Few things are as essential to the sound of classic heavy metal as the high-pitched banshee howl of its vocalists. Starting with Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, heavy metal bands engaged in a vocal arms raise as successive waves of singers went ever upward into the highest reaches of their range. Forget smashing guitars, some of the metal’s highest screamers could shatter glass with their histrionic shrieking. Though make no mistake, mere shrieking it is not. The degree of skill it requires to hit those high notes, whether you’re talking natural tenors like Rush’s Geddy Lee or the vocal athletes like Judas Priest’s mighty Rob Halford, rivals that of the genre’s greatest instrumentalists. A recent online article named Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose as the best overall signer with his 5 octave range, but we thought it we’d give some shine to some of hard and heavy metal’s other great singers who thrill metalheads worldwide when they reach for the high note. These are the 10 most high-pitched singers in heavy metal and hard rock.
See Rob Halford of Judas Priest discuss his early vocal influences.
10. Chris Cornell
Grunge gods Soundgarden were compared to Led Zeppelin early on thanks to singer Chris Cornell’s piercing screams. While he tamed it down over the years, this recent live clip of “Beyond The Wheel” shows he’s still got the goods.
9. Ronnie James Dio
One of metal’s greatest vocalists, Dio didn’t often go into the vocal stratosphere, but when he did, as on this live version of Rainbow’s “Kill The King,” the results were thrilling.