20 bands who succeeded after their original vocalist left

Some bands can handle a drummer, bassist or guitarist leaving – this lot survived their singer's departure…

20 bands who succeeded after their original vocalist left
Paul Travers

It’s not always easy to replace a vocalist. Most bands who aren’t, say, Gojira could get away with switching a drummer, but the vocals are a key and instantly recognisable part of any act's musical DNA. Sometimes though, changing a vocalist works out for the best. Sometimes it’s forced on a band – by tragedy or personality clashes – and sometimes it’s simply a case of trying something different and finding that it works.

Here are 20 bands who went on to enjoy success after replacing their original vocalist…

Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden’s first singer was actually Paul Day, who was followed by the more theatrical Dennis Wilcock. They did enjoy considerable success with Paul Di’Anno, who sung on their first two albums, but it wasn’t until they recruited the human air raid siren Bruce Dickinson for The Number Of The Beast that they became true globe-straddling behemoths of heavy metal.

Faith No More

Like Maiden, Faith No More only went on to major, genre-changing success after switching out a limited vocalist for someone more… remarkable. The band had tried out a lot of singers (including Courtney Love) before settling on Chuck Mosley. He was a great frontman with a distinctive delivery, but frequently clashed with his bandmates. After ditching him FNM brought Mike Patton onboard and never looked back – at least until they imploded a decade or so later.

READ THIS: Mike Patton is the greatest and this is why


The vocalist on Pantera’s early glam metal albums was one Terry Glaze. In the mid-'80s, with thrash exploding around them, the band were looking to change their style and parted company with the singer. They tried a number of replacements before trying a teenage Phil Anselmo, who they hired on the spot.

Dillinger Escape Plan

A lot of these splits were acrimonious, but Dillinger’s original vocalist Dimitri Minakakis remained on good terms with his bandmates – and his replacement Greg Puciato – after leaving to focus on his family and graphic design. A lot of fans still revere the raw chaos of debut album Calculating Infinity, but there’s no denying the band went on to greater success with the more versatile Puciato.

READ THIS: A match thrown on a gasoline field – Greg Puciato on trauma, Dillinger and The Black Queen

Deaf Havana

James Veck-Gilodi was there since the band's inception, but in Deaf Havana’s earlier days he shared the microphone with co-vocalist and former schoolmate Ryan Mellor. Mellor supplied the screams and Veck-Gilodi the cleans, so when the former left in 2010 and the band decided not to replace him, it was accompanied by a reinvention of their whole sound.


Screaming in a hardcore band can take its toll, and after leaving Northlane in 2014 Adrian Fitipaldes said in a Facebook post that his voice had “fully blown out more times than I could count”. The band turned to Marcus Bridge and have since gone from strength to strength.


Glen Danzig, the Evil Elvis himself, is generally considered to be the ‘classic’ Misfits singer. We’re not going to argue that the band’s Michale Graves era was more iconic, but here’s the thing: the Misfits were very much unappreciated during the lifetime of their initial incarnation. When Jerry Only disinterred the corpse in the mid-'90s they adapted a different, more punk-metal sound yet also rekindled interest in the band and introduced the Danzig era to a whole new generation of fiends.

READ THIS: Misfits "were angier, faster and louder"

No Doubt

The earliest incarnation of No Doubt featured founder member John Spence on lead vocals. Gwen Stefani initially supplied backing vocals and when Spence took his own life just days before a showcase gig, the band briefly split up. They decided to continue with trumpeter Alan Meade stepping up to the mic. It was only when he left that Gwen took over lead vocals, to skanking great success.


In the early '70s AC/DC had glam rock leanings and a singer called Dave Evans. It was only when they toughened up their sound and recruited hard-living party animal Bon Scott that they started to to enjoy some international success. Bon tragically died after a binge in London in 1980. Many thought that would be the end, but they reinvented themselves with Brian Johnson and Back In Black went on to become one of the biggest-selling albums of all time.

