Metal has been around for over half a century. Many stars have risen during that time. From the new wave of British heavy metal to American power metal, until today, screams have become a part of the genre. Not just normal screams. We are talking from a shout to get your attention, to an enhancing artistic scream, to full-blown “someone stepped on a lego”. On this list, I will not be counting growling as it is different. I am ranking vocalists who kill it on high notes. I will also factor in the impact the screams had on their success, and how impactful they have been on the musical world as a result of their battle cries. The more their verbal assaults changed the game and made the band successful, the higher the ranking.
#10 Ronnie James Dio- known far more for bringing medieval themes into metal, Dio could do it all. He is known for his ridiculous presence, songwriting abilities, charisma, and amazing voice. This is the only man who could rival Ozzy Ozbourne in Black Sabbath. From Rainbow to Sabbath, to Dio, he was arguably the greatest frontman in hard rock and metal history, as well as bringing the devil horns to metal prominence. He was so ridiculously good, that most people forget he could scream. In live performances, he would often use a variety of high notes to energize the crowd.
#9 Geoff Tate is widely regarded as one of the best metal vocalists of all time. He has lead Queensrÿche to several Grammy nominations and millions of albums sales. He is one of the most important figures in the history of progressive metal. His high-pitched vocals and screams are a huge part of his appeal. One could argue he screamed his way into success
#8 Bobby Ellsworth has sold over 16 million total albums with Overkill. His high notes are impressive and can be extremely aggressive. One great example would be from the song “Wish You Were Dead”. He has been highly respected for decades and stayed relevant for quite a while. After all these years, he’s still got it.
#7 Floor Jansen has it all. She can sing fast-paced songs, slow artistic ones, or if needed, belt it out opera style. She has a wide range and has impressed countless people with her high notes. Well, with any note she performs she impresses others, to be honest. She is one of the most respected vocalists in the history of symphonic metal for many reasons. Her high notes are among them.
#6 Tarja Turunen co-founded Nightwish. She would front them for years and bring them to prominence. Like their current lead vocalist, Tarja has a wide range. Whether covering Phantom of the Opera in a metallic operatic style with sweet, savory high notes, or mind-blowingly powerful screams in songs like Supremacy, Tarja will hit any note she has to. Easily one of the best melodic and symphonic performers in history, Tarja separates herself even farther from the pack with style. Her vocal endurance is also ridiculous as she can take a high note and press it higher and higher while holding her breath.
#5 Tom Araya could be the best thrash metal vocalist when it comes to unleashing a powerful cry. As both a screecher and bassist, he helped make Slayer the fastest of the “Big Four” in thrash metal. During that time they sold over 20 million albums. As if that wasn’t enough, he also helped them win 2 Grammy Awards and played a massive part in the band getting nominated for 3 more. Tom has been highly influential to many in the metal industry. He has been huge in the black metal industry, despite professing to be a Catholic. His cutting vocals helped make him one of the most iconic frontmen in heavy music.
#4 King Diamond is one of the big names in black metal. He frequently uses high notes when singing. Live performances as well. His screams separate him from most vocalists as well. He also received a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance. Many consider him black metal royalty because of his iconic status and the musicians he has inspired throughout his decades-long career. He also inspired many in thrash metal, including members of Metallica and Slayer. Without him, the musical world would be very different today.
#3 Michael Sweet has been unleashing banshee screams for over 35 years now. While he can’t get his notes as high as before, he can still hang with the best of them. From simple piercing cries to distorted shrieks, to channeling his voice to a ridiculous note, to just falsetto, Michael does it all. The range on this man is ridiculous. He can take a high note, hold it for a few seconds, then naturally make it higher in the same breath! He can then drop the note and go back to his highest note, all in a matter of seconds. Don’t let the fact he’s a Christian singer fool you. For Jesus, he is screamin’ like a demon.
#2 Bruce Dickinson is nicknamed the “air raid siren”. That alone puts him on the list. Yes, I am aware a hater gave him the nickname. Many sources consider Bruce to be one of the greatest screamers in music. His range, stage presence, and energy were all off the charts. Many classic songs from Iron Maiden have energetic, fast-paced percussion and guitar work, along with banshee barks to opera-styled notes being belted. Over the years, he has proven he can still sing, despite his vocal style being extremely rough and demanding. This man screamed his way to success, and into legendary status.
#1 Rob Halford has been screaming like a madman for decades. Arguably the most metal and greatest high note song of all time is “Painkiller.” A song that at 68 years old he was still killing live. How? I don’t know. Many people consider him the greatest metal frontman in history. They didn’t nickname him “the metal god” by accident. Fronting Judas Priest, he arguably is the reason that power metal has been so successful and has really helped metal, in general, expand to where it is today. He also is one of the main reasons, if not the main reason that screaming became so popular in mainstream metal. For what he’s done, he had to top this list. In fact, he’s kind of the godfather of both power metal and Christian metal! Yes, many bands including Stryper were inspired by the style and soaring vocals Rob gave to the world. How can the most influential and iconic screamer not top the list????