Heavy Metal is a unique brand of rock n’ roll. Its vocalists tend to have high falsettos and operatic range, but with a down home dirty delivery. Metal originated in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States and United Kingdom, and saw the use of distortion, aggression, and sheer volume to appeal to a new breed of music fan.
Over the decades there have been many great heavy metal vocalists hailing from all over the globe. Narrowing down the list to the Top 10 was a daunting project. See if your favorites made the list.
10) David Coverdale – Englishman David Coverdale sprang to fame as the front man for Deep Purple in 1973, but is best recognized for his time headlining for the band Whitesnake beginning in 1978. He also had a Platinum selling collaboration with legendary guitarist Jimmy Page under the moniker Coverdale Page. Known for his blues-tinged voice and incredible range, Coverdale was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016 as a member of Deep Purple.
9) Geoff Tate – After bouncing around the club circuit with various bands, Geoff Tate found fame as the vocalist for Queensrÿche beginning in 1982. The band was signed to EMI Records in 1983. Tate’s use of operatic vocal styles made the band stand out from other metals acts. From 1984-2013, Queensrÿche released 13 albums with Tate on lead vocals. Tate also released two solo albums (Geoff Tate in 2002 and Kings & Thieves in 2012). After leaving Queensrÿche, Tate formed Operation: Mindcrime, which has released three albums. With the band Sweet Oblivion he has released two albums, the most recent being Relentless in 2021.
8) Tony Ingala – As the lead singer for Chicago’s top metal act Joker, Ingala gained exposure to international fans with the release of their self-titled debut album on indie metal label Red Light Records. Their sophomore album, Cool Deal, was to be a joint release in 1992 with major label Zoo Entertainment and BMG Music. However, the release got lost in red tape as the industry started move from metal to grunge. Ingala, who was heavily influenced by Journey’s Steve Perry, was considered to be the new lead singer of Warrant following Jani Lane’s departure from the band in 1993. Lane, however returned to the band after just a few months. Joker reunited in 2017 and Pavement Entertainment finally released Cool Deal – one of the best metal albums to date.
7) Ozzy Osbourne – Known as the “Prince of Darkness”, Ozzy Osbourne rose to fame in the 1970s as the lead vocalist of the groundbreaking band Black Sabbath. Featuring Osbourne’s eerie vocals, Black Sabbath gained instant success with their self-titled debut album and sophomore release Paranoid. Their third release, Master of Reality, went Platinum. In 1979, Osbourne was ousted from Black Sabbath due to drug and alcohol abuse. However, Osbourne went on to a very successful solo career. His album Blizzard of Ozz saw him collaborate with guitarist Randy Rhoads. It achieved multi-platinum status without a top-40 single. In all he has released 12 solo albums, the most recent of which is Ordinary Man in 2020. With Black Sabbath he released 10 albums between 1970 and 2013.
6) Jani Lane – Best known as the late lead singer of the glam metal band Warrant, Jani Lane was a fixture on the LA club circuit. As the primary songwriter for Warrant, Lane is responsible for most of the hits from band’s breakthrough album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich in 1989 and sophomore smash Cherry Pie in 1990. In all, Lane recorded five studio albums with Warrant between 1989 and 1996. He is responsible for the Top 40 hits Down Boys, Sometimes She Cries, Big Talk, Heaven, Cherry Pie, I Saw Red, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Blind Faith. As a solo artist, Lane released Back Down to One in 2003, as well as an album of cover songs – Photograph in 2007. Lane died of acute alcohol poisoning in 2011.
