10 Replacement Hard Rock and Metal Vocalists That Fans Loved
It’s a bummer when it happens, but lineup changes in some of our favorite bands happen. People change, personalities clash, and in the end it’s either find someone new as a replacement or let the band fall apart. While swapping out a guitarist, bassist, or drummer can often be relatively painless, one of the hardest things a band can do is find a new singer that not only fits their style, but will be able to hit the ground running and ingratiate themselves with the fans.
While some bands didn’t manage to stick that landing (looking at you, Van Halen and Gary Cherone), the 10 following bands managed to find the right person for the job, leading to a new era for the band that fans eventually embraced.
Corpsegrinder (Cannibal Corpse)
It’s impossible to discredit the work Chris Barnes did in Cannibal Corpse, but Corpsegrinder is the face of death metal, past and present, to most people. His thick neck, relentless hair spinning and on-stage banter are as famous as his legendary vocal control which he’s adapted for Chris Barnes-era songs as well as the dozen albums since he joined. In an era where every vocalist has perfect, homogenous technique, Corpsegrinder remains in a league of his own.
Brian Johnson (AC/DC)
Original AC/DC vocalist Bon Scott tragically died of alcohol poisoning, which left the band at a crossroads regarding their next steps. Instead of breaking up, AC/DC rallied and recruited new singer Brian Johnson. Their first record with Johnson was called Back in Black and you’ve probably heard it a few thousand times. AC/DC are one of the most-essential rock bands of all time and Back in Black is the second best-selling record of all time; without Brian Johnson, none of the next 45 years happen like they did.
William DuVall (Alice in Chains)
How the hell do you replace the best singer ever associated with the grunge label? By hiring William DuVall, that’s how. Fourteen years after the band’s self-titled album, Alice in Chains released Black Gives Way to Blue, a spectacular return that showcased DuVall’s talents as a musician without changing Jerry Cantrell‘s style or the sonic core that made Alice in Chains great. Now nearly 20 years into his tenure as Alice in Chains’ frontman, DuVall has released as many albums with Alice in Chains as the Seattle institution released with Layne Staley.
Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden)
If you asked a casual fan, they might think that Iron Maiden and Bruce Dickinson had always been one but Dickinson replaced original singer Paul Di’Anno in 1981. Dickinson fronted the band for most of their classic material before leaving once again in 1993. In 1999, he replaced Blaze Bayley and has continued to front (and pilot for) Maiden to this day.
Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy)
Another case of “you might not know she wasn’t the first,” Angela Gossow replaced original vocalist Johan Liiva in 2000. At the head of the band for nearly 15 years, Gossow established herself as skilled, brutal vocalist. Gossow was also one of the first women to front a major death metal band—not something you saw every day in 2000!
Howard Jones (Killswitch Engage)
Killswitch Engage were a big deal and riding some pretty serious success when Jesse Leach quit the band with no notice. Fortunately, Howard Jones stepped up to the plate and fit the band like a glove, presenting a different vocal style—one that still hasn’t been copied in the metalcore genre. Fan opinions are pretty split on which vocalist is the better fit for Killswitch Engage, but Jones performed on The End of Heartache and As Daylight Dies, so he’s the man for this writer’s money.
Barney Greenway (Napalm Death)
Barney Greenway is technically the third or fourth singer that Napalm ever had, but he fits on this list because he’s the only vocalist you really associate with Napalm Death. Greenway’s style has adapted over time, just like the rest of the band, and he’s continued to give us classics late into the band’s career. Technically, no one left is an “original” member of Napalm Death but we say that if Greenway and bassist Shane Embury are there, it’s definitely Napalm Death.
Attila Csihar (Mayhem)
The enigmatic Attila Csihar had some pretty predecessors, replacing both Dead and Maniac in the trve Norwegian OGs. Having been with Mayhem for almost 20 years at this point, Csihar has recorded multiple full-lengths—more than any other Mayhem vocalist—and put his spin on the classic material. He may not be the first vocalist you think of—they made a movie about those guys—but he’s kept black metal fans happy for 20 years, so he must be doing something right.
James LaBrie (Dream Theater)
The singer for Dream Theater has to be able to do more than just hit the high notes. They have to keep up with the technically-advanced instrumental section, singing over difficult rhythms and satisfying voracious prog nerds. James LaBrie auditioned for the band in 1990 and crushed it, beating out a staggering 200 other hopeful singers. Clearly Dream Theater made the right choice—it’s 2023 and the band are still rocking with the chosen singer.
Mike Patton (Faith No More)
It takes a special guy to front a band as weird as Faith No More and Mike Patton was just that guy. The talented singer fit right in amongst the genre chameleons when he replaced Chuck Mosley and recorded albums that became the stuff of legend. With his wide vocal range and oodles of charisma, Patton elevated Faith No More’s music and upped the uniqueness factor. When you hear Mike Patton singing, you know it’s Mike Patton singing. You could even say he puts on some “Epic” performances.