Jun 272013

(Here’s another in Andy Synn’s irregular series of things that come in five’s.)

This edition of the “Five of my favourite…” column should be pretty self-explanatory. For those of you unaware, I’m currently in two bands here in the UK, a high-velocity technical/melodic death metal band called Bloodguard, and a slower, doomier melancholic death metal band called Twilight’s Embrace. So, stemming somewhat from the recent clamor over “Five albums that changed your life”, I thought it might be interesting to list five of the frontmen who inspired me to pick up the microphone myself.

Now, to be clear, these aren’t necessarily the frontmen/singers I count as my current influences as a vocalist (there’s little to no correlation between some of their vocal styles and the way I sing today), but they are the ones who I looked up to and who made me want to be like them.


One of my early loves, I actually only got to see V.O.D. live for the first time earlier this year. Thank god it lived up to my long-gestating expectations. Tim Williams (above) is an absolute ball of barely contained fury onstage, a mix of frustrated repression and calculated rage, with a voice that simply bleeds passion. You can tell he means every word that passes from his tortured throat.



AFI singer Davey Havok is a taut spitfire of a frontman, a contorted, limb-flailing ball of energy, gifted with an absolutely massive voice capable of both fantastic vocal operatics and throat-shredding hardcore screams. He’s got personality to spare, and a talent for imbuing both his voice and his onstage antics with a mix of drama and integrity. The man’s connection to the crowd is second to none as well.



Ok, maybe I was hasty in the preceding entry. Because there are few frontmen out there who can equal Satyr’s absolute and unwavering command of a crowd. Like a masterful conductor he’s able to sway and direct a crowd’s attention and response with a wave of his arm, inspiring fervent, howling loyalty and screaming awe in equal measure. From the moment he struts onstage there’s simply no question that Satyr Wongraven is the man in charge. A true master.




You may have noticed that what unites all my choices is a mix of evocative showmanship and undeniable passion. Each of these singers has a distinctive, striking voice, as well as a physical style and approach all their own. That doesn’t mean they’re always comfortable onstage though – at his worst Caputo often performed with his back to the audience due to a combination of nerves and vulnerability. At his best though… the man’s voice and confident showmanship inspired absolute and unequivocal devotion from the band’s fans.




Another frontman who appears oddly uncomfortable and ill at ease between songs, yet turns into a whirling dervish as soon as the music kicks in, Darkest Hour’s own master of ceremonies John Henry has never once let me down live. Self-effacing and humble to a fault, his raw and ragged vocals are dredged up from somewhere deep down inside and delivered with an undeniable ferocity. The very first time I saw DH live I was hooked and it’s become my mission to follow in this man’s footsteps.


  1. Mem from Exumer, bobby blitz from overkill, nergal, and Alan from Primordial are high on my list. very intense, very in the music, and good with the crowd. that being said, Abbath might be the greatest person to ever stand on a stage. he does singing AND dancing! have seen Immortal 6 or 7 times and hes alwayd a clown. a neceo clown who breathes fire. saw em a few weeks ago and he managed to set off the firealarm.

    • Alan Nemtheanga is a force of nature on stage – utterly commanding and so passionate. Outside of the classical realm, he put on the greatest live vocal performance I have ever seen.

  2. .. i cant type for shit on my phone.

  3. mine is always going to be randy blythe, haters gonna hate

  4. I don’t have a list of inspirational frontmen in the sense you mean because I don’t sing, but of the bands I’ve seen in recent years, these are the frontmen who I found most impressive (off the top of my head and in no particular order). In some cases they may not necessarily be the best vocalists I heard live, but they make up for that in terms of charisma, stage presence, quality banter, etc.