5) Jon Bon Jovi – Although best known as the front man of his namesake band Bon Jovi, Jon Bon Jovi actually got his first radio hit before forming the band. He recorded the single Runaway while working at a relative’s recording studio sweeping floors. The single started getting radio play, Jon Bon Jovi was signed to a record deal, the band Bon Jovi was formed, and the rest is history. Although not the most gifted singer on the Official Top Ten List of the Greatest Heavy Metal Vocalists of All Time, he is greatest showman of all those named and honored. In addition to two solo albums (Blaze of Glory in 1990 and Destination Anywhere in 1997), the singer/songwriter has released 15 studio albums with the band Bon Jovi. He is responsible for such hits as You Give Love a Bad Name, Livin’ on a Prayer, Wanted Dead of Alive, Bad Medicine, Born to Be My Baby, I’ll Be There for You, Lay Your Hands on Me, Keep the Faith, Bed of Roses, Always, This Ain’t a Love Song, These Days, It’s My Life, and Who Says You Can’t Go Home. Bon Jovi is also a dedicated philanthropist who gives back because he can, and therefore he feels he should.
4) Steven Tyler – Sometimes referred to as “The Demon of Screamin’” thanks to his penchant for high screaming and incredible vocal range, Steven Tyler is best known for being the lead singer of Aerosmith. Tyler is one of the true showmen of the metal genre, with wild onstage acrobatics and outlandish outfits. Aerosmith premiered on the Boston club circuit in 1970 and was signed to Columbia Records in 1972. In 1975 Tyler and the band had their first Top 40 hit with Sweet Emotion. Over the years they have scored hits with Dream On, Back in the Saddle, Walk This Way, Dude Looks Like a Lady, Angel, Rag Doll, Love in an Elevator, Janie’s Got a Gun, and I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing. Tyler famously battled with addictions to drugs and alcohol, at one point randomly roaming the streets of New York hoping to find a heroin dealer. He entered treatment in 1986. He later went on to be a judge on the television reality show American Idol.
3) Robert Plant – As the lead singer of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant is the gold standard by which all heavy metal vocalists are judged. Paired with guitar virtuoso Jimmy Page, Plant pioneered the metal genre beginning in 1968 in a career that has spanned over 50 years. Although Led Zeppelin disbanded in 1980 following the death of John Bonham, Plant has remained active in hard rock and metal – including other collaborations with Page, such as the supergroup The Honeydrippers which also included Jeff Beck. Hits with Led Zeppelin include Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog, Stairway to Heaven, Rock and Roll, Ramble On, and Kashmir.
2) Axl Rose – The only member of Guns N Roses to remain with the band without break since 1985. Axl Rose was named one of the greatest singers of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine. Prior to forming Guns N Roses the singer fronted the bands Hollywood Rose and LA Guns. A brilliant singer with a limitless vocal range, Rose was difficult to deal with, perhaps because of mental illness. Rose and company had such monumental hits as Welcome to the Jungle, Sweet Child o’ Mine, Paradise City, Patience, Nightrain, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, You Could Be Mine, Don’t Cry, Live and Let Die, November Rain, and Civil War. Rose served as a guest singer for AC/DC when lead vocalist Brian Johnson had to stop touring due to hearing problems. Beginning in 2016, he reunited with original GNR members Slash and Duff McKagan for the Not in This Lifetime Tour. Longtime GNR member Dizzy Reed is also a part of the lineup.
1) Sebastian Bach – Originally hailing from Canada, singer Sebastian Bach relocated to New Jersey in 1987 to join the up-and-coming band Skid Row. With Bach as the front man, the band was quickly signed to record deal. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1989 and the band was signed to open for metal mega stars Bon Jovi on their New Jersey tour. The band scored huge hits with Youth Gone Wild, 18 and Life, and I Remember You. Their sophomore effort Slave to the Grind (1991) was the first heavy metal album to chart at number one on the Billboard 200. After the band’s third studio album, Subhuman Race in 1995, Bach and Skid Row parted ways in 1996. With an almost unmatchable vocal range, Bach crossed genres to star on Broadway in Rocky Horror Show and Jekyll & Hyde. He also starred in the tile role in the National Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, but parted ways with the production mid-tour over artistic differences. While other artists may have more hit singles, Bach has the best pure voice in rock n’ roll and heavy metal. Some might say he’s difficult to deal with, but no one can deny how great his voice is.