Heavy Metal is not just shouty music

I have just about had enough of people indiscriminately pre-judging and discarding heavy metal as ‘shouty’ or ‘just noise’. I admit that some of it is exactly both of these things and I love it. I mean, you’d have to be a brave person to argue that the noise subgenre is not noise. And you’d also be brave to claim that much of the black and death metal subgenres do not feature harsh, often indecipherable lyrics. But there is beauty and sophistication in both if you listen hard enough.

But to arbitrarily dismiss it all in this manner is just wrong. And I’m fed up with people’s uneducated prejudices. This may seem a bit harsh, vitriolic in fact. But when those that spout these opinions often do so without even having heard a note, I’d say that this was definitely an uneducated opinion.

Therefore, for those of you who are guilty of such comment, I am putting together a couple of blogs. One will look at the subtle beauty within some extreme metal. This post however, will focus on those vocalists that are most definitely not shouty.

Frankly, if this is your view of heavy metal, prepare to be proved wrong. Very wrong.

Here goes, with a whistle-stop selection of some of the very best male vocalists that heavy metal has to offer:

Tom Englund – Evergrey

Tom & I at Bang Your Head Festival 2007

Tom & I at Bang Your Head Festival 2007

Tom Englund possesses one of the best voices I have ever heard, let alone for a metal band. His delivery is unique and unmistakeable. It is powerful and raw when it needs to be, but it can also floor you with its sincerity, to the point where you believe every word and you feel every emotional note. The mark of a true great is when he improves everything with which he is involved – this is certainly true of Tom Englund.

Jonas Renkse – Katatonia

Jonas (right) and I, 2013

Jonas (right) and I, 2013

Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse began his music career as a drummer and it was with a certain amount of reluctance that he stepped up to the Mic. Thank the gods he did because the guy has become a world class vocalist. Completely original, fragile and vulnerable but with a caustic edge when required, it is the unmistakeable melodic nuances and phrasings which make his delivery so special and so ‘one-of-a-kind’.

Tommy Karevik – Seventh Wonder/Kamelot

Tommy second from the right), Seventh Wonder & I, Progpower Europe 2011

Tommy second from the right), Seventh Wonder & I, Progpower Europe 2011

Another singer who has everything, Tommy Karevik makes his performances for Kamelot and Seventh Wonder seem so effortless. Possessing the full range, Karevik is able to belt it out with power or switch to a more introspective, delicate delivery in a heartbeat. Some might suggest that he has a pop-like delivery and to some extent, that’s true because Tommy can turn even the most technical of prog metal into a memorable anthem with ease.

Silvio Massaro – Vanishing Point

I've not met Silvio yet, damnit!

I’ve not met Silvio yet, damnit!

I just love the tone to this guy’s voice. It is so rich, so warm and so powerful. When you have music behind you which is fast-paced and melodic, you need the right front-man. In Silvio Massaro, Vanishing Point are truly blessed; he can do no wrong in my eyes and you can hear the passion in every note.

Warrell Dane – Nevermore/Sanctuary

Warrel (right), Jeff Loomis and I, Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2007

Warrel (right), Jeff Loomis and I, Bloodstock Open Air Festival 2007

It’s not often you can include a thrash metal vocalist in a list like this. However, Warrell Dane simply cannot be ignored. Another of those unique talents, Dane’s vocal approach is unlike anyone else, going to places others fear to tread. He can snarl with the best of them but his choice of lead melodies, coupled with an ability to execute some genuine vocal gymnastics means that his performances are never dull and ever-engaging.

Russell Allen – Symphony X

Russell & I enjoying a candlelit chat for two, 2011

Russell & I enjoying a candlelit chat for two, 2011

The word I think of when I hear Russell Allen sing is, ‘monsterous’. Huge lungs and an impressive range means that Allen can do no wrong, be it snarling with rage and conviction alongside his Symphony X colleagues, or soaring effortlessly over catchy and melodic hard rock numbers in the Allen & Lande project.

Damian Wilson – Threshold

Damian & I, Fused Festival 2011

Damian & I, Fused Festival 2011

Wilson is one of those singers who gets better with age. I don’t mean that with disrespect, it is just that until a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t perhaps have considered him in this list. But based on the last two Threshold discs and the debut from Headspace, there is no doubt in my mind. Damian is note-perfect and manages to blend power with precision and then add in lashings of emotion when required. One of the most versatile singers in the business.

Atle Pettersen – Above Symmetry

Neither have I met Atle!

Neither have I met Atle!

Little has been heard of from the Above symmetry camp in recent years and one hopes that they were not a one hit wonder, although I fear the band has now disbanded. Regardless, anyone who can finish runner-up on the Norwegian X-Factor having auditioned with his own band’s prog metal material, cannot be bad. It’s the genuine gravel in his voice that I like about Pettersen, who’s also not afraid to hit the high notes whenever the mood takes him.

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