Wednesday, 19 February 2014

My Favourite Vocalists

So, I'm not going to rank anything like top ten or stuff because this list is going to be subjective enough as it is, but I'd like to go over some of my favourite vocalists from a bunch of different genres and why each of them are my favourites.

The Hard

Tobias Netzell - In Mourning/October Tide/Majalis/Contortion

Tobias Netzell is one of my favourite death metal vocalists due to his range, technique, and delivery.  Netzell ranges from a low growl to a higher end scream and (rarely) some clean vocals, sometimes all in the same song.  His vocals are powerful, roaring, and 100% consistent.  Netzell never falters even when holding incredibly long notes.  His delivery can be punchy, soaring, and grinding, and never fails to please.  While not as unique as some of the others on this list, Netzell is consistently above average and provides a solid link in the chain of professionalism that his acts present.  In Mourning is one of the most consistently solid melodic death metal acts I can think of and Netzells performances solidify their reputation.

Rainer Landfermann - Bethlehem/Pavor

I won't say much about Landfermann, due to my last review, but what I will say is that his performances, though few and far between, are breathtaking.  His raw, uninhibited, hellish vocals define whatever music is backing them and create a sonicscape of pure despair and anger.  His unique style is rarely copied (or attempted) and for good reason, I can't imagine how this guy hasn't lost his voice yet.

Orjan Stedjeberg/Hoest - Taake/Thule/Deathcult/Ragnarok

Hoest isn't just one of my favourite vocalists, he's one of my favourite musicians in general.  His continued commitment to traditional but innovative black metal is matched by his vocal and instrumental skill.  His inhuman banshee shrieks are powerful and passionately delivered.  I've yet to find one song that he's worked on that I don't like, and a lot of that is due to his vocals.  He also contributes some strange but appropriate trademarks to his work, such as his grunts and shouts that frame many of his most powerful performances.  In general nothing this guy does is bad.

The Soft

Neil Young

Neil Young is a living legend.  Neil's been making music, good and bad, since 1968, with no sign of stopping anytime soon.  His trademark nasal, off-key crooning seems to perfectly highlight whatever kind of music he seems to be playing, whether folk, rock, country, disco, or some hybrid of all of them.  His voice can be almost breathless or almost shouting depending on the intensity of whatever he is playing at the time and always maintains his well known sound.  If I were to compare his voice to an instrument it would be a harmonica, it's loud, annoying, bracing, but yet melodic, beautiful and able to accompany just about anything.  Neil Young manages to be incredibly irritating and captivating at the same time, and that's hard to accomplish.

Beck Hansen

Beck has been making a lot of different types of music for a long time and what's maintained throughout is his voice.  Beck can do just about anything, whether it's rapping, breathless spoken word, shouting, screaming, and beautiful melodic singing.  Being a musician of many styles Beck has had to adapt his vocals to many different genres over the years and is never afraid to tackle new styles and new techniques.  Like Neil Young, Beck often manages to be incredibly annoying and yet completely awesome at the same time, and I guess that's the kind of thing that appeals to me, because he's on this list as well.

Spencer Krug/Dan Boeckner - Wolf Parade

These two vocalists with their similarly nasal, but totally different voices are what made Wolf Parade one of my favourite bands for a long time.  These two guys have perfectly complimenting voices and that's hard to find for two vocalists in the same band.  Krug's almost whiny, wavering, high pitched wailing flows seemlessly into Boeckner's equally wavering, equally whiny mid range crooning, both of which compliment the electro indie rock of Wolf Parade.  The band may have broken up, but the three albums they did put out highlight the vocal talents of these two guys and are well worth checking out.

Steven Wilson

Steven Wilson is the mastermind behind many of the best prog rock projects of the last decade and most well known for his role as writer and vocalist for Porcupine Tree.  Wilson's voice is powerful but calming, strong but weak, an enigma of dynamics.  Wilson's vocals, like some others I've mentioned, seem to seamlessly frame the multitude of different styles he performs.  I don't really know what else to say about Wilson, so I'll just post an example.

The Inbetween

Mikael Akerfeldt - Opeth/Bloodbath/Katatonia(BMD)/Storm Corrosion
Akerfeldt has always been in my top five vocalists for a good reason, his range and talent at multiple vocal styles and his songwriting skill.  Akerfeldt often moves from an intensely deep and growling death metal roar to his breathtakingly beautiful and soaring singing voice and back and forth and back and forth all within the confines of a single (all be it generally long) Opeth song.  He is also fully capable of staying in one dynamic range, lending a pure doomy death performance to Katatonia's Brave Murder Day or a pure clean performance to Opeth albums such as Damnation or Heritage.  He was also the lead vocalist for the technical death metal act Bloodbath, where he held nothing back with some of his most brutal and roaring harsh vocals.  The main thing that sells Akerfeldts vocals for me is how he, like Rainer Landfermann, puts 150% effort into whatever he's doing and never has a "weak" performance.  When Akerfeldt is on, he's on, and he's always on.

Stephane Paut/Neige

Neige is basically the father of the subgenre of "blackgaze", a hybridization of black metal and post-rock, often shoegaze elements.  Neige has dozens of projects and is always working with different people and in different countries, though usually in his native language of French.  Neige is capable of some of the most beautifully dreamy shoegaze inspired vocals and also of some very powerful high pitched black metal style screams.  His adeptness at hybridizing genres is highlighted by his ability to mold his vocals to whatever he does, like many others on this list.

Jonas Renkse - Katatonia

Renkse has had a very interesting career as a vocalist.  Listening to his early work and his later work is a completely different experience and one would be hesitant to believe it was the same guy singing.  Renkse started off his career with Katatonia as a very harsh, emotionally dynamic, and passionate screamer.  Due either fortunately or unfortunately to his poor technique Renkse damaged his vocal chords and was unable to continue doing harsh vocals.  At this time it was unclear whether Katatonia would have to find a new vocalist or what Renkse would do with the news that he was unable to scream anymore.  Amazingly Renkse transformed his style into a clean, singing style, while still maintaining the doomy style necessary for his work.  Over the course of a couple albums his voice grew and changed, and while the interim was sketchy the final product is an ever improving and hauntingly beautiful singing voice.  From The Great Cold Distance onward his voice has been astonishingly melodic and the effort he has put into honing his technique is readily apparent, this is a guy that is serious about being the best singer he can be and not taking "no" for an answer.  How many vocalists completely lose their voice and then take a new approach, completely transforming and putting endless amounts of effort into developing a new technique?  None come to mind other than Renkse, and what's come of it are some of the most haunting and moving vocal performances in the hard rock/metal world in recent history.

Mike Patton

Who better to end the list with than Mike Patton?  Patton has performed with just about every kind of musical act you can imagine and his unique vocal style seems to work for just about anything.  I don't know of a single vocalist that has performed as a part of or accompanying so many different musical acts or with as many different styles.  If you can name a style or genre Mike Patton has done it, and done it well.  It would be an injustice to post a single video for Mr. Patton, so here is a link to a search of his name on YouTube.  You'd be hard pressed to find something that isn't well performed, no matter when, where, or what it is.  Patton is simply one of the most consistently professional yet inconsistently bound by genres or styles.  Simply put, he does everything.

So yeah, that's my list.  Obviously your favourite vocalists aren't all going to be on this list, that's why it's my list, but if you think of a vocalist that I've neglected that you think I'd be enamored with please feel free to send suggestions my way!

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