Some frontmen seem to work their asses off without ever receiving the respect they deserve. More often than not, it’s those brave souls who step up to replace a departing singer – a delicate situation for any band – who finds themselves on the receiving end of an unnecessary backlash, particularly when the frontman departing is an icon of rock and metal.
For every Black Sabbath, who achieved the almost impossible in replacing one legend with another (Dio for Ozzy, if you hadn’t already guessed), history is rife with more than just a few big-name bands who have experienced a rather trickier transition.
The animosity levelled at some of these ‘new boys’ has often derailed careers entirely. A situation that at times has been absolutely preposterous and whether they have found themselves mocked, derided or ignored completely, did they really deserve to be treated with such disdain….we think not!
Here’s 5 frontmen who deserve way more respect for their stints in some of the world’s biggest bands….give these guys a break, they’ve earned it!
Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens – Judas Priest
Albums: Jugulator (1997), Demolition (2001)
The arrival of Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens should have been seamless.
Here was a voice that could not only mimic his predecessor perfectly (the inimitable metal god himself, Rob Halford) but arguably added a grittier edge to the Judas Priest sound with lower lows, higher highs, grunge-inspired inflection (particularly on Jugulator‘s “Blood Stained”) and a powerful tone that resonated through each and every track on Jugulator and Demolition.
The problem, in this case, can be laid directly at the feet of the musicians backing ‘The Ripper’. While Jugulator embraced the groove-metal of the era it at least still sounded like Judas Priest. Demolition, on the other hand, was disturbingly dark and would have benefited from being released under a different band name entirely. Demolition bore no resemblance to Priest’s canonical sound of old and in reality this was simply not a Judas Priest album….but it sure was a great album!
Irrelevant of the music written for these 2 highly underrated albums, it’s Tim Owens’ vocals that are up for discussion here and in all honesty, they bordered on perfection. He sang loud, he sang proud and his screams, growls and shrieks more than matched his illustrious predecessor.
Hats off to you lad, you pulled it off with aplomb….it’s a shame the metal masses didn’t give you more credit at the time!
Derrick Green – Sepultura
Albums: Against (1998), Nation (2001), Roorback (2003), Dante XXI (2006), A-Lex (2009), Kairos (2011), The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart (2013), Machine Messiah (2017), Quadra (2020)
When Max Cavalera left Sepultura in 1996, the band were on the cusp of something big; just 1 step away from forever joining the metal elite. Instead, internal conflict confounded any progress and Sepultura were left without a frontman.
Enter Derrick Green; the Ohio born throat-shredder bravely stepping up to the plate with enough passion and commitment to convince the fans….so why is he on this list?
No matter how good the albums he sings on are (2020’s Quadra is arguably one of the finest albums ever released under the Sepultura moniker), and no matter how hard he has worked to cement his place in Sepultura history, Derrick Green is consistently dogged by rumours of, and requests for, an original line-up reunion.
Quadra has already proven that Sepultura in 2020 are as reliable an experimental groove-thrash outfit as you could possibly ask for – and Derrick Green is the immovable man-mountain at the heart of their current incarnation – so why is there such constant dismissal of Sepultura’s post-Max output?
Having roared his guts out on 9(!) Sepultura albums – that’s now 2 more than Max managed – Derrick’s credentials as Sepultura frontman should surely be set in stone and he should not have to suffer the constant indignity of reunion rumours which, if they came to fruition, would leave him unemployed.
Give the man some credit, in 2020 he is Sepultura…..and the band are better than ever!
John Bush – Anthrax
John Bush‘s time in Anthrax seems to be met with mixed feelings. Those who embraced Anthrax’s modifications in the 90’s appreciate Bush’s sublime contribution, his gravelly tones substituting for Joey Belladoona’s histrionics and transforming Anthrax into a darker, more aggressive modern metal outfit.
In contrast, there are those who never forgave Anthrax for ditching the pure thrash of the 80’s…..and much of the blame was aimed squarely at John Bush.
Fans seemingly clamoured for the return of Belladonna (and they would eventually get their wish) but to erase John Bush’s output would be to disregard at least three stone-cold classic albums; the relentlessly pummelling Sound Of White Noise, the severely underrated Stomp 442 and 2003’s colossal We’ve Come For You All. Evidently, the results of John Bush’s tenure were genuinely stunning…..if you were willing to embrace the change.
Plus, regardless of the decade of release, “Only” is one of the perfect metal songs and that’s primarily down to John Bush’s outstanding delivery!
Not forgetting, his consistently impressive work with the forever underrated Armored Saint, a band who’ve been flying the flag for heavy fuckin’ metal since 1982!
Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens (again!) – Iced Earth
Albums: The Glorious Burden (2004), Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1 (2007)
‘The Ripper’, again? Yep, the man blessed with a vocal ability to shame 99% of his peers was given the sh*tty end of the stick more than once!
Tim Owens stint with power thrashers Iced Earth also deserves a complete re-evaluation and, similar to his time in Priest, his vocals are pitched to perfection.
Taking over from Matt Barlow, who quit in 2001, ‘The Ripper’ hit the ground running on 2004’s The Glorious Burden album, an American history lesson set to music and a stunning example of Tim Owen’s range and power. Just give “The Reckoning” a spin, to experience Owens delivering some absolutely stunning vocals.
2007’s Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1 followed and it was equally as accomplished but ‘The Ripper’ found himself ousted in favour of a returning Matt Barlow for the following years, Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 2.
A strange situation that served no real purpose as Barlow departed for a second time soon after.
‘The Ripper”s voice was perfect for Iced Earth and they were mad to let him go.
Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden
Albums: The X Factor (1995), Virtual XI (1998)
Ironically, the fate of Iron Maiden‘s Blaze Bayley parallels Tim Owens stint in Judas Priest.
Blaze was also hired to replace an iconic frontman (the talismanic Bruce Dickinson, who ironically replaced the equally beloved Paul Di’Anno in the early 80’s) and Blaze was also shortchanged in the music department….making his already impossible job all the more harder!
In comparison to Maiden’s normally high standards, the songwriting on The X Factor and Virtual XI was simply below par and it was more than convenient to unfairly lay the blame at Blaze’s door. The typical Iron Maiden characteristics were there but the band were dialling it in, fully aware that without Bruce Dickinson the law of diminishing returns was inevitable; Blaze Bayley never stood a chance.
A grossly unfair situation as Bayley did more than just a decent job and he definitely deserves way more credit; check out “The Clansman” from Virtual XI and “Man On The Edge” from The X Factor as proof that his voice did suit the Maiden sound!
Have we forgotten anyone? Is there another frontman who has been consigned to the history books when they should be revered? Pop it in the comments section below and we’ll have a chat about it!