Metal with "clean" vocals?
October 19, 2012 7:51 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for a metal-noob? difficulty: "melodic" vocals

I recently ventured into the metal world and am realizing that I like it a lot! I'm having trouble finding bands with vocals that appeal to me, though - screaming/grunting/growling/etc is a dealbreaker for me, which seems to rule out a lot of them.

Some bands that I've liked are the giants - Led Zeppelin (if they count as metal), Metallica and Judas Priest. Iron Maiden has probably been my favourite instrumental-wise although the lyrics are sometimes a bit shrill. I haven't listened to much Megadeth yet but I like what I've heard so far. I liked Dream Theatre a lot on first listen but can't seem to get into them for some reason. I think they're in the right ballpark, though. More suggestions along these lines would be great, but even better would be bands with more "melodic"-sounding vocals but the same intense instrumentals.

As background, most of what I listen to is classic/prog rock and indie rock/pop, with vocals that are more musical/melodic/non-shouting-sounding (male or female, doesn't matter). I would like to combine that kind of vocal sound with the awesome metal instrumental sound, if that exists. If not, I'll settle for vocals that don't abuse my ears, like the above-listed bands.

What bands/songs should I check out?

(I saw this earlier question, but I'm looking for a slightly different sound - higher energy/more badass)

posted by randomnity to Media & Arts (48 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
You won't like all of their songs, because a fair number of them do the screamy-growling thing, but Nightwish has an operatic lead singer whom they use to great effect in...I'd say 70% of their stuff? Give a listen to "Wish I Had An Angel," "Nemo" or "Dead to the World" for starters.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:58 PM on October 19, 2012

Alter Bridge is my fave. Miles Kennedy has a powerful voice, he can REALLY sing and it's melodic. And he can carry a sustained note forrrrrrrrrrrever. If you like instrumental metal, I recommend Apocalyptica--cellos! Not their Metallica covers, but their original music.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:08 PM on October 19, 2012

Black Sabbath w/Dio
posted by cazoo at 8:11 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You have to give a listen to "Operation Mindcrime" by Queensryche. Lead singer Geoff Tate is regarded as being one of the best vocalists of his generation.

From "Mindcrime:"

I Don't Believe In Love
Spreading The Disease
Revolution Calling
posted by ronofthedead at 8:12 PM on October 19, 2012 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe the melodic side of thrash is what you check out first, e.g. Anthrax and Testament.

Thrash descendants Machine Head always used melodic vocals, at least on their first two albums and their latest one. Similarly, Pantera's first-post-glam-eschewing album, Cowboys from Hell, was almost entirely melodic vocals.

Oh, actually, you haven't mentioned the Black Sabbath, so if you haven't already checked them should. Both the Ozzy and Dio eras. Black Sabbath were the first full-on, no-doubt-about-it heavy metal band and are a nice bridge from classic rock, which you already like.

Speaking of Dio, you might like his solo work as well as his stuff with Rainbow.

If you like that sort of expansive singing (like Dio and Dream Theater), power metal may also work for you, although it may not fit your "badass" criterion. Try Gamma Ray, maybe, then go from there?
posted by ignignokt at 8:13 PM on October 19, 2012

Best answer: Also, if you're a fan of prog rock, you might like the prog metal stylings of Coheed and Cambria.

Welcome Home
posted by ronofthedead at 8:14 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also don't like super growly vocals in metal, and I think I've found my metalhead home is stoner/sludge/doom metal. Acid King and Kyuss are my favorites - Sleep is generally considered the standard bearer for the sub-genre. Not sure this is exactly what you're looking for, but you might find something that you like.

Acid King's cover of Motorhead's "Motorhead" changed my life. Seriously. "Busse Woods" is an amazing album.

I also like the "hipster Black Metal" (ugh, metalheads and their genre wars!) Liturgy. Screaming vocals, but non-growly, suprisingly melodic screaming, and very prog-rocky. A little too prog-rock/math-rock for my taste, honestly.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 8:20 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Sword
posted by ifandonlyif at 8:23 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

The 4 most recent Porcupine Tree albums, while not exactly metal, have some very heavy sections, and fit your melodic vocals requirement. They used to be more noodly psychedelic prog, but when they add Gavin Harrison on drums, they went in a much more metal-ish direction, though it can still lean a bit proggy. Their long songs tend to have very hard & loud middle sections, and Harrison can sprout up to 6 arms, as needed.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:38 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

As ignignokt mentioned, check out power metal.
posted by puritycontrol at 8:40 PM on October 19, 2012

Consider The Fucking Champs, while they don't always fit your request for melodic vocals, it's only because they very rarely use vocals at all.
posted by helicomatic at 8:47 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Falconer albums with Mathias Blad on vocals are fun if you ever wanted to know what metal would sound like with a musical theater man on the mic.
posted by Wossname at 8:53 PM on October 19, 2012

Best answer: I think you would like Tyr a lot. Faroese Viking Metal with all clean vocals, and sometimes three part harmonies.

