They say two heads are better than one. But then again they also say too many cooks spoil the broth. It’s hard to know what to believe and whether more than one person at the helm of a project is a good thing. For the sake of this list however, more is most certainly more so enjoy the Rock Sins top ten heavy bands with more than one vocalist.
10. HECK – Matt Reynolds and Johnny Hall
The sadly no-longer-with-us hardcore tour-de-force, HECK, were an unparalleled Molotov cocktail of bravado and relentless energy. Their live shows were the stuff of legend right up to and including their final performance at 2017’s ArcTanGent festival and anyone lucky enough to see them will have their own war stories of enduring Reynolds and Hall’s dual-pronged assault. But it wasn’t just explosive live antics or jumping on the bar gimmicks; the backbone to these fabled shows was a debut album in the upper echelons of releases in the 2010s, spearheaded by ferocious vocal performances from the duo in question. Instructions demonstrated a band at the peak of their powers with two vocalists able to shout, scream and caterwaul with the best of them. Songs like Mope and I. See The Old Lady II. Buried Although III. Among Those Left Are You show the unique flair the band had and gave us a glimpse as to what could have been a sterling further career. HECK, and more specifically Reynolds and Hall, have earned the place opening this list in much the same way HECK were gaining to-die-for opening slots in their last days; through sheer force of will and demonstrable talent.
9. Carcass – Jeff Walker and Bill Steer
British bastions of extremity, Carcass are rightly lauded as legendary in the annals of metal’s history. Pioneers of goregrind, they set a new template for the way in which visceral music could splatter against the eardrums in the most unpleasant of manners. Liverpool’s finest band (yeah, take that The Beatles) they have built a career on decimating their contemporaries and peers that stretches to this day. With a new album in the works, it remains to be seen if they can retain their no bad record run (yes, even with Swansong), but all evidence points to the kings staying on the throne. Part of Carcass’ appeal comes from the levels of nihilistic agony thrown out of the speakers, and it would be nothing without the interplay between Walker and Steer; two titans of the extreme genre. The likes of Unfit For Human Consumption from 2013’s sterling Surgical Steel benefits from Steer and Walker trading and harmonising screams of anguish with muscular efficiency and displays a band of monolithic ability doing something generally unseen in the world of extreme. And again, they’re better than The Beatles. ‘Ave it.
8. Baroness – John Dyer Baizley and Gina Gleason
Baroness are slowly growing to the point of reverence that they have deserved since Yellow and Green. A band that have sonically mellowed over the years, they have become no less enticing to the listener – though some purists will argue that only Red and the Blue Record are worth listening to, the fools – and with the addition of Gina Gleason to the band in 2017 for the writing sessions of Gold and Grey, they have found themselves at the pinnacle of the harmonious abilities. Songs like Borderlines and Seasons show the Baizley and Gleason work in glorious tandem as they trade vocal refrains off one another, two tones meeting in the middle to round out the complex sound. Similarly, their style of guitar playing is complimentary whilst retaining uniqueness and shows us a band not afraid to experiment. Fortunately for us every single experiment has paid off to date, and with Gleason, Baroness have truly found that key ingredient that elevates Baizley’s abilities from the exquisite to the divine.
7. System of a Down – Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian
There have been some notable falls from grace in the world of heavy music – looking at you In Flames – but none have been quiet as heart-breaking as the decline of System of a Down from world-beating icons of oddity to greatest hits peddling shadows of their former selves. The reason a band with a back catalogue as chock-full of anthems as System is this low down in the list is because of what they have become. Tankian and Malakian have unique, and for some, unpalatable voices that resonate with audiences en masse and work stunningly well together despite their distinctive tones. The interplay between the two on the likes of Lonely Day or the dual versed madness of Dreaming are to this day bold statements of ability, but System now lack the passion necessary to truly carry off these songs – at least at Download Festival anyway. The fire isn’t there anymore but based on what those two voices did for a generation of metal fans, they are deserving of a spot in the list regardless. Let’s just remember the good times and ignore the caricature they have become.
6. SikTh – Mikee Goodman and Joe Rosser (Formerly Justin Hill)
A band that redefined the way in which vocalists could play off one another, as well as pioneering a new form of British progressive music, SikTh are a boundless talent consistently striving for perfection. Whether they achieve that is down to personal taste rather than objectivism, but what cannot be denied is the multi-faceted nature of the vocal performances across their three full length records and multiple EPs. Mikee Goodman alone is able to carry several singers’ worth of vocal talent, so combing him with the histrionic textures brought in by Rosser and once Hill allows for SikTh to have perhaps the most dynamic vocal range of this list. The constant line-by-line trade-off of lyrical phrasing is stupefying and takes time to attune to. At first it’s a blindsiding assault to the senses trying to keep up with the back and forth, but once you settle into SikTh’s polyrhythms it becomes an experience at which to marvel. Unique in approach and sound, SikTh are one of this country’s finest and represent the best of British duality in this list.
