Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s contributors take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
During the Monsters Of Rock-The Voyage cruise last weekend, John Corabi performed acoustic renditions of songs recorded during his time in Motley Crue. Right around the same time, former Iron Maiden singers Blaze Bayley and Paul Di’Anno co-headlined a show in Moscow together. Both events got us thinking about replacements in huge groups that didn’t pan out so well. Singers (like Bayley and Corabi) had it hard enough when they replaced beloved frontmen in enormous groups. But to add insult to injury, they eventually got replaced by their predecessor when fans started to lose interest. Now, their time in the band’s history is referred to as the group’s “let’s not talk about that time” era. So with that in mind, we’re taking a moment to discuss which band had the best period with a replacement who didn’t last long in this week’s Headbangers’ Brawl.
Zach: If I had to choose only one, I’d have to go with John Bush era with Anthrax. While they may not have been successful as they were with Joey Belladonna, Anthrax produced a lot of great material with Bush. And unlike most replacements, there are many Anthrax fans who actually prefer Bush over Belladonna. Many were even enraged when Anthrax outed Bush in 2005 in favor of doing an Among The Living lineup reunion. You better believe that if he had been interested, Bush would’ve been singing on Worship Music.
However, if there’s one singer who I feel really doesn’t get enough credit, it’s Tim “Ripper” Owens. Not only did he get replaced in Judas Priest by his predecessor Rob Halford, but also got the shaft from Iced Earth in favor of reuniting with Matt Barlow. Granted, even Owens couldn’t argue that reuniting with Halford was the right move, but I honestly think his time in Iced Earth was unfairly cut short.
Bram: Replacing a popular or iconic singer has got to be a tough job. In fact, maybe the best thing that can be said for a replacement singer is ‘whoa, he/she doesn’t totally suck.’ That, or the band doesn’t break up after an album or two. At any rate, I think the real most successful replacement singer would be Dickinson. Let’s not forget about Paul DiAnno. And there are still some people that swear that Paul’s the best Maiden singer. While the Crue were really proud of John Corabi’s tenure in the band, and probably really enjoyed having someone that could actually sing, the charisma and vibe wasn’t the same without Vince Neil.
I think I’d have to give it to Ripper Owens as well. Rob Halford was and is irreplaceable, but he had an amazing voice, and “Blood Stained” stands up alongside the band’s other material. Plus, he hasn’t exactly been slumming it since leaving the band, playing in Iced Earth, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and Charred Walls of the Damned, among other bands.
Kodi: You almost have to sympathize with anyone replacing an iconic singer, especially because the underground tends to be fiercely loyal. Look at all of the heat Rob Dukes has taken from Exodus fans after following not one, but two thrash icons in Paul Baloff (RIP) and Steve “Zetro” Souza – he’s great for what the band’s doing now, it’s just that he’s not the voice behind Bonded By Blood or even “Toxic Waltz.”
And in keeping with the even more underground side of things, I can’t help thinking back to when Swedish deathrashers The Crown parted ways with Johan Lindstrand in favor of what would be an upgrade in almost any metalhead’s book, Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates/Lock Up/Disfear/Nightrage/Grotesque/probably a few hundred cameo spots and other projects I’m forgetting). Their lone album with him, 2002’s Crowned in Terror, sounded like the true sequel to At the Gates’ famed Slaughter of the Soul and earned rave reviews from a whole new group of fans. But the Lindberg-fronted lineup didn’t last for long, and Lindstrand’s unique, tabloid-Satanist lyrical style was one of the band’s most underrated components. He would later return to the band for Possessed 13 and ultimately re-record Lindberg’s album with them as Crowned Unholy. Though The Crown’s fans (and apparently the band as well) were hugely loyal to Lindstrand, Crowned in Terror stands out in their discography in part because it’s an oddball – it’s the most noticeably melodic death-sounding release The Crown ever made – and in part because it’s a killer record, one that now stands as a notable secret handshake between Gothenburg and death metal aficionados alike.
What do you guys think? Who are we missing out on mentioning?