This is one of their best songs, IMHO: Sinklars Visa.
posted by spinifex23 at 8:57 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sonata Arctica was basically the band that got me through high school.

Specific recommendations:

Don't Say A Word
San Sebastian
posted by LSK at 9:01 PM on October 19, 2012

Lacuna Coil
My Dying Bride

...some of those are pretty doomy, though.
posted by batmonkey at 9:04 PM on October 19, 2012

You want Opeth.
posted by mannequito at 9:11 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

also - is Tool too obvious?
posted by mannequito at 9:13 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

...and for the hat-trick: I wouldn't call them metal, but if you're a big Zeppelin fan, try Mars Volta, especially their first full-length album, DeLoused In The Comatorium.
posted by mannequito at 9:17 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

UFO are a band often underrated by history, though not by musicians who grew up the the late 70’s to early 80’s. They were hugely influential on countless bands and shaped the transition from hard rock bands like Zeppelin and Sabbath to Metal.

You want to start with Strangers in the Night, about as classic as it gets.

You also might want to look at earlier/mid period Scorpions albums like Animal Magnetism, Love Drive, and Blackout.

A lot of metal acts from the late 70’s to mid 80’s were very melodic yet heavy, before the two things diverged.
posted by bongo_x at 9:23 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Get the hence to King's X. Perhaps start with Gretchen Goes To Nebraska and Faith, Hope, Love for the early years, and Please Come Home, Mr. Bulbous and Ogre Tones for their later work. Heavy, groovy, melodic.
posted by PussKillian at 9:24 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree with mannequtio: Opeth is the band to try. The singer does the growl, but not always, and of any band that has that style, it's the most approachable here. This is the band that might change your mind about the growl, and besides, the songs are excellent and the musicianship marvellous. They've changed a lot throughout their career, and the latest album, Heritage, is prog but not metal. Try Blackwater Park to start.

(Aside from Opeth: perhaps also try Blind Guardian, such as A Night at the Opera.)
posted by wdenton at 9:55 PM on October 19, 2012

Response by poster: Some great recommendations so far! I'm working my way through slowly but just wanted to point out that that Falconer song in particular is exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for, if that helps guide the suggestions. :)
posted by randomnity at 10:09 PM on October 19, 2012

Stuff that frequently shows up on my Pandora:
Lacuna Coil (Anything on "Comalies" is amazing)
Eyes of Eden ("Star" is a good song to check out)
Birthday Massacre (more synth-rock, but still good, I recommend "Walking with Strangers")
In This Moment (I recommend "Lost at Sea")
posted by Verdandi at 10:52 PM on October 19, 2012

Best answer: Oh my gosh, there is some wonderful stuff in power metal for you.

I've put together this playlist of a wide variety of power metal, most of which I liked. You might like it too. Also check out the power metal subreddit.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 11:43 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

You mention that you can't quite get into Dream Theater.
Some of their songs can be a little too instrumental for the beginning listener. If you haven't listened to a ton of them yet, can I suggest some starting points beyond the one you linked to?

Strange Deja Vu
Caught in a Web

My favorite album to listen to beginning to end (don't skip around on this album) is "Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory", but I suggest you start with "Awake", then "Images and Words", then maybe "Systematic Chaos".

I also second the Nightwish suggestion. Here's one to start with: Storytime
posted by emoemu at 11:57 PM on October 19, 2012

You might want to check out some things in the symphonic metal genre, like Nightwish or Within Temptation. I enjoy the latter more because I find Sharon Den Adel's vocals more pleasing. They've gone just a tad commercial on the past couple of albums, but I loved The Silent Force and its predecessor, Mother Earth was pretty great too. Some selections below, a warning that most of their videos are what I term "endearingly cheesy".

Mother Earth
Grace (fan made video)
Jillian (I'd Give My Heart) (fan made)
Stand My Ground
posted by katyggls at 12:30 AM on October 20, 2012

posted by mannequito at 1:43 AM on October 20, 2012

Not exactly meeting your vocal request, but if you're proggy and into metal you should check out Voivod.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:16 AM on October 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Mastodon - proggy sludge rock; see also Baroness, Kylesa, High on Fire
Amorphis - Finnish melodic metal
Scar Symmetry - Swedish melodic prog metal
Dragonforce - bombastic technical power metal; and in a similar euro-power vein, Sabaton and Hammerfall
Manowar - the grand-daddies of cheesy power metal
Saxon - less celebrated NWOBHM contemporaries of Iron Maiden
Turisas - theatrical Finnish folk metal
posted by Bodd at 5:36 AM on October 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I once thought as you do. The key is to ease your way into the shouting/screaming/etc. You'll come to appreciate (or at least understand) it, and that will open the door to a ton of incredible bands. The gateway for me was Isis. Baroness and Kylesa will also help you on your journey.
posted by sinfony at 7:32 AM on October 20, 2012

Are Jane's Addiction already in your Indie/Rock category? They cross over a lot between metal and the indie rock scene. If you don't know them I'm immensely jealous as you get to discover them from scratch.

