The Top 25 Modern Metal Frontmen

#4: Devin Townsend (ex-Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend Project)

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Frontmen Devy

MetalSucks recently polled its staff to determine the 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; to be eligible for the list 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 Devin Townsend …

Praise of Devin Townsend: If u love metal and read the internet, u have encountered a huge amount of it. But don’t misunderstand. Nobody with any sense is telling u that he’s perfect, this former frontman of Strapping Young Lad and freakishly prolific solo artist. For to love Townsend is not to deify him; only a silly or very excited fan will swear that he’s superhuman. To follow Townsend is not to worship him; only delusional weirdos fail to identify his missteps or admit to y’know not loving certain asthetics or themes in Townsend jamz. So fans and non-fans alike: Keep a level head about Townsendmania.

And let’s grant a point to the Townsend-resistant: It seems like the veteran pop-metalist serves as flagship for an armada of awkward metal spazzes right? Like, music writers and bloggers blab about him hornily, cuz he represents the greatest possible outcome for dudes like themselves: A nerdy, unsexy success respected by real music people. Same for fans: To Townsend they can point with claims that u need not sell out to excel, u need not lift to move weight, and u need not restrict yourself to this dimension in order to speak profoundly on the human condition. lol For pussies Townsend is the guy doing it “right.” Not those trendy phonies who make popular music for girls and the girl-crazy.

Yet there’s truth to that last sentence, even to non-pussies. Cuz Townsend’s greatest skill is his mastery of self-expression. His every statement is just that: his. Or let’s look at it the other way: Metal’s least original, least interesting acts aren’t formed by bad people being stupid and fundamentally awful at music. It’s just that they have failed to clear the obstacles between their egos and their message, between what they admire and what they create, and between what they feel and what they feel comfortable sharing with a bunch of harsh metal people. So their music rings slightly false, like a safe route around the risk of truly turning themselves inside out for all to see — and then spending a decade or two getting awesome at that very personal jam. Like those cats at parties who quote jokes from The Simpsons and Seinfeld — funny, but well-tread and untrue. Safe. Getting somebody else’s action.

So thanks to Townsend’s um Townsendness, and no matter how deafening the roar of Townsend acclaim, the fruits of fandom are a bounty: Foremost, brah can write a killer song. Since 1995, Townsend’s awesome hooks number around five dozen, none cheap or cloying. And Townsend can guitar and guitar wildly, but his virtuosity isn’t abused or converted into a generator of impatient eye-rolls (though his excessive modesty can be). And though a ninja-level pop-ist, Townsend can craft a weird, sneaky, twisty epic in three or nine minutes, all incomparably cheeky like Douglas Addams and riveting like old Genesis.

And like anybody else in your life whom u capital-L Love, he is treasured for those charms and tolerated for his moments of boneheadedness, be they barking self-deprecating quips onstage during my freaking jam (cuz he’s gripped by sudden doubt) or explaining away the mystique of his most singular art (cuz he’s a generous interviewee) or favoring a crispy, bubbly, bass-free production and super clicky-ticky drums (cuz well cuz that’s his sound). He is not perfect. He is Townsend and no one else is!

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The List So Far:

#5: Randy Blythe (Lamb of God)
#6: Julie Christmas
#7: Frank Mullen (Suffocation)
#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)

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