« Vocal Styles: An Interview with Judy Rodman | Main | Vocal Styles: An Interview with Performance Artist Edoheart »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Loved this entry! Glad it was an evaluation without knowing who sang what! Would love to see this with other genres too.

Claudia Friedlander

Glad you enjoyed the post! Unfortunately, it would be very difficult to identify another genre of music where 1) the singing is so outrageously demanding, and 2) I am such a total neophyte!


This is SUCH an interesting post. I'm so glad someone from the opera ilk is giving a validity to what other singers do. These guys (at least in their early/living days) were playing 100+ shows per year, drinking copious amounts of who-knows-what, travelling all over the world, and rarely cancelling appearances. For those about to rock, we salute you!!

Claudia Friedlander

Now I have learned from a friend that New York Times/TIme Out New York Music Critic Steve Smith (as opposed to voice teacher W. Stephen Smith) just tweeted about this post as it appears on Invisible Oranges: http://twitter.com/nightafternight. I met Steve at a classical voice recital he was reviewing a couple of years ago and had no idea that his musical tastes are so diverse.

Listen up, classical singers - the guy who's reviewing you in the NYTimes is also a savvy metal fan!

Great singing is great singing, period.

James Fintel

This is a really interesting post. I own albums by all of these men, and have seen all of them (with the exception of King Diamond) perform live. Even as a fan of these vocalists, I think they got off very easy here (except, perhaps, for Ozzy!) I think their true test as vocalists is how well they perform on stage. Had this post been written based on live performances I'm not so sure the same conclusions would've been drawn. As much as I enjoy these guys' music, their overall lack of technique leads to them delivering performances today that are largely far from the caliber of performances captured on these classic recordings...

But that's just my $0.02.

Claudia Friedlander

James, when Cosmo originally invited me to do this I asked whether he could give me live performances to critique so that I'd know I was hearing real singing vs. studio magic. It ended up not being a practical way to approach this, but I'm grateful to have comments on live vs. studio singing from someone who has actually heard most of these singers live.

Remember that the same is also true for classical singing. When you hear someone sustain an impossibly long phrase or a superhuman high note, it may in fact really have been impossible or superhuman!

It isn't always useful to compare yourself to the way a singer you admire sounds in their recordings.


Thank you for this great review. It's always interesting to find out different opinions about the metal singers I admire. I totally agree with you concerning Ozzy and his breathing during the songs. In my opinion, Bruce Dickinson is the most talented and expressive singer out of these 5, I'm in love with his variations in singing and the emotion he puts in his performance.

Thank you again and I will keep in mind most of the things you said since I'm a singer, too [not a professional though :P ]


To James Fintel...you have the never to post a pic of you (I assume) with the late great RJDio while commenting that if Claudia were to see him live that she wouldn't think he was as great. Wow. You are speaking of a man who never cancelled a show in his professional career due to illness or fatigue. So where can we find your albums in order to critique your vocals? That's what I thought...

Claudia this was VERY entertaining, and from someone who has sang heavy metal for 20 years (not even close to the caliber of those in the article) there was plenty to take in and enjoy. THANK YOU.

Donald Sehulster

You missed one singer that out performs all of these metal singers. Please check out Michael Sweet from Stryper. In particular I recommend taking a listen to "To Hell With The Devil." Michael is a high tenor, pushing close to countertenor. Listen to the high pitched scream at the end..."devil, devil, devil"...it is effortless, on pitch, and intense.


Maybe you can make part 2 with another set of singers. Another possibility is to make part 2 with later recordings of the same singers and see how experience and age (and in some cases drugs and drinking) affected their singing.


I would love to hear your take on Axl Rose!

Maria Isabel Betancur

I know you're probably getting a lot of suggestions, but I thought I'd suggest one myself, Rody Walker of Protest the Hero. They aren't a classic metal band, but he has a very interesting voice, with a very wide vocal range.
Here's a song by them, if you do decide to check it out:

Here's just the isolated vocals from the same song:

...and finally, here's just the vocal harmonies:

Mike Rothschild


I found this article great. I am a classically trained singer myself and have found that a lot of the best singers in rock and a lot of other genres are metal/hard rock vocalists.

Let me share with you a few vocalists I've come across and absolutely love their voices.

1) Geoff Tate. With the group Queensryche. Maybe had a few lessons (his aunt was a professional opera singer):

2) Roy Khan. Currently with Kamelot, formerly with Conception. Actually trained opera for three years:

3) Miljenko Matijevic. With the group Steelheart:



Excellent post! It deserves the Utne Reader mention for certain. A few newer souls you may be interested in hearing are (less conventional to the US market) Seventh Wonder, and Katatonia (newer material). Both of these bands have exceptional voices in very different ways - SW has the classical voice, and Katatonia has a newer style but the tone and melodies are exceptional.


I'd love to hear an evaluation of Muse's lead singer, Matthew Bellamy. I love his voice -- I think he has a pretty incrediable range. But I read articles talking about his "breathing technique" -- he can certainly take in a lot of air and sustain notes, but his breaths are loud and gasping. Muse is one of my favorite bands no matter what, but I can't imagine how beautiful some of their music would be if Bellamy practiced real technique in his breathing.


Matt Bellamy is a classically trained singer, he does have a great voice. Very good article, Bruce Dickinson is my favourite singer. Bear in mind that as well as singing like that for 90 minutes a night, most if not all of these guys run round non-stop sweating buckets keeping the crowd in the palm of their hand.


While I'm an opera fan, I know little of the technical disciplines involved, but have always been impressed with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I expect his technique is lousy but boy can he emote, and project.


