other replacement members on this list, the fact that Randy Castillo was in the band meant that we all had to deal with Methods of Mayhem, which is definitely the real tragedy. 

Graham Bonnett – Rainbow

When Graham Bonnett was hired for Rainbow, he was given one order by Ritchie Blackmore: get the band on the radio. And he certainly delivered, leaving the Celtic sounds of the Dio era of Rainbow behind with songs like “Since You’ve Been Gone,” which is still the highest hit by the band to ever climb the charts.

When you listen to the rest of the album though, you start to realize that something was drastically wrong. In exchange for the chart success, we got one of the oddest choices for a hard rock band, with Bonnett’s clean cut style feeling completely alien next to Blackmore’s guitar playing.

Going from someone like Dio to this just feels like getting the guy from the Knack to front Led Zeppelin, with both sides being completely unaware of what they’re supposed to do. Although the songs on the album Down to Earth are competently played, Ritchie eventually saw that there was a bit of a problem here as well, sacking Graham before he could make a second record and bringing in Joe Lynn Turner for the bands real second act with albums like Difficult To Cure.

You can do everything you possibly can for success, but the thought of a guy like this singing something like “Stargazer” is enough to make many a metalhead snicker a little bit.  

Richie Kotzen – Poison

A lot of a band’s power comes down to the chemistry that you have between members. Even if you hate each other with every fiber of your being, there’s something indescribable that happens when you throw on your instruments and let the music do the talking.

If you take that for granted like Poison did though, you won’t know what you had until you lose it. Then again, it’s easy to see why the band wanted to move on without guitarist CC Deville, with the last tours showing him getting more and more out of control on drugs.

By the time they ditched him for Richie Kotzen for Native Tongue though, they were pretty much lost in the woods. Although the grunge revolution was already happening, the album was much more confused by Poison standards, bringing in more tribal sounds and live ambience that just makes their party atmosphere seem a lot more neutered.

And while Richie might be able to shred a mile a minute, he also proved to not be the most trustworthy band member to work with either, getting together with Rikki Rokket’s girlfriend during the tour and being shown the door quickly afterward. CC Deville would probably tell you that he’s far from the greatest guitar player in the world, but if you’re talking about a band like Poison, there’s absolutely no one that’s going to be able to match his spirit. 

Chester Bennington – Stone Temple Pilots 

As soon as STP started making waves on the grunge scene, some of the Seattle purists were already waiting to dunk on them. Since this music was the heart and soul of the Pacific Northwest, seeing a band come up from San Diego and have songs that sounded like Pearl Jam knockoffs was not going to sit well amongst the Soundgarden fans of the world.

Time has been kind to those early STP days though, only for some fans to get even more pissed when they continued on without Scott Weiland. Although Scott’s natural charisma was going to be impossible to replicate, the band wasn’t in shaky hands with Chester Bennington or anything, working with Linkin Park at the exact same time that they put out the EP High Rise.

The new material definitely sounds like a decent extension of what the old STP stood for, but it gets a little bit shaky when Chester has to sing the old songs. While this is not meant to be disrespectful to Chester as a vocalist, his searing high register is not built for songs like “Vasoline” or “Interstate Love Song,” as he tries to tap into that baritone vibe and really sounding lost.

Then again, the chances of the old STP magic coming back is smothered out as well, with both Chester and Scott having passed in the years since. Jeff Gutt may do a decent job continuing the legacy, but we’re probably never gonna get a high pedigree singer for these guys ever again.