My taste in heavy metal has definitely gone down the extreme road for many years now. In spirit of my top 5 lists getting such a great response I thought I'd share my opinion on such a highly debated topic amongst the metal community. Before I list these vocalists, for the purposes of this article, I will define what exactly I mean by "harsh" vocals. I am not talking about gutterals or the nitty gritty of metal vocals. I simply mean any vocalist who sings in a harsh manner majority of the time, so basically the opposite of clean singing, that you would hear from Rob Halford or Bruce Dickinson. So here it goes, my favourite top 5 harsh metal vocalists.
5. Mikael Akerfeldt - Opeth
The opening growl of Blackwater Park is the first moment I can remember of my exposure to Opeth. Mikael Akerfeldt along with Jens Kidman are responsible for what would become my addiction to harsh vocalists. It is also important to acknowledge how great Mikael's clean vocals are, but that is not the focal point of this list. His vocals on songs such as; Heir Apparent, Ghosts of Perdition, Harlequin Forrest, are the reasons why I love this band so much. I could do an entire piece explaining why Opeth are one of the greatest metal bands ever, but I'll save that for another time. I love Mikael's vocals for their brutality, uniqueness, identity and how they elevate the mood of each Opeth song. His blend of harsh and clean vocals, and his choice of when to do so, is both appropriate and genius.
4. Nergal - Behemoth
To this day Behemoth still frighten me, not because of the intensity of their music, but the mood that Nergal instills in his albums and the feeling that his vocals bring to your ears. For me personally his vocal work on The Satanist is his best work to date. I am a strong lover of Demigod but his work on the latter will remain as one of my favourite pieces of metal. Whilst singing in a harsh manner, Nergal does not simply spit out his lyrics and end it there. He has a unique ability to send goosebumps up your spine and cloud his music with such a dark tone. Not many vocalists are able to achieve such a sound, but when it comes to Behemoth, every note, and every element that goes into the music is meticulously examined, which is why every Behemoth album is considered a monument amongst the world of extreme metal.
3. Corpsegrinder - Cannibal Corpse
From the opening scream of Vile or Kill, you cannot deny the pipes of Corpsegrinder. As far as pure, brutal death metal goes, you cannot ignore the influence and importance of both Cannibal Corpse and their frontman. Their conscious effort to never stray from the norm is why they are titans of their sound, and have cemented their legacy in the death metal world. I always preferred Corpsegrinder to Barnes for his eligibility, brutality and also suitability to the music, (not to take anything away from Barnes, he's great too). Corpsegrinder's vocals are some of my favourite in the world of extreme metal. His pipes are unbelievable and his screams are just as brutal as the music of which he sings over. His suitability to the band is what makes them so strong as a unit. Their latest album, Red Before Black, showcased that Corpsegrinder is showing no signs of ageing or slowing down. From the first second to the last, the album makes your ears bleed as expected, and Corpsegrinder is at the front of the mix, doing what he does best, as he has done for over 20 years.
2. Randy Blythe - Lamb of God
Randy Blythe is an unbelievable vocalist, and I'm sure many people would agree that his range is phenomenal. I got the pleasure of seeing Lamb of God support Slipknot on their most recent Australian tour, and I must say, Randy was the highlight of the night. His pipes get right into your ears and that's what I love about Lamb of God, they simply do not let up. His vocals are so easily identifiable which is why he considered to be so great, as is the rest of the band. From the opening line of Now You've Got Something to Die For, the famous " Say Who Gives a Fuck", from Laid to Rest, or "This is a Motherfucking Invitation", or even the opening speech of Omerta, Randy has carved himself in the brains of heavy metal fans. His vocal range, screaming highs to low growls is something that I am addicted to, and is a large reason as to why I love Lamb of God so much.
1. Jens Kidman - Meshuggah
If you follow my blog or Instagram you would have noticed my love affair for Sweden's Meshuggah. I could write pages on why this band is so brilliant, influential and important, but this article is on vocals. Which brings me into Jens Kidman. A lot of criticism surrounding Meshuggah is centred around the lack of diversity of Jens, which I totally understand. However, similar to that of Corpsegrinder, Kidman does what he does best, and caters to the music. Any deviation of his vocal style would steer away from the sound that got the band attention in the first place. For me, his vocals on Chaosphere and Nothing are second to none. There are not many vocalists out there who have the ability to sound like Jens on these albums. His sound is brutal, dark, violent and everything else that you would expect from these mathematic metallers. Jens will forever be my favourite harsh metal vocalist because of his consistent delivery on every album and live performance. Just listen to the outro of Concatenation, New Millennium Cyanide Christ, I Am Colossus, Closed Eye Visuals, Bleed, and anything in between. His vocals are consistently brutal which each release, and Meshuggah have consistently raised the bar for metal bands, many times to the point of it being unreachable.
For more on Meshuggah, I did a piece when I first made this blog, if you love this band as much as I do, definitely check it out!