Desert Island Discs-10 Albums with Replacement singers that worked

Usually, no one likes a major shift in the lineup of their favorite band. Even though a changing guitarist or drummer can make just as much difference in sound, a change in singer seems to be the most visible and often the hardest for fans to accept. Occasionally, though, there’s a replacement singer that actually […]

by Fred Phillips

Usually, no one likes a major shift in the lineup of their favorite band. Even though a changing guitarist or drummer can make just as much difference in sound, a change in singer seems to be the most visible and often the hardest for fans to accept. Occasionally, though, there’s a replacement singer that actually doesn’t stink the place up. On rare occasion, there’s even a replacement that improves the band.

I’ll admit to cheating a little with a couple of them (you’ll know which ones), but here are 10 first records from replacement singers that didn’t suck (at least in my opinion).

“Number of the Beast,” Iron Maiden. This one is a no-brainer. Yes, Bruce Dickinson is considered the voice of Iron Maiden these days, but at one time he was a replacement singer. This was one of those rare cases where a change in vocalist instantly makes the band much better. The first two Maiden records are really good. “Number of the Beast” is an absolute must-have classic, and a great deal of the credit goes to Dickinson.

“Heaven and Hell,” Black Sabbath. The first six Sabbath recordings with Ozzy Osbourne are true metal classics. They’re the stuff that all metal sprang from. But the band’s first recording with Ronnie James Dio can stand toe to toe with them. The title track and the epic “Children of the Sea” are easily as powerful as most of the songs from the Ozzy years.

“Edge of Thorns,” Savatage. Admittedly, being a hardcore Savatage fan and counting Jon Oliva as one of my favorite vocalists, I didn’t take to Zachary Stevens immediately, though I grew to like him pretty quickly, and he did, perhaps, have a more fitting voice for the musical theater style of metal that the band was about to transition into. This switch also is probably the least lamented among fans that I can think of, maybe because Jon Oliva remained involved with the band, just not on vocals.

“Images and Words,” Dream Theater. OK. Here’s another little cheat. It’s hard to imagine Dream Theater without James LaBrie on vocals, but technically he is a replacement singer. The band grew by leaps and bounds on its sophomore release, and at least part of that is due to stability in the vocal slot. When was the last time you listened to “When Dream and Day Unite?”

“The Glorious Burden,” Iced Earth. Everyone knows this one is a sore point with me, but I won’t get into that here. Tim “Ripper” Owens comes in to replace Matt Barlow, who despite giving some good years to the band had offered up a flat performance on “Horror Show” and was ready for change. Owens brings more aggression and fire to the performance, making this arguably the band’s best recording.

“Sound of White Noise,” Anthrax. John Bush takes over the mic, instantly turning Anthrax into a heavier band with less of a cartoonish sound and image. The band would only get better with Bush in the fold, releasing one of their best records, “We’ve Come For You All,” in 2003. Unfortunately, the band decided to reunite with a washed-up Joey Belladonna shortly after, alienating Bush and losing his talents.

“Burnt Offerings,” Iced Earth. The first time around, I thought Matt Barlow was a great choice of replacement singer. This time, not so much. On this record, Barlow brought another dimension to the band, helping them transition into a more melodic act with more depth. The next two records with Barlow, “The Dark Saga” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” were even better and solidified the band’s status in metal.

“Motley Crue,” Motley Crue. Most fans of the band hated the move to Jon Corabi, who was a 180-degree shift from original singer Vince Neil. The lineup was short-lived, but like John Bush joining Anthrax, Corabi immediately made Motley Crue darker and less cartoonish. This record is perhaps their best from a musical standpoint.

“Jugulator,” Judas Priest. “Ripper” Owens makes a second appearance on my list for his work on “Jugulator.” I think Owens was criminally underappreciated with Judas Priest, but it’s easy to understand considering the legendary status of Rob Halford. It also didn’t help that most of the songs he was given on the two studio records he made with the band were shit.

“Shovel Headed Kill Machine,” Exodus. I know there are a lot of fans out there who don’t like Rob Dukes, but I actually find him to be an improvement. Though I liked most of the records with him, Steve Souza’s voice was, at times, just this side of nails on a chalkboard for me. True, you can hardly call it Exodus anymore with the lineup changes, but I’ve loved the last two records. (And, yes, I do think re-recording “Bonded by Blood” is a huge mistake.)



  1. Commented by: adam

    Nice list. I’m a bit unsure of Motley Crue, though. If they’d stuck with Corabi, and made a go of being a real metal band, I could see it. But they made a one-off, before returning to their caricatured ways.

    Instead of that, how about The Real Thing?

  2. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    That’s the problem with these lists. Just when I think I’m ready to publish one, I’ll remember a record that I left off. The Real Thing is definitely a contender.

    As far as the Crue record goes, I really like that one, and I think it got a bad rap from fans. With it, I was really just thinking in terms of how much I like that one record, rather than what it led to down the road.

  3. Commented by: adam

    it got a really, reeeeeallly bad rap. I remember buying the tape for $4, and still being too ashamed to listen to it more than a few times. I should probably check it out again (now where’s that tape deck? oh, right. that’s a problem)

  4. Commented by: Kyle

    Amen to Jugulator and the criminally underrated Sound of White Noise, but I would have Negatron by Voivod on there because that record fucking destroys. Hell I think Forrest resurrected what had become something of a moribund Voivod into something a bit more lively. Negatron and Phobos rank up there with Killing Technology and Dimension Hatross for me.

  5. Commented by: gabaghoul

    entertaining read, thanks!

  6. Commented by: Dan

    Without even reading the entry, I want to add, with great enthusiasm, THE CROWN – CROWNED IN TERROR!!!!! I will now check to see if you included this.

  7. Commented by: Dan

    whoops. SINGERS. I see that now. Still, Lindberg was a demon beast on Crowned in Terror.

  8. Commented by: Grimulfr

    horna with Corvus
    metal church with Mike Howe
    Gorgoroth with Gaahl
    Borknagar with Hedlund

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