10 Metal Bands with Black Singers That Are Amazing
Unlike hip-hop and jazz, heavy metal music has generally been considered a white-male-dominated art form. There are always exceptions to the rule, especially in niche genres’ often unexplored nooks and crannies. Below is a list of some of my favorite metal bands with black singers.
1) Killswitch Engage/Light The Torch – Howard Jones
Killswitch Engage was one of the first metalcore bands to achieve success in the early 2000s. Howard Jones sang on three of the band’s most popular releases (The End of Heartache, As Daylight Dies, and Killswitch Engage). His background in hardcore took Killswitch in a heavier direction and helped redefine the metalcore sound, to which he still contributes with his band Light The Torch.
The toughest nut to crack in metalcore is the balancing of both clean and harsh vocals. Howard Jones does this better than most. He is a talented vocalist with an individual sound, and this sets him apart from many heavy metal vocalists.
My favorite Jones-era Killswitch Engage song: My Curse (2006). This is one of the more popular Killswitch tunes. A lot of times, with a band that’s been around for a long time, fans end up having some deep cuts they’d recommend over the hits. I get that way, too, but not with Killswitch Engage.
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2) Sepultura – Derrick Green
When it comes to Sepultura, many prefer the band’s classic lineup with Max Cavalera on vocals. Like Howard Jones (and others we’ll see in a bit), Derrick Green had a difficult task ahead of him taking over for an original lead singer. He didn’t miss a beat, though!
Green’s first outing with Sepultura, Against (1998), was a bit of a shock to fans. Some loathed it, and some loved it. Green took Sepultura in unexpected directions, adding a previously unexplored soulfulness to the grit and rage the band was known for.
This wasn’t a fault of Cavalera’s, or an extra feather in Green’s cap. Rather the viewpoint of a black man from Cleveland differed drastically from that of a white man from Brazil. What I love about this, as a long-time fan, is that Sepultura has always been a culturally significant band.
Derrick Green had some big shoes to fill, and he has been filling them well for over twenty years.
My favorite Green-era Sepultura song: Rumors (1998). From Green’s debut with the band. I’d be confident singling this one out as an early example of Sepultura surviving without Cavalera at the helm.
3) Alice In Chains – William DuVall
William DuVall took over for Lane Staley as the vocalist for Alice In Chains. If you were alive when Lane Staley roamed the earth with us, you don’t need me to tell you how big a deal that was.
I was impressed immediately. In lesser hands, the opportunity to front a post-Staley Alice In Chains would have quickly become a disaster. William DuVall didn’t try to replace anyone, though. He just joined a band, did his thing, and it worked out well for all parties involved.
My favorite DuVall-era Alice In Chains song: Check My Brain (2009). This one is from DuVall’s first outing with Alice In Chains. I like it because it’s early proof that DuVall was a solid choice to fill Lane Staley’s shoes.
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4) King’s X – Doug Pinnick
Classic heavy progressive funky excellence, King’s X has been kicking all sorts of ass for decades. My first memory of them was in the early 1990s after the grunge scene exploded. King’s X was a welcome breath of fresh air in the mess that grunge became – with dozens of copycat, one-hit-wonder bands sprouting up from seemingly everywhere.
My favorite King’s X song: Black the Sky (1994). ‘Nuff said.
5) Sevendust – Lajon Witherspoon
If you or someone you know has an ear for softer sounds but are anxious to explore some of the heavier sides, Sevendust is a great place to start.
Lajon Witherspoon has a powerful voice, which can be heard in their thirteen albums. He has also spoken frequently about racism and equality in the metal scene. At the same time, he’s been quick to point out the welcoming nature of the community.
My favorite Sevendust song – It is difficult to single out one Sevendust song as a favorite, so I’ll go for a newer one first: Blood From A Stone (2020). The band has mellowed some in recent years, but the production values have steadily improved, making for a more evenly-rounded sound. If you want to go a little heavier, Waffle (1999) is a killer example of how Sevendust sounded in earlier years. You can’t go wrong either way.
