The average metal singer can probably spend their entire career working on making their best scream possible or trying to out-high note the person next to them. As much as music can seem like a sport in that respect, there’s a right and a wrong way for people to grandstand when it comes time to showing your chops.
Whereas guitarists might like to put on their flashy chops for a solo, here are the songs that would leave any other mortals dry heaving trying to actually reproduce them. We’re not talking karaoke bar stuff...this is where you start to get into the land of vocal Olympians.
Some of the greatest vocal lines in metal songs tend to be those one in a million shots that no one can pull off. For example, even Tom Araya never managed to match this kind of intensity when they actually tried to track this in the studio. Sometimes it just takes that little burst of energy to get you over the edge into true greatness.
There’s a good chance that 90 percent of modern day metal screamers have taken their vocal cues out of King Diamond’s playbook. And this song doesn’t make you wait for it either. From the opening few seconds, you have our king reaching for an amazing falsetto before transitioning to regular singing on a dime. Considering how many things have been said about King Diamond during his career, maybe there is some truth behind him using some black magic to get vocal skills like this.
Type O Negative, "Christian Woman"
What...you think that the metal vocal prowess begins and ends at the higher end of the spectrum? Afraid not, son. Although Peter Steele was already a legend among men during Type O Negative’s classic period, it takes a certain amount of natural baritone to get this song exactly right. Sure, the notes might be all correct, but getting that distinctive growl is something that you’re either born with or you’re not.
Alice in Chains, "Man in the Box"
Outside of Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder, no one was looking to grunge bands for the biggest soaring high notes or anything. But for a song that’s all about angst, “Man in the Box” is deceptively difficult to sing, with the main note of the chorus being at the tippy top of the tenor range. Layne could hit this thing in full voice no problem, but maybe that’s why we’re still just standing in awe of him.
Iron Maiden, "The Number of the Beast"
When you talk about any type of metal vocalists, chances are they aren’t doing something that Bruce Dickinson did a thousand times better before. There’s a good chance that even Bruce doesn’t dare touch this song’s opening scream like the recording though, being able to both scare you and take your breath away with how forceful it is. Any scream like this would be reserved for the grand finale of the song, but we’re just getting started here, folks.
Most singers who’ve been around the block a couple times have been known to indulge in those “endurance test” notes. You know, the kind that you can hold up until the moment you start to faint? Maynard makes this stuff look easy though, having enough breath support to keep a solid scream for a full 25 seconds. This is the kind of song that you play and then immediately reach for the nearest water bottle.
There still aren’t enough people who know how much power Chester Bennington had as a vocalist. Though there’s a lot of angst on those early records, it takes a superhuman to hold the scream in “Given Up” that long, especially keeping it in tune and never losing the same amount of power.
A Perfect Circle, "Judith"
For our second installment in Maynard: The Alien Singer, “Judith” is one of those songs that just shouldn’t have been possible. Even though the song was perfect on its own, no one was prepared for how long Maynard’s final note is held, going for a full 16 seconds while also changing notes in between. “The Grudge” may have been the start of his vocal acrobatics, but this is where it gets a lot more tasteful.
Pantera, "Cemetery Gates"
Yeah, now we’ve reached the furniture breaking portion of the list. While trying to match with Dime’s guitar, it’s written in legend that Phil Anselmo broke a chair to get the final screams for this song. His pain was well worth it for the ending though, which sounds like an angel being dragged down into the underworld to be reborn as a demon. This is the kind of section that’s reserved for only the bravest of metalheads.
Judas Priest, "Painkiller"
Is it really a shock that the bonafide Metal God is sitting atop this list? Halford’s been blowing us away time and time again...he’s practically trademarked this entire singing style. “Painkiller” feels like it's almost going toe to toe with someone like Pavarotti though, as Rob gets to the final note and just hangs there for the hell of it while the rest of the band takes their sweet time catching up. Out of all the other songs on this list, this feels like it should come with a medical warning label for anyone who tries to attempt it.