#7: Frank Mullen (Suffocation)
MetalSucks recently polled its staff to determine who are The Top 25 Modern Metal Frontmen, and after an incredible amount of arguing, name calling, and physical violence, we have finalized that list! Writers were asked to consider vocal ability, lyrics, and live presence when casting their votes; the only requirements to be eligible for the list were that the musician in question had to a) play metal (duh), b) be a frontman or woman (double-duh), and c) have recorded something AND performed live in the past five years. Today we continue our countdown with Suffocation’s Frank Mullen…
When we were asked to submit nominees for this list, it was emphasized that we were looking for outstanding frontmen and not just technical vocalists. As soon as I saw a bullet point in the criteria that mentioned stage presence and banter, my mind instantly went to Noo Yawk’s own Frank Mullen. Then I started thinking, and the fact that I tagged him under the stage banter point doesn’t do the guy justice in the slightest. Frank is a beast and a pioneer with more weird quirks than the crazy babbling dude that rides the same bus as me every morning.
In the early 90s, Frank was instrumental in the establishment of death vocals as a legitimate and unique style of delivery. He may not have been the first vocalist to employ the low pitched growls we all know and love, but his style was infinitely more intense and brutal than those of his predecessors. While bands like Death and Morbid Angel were still more into the glass-gargling yelps, Frank’s vocals had an almost machine-like consistency to them. The result was a constant onslaught of ridiculously bass-heavy tones that was able to match the intensity of the genre’s music for the first time.
As his peers started to take note and catch up to him, Frank responded by continually stepping his game up. Listening to Suffocation’s newer output, you’ll hear the vocals of a veteran who can twist death vocals into any sound or shape he desires. His enunciation is particularly remarkable for a vocalist at the brutal end of the death metal genre. One might argue that Frank’s a little bit of a one-trick pony, but when you’re this adept at one style, you can get away with ignoring other tones and ranges.
Of course, anyone who has seen Suffocation live probably knows Frank better as the spastic singer that tries (and succeeds) to move his hand and head at the blistering pace of the band’s drumming; it’s exhausting just watching him, but seeing a frontman bring that kind of intensity to the performance definitely enhances the experience. His stage banter is also entertaining as all hell, in no small part because I find stereotypical American accents amusing and comical. His gallows humor is yet another examples of how Frank dominates the stage. Really, you can’t ask for any more from the guy; when it comes to frontmen and vocalists, Frank delivers the whole package and then some.
The List So Far:
#8: Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth)
#9: Phil Anselmo
#10: Grace Perry (ex-Landmine Marathon)
#11: Guy Kozowyk (The Red Chord)
#12: Trevor Strnad (The Black Dahlia Murder)
#13: George “Corspegrinder” Fisher (Cannibal Corpse)
#14: Chance Garnette (Skeletonwitch)
#15: Vincent Bennet (The Acacia Strain)
#16: Mike Patton
#17: Tony Foresta (Municipal Waste)
#18: Joe Duplantier (Gojira)
#19: Oderus Urungus (Gwar)
#20: Nergal (Behemoth)
#21: Jens Kidman (Meshuggah)
#22: J.R. Hayes (Pig Destroyer)
#23: Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed)
#24: Travis Ryan (Cattle Decapitation, Murder Construct)
#25: Chino Moreno (Deftones)