6) Fever 333 – Jason Aalon Butler
If you’re in the rap-metal game, you will be compared to Rage Against the Machine. That’s the way it is, for better or worse. In my experience, most bands are unable to crawl their way out of the parallel.
Thanks in large part to vocalist Jason Aalon Butler, Fever 333 has largely escaped that fate. There are still enough similarities to warrant the comparison, but Fever 333 doesn’t die on the Rage Against the Machine hill. And thankfully, the band will still continue despite two members departing Fever 333.
My favorite Fever 333 song: Bite Back (2020). From their third album, Wrong Generation, this track reignited all the energy I felt Fever 333 lost on their more pop-sounding second, Strength in Numbers.
7) Oceans of Slumber – Cammie Gilbert
I think Oceans of Slumber is one of the best metal bands on the planet, and I think the main reason for that is Cammie Gilbert’s voice. Add to that an almost spiritual self-confidence, as a woman of color in the metal scene, her voice becomes a signpost of perseverance and strength.
Oceans of Slumber has been a favorite of mine since The Banished Heart album (2018), and I was finally able to see them perform in support of Starlight And Ash (2022). The state of live music between those four years had changed significantly, as did our reactions to it after two years of pandemic restrictions prevented such things.
Some of you may still be on the fence about going to shows again. I can appreciate that, but I’ll tell you this. Being in the same room with a singer like Cammie Gilbert might be worth the risk.
My favorite Oceans of Slumber song: Red Forest Roads (2022). There are heavier Oceans of Slumber songs, but “heavy” isn’t necessarily the reason I’m into the band. It’s about emotion with them, as opposed to aggression, but this song still weighs on my heart. Extremely powerful.
8) Body Count – Ice-T
Classic. Ice-T and Ernie C. formed Body Count in 1990 and by ‘91 they were opening the first Lollapalooza festival. Cop Killer was released as a single the following year; the rest is history.
Body Count pre-dates Rage Against The Machine, which is important to note because at the time mixing metal and rap was relatively unheard of. There were splotches of it here and there in bands like Fishbone and 24-7 Spyz, but Ice-T was already a well-known rapper. An OG of the hip hop underground, Ice-T was featuring Black Sabbath samples in the 1980s.
My favorite Body Count song: All Love Is Lost (2017). This is a newer Body Count track, and because it features Max Cavalera, it stands out to me as a favorite.
9) Witch Mountain – Kayla Dixon
Kayla Dixon took over vocal duties from Uta Plotkin on Witch Mountain’s self-titled fifth LP. Witch Mountain rides the line between traditional and stoner doom and, with Dixon, dabble with the soul sounds of gospel and the blues.
Check out the song “Mechanical World” to hear Led Zeppelin meet Candlemass. Dixon and guitarist Rob Wrong are a great team with the same spirit as old-school dynamic duos from the 1970s like Page and Plant, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, and Steven Tyler.
My favorite Dixon-era Witch Mountain song: Night Hawk (2018). A slow-burning fourteen-minute slab of bluesy doom. Dixon’s vocals sometimes mimic the lead guitar, which is a nice touch. That’s an old-school approach to blues vocals that not everyone can pull off. There are harmonies swooping in and out of the track, and then about ten minutes in all hell breaks loose!
10) Zeal & Ardor – Manuel Gagneux
These days no list of metal bands with black singers would be complete without Manuel Gagneux. In fact, Zeal & Ardor occupies some of the strangest catchy corners of the avant-garde. In fact, you could dive in headfirst without the particulars and survive with an itch to listen again.
My favorite Zeal & Ardor song: Come On Down (2017). This is a great intro to Zeal & Ardor and a song that fearlessly meets the blues and black metal head-on. If I’m being honest, though, Zeal & Ardor’s entire discography is worth listening to with equal amounts of interest and passion.
This article was written by Joel and edited by Michael.
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