10 Times a Famous Metal Band Replaced a Member With a Complete Unknown

  • Axl Rosenberg

It would appear that Fear Factory have hired a singer to replace Burton Seabell… and that that singer is someone unknown. Whomever that person is, this is the opportunity of a lifetime… and likely the most pressure-filled situation of their careers. ‘Cause on the one hand, they’re now fronting this revered band, but on the other hand, Burton leaves some mighty big Seabells to fill.

Metal bands have gone the route of replacing someone famous with someone you’ve never heard of before, of course. And the results have been… mixed.

Here are 10 times a big band hired someone no one had ever heard of before, and how it worked out for those bands:

Kiss – Eric Carr

KISS Engineer ROB FREEMAN - “ERIC CARR Was A Sweet, Talented Guy, And  Working With Him Was Always A Joy” - BraveWords

The Swap

Carr replaced Peter Criss in 1980 (as ‘The Fox’), and according to Paul Stanley, was chosen specifically because he wasn’t already famous:  “It was really important to us that we got somebody who was unknown… We didn’t want somebody who last week was in Rod Stewart’s band or in Rainbow.” In fact, Carr was kind of the original Tortilla Man — the press release announcing he’d joined Kiss lied about his age specifically so people would have a harder time identifying him.

The Results

Carr played on eight Kiss albums before he died from cancer on November 24, 1991… the same day Queen singer Freddie Mercury died.

Black Sabbath – Tony Martin

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The Swap

Martin had been floating around the industry, perpetually on the verge of breaking out, for a few years when he was recruited for Sabbath to replace Glenn Hughes.

As Martin himself explain in a 2019 Facebook post:

“The era that I was involved in was after the band had been mostly exhausted … financially credibly and territorially … There had already been 5 singers associated with the band BEFORE I even got there!! It was a low point and when I joined them it really was a challenge!!”

The Results

From that same Facebook post:

“What we were able to do was capture territories that was not normally strong for Sabbath … We opened up Russia and Asia and Europe where Sabbs had never been before.. the eastern block was opening and south America and Korea … We worked hard to get the name back up and did some great works… Headless Cross was significant in that we had Cozy Powell and that was an honour too… We did lift the band again …” 

Over the course of multiple tenures, Martin went on to sing for Black Sabbath longer than anyone other than Ozzy Osbourne. Tony Iommi recently said he’s planning to release a box set centered around Martin’s time with the band.

Ozzy Osbourne – Zakk Wylde

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The Swap

Zakk Wylde (né Wielandt) was nineteen years old when Ozzy plucked him from obscurity to replace Jake E. Lee.

The Results

Wylde’s story may be that of the most successful nobody to ever suddenly be launched into heavy metal glory: he has played with Ozzy off and on for more than thirty years and appeared on five of the Ozzman’s albums, while going on to start his own successful project, Black Label Society.

Dio – Rowan Robertson

Dio's Guitar Players Ranked From Weakest to Strongest | AlexRox.com

The Swap

Robertson, meanwhile, was only seventeen when he got the job playing for Dio, replacing Craig Goldy.

The Results

The only Dio album on which Robertson appeared was 1990’s Lock Up the Wolves. He has songwriting credits on most of that record’s songs. Unfortunately, the album was considered, by Dio standards at least, a commercial disappointment. He has since gone on to play with Bang Tango and in the Las Vegas jukebox musical Raiding the Rock Vault.

Judas Priest – Tim “Ripper” Owens

Tim "Ripper" Owens wants to re-record his Judas Priest albums

The Swap

When attempting to replace arguably the most iconic metal frontman of all time, Judas Priest opted to both take a big chance and take no chance whatsoever, hiring a Rob Halford soundalike from a Priest cover band.

The Results

Owens recorded two so-so albums with Priest, Jugulator (1997) and Demolition (2001), before they reunited with Halford, thereby regaining relevancy. Today, Jugulator isn’t even available on most DSPs. Owens currently makes his living in the Ronnie Jame Dio Hologram’s backing band, and also, yet again, fronting a Judas Priest cover band.