Black Sabbath

Bear with us on this one. Of course Black Sabbath were huge in their original incarnation with Ozzy, but by the late '70s they’d entered a seemingly terminal spiral. Sales and creativity had slumped and the double-O was seen as a liability, even in a band awash in drugs and alcohol. Sacking Ozzy and recruiting Ronnie James Dio revitalised the band and made them relevant again, although the set-up remained turbulent and the partnership only lasted for two albums.

READ THIS: 18 things you probably didn't know about Ronnie James Dio


New York thrashers Anthrax tried a few vocalists, including roadie John Connelly who would go on to front Nuclear Assault, but it was Neil Turbin who provided the vocals on their debut album Fistful Of Metal. Despite claims to have given thrash metal its name (via a description in K! of the track Metal Thrashing Mad) it was hardly a classic and it took the arrival of Joey Belladonna to propel them into thrash’s Big Four.

Black Flag

Hardcore progenitors Black Flag went through a number of vocalists. Keith Morris appeared on their earliest recordings and built a reputation as an intensely unpredictable live performer, but left due to a cocktail of drugs, personality clashes and that old chestnut, ‘musical differences’. Ron Reyes quit mid-show due to audience violence and Dez Cadena switched to guitar when he shot his voice. Henry Rollins, who became arguably their most iconic vocalist, got the gig after performing an impromptu version of Clocked In as a fan.

Jimmy Eat World

This one was a gradual evolution. On Jimmy Eat World's eponymous debut album, rhythm guitarist Tom Linton provided almost all the lead vocals, with Jim Adkins playing back-up. On follow-up Static Prevails they split the duties while on subsequent releases – including the breakthrough Bleed American – it was Jim taking the lead.

READ THIS: Clarity or Bleed American? Which is the best Jimmy Eat World album?

Taking Back Sunday

Taking Back Sunday were another band with co-lead vocalists for a time, in Antonio Longo and Jesse Lacey. Adam Lazzara was initially drafted in to replace Lacey on bass when the latter left to form Brand New. When Longo left too and they dropped from two vocalists to zero, Lazzara stepped into the breach.

Arch Enemy

Arch Enemy was the brainchild of Swedish guitarist Michael Amott and initially featured vocalist Johan Liiva. Angela Gossow joined for fourth album Wages Of Sin, released in 2001 and saw the band go on to international success. In 2014 she passed the torch on to Canadian vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, while remaining the band’s business manager.


This was another case of reshuffling, with the Ramones' iconic original bassist Dee Dee Ramone having started as the vocalist while the towering Joey Ramone was initially on drums. When Dee Dee realised he couldn’t properly sing and play bass at the same time, Joey was encouraged to give it a go on the vocals, and the rest is punk rock history.

Napalm Death

In their earlier days Napalm Death might as well have had a revolving door fitted to their rehearsal rooms. They didn’t even have the same line-up for the two sides of debut album Scum, with Nik Napalm providing vocals on side A and Lee Dorrian on side B. The core of Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway, bassist Shane Embury, guitarist Mitch Harris and drummer Danny Herrera has remained pretty stable for the past couple of decades, however.


The first incarnation of Helloween had rhythm guitarist Kai Hansen providing lead vocals. His delivery was a raspy speed metal-standard with the occasional high-pitched scream thrown in. For second album they recruited the teenage Michael Kiske, whose crystalline vocals helped shape the album that defined power metal.


Mayhem’s debut EP Deathcrush, which had more to do with death than black metal, featured two lead singers in Maniac and Messiah (with the other members also chipping in). Per ‘Dead’ Ohlin reputedly auditioned for the band by sending a demo tape and a dead mouse and became an infamous live presence with his corpse-paint and self-injuring. He killed himself before the band could record their debut album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas however, with Hungarian Attila Csihar stepping in.

READ THIS: Mayhem "Everything was about hate…"


Slipknot didn’t start with the masked nonet that exploded into the public consciousness with that self-titled debut in 1999. They’ve since said they consider it a demo, but they did put out a werewolf-obsessed full-length called Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. in 1996, featuring original vocalist Anders Colsefni. Corey Taylor was recruited from fellow Des Moines band Stone Sour – who he put on hiatus – and world domination ensued.

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