    John Henry (Darkest Hour)
    Johan Hegg (Amon Amarth)
    Frank Mullen (Suffocation)
    Dave Hunt (Benediction, Anaal Nathrakh)
    Nergal (Behemoth)
    Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan)
    Devin Townsend
    Joe Duplantier (Gojira)
    Attila Csihar (Mayhem)
    Jonne Järvelä (Korpiklaani)

    I’m tempted to add Papa Emeritus from Ghost, though he mainly just looks cool and sounds great. 🙂

    • Frank is always a “top 10 frontmen” candidate, and Dave Hunt is a huge inspiration nowadays. But I chose those five because they’re the ones I remember watching when I was first getting a band together and thinking “this is what I want to do with my life”.

  5. Off the top of my head

    Craig Pillard…Disma (yeah he’s got some sketchy personal beliefs, but the guy is a monster on the mic)
    King Fowley…Deceased/October 31 (one of the most enjoyable frontmen Ive seen in concert)
    Johan Hegg…Amon Amarth
    Martin Van Drunen…HoB/Asphyx (still the most metal of all frontmen)
    Tomi Joutsen…Amorphis

  6. Hah there are numerous metal vocalists that get me all psyched to maybe ever pick up the microphone; if it weren’t for me being an awful grunter and an even worse singer.

    Anyway, five frontmen who I find awesome as being the ‘head’ of the band and having awesome vocals to back their awesomeness up:

    1. Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity) – there’s just something about his style of grunting that makes him so different from other vocalists. He can put so much goddamn emotion into his voice it ain’t even funny; he can scream as if he’s in pure agony, he can sound so angry as if he was about to rip someone’s throat out and his cleans are so haunting beautiful; but again, so different from other vocalists. All this plus he’s a real nice and sincere person in real life.
    2. Tobias Netzell/Björn Petterson (In Mourning) – I can’t always tell which of the two vocalists of this band sing what part, but they’re both very awesome. Plus the fact that I only found out the band had two singers when I watched the video for A Vow To Conquer The Ocean, proving that they operate as an awesome team. Especially the harsh vocals on songs such as The Black Lodge and The Final Solution give me goosebumps.
    3. Vincent Cavanagh (Anathema) – He is certainly one of the best clean singers metal has ever produced. Watching him perform live is so (forgive me for the unmetal terminology) fucking beautiful, especially their 1998-2003 period songs.
    4. Joe Duplantier (Gojira) – His vocals are just killer, and like few other frontmen in metal he is able not only to sound badass, but actually genuinely angry. Plus he sings live even better than on the albums.
    5. Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow the Sun/Barren Earth/Kuolemanlaakso/Alghazanth) – Over the years this man has developed so many ways to use his voice it’s unbelievable; he can do black, death, doom and clean vocals, and he can do them all really well, though you can always clearly hear it’s Mikko on the vocals.

  7. Top 5 favorite frontmen, as this has turned into? I’ll play, but I suppose only using bands I’ve seen live.

    1)Bruce Dickinson(Iron Maiden)- Has the pipes and the theatrics down. So in control, that he could probably get an entire audience to eat dogfood.
    2)Angela Gossow(Arch Enemy)- Blew me away with her intensity. She owns the stage.
    3)Mikael Stanne(Dark Tranquility)- Wasn’t a fan of the band until I saw them open for The Haunted. I just loved the way he seemed to be living in the moment. Won me over after one song.
    4)Keith Caputo(Life Of Agony)- Another first rate voice. Seeing LOA on their comeback tour was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.
    5)Devin Townsend(SYL)- Absolutely nuts.

    • As popular as Arch Enemy is, Angela Gossow remains the target of a lot of shit-talking about her vocals, but I completely agree that she owns the stage. A complete dynamo in a tiny package.

      • ..because, and this is with respect to the people who enjoy her singing, so much of her hype seems to be tied up in “Hey its a girl, and she does harsh vocals”.