Here's Three Days (NSFW), Mountain Song, Stop.
posted by merocet at 7:33 AM on October 20, 2012

Someone else already mentioned Queensryche, but you may want to check out their first full-length album, The Warning. The '80s production sounds a bit dated now, but the first time I heard the first section of "Take Hold of the Flame" I got chills. You'll know the part I'm talking about when you hear it.
posted by kindall at 8:22 AM on October 20, 2012

Pallbearer is the darling of the metal scene right now and the singing is both clean and remarkably awesome. So, so good.
posted by The Michael The at 8:58 AM on October 20, 2012

I don't listen to much metal but I absolutely love Baroness. Their new album has very clean vocals, more of a hard rock in the QOTSA vein than metal really.
posted by saul wright at 9:03 AM on October 20, 2012

I was just today thinking about the underratedness of UFO. When Michael Schenker left them in 1978 or so, he formed MSG - their early albums also might work for you.

(I think UFO have some of the catchiest songs in hard rock, for what it's worth)
posted by Grangousier at 9:27 AM on October 20, 2012

It hasn't been mentioned yet, but you might like Protest The Hero. It may provide another segue to non-melodic vocals.

Sequoia Throne is a song.
posted by klausman at 10:05 AM on October 20, 2012

There's always Dokken
Not really metal but how about The Babys
posted by humboldt32 at 10:52 AM on October 20, 2012

Off the top of my head, in no particular order:

The Devil's Blood
Slough Feg
Hammers of Misfortune

I also don't see Thin Lizzy mentioned yet. Thin Lizzy is absolutely essential. Jailbreak is probably the one to start with but you can't really go wrong.
posted by evisceratordeath at 11:11 AM on October 20, 2012

I think you might like Edguy (linked video is ridiculous and possibly NSFW [girls dressed as sexy bunnies] but the song is great) and Avantasia - both are fronted by Tobias Sammet and he draws a fair amount of inspiration from bands you've listed. Avantasia is particularly neat as it's kind of a supergroup made up of a bunch of really talented people.

You might also like something from Lacrimas Profundere too; it has much lower, "doomier" sounding singing, but lots of melody.

I always feel silly recommending Manowar, but I think their Gods of War album is amazing and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it. Very melodic, some spoken-word type stuff (less stupid than it sounds) and that album has lots of Viking mythology which I really enjoy.

I really, REALLY want to recommend Opeth because they have a lot of melodic stuff, but there's also a lot of growly-type vocals too so I'm not sure if it's what you're looking for - I'd give them a chance though! (Similarly, I really want to have you listen to Edge of Sanity's Crimson because it's an absolute masterpiece, but again with the growly vocals.)

In summary:
Edguy - Rocket Ride
Avantasia - The Metal Opera (I and II)
Lacrimas Profundere - Filthy Notes For Frozen Hearts
Manowar - Gods of War
posted by meggan at 12:34 PM on October 20, 2012

This is a bit of a left field suggestion, but try King Diamond's albums Them and Conspiracy. I think his stuff after this was weaker, but ymmv.
posted by wittgenstein at 7:58 PM on October 20, 2012

I've been idly thinking of writing this question myself - where are the giant, gorgeous vocalists, the likes of Geoff Tate, Dio, and Bruce Dickenson? So thank you very much, and thank you all. God, I love those voices.
posted by Occula at 9:22 PM on October 20, 2012

If you Like Led Zeppelin you might like Budgie.
posted by Dismantled King at 7:17 PM on October 21, 2012

If you like Nightwish or Within Temptation (I see that others have recommended them), you should check out Epica.
posted by cp311 at 12:22 PM on October 22, 2012

System of a Down?
posted by getawaysticks at 11:35 AM on October 23, 2012

Response by poster: Marked some that most closely fit what I was looking for as best answers in case that helps anyone looking at this in the future.

I've been listening the crap out of Falconer (omg <3 )/Tyr/Queensryche/Dragonforce with a sprinkling of some of the others since I posted this question, so I still haven't checked out every band mentioned here, but I will! Thanks again!
posted by randomnity at 9:44 AM on December 12, 2012

Welcome back!
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 10:45 PM on December 14, 2012

I've been listening to this a ton lately, you might like it too. Galneryus - Angel of Salvation
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 9:49 AM on December 15, 2012

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