The ten best pioneering metal frontmen
Along with having a killer set of pipes, the best frontman can simultaneously stand at his pulpit on stage, engage with the crowds, rage and conduct the flow of the show. Decisive, commanding and blunt, these men are the alpha males of alpha males, the kings of kingpins and, like conquistadors, they take what they want when they want. Keep reading for the ten best pioneering metal frontmen.
10. Dave Mustaine
The founder and only consistent member of Megadeth, Mustaine has been the driving force of one of the big four of thrash for nearly thirty years. His distinctive vocals sound like he could rip your throat right from your neck. With long, fiery red hair similar to that of a headstrong Ghost Rider barreling through the night on his motorcycle, Mustaine has a raucous poise as a guitarist on stage.
9. Marilyn Manson
Dressed like a dominatrix from hell, Marilyn Manson elevated the idea of evil in the '90s with his shock rock style, and he's sparked controversy many times over. The writer of socially conscious and witty lyrics, Mr. Manson, with his haunting vocals, is an undeniably dominating presence both on stage and off.
8. Axl Rose
Axl Rose, the notoriously moody and controlling lead vocalist for Guns N' Roses, couldn't stand that Slash outshone him, just as he couldn't stand that James Hetfield snatched more attention than him after pyrotechnics gave him third-degree burns when the band toured in 1992. Rose's vocals can't get any more idiosyncratic, just as his hair can't get anymore ginger. His prickly vocal range can reach half a dozen octaves when his falsetto is considered a part of his vocal six-shooter.
7. Phil Anselmo
With vocal cords steeped in the rotting swamps of New Orleans, Phil Anselmo can scream/screech longer and louder than a banshee itself. Anselmo has led not only Pantera, but Superjoint Ritual, Down and he's currently at the helm of a new band, Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals. In between songs, Anselmo is known for preaching to his crowd about being a part of the heavy metal family and the importance of going apeshit when they rip into a new song.
6. Lemmy Kilmister
His lifelong intake of cigarettes and Jack Daniel's has hardened Lemmy's gravelly voice, turning his esophagus to stone, and giving him a characteristic growl like no other. His iconic stashburns should be called the 'Lemmy,' even though this style of facial hair predates him. Lemmy is known for positioning his microphone at an unusual height, adding to his aggressive stance like he's staring down God in the heavens.
5. Rob Halford
Leather-clad like the leader of a motorcycle gang, Rob Halford also has earth-shattering high-pitched power vocals that could break all the plate-glass windows in a skyscraper. At the end of each show, Halford's signature move is to ride a rumbling motorcycle on stage. Alongside Bruce Dickinson and Ronnie James Dio, Halford is one of the originators of an operatic vocal style in metal, and in his heyday, he had the vocal wingspan of six octaves.
4. Bruce Dickinson
There are many reasons why Bruce Dickinson is more awesome than all of us will ever be -- even more awesome than Spinal Tap (barely). Not only is he the brewmaster of Trooper ale, but he's a sailor of the skies and the master and commander of fist-pumping power-metal vocals for Iron Maiden -- one of the greatest metal bands to enter ears. Dickinson wasn't the original singer of Iron Maiden, but he brought the vital vigor that the band needed to blast them to metal holiness.
3. James Hetfield
His stance on stage looks like he just conquered a mountain, and with unwavering confidence wherever he may roam, Hetfield is a triple threat in Metallica: lead singer, rhythm guitarist (that sometimes switches lead) and major wordsmith in the songwriting process. A large portion of the documentary Some Kind of Monster was about him having control over one of the biggest metal bands in history.
2. Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy was the first frontman for the first metal band. If that wasn't enough, he also continued his reign as the Prince of Darkness with a successful solo career that has lasted thirty-plus years. The best frontmen have idiosyncratic vocals that can't be duplicated, and Ozzy's gloomy creepy vocals haunt nightmares as well as a campy Béla Lugosi film. If biting the head off of a bat doesn't create a powerful stage presence, what does?
1. Ronnie James Dio
Like a tiger roar coming from a kitty cat, Dio's stature was not an accurate representation of his titanic vocals. Arguably the architect of the devil horns (the universal symbol of fucking metal), Dio has fronted some classic bands, including Elf, Rainbow and Black Sabbath, a post he took over for Ozzy, in addition to enjoying an estimable solo career.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.