Guns N’ Roses – Paul Tobias (f.k.a. Paul Huge)

RICHARD FORTUS Says 'Everyone Is Excited' About Possibility Of New Album -  Page 6 - GUNS N' ROSES - DISCUSSION & NEWS - mygnrforum.com Guns N' Roses  Forum

The Swap

A childhood friend of singer Axl Rose, Huge (reportedly pronounced “hoo-gee”) co-wrote two GN’R songs, “Shadow of Your Love” and “Back Off Bitch,” before joining the band circa 1994. That’s when he popped up on a cover of “Sympathy for the Devil” that was included on the soundtrack for Interview with Vampire… which was apparently news to Slash. The guitarist wrote in his autobiography:

“When I got a DAT of the song with Axl’s vocals on it, I noticed that there was another guitar layered on top of mine in the solo. Axl had gotten Paul Huge to double over me. In other words, that guy copied what was playing on another track and they layered them. It was like really bad plagiarism.

The incident was apparently key in Slash’s decision to quit Guns. Rose, naturally, disputed Slash’s version of events in 2002:

“The public gets a different story from the other guys — ­ Slash, Duff [McKagan], Matt [Sorum] — who have their own agendas. The original intentions between Paul and myself were that Paul was going to help me for as long as it took to get this thing together in whatever capacity that he could help me in. So when he first was brought into this, he was brought in as a writer to work with Slash. At the time those guys never suggested one name. Nobody else. Ever.

Rose continued:

“Paul was only interested in complimenting Slash, laying down a foundation of a riff or something. That would accent or encourage Slash’s lead playing. Now whether or not Paul was going to be officially on the album or on the tour, that really wasn’t an actual consideration at the time. It was in the air as a possibility, but Paul was a friend trying to help us and he had a huge respect for Slash…. I feel that some of the recordings we did in that limited amount of time had some of the best playing that Slash had done at least since Illusions. I was there. I know what I heard and it was pretty exciting.”

The Results

Huge worked with Rose on Chinese Democracy for years, and has songwriting and recording credits on a large chunk of that record. But he only played four live shows with the band — three in Las Vegas, one in Brazil — before he was replaced by Richard Fortus. Sometime before those shows, he changed his name to Paul Tobias for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.

At the time of Tobias’ departure from the band, Rose said he was leaving the fold because of an aversion to touring:

“Paul helped us a lot in the writing and the recording of this record and to me was a vital part of not only the band but also my life. The world tour really wasn’t his cup of tea, whereas he’s much more comfortable in a studio setting.”

Exodus – Rob Dukes

Exodus Let there be Blood

The Swap

Dukes replaced Steve Souza in 2005 after being introduced to Exodus by a mutual friend. Although he’d been in bands before, they weren’t bands you’ve heard of.

The Results

Dukes made three original full-length studio albums with Exodus — Shovel Headed Kill Machine (2005), The Atrocity Exhibition… Exhibit A (2007), and Exhibit B: The Human Condition (2010) — before they reunited with Souza. He also appears on 2008’s Let There Be Blood, a re-recording of Bonded by Blood, and has made appearances at a handful of Exodus live shows since his departure. He’s also had some other projects, like Generation Kill, but they never seem to get much traction.

Anthrax – Dan Nelson


The Swap

After Anthrax split with John Bush to reunite with Joey Belladonna, people were like, “Oh that makes sense” — if they were gonna swap out Bush for anyone, surely it would be the singer from their most famous line-up, right?

But then after that reunion tour ended, they were like, “Nah, just kidding.” It’s not clear if they tried to get Bush back immediately or not; they did almost end up landing Corey Taylor, which would have been interesting.

Eventually, they landed on Dan Nelson, eliciting a massive “Who?”

The Results

Anthrax played a handful of shows with Nelson, and initially recorded their 2011 album, Worship Music, with him on vocals. In 2009, however, Nelson either quit or was fired from the band, depending on who you believe. Anthrax then briefly reunited with Bush before re-re-uniting with Belladonna in 2010.

Nelson, meanwhile, was arrested in 2019 for assaulting two elderly men; he pleaded guilty the following year.

Hate Eternal – Jade Simonetto


The Swap

Erik Rutan found this fucking kid on YouTube. Seriously.

The Results

Simonetto left the band in 2013 after recording two albums with them, Fury & Flames (2008) and Phoenix Amongst the Ashes (2011). He seems to have disappeared from the metal world since then.

Stone Temple Pilots – Jeff Gutt

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Photo by Michelle Shiers

The Swap

Gutt wasn’t a COMPLETE unknown when he joined STP in 2016/2017 — he’d been a contestant on The X Factor. Still. It’s not like the DeLeo brothers once again started a band with Richard Patrick or whatever.

The Results

STP have released two albums with Gutt to date: Stone Temple Pilots (2018) and Perdida (2020).

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