And it's probably Dio, ever the considerate gentleman, ever eager to learn, who you would most have enjoyed having in your studio (he died a few months ago). You might be interested to know he got his start in do-wop in the late Fifties. He was offered, but declined, a scholarship to Julliard c. 1960, thanks not to his voice but his trumpet playing. Imagine where he might have ended up had he taken that path!


Like others, I'd welcome a second installation of this article!

I'd be really interested in what you might have to say about, for example David Draiman of Disturbed. While they're not often my cup of tea, he does seem (to my very uneducated ear) to have some real vocal talent tucked away. Likewise, it'd be interesting to hear your thoughts on Linkin Park's Chester Bennington, who has a bizarre duality oscillating between very pretty vocals and a fierce growl.

Another direction might be to consider Hip-Hop artists who can actually sing - and believe me, I struggle to see past much of the detritus that passes for R&B now. I think there's more than the average level of vocal skill with Mary J. Blige and Ne-Yo, for example.

Andy Sheets

Responding late to this, but I just wanted to mention that I saw Dio perform at what unfortunately was one of his final live shows and the man was almost perfect in his performance (as was the band's as a whole). Maybe he strained once toward the very end but only for a moment. Otherwise, his performance was almost indistinguishable from the studio albums.

I also saw Dickinson on Iron Maiden's most recent U.S. tour and he likewise was excellent live, although maybe not nearly so much as Dio because Bruce likes to run, climb, and leap full blast all over the stage while singing. His energy as a frontman has to be seen to be believed.


Also late to the discussion, but I'd love to hear what you think about Serj Tankien from System of a Down's voice. To my untutored ear he seems to have an incredible range and control.


Very interesting article! I'm a classical singer with a penchant for metal St this touched a chord with me. I urge you to look at some of the European groups, many of whom are classically trained and create outstanding music. Hansi, arjen lucassen, therion, are all exquisite examples. Therion is an operatic metal choir! Arjen creates story based albums with the best talent he can find and then creates music that takes my breath away, and hansi, well, hansi is a singer for hire but mostly works with his band blind guardian and has one of the most magnificent voices. He has also worked on an ayreon album with arjen.

Lucas Hardy

I comment as one who knows Dr. Friedlander personally:

You had asked once what the role of a "producer" is in pop music, and I can offer a new answer: The role of a producer is to put the lie to any and all of your critiques of these *studio* recordings. And in this aspect of their role, they are operating arm-in-arm as accomplice with the tracking engineer and/or the mix engineer.

You see, if there's one thing I learned from studying Music Production & Engineering at Berklee, it's that you can't trust a single thing you hear on these tracks, if you're listening with the ear of a live performer. One of the very first things they taught us to do, before they got into any new-fangled digital wizardry, was how to edit analog tape with a good-ol' razor blade. (I have to wonder if they still do that, since it was already ludicrously outdated when they made me put isopropyl alcohol on my fingers.) One of the points of this was to demonstrate that Editing has been an art form and a powerful tool in the producer/engineer's bag for decades. Ain't nothing new.

If you ever run across someone who does production or engineering in a modern studio, ask them what "comp" means. It's not short for "complimentary", but for "compilation". It's been around far longer than digital audio, though now it's exponentially easier than when some of these albums were made. What it means in the end is that you can't be sure that what you're hearing in the attack and in the release *of the same note* was even recorded *on the same day*. Because these guys have no qualms about slicing the holy bejeezus out of their several-dozen takes to get a vocal performance that will sell records, whether the performer can back it up live or not.

Hopefully, if the producer has some notion of "artistic integrity", the performance you hear on the album is not that different from the performance you will hear in the arena. And given the fame of these artists, I think that's not a losing bet. But, in the final balance, the only judgment of vocal performance you can really, really trust is one you hear with your own ears straight from their mouths. Preferably with no electric reinforcement system that could be masking a lip-synch.

(No, I swear I didn't just accuse Ronnie James Dio of lip-synching. R.I.P., Dio, seriously. I don't need that little bastard haunting me.)


Hello, Claudia.

I love your site!

It would be great if I could get your take on my vocals. If you have time, it would be great.


Thank you.


Cris Oliveira

8 years have passed and I still hope you do a follow up to this article! I'd love to know what you'd say about Bruce Dickinson in his middle ages - and live on stage! It's so rare to listen to a rock singer that actually gets much better with the passing of the decades. I would also like to know your opinion on a better song by King Diamond ('Abigail' or 'Uninvited Guest', for instance, which are songs you can clearly get that they tell a story, with multiple characters and perspectives - and also they are better produced and sound more clearly). I agree King Diamond is not the best singer ever, but I still like him. It's always fun to listen to him.

I'm a huge fan of Halford in his early years. His singing and song writing features a declamation qualitily without losing the melody (King Diamond, which also does declamation a lot, usually cannot sing really melodically unless he goes into falsetto, which explains why he is always "shifting gears"). Because of such quality, whenever I listen to Rob, it is like he is addressing the words of the song directly to me. I wish he had taken better care of his voice when he was younger.

Judas Priest, for a brief period of time, had a singer, Tim Owens, that was actually more technical than Halford, but he used most of his technique to sound like Halford (he was chosen because of his work in a Judas Priest cover band, just like Arnel Pineda's cover work led him to Journey). He's voice was lower than Halford's, probably a baritone, I guess.

If you ever do another review like this, consider reviewing Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche). Chances are you already listened to at least one of his songs, Silent Lucidity, which was a hit beyond rock charts. I've always read he is a baritone, although I could never attest that since he is most of the time soaring high, but when he goes deep down, it's even more impressive. (And since I'm a case of the inverse myself, being mislabeled a baritone in the beginning, I'm never confident to say what other singers are.)

Cris Oliveira

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

My Photo