Top 10 Rock + Metal Frontmen of All Time
They’re Always Ready To Rock…
To front some of the biggest bands in rock is no mean feat. A great voice isn’t enough, you also need a bucket full of creativity, enthusiasm, versatility and appeal to go with it. And let’s not forget confidence – a whole lot of it.
10. Brian Johnson (AC/DC)
Whether Bon Scott or Brian Johnson is the better frontman for AC/DC is the subject of most debates even among fans. There’s no correct answer, however, because they’re both responsible for the commercial success the band has achieved and enjoyed through the years. Scott was an incredible vocalist and extremely talented musician but Johnson is a league of his own. He has helped AC/DC sustain their fame and win over new fans. From performing during the Grammy Awards to headlining last year’s Coachella festival, only health issues (which were beyond anyone’s control to be honest) could hinder him from rockin’ the stage. He’s 68 years old and if it weren’t for his hearing problems, he would still be touring with the band right now. With so much energy and enthusiasm, it’s like growing old is just a number! Aside from being one heck of an awesome frontman, he seems like an all-around great guy too.
9. James Hetfield (Metallica)
James Hetfield has always been a dynamo on stage. His fierce dedication to music is almost palpable. He is so energetic that the audience would always channel it, thus making every Metallica concert a great treat for the fans. But he’s no slouch on vocals either. Even at his age, it’s like his voice hasn’t changed at all. And that is amazing. I know people like to joke about how many times he says ‘Yeah!’ but let’s be real, his growl is something else. Add that to the fact that he shreds his guitar while doing so, well, you’ve got here a master at multitasking. Thus, I can’t help but wonder why Lars Ulrich was ever considered as the band’s frontman. I mean, if there’s any guy more perfectly suited for the part, it’s James. Just hearing him belt out their classics, it makes you think: “Oh man, this is metal!”
8. Axl Rose (Guns ‘n Roses)
While Axl Rose isn’t exactly the most loved frontman, he sure has one of the greatest voices we’ve ever heard. At the height of their career, he became popular for being tardy to their own concert (fans had to wait for three hours) and of course, his on stage antics. Once, he was late because he was watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and couldn’t be bothered. He also walked out from the stage because a fan had a video camera with him. And once, he ejected a fan wearing a Slash shirt. He didn’t like people throwing stuff on stage too. Yes, he was like a loose cannon. Everyone who went to their shows didn’t know what to expect and perhaps that’s the reason why we can’t get enough of him. His unpredictability is his magnet. But of course, his insanely good vocals coupled with strong stage persona make him an unforgettable frontman.
7. Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy Osbourne is a music rebel. He doesn’t subscribe to anything conventional and for years have managed to set the bar in concert performance. Of course, it helped that his life outside the stadium is as controversial as his on-stage antics. Well for one, during their show in Iowa, he bit off the head of a live bat. Legend also has it that he snorted a line of ants when there was no cocaine available. He’s an extremely wild, party rocker who will stop at nothing to give a good show. You see, he once got angry at the prospect of having a bubble machine at his concert. He told his wife Sharon: “I’m f***ing Ozzy Osbourne, the Prince of f***ing Darkness. Evil! Evil! Whats f***ing evil about a s**tload of bubbles?!” Oh and did you know he still gets stage fright? Yes, hard to believe but at least, he never let it get the better of him!
6. Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop is the kind of musician you NEED to see on stage. His baritone vocals was a force of nature and that snarling style that we’ve come to love is the perfect voice to complement punk rock. Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders once said: “Iggy has a very manly voice, very sexual, very emotional, very fierce, very wry — a lot of humor.” But that’s not to say, he’s conservative when it came to his live performances. In fact, his concerts are often described as WILD, to the truest sense of the word. He was known for using broken glass to slash at his own chest. And he also sort of invented the stage dive, so there’s that. While he’s known for his dangerous stage antics and primal screams, his raw-power vocal style is just on a different level. It’s not even enough to call him ‘legendary’ because he’s beyond that.
5. Ronnie James Dio
With that commanding voice, it’s easily identifiable. Besides, he wouldn’t be called ‘Mighty Dio’ for nothing. He’s always had a larger than life persona especially on stage. In the world of metal, there are good vocalists and on the other side of the spectrum, are legends. Guess where Dio belongs? He’s not so much into theatrics although he did pioneer the hand gesture ‘metal horns.’ But nevertheless, he isn’t as much of a show-off on stage as his other contemporaries. His presence was more than enough and his vocal technique isn’t something anyone can ignore too. Many have tried to emulate the man and failed. He’s more than the dramatic hand and arm gestures, more than a musician. He’s also a gentleman. And his musicality isn’t limited to singing because he was once offered a scholarship at the Juilliard School of Music because he was so good at playing the trumpet.
4. Rob Halford (Judas Priest)
Rob Halford is easily on every top 10 list of greatest frontmen in rock and metal history. From the get-go, you can tell he’s a total badass. With his all-leather ensemble and wayfarer shades, he is famous for riding his Harley Davidson on stage. It has been their trademark whenever they’re at the last part of their show. He even explained how it came about: “The whole association with motorcycles and Judas Priest goes back to ‘Hell Bent for Leather.’ When we were touring in England, we thought that it would be cool if we could bring the bike on stage when we did the song.” He may have injured himself one time but seriously, only he can pull of that trick. It just completes his metal singer, bad boy persona! But that’s all for show because he prefers driving his Cadillac instead of his Harley Davidson in real life.
3. Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)
Robert Plant is a beast on stage. From his high-pitched vocals to his energetic gestures, he definitely commands attention and easily captivates the audience at that. In the ‘70s when there was no TMZ to follow you around or Twitter for people to share photos and tweets, there were various shocking tales that surrounded Led Zeppelin. Some may be true while others may be nothing more than exaggeration. Anyway, their stories of excess were something everyone talked about. But the fact remains that they are rock legends. More than a pretty boy vocalist, Plant has cemented his place in music history by belting out their classics. He’s not an easy singer to emulate. And that he’s an amazing songwriter is simply an added bonus. It’s like he’s not from this world. The growl and the rasp are otherworldly. And when he hits the soaring notes – man, you can really tell he was born for this.
2. Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden)
More than his boundless energy and unbelievably great voice, Bruce Dickinson’s stage presence is unquestionably powerful. He runs around when he performs and you always end up thinking, “how can something so wild be so perfect?” He was the best choice to be the band’s vocalist. Iron Maiden and Dickinson were like a match made in musical heaven and all the metal gods were probably cheering them on. And even after battling cancer (and winning!), he’s not slowing down. How does he do that? It’s a lot like he’s running a marathon during each show and yet, never gets tired. He’s a total performer! He even said: “Hell would have to freeze over before you couldn’t get me on that stage. Even if somebody else had to sing and all I could do is run around and wave my fucking arms. But I don’t think that’s going to be the case.”
1. Freddie Mercury (Queen)
Ah, yes. The ultimate showman – Freddie Mercury. He was flamboyant and a free spirit – and his unlimited amount of talent and energy were both evident on stage. He wasn’t just any other rock frontman and everyone in the audience knew that. He was a charismatic and fabulous vocalist with a larger than life operatic voice. He was a genius and a real superstar. Come on, is there any other rockstar who can ride on Darth Vader’s shoulders while singing their hearts out? No, sir. Exactly how much of a legend he is? Well, on his 70th birthday this year, an asteroid was named after him. The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center gave him the honor because according to them, “his distinctive sound and large vocal range were hallmarks of his performance style, and he is regarded as one of the greatest rock singers of all time.” Now he can really be “a shooting star leaping through the sky.”