5. Code Orange – Jami Morgan, Reba Myers and Eric “Shade” Balderose
If it wasn’t already clear, at this point we’re getting into the absolute cream of the crop of heavy bands, and none stand as defiantly and boldly against the grain as the inimitable Code Orange. Their last two records, Forever and Underneath, have both rightly been lauded as pushing metal into new frontiers, whilst simultaneously bringing hardcore to more mainstream ears. If you’re not already on board with Code Orange, be aware you are on the wrong side of history. What makes the band so special? There are a multitude of factors, but perhaps the most immediately apparent is their vocal dynamism. Whether it’s Morgan’s indignant shouting, Balderose’s deep growls or the melodicism of Myers everything works and produces top-tier heavy anthems. Want something crushing? Swallowing the Rabbit Whole. Want something more melodic? Autumn and Carbine. Want both? The Easy Way. The band can do no wrong and on current form are demonstrating that they have a handle of every facet of what makes heavy music great. The vocal strengths of this band are undeniable and are one of myriad reasons they will end up being the next big thing in heavy music.
4. Mastodon – Troy Sanders, Brent Hinds and Brann Dailor
Few bands have taken prog metal to the extremes that Mastodon have. Whether it’s the sludge-laden Remission, the all-out prog-rock Crack The Skye or the mixture found on Emperor of Sand the band tun their hands to every incarnation of what can be deemed “progressive” in stunning fashion. Most impressive is the way in which their sound, and more pertinently to this list, their vocal approach has evolved across records. Starting with mainly Sanders’ growls on Remission, the band introduced Hind’s Ozzy by way of extreme metal flavour on Leviathan and finally brought in Dailor for the soaring melodies on Crack The Skye. All three of these men have distinct styles they excel in, but when you put them together you get something otherworldly. Listen to the trade off of Sanders and Hinds in latest single, Toe to Toes, or the way in which Dailor and Sanders carry Show Yourself and you find yourself one of the most sonically diverse set of vocalists in the game. Each of these men could carry a band alone, so combining the three makes for one of the best bands our world has to offer. Get this band out of Brixton and into arenas, because they have the ability and the songs to fill them.
3. Alice In Chains – William DuVall (formerly Layne Stayley) and Jerry Cantrell
The passing of Layne Stayley, one of the greatest vocalists of all time, is a wound that is still fresh. The unfortunate circumstances surrounding his death are harrowing and the world lost a true talent. However, Stayley alone didn’t make Alice In Chains the monolithically revered band they are today. His vocals on the likes of Rooster may be haunting and prescient, but it’s with Jerry Cantrell that his true superstardom came alive. The fact that William DuVall is able to carry Stayley’s legacy whilst forging his own unique path in the AiC catalogue is heartening and proves the genius of composition that Cantrell is. The band feel whole even in Stayley’s absence, carried by sublime vocal harmonies seen in the likes of Black Gives Way to Blue just as much as they are on Man In The Box or material from the unspeakably dark Alice in Chains. Truly one of the greats, their vocal prowess stands as testament to the benefits of the duo and to this day they are some of the best to ever do it.
2. Neurosis – Scott Kelly, Steve Von Till and Dave Edwardson
One of the heaviest bands to ever create music, Neurosis have demonstrated time and again how Kelly and Von Till can play off one another to create music that is consistently destructive. Add into this Edwardson’s growls and you get a band that are justifiably the heaviest to ever play. Through Silver In Blood may be the band at the apex of vocal interplay with Kelly and Von Till trading blows as Edwardson’s demonic presence backs up the ferocity, but what’s most exciting is the idea that the band’s experimentation is still evolving to this day. Though their most favoured albums and performances may be from days gone by, you can’t argue that Neurosis are even thinking about settling into a rut. The vocals may not be the most obviously important part of post-metal’s impact, but for Neurosis it is the nexus of all the darkness they wish to express; the centre point for all the anguish the members have experienced and the conduit through which that agony can be expressed. Truly a legendary outfit in a genre proven to produce some of the most forward-thinking and crushing bands, Neurosis rightfully take second place in this list.
1. Fugazi – Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto
There can be only one. One band to rule them all. It’s hard to argue that a band has ever given a more proficient, more diverse, more explosive dual vocal performance than the progenitors of post-hardcore; Fugazi. The way in which MacKaye channels his hardcore roots from Minor Threat into more technical and delicate music is a marvel to behold, while Picciotto brings a brand-new flavour that was at the time relatively unheard in heavy music. The two stand distinct from one another on records, trading songs rather than vocal hooks with one another as so many others in this list have done, however when performing live the pieces fall into place and MacKaye and Picciotto are engaged in battle, constantly trading place at centre stage while relinquishing a sense of ego and serving the song. It beggars belief that members with such unbridled talent can act only in the interest of benefitting the tracks rather than themselves, but Fugazi was never about one-upmanship. It was and still is about creating some of the best music ever put to record. Truly the best band of their genres – and they straddle so many – Fugazi deservedly top this list on the strength of integrity of its members, and the furore created by MacKaye and Picciotto’s audacity to create something hitherto unheard.