Throughout the genre’s 50-plus year-long existence, there has been a wealth of super-talented metal singers in various subgenres; from the most epic-sounding heavy metal howlers to the most guttural death metal front people, there is incredible variety when it comes to heavy metal singers.
Yet, among all these vocalists, there are those singers that bring a profound element to their music; these types of vocalists aren’t just singing along, they’re using their voice to further elevate the emotion and intensity being provided by a band’s instrumentation. In a way, these singers’ voices act as an instrument of sorts.
Thinking of all the brilliant metal vocalists in the genre, we put our heads together and compiled a list of the 10 greatest heavy metal singers of all time.
One of the most obvious picks for this list is without a doubt The Metal God himself. Looking back on heavy metal’s evolution over the years, Rob Halford stands to this day as one of the genre’s most iconic voices; with his ability to hit soaring high notes and unleash tremendous bravado, the Judas Priest singer is easily one of the most influential vocalists in metal.
The System of a Down frontman has such an astonishing range in his vocal performances; from speedy fervent shouting, to screeching highs, and somber singing, Serj Tankian is a masterclass metal singer. Take the band’s song “Chop Suey!” for example – throughout the track’s runtime, Tankian shows off every one of these vocal approaches, transitioning to and from with astounding ease.
Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt is another metal vocalist who is capable of providing a captivating range through his voice. Much like the instrumental side of Opeth, Åkerfeldt’s voice involves surreal depth; from death metal growls that can shake a room to soulful singing that can soothe one’s heart – Åkerfeldt can do it all.
When we talk about singers whose vocals serve as an instrumental extension of sorts, Dani Filth is one of the best around. Cradle of Filth’s music is epic, haunting, and theatrical – all qualities that Filth channels through his voice whether he’s providing blood-curdling shrieks or gothic-like spoken word segments.
Angela Gossow – Arch Enemy
Back in the day, alongside Arch Enemy’s death metal thrash sound, Angela Gossow delivered savage-sounding vocal performances; her voice exuded a visceral rage – an energy that could electrify listeners with adrenaline. While she’s retired from singing, she remains one of the best to ever enter the world of death metal.
King Diamond – solo + Mercyful Fate
Whether it’s through his solo act or performing with Mercyful Fate, King Diamond has one of the most theatrical-sounding voices in all of heavy metal history. Bringing equal doses of bravado, suspense, and thrill into each of his performances, he is a singer that, to this day, has the power to enchant and haunt audiences.
Ozzy Osbourne – solo + Black Sabbath
Ozzy Osbourne has one of the most recognizable and iconic voices to ever grace the genre. From his lovely singing to his gripping, doom-like drawls, Osbourne has a voice that demands attention. The vocalist has a talent for delivering perfect inflection, knowing how to present a line with a punch, and how to scale a verse for emotional impact.
Ronnie James Dio – Dio + Black Sabbath
But Osbourne isn’t the only Black Sabbath vocalist present, for the late Ronnie James Dio is also one of the most profound metal singers of all time. Similar to Halford, Dio had a talent for hitting high notes and providing an epic atmosphere to his singing. Much like the exhilarating instrumental performances from his bands, Dio used his voice to provide a similar electrifying experience.
Even after nearly 50 years, Bruce Dickinson’s voice still has the power to rock a room. Also a master of inflection, the Iron Maiden frontman knows how to drum up emotions like anger, sadness, and excitement, instilling audiences with suspense and thrills.
There are few metal singers who both disgust and intrigue audiences the way Travis Ryan can. Throughout metal as a whole, Ryan has one of the most unique voices around, providing a filthy, liquidy texture to his voice that further elevates Cattle Decapitation’s already grotesque brand of instrumental goregrind.