Monday, November 2, 2015

Variety, Thy Name Ain't Metal Vocalists.

It was pretty fucking windy that day, but in Hope, shitty weather is the norm. I grabbed my guitar out of the trunk and handed Beth my bass, which she reluctantly slung over her back. She didn’t want to play an instrument. I, quite reasonably, said to her “Your fucking problem”. If she was going to start a band, she was going to at the very least learn how to play an instrument so I wasn’t going to be writing everything myself.

As she climbed down the hill behind me, she was moaning and complaining.

“So, why do we have to do this here?”

“I come to Hope whenever I write, besides, you can’t write this kind of metal in a basement.”

We were down by the river under the bridge that heads past Haig. It’s always windy there, but today we needed to face north so our glorious fucking locks weren’t blowing in each other’s face.

“What about the river in Abbotsford, It’s only twenty minutes away from home!”

“Oh quit your bitching and lets make some fucking magic.”

After about a half hour showing her a couple riffs and how to play them, I started into something I was working on. A Doom/Pagan kind of bit. After playing it a few times, she started to sing over it. Could not remember, or even hear the lyrics for that matter, but it sounded pretty good. After a vain attempt of us both improvising a chorus, we took a water/smoke break. She was doing her damnedest not to talk about anything related to the potential band she wanted to start. After a bit, she coughed through the haze.

“Fuck, I can’t fucking sing.”

“Shut up, you just did.”

“Yeah, but I can’t sing well.”

I really need to give this woman an ego transplant. It’s every fucking day with this bullshit. After a few more minutes, we sat down on the rocks and started playing the riff. After I finally managed to talk her back into singing again, I decided to ask where she got inspiration to sing from.

“So, who do you try to sound like?”

“Well, I’ve always tried to take my cues from Danzig and Lana del Ray.”

I stopped and stared at her for five whole minutes.

I seriously didn’t know whether to smack her, or to start violently making out with her. Knowing her, she probably wouldn’t let me do either. On one hand, pop singer. But on the other hand, Danzig, and she did something that some of my favourite vocalists do.

They take inspiration from vocalists that aren’t metal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love metal vocalists infinitely more than any other vocalist, but seriously, in this genre, every metal vocalist rips off every other one. Doom metal bands rip off Ozzy, Death metal bands rip off George Fisher, Thrash Metal and Bobby Ellsworth, and Rob Halford is ripped off in every genre like it’s nobody’s business. Does anyone really want to be just a c-grade imitation of a legendary vocalist? Must be some people, because bands like Holy Grail and Elvenking have those losers holding the mic.

Listen, I’m not saying we need every single frontman out there to sound like they have every Prince album alphabetized in their closet or whatever, but we need some fucking variety. We need vocalists that don't step too far away from the true metal path. Singers that while taking clear inspiration outside of metal, are making it their own. It’s actually kind of why I like certain Folk Metal. Skyclad, Eluveitie, Korpiklaani, Týr, these guys all have/had vocalists that are either doing it with little influence from other singers, or are taking it from the drunk guys singing songs in their pub.

And since I suck at transitions, here's a short list of vocalists that have deviated from the tired banshee wailing.

Hansi Kürsch

If you're on this website, you already know who Hansi is, and your cock is poking through your jeans as you're reading these words. I'm not going to bore you with shit you should already know, but I will ask of you this:

Look me straight in the eye and tell me Hansi did not waste his youth hanging around renaissance fairs listening exclusively to the troubadours. Dude sounds like Freddie Mercury if he came from a time with no plumbing and bubonic plague.

He could easily bard it all up at a larp with a lute in hand and robin hood tights till everyone got sick and tired of hearing The Maiden And The Minstrel Knight. So yeah, he'd be there forever. Point is, this vibrato wielding maniac sounds like he should be boosting the morale of a dragonslaying party mid fight.


You all know Danzig as the guy who put out Mother, the guy who got his shit shoved in by a two legged Orca, and as a fancier of kitty litter, but did you know that he actually releases albums? Because his vocal peak has to be Danzig II: Lucifuge.

Instantly shifting from a hushed whisper to his trademarked werewolf howl, Glenn Danzig is a monolith of doom metal vocals, putting to rest the notion that you have to be an Ozzy Osbourne ripoff but decent in doom. Motherfucker's been sporting the Elvis pipes for decades, and if Deth Red Saboath is any indication, it ain't going away any time soon.

...Although his touring schedule is.

Göran Edman

Jesus fucking christ, I love this man. I love every god damned thing about his voice so much, that it's hardly even a man crush, it's almost full on gay. He's got a smooth, Stevie Wonder timbre with all the range of Paul Rodgers, who is forever at his prime. He's most notable for being Yngwie Malmsteen's vocalist for two albums before one of Yngiwe's regularly scheduled egosplosions, and for doing session work for every single band none of you even care about.

He can effortlessly switch between a low introspective murmur, to a melismatic whirlwind that isn't just there to show off. Not only is the guy skilled, but his voice hasn't aged a fucking day. Compare his short lived (and by short lived, I mean not even making it out of the recording studio) time with Talisman:

To his somewhat recent guest appearance with the ridiculously named Boguslaw Balcerak's Crylord project:

Motherfucker's a time lord. Case closed.

Doro Pesch

To this day, I am perpetually bewildered as to why Doro and her previous band Warlock are not more widely recognized as heavy metal greats. Sure, they get a name drop here and there, but hardly what they truly deserve. Every Warlock album is filled with anthem after anthem, has incredibly talented guitarists that went god damned nowhere, and of course was fronted by the Teutonic titan that is Doro Pesch. 

Yeah, she has a three octave range, but what's truly impressive is that while fellow German Hansi Kürsch does utilize vibrato, Doro has been using it much more effectively for her entire career. What's more, it's just absurdly awesome when she goes as high as possible and loses the fucking leash for that werewolf of a throat.

Bill Ramp

Fuck, he looks like your dad

There are people on this planet (bafflingly ignorant people) that have never heard of Axehammer. If you fall into this sub-phylum of uncultured philistines, I recommend taking a long walk off a short cliff. Short story is that they're an L.A. metal band whose heyday is far, far removed from when they were in their prime. Yes, the Windrider album is good, but Bill's vocal performance is merely serviceable, while he was a true beast on the glorified EP that was Lord of the Realm.

You know what annoys the crap out of me? When I get recommended an album or band, and the Darwinian reject with the CD describes the vocalist as "soaring" or "operatic". Motherfucker, everyone says that! Hell, just because Dickinson had fairly wide range in his youth or Rob Halford watched opera, doesn't solely make their voices operatic.

Now Bill Ramp? I could totally see him up on stage in some frilly French dress beckoning some daffy broad to disregard her father's strict religious doctrine or something. He had a natural bellow that came much earlier than when Halford cultivated his, and very easily go from highs to lows with little notice of a break. To me, Bill Ramp and Axehammer are one of the truly lost metal bands that could've made it much further had they been in the right place and the right time.


After the last pack of cigarettes was spent and all the alcohol I could handle for the drive home was ingested, we made our way back to my car. We talked, mostly about subjects that had nothing to do with music, which leads me to believe that this won't go anywhere. Not the first time a band won't pan out for me. But maybe she'll go somewhere.

Lucky bitch.

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