        There are so many other ladies out there who lay down absolutely crushing death metal vocals that she really just dosnt come across as a particularly impressive vocalist

        • I understand your point. A little digging shows that a woman doing harsh vocals isn’t as uncommon as one might think. I put her on my list mostly due to her fantastic stage presence. She’s a lot of fun to watch and works really hard to pump up the crowd. I also just happen to like Arch Enemy.

        • I’m confused by what you mean by “impressive” though. She does phenomenal vocals, and isn’t in competition with anyone else. She’s got bite, power, and clarity to spare.

          The lyrics do have a tendency to be awful though.

          • She does lack power with her growl and often times she degenerates into more of a raspy yell for exactly that reason. She cant keep that level deep power in her vocals on a consistent basis. Compare her to someone like Rachel Van Mastrigt-Heyzer, Dana Duffy, or Jill McEntee and her weaknesses become pretty clear.

            Of course shes not in some kind of competition, but Islander commented on the fact that she gets a lot of shit for her vocals…some of that is deserved in my opinion because saying things like shes a phenomenal vocalist completely overstates her ability as a singer

  8. 5) Vincent Bennett – he looks like your sister’s nerdy boyfriend, but he’s a monster on stage and a great guy off.
    4) Jamey Jasta – one of the happiest, most upbeat, positive and grateful live performers i’ve seen recently.
    3) Phil Bozeman – a skinny little guy that somehow morphs into demon from hell on stage.
    2) Trevor Strnad – an instantly recognizable voice, a dynamic stage presence, and never a dull read.
    1) Randy Blythe – duh. Randy Fucking Blythe.

    • I’m feeling more and more lame for never having seen Lamb of God. High on my wish list now, especially after seeing the classy way Blythe handled that whole criminal prosecution in the Czech Republic.

      • I’ve never much cared for Lamb of God, but I saw them two weeks ago (mainly because Decapitated was opening), and Blythe proved himself a tremendous frontman. I’m still not sold on the band’s music (I’ll take Byzantine, thanks), but HE is absolutely worth seeing and hearing live.

      • the only downside to seeing them was that Hellyeah was one of the opening acts. a huge plus was that Sylosis and In Flames were the other opening acts.

  9. I’m surprised that I didn’t see Jacob Bannon from Converge on this list. He is the frist one that comes to mind when I hear the qualities with which you describe your choices.

    That said, my favorite one that I have seen live, and definitely a competitor for my favorite frontman ever, is Travis Ryan from Cattle Decapitation. I saw them for the first time in February, at a small off date club show in which they more or less ran through Monolith of Inhumanity in its entirety. The passion with which he was seized at every vocal phrase was simply breathtaking. For the entire show I was at the front row, and my gaze rarely averted from him. That’s all not to mention the absolute awe with which I heard the stupefying melodic scream-type vocalizations that were a fixture – and probably the best and most original part – of Monolith of Inhumanity live right in front of me. Needless to say, I found it to be a transcendental experience, and by far the best single band set I have ever seen.

    • I would definitely second the nominations for Bannon and Ryan. I haven’t seen either of them on stage in 2 or 3 years. I hope I’ll get the chance to renew the acquaintance before too much longer.

    • As it happens I simply don’t like Converge, and Bannon does absolutely nothing for me.

    • i’m dying to see Cattle Decapitation live, Monolith of Inhumanity was my introduction to the band and i think my jaw was on the floor during the entire first listen. the vocal hook in A Living Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat just gives me chills every time i hear it

  10. Keeping the inspirational part in mind and keeping it limited to 5, in no particular order:

    Bruce Dickinson
    David Gold
    John Haughm
    Mikael Akerfeldt
    Henry Rollins

    • How could I have failed to put Mikael Akerfeldt on my list? Just totally blanked on him, but of the people I’ve seen in the last couple of years, he belongs there for sure.

      • As a singer yes, but as a frontman… well, he’s warm and funny, but not particularly inspirational (to me I mean).

  11. Tompa Lindberg
    Tim Williams
    Phil Anselmo
    Scott Weiland
    Layne Staley

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