Mikael Åkerfeldt, Russell Allen, and Daniel Gildenlöw-Three Powerhouse Voices of Progressive Rock

As I’ve mentioned before, Dream Theater is my favorite band. I’ve used it as a jumping-off point into the world of progressive music, which has some of the most innovative music of any genre today. I’m still getting to know a lot of the bands, but what I have noticed is the virtuosity of not only the instrumentalists but also the singers. I’d like to feature three of the most distinctive voices you’ll ever hear-Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt, Symphony X’s Russell Allen, and Pain of Salvation’s Daniel Gildenlöw.

Mikael Åkerfeldt

3483037895_46ba67d313Mikael Åkerfeldt, the lead singer for Swedish progressive metal band Opeth, uses two different vocal styles-clean vocals and death growls. I will admit that I am not a big fan of death growls . But I have a great appreciation for the versatility of Åkerfeldt’s voice. I love his clean vocals in the song “Coil”, off of Opeth’s 2008 album Watershed:

The next song on Watershed, “Heir Apparent”, showcases his growly vocals. For those of you who’ve never heard him sing before, you’re in for a surprise:

For anyone who might prefer Åkerfeldt’s clean vocals, check out Opeth’s 2002 acoustic album, Damnation.

Russell Allen

Russell Allen is the lead singer for American progressive metal band Symphony X. He has fantastic tone quality and expression in his voice, although he does not have a large pitch range. According to his bio, he put the finishing touches on his singing voice during the late 90s when what he calls the “Great American Rock Singer” was disappearing from the American music scene. Allen’s voice fits perfectly into the category of the “Great American Rock Singer”. He sounds almost like Sammy Hagar’s evil brother. In “Serpent’s Kiss” off of Symphony X’s 2007 album Paradise Lost, Allen’s voice hits the listener like a punch in the nose, but in a good way:

Russell has a great clean sound as well. Here’s the title track “Paradise Lost” off of the same album:

Daniel Gildenlöw

Daniel Gildenlöw is lead singer and bandmaster of Swedish progressive rock band Pain of Salvation. Before I begin to discuss his voice, I have to mention his mind-boggling intelligence and creative spirit. Here’s a blurb from his bio :

Bandleader Gildenlöw reveals a humanist, social and political conscience which deals in a controversial manner with the excrescences of the nuclear industry, war and the global water shortage. At the same time, he takes an uncompromising stand against the death penalty, sexual exploitation, racism and torture.

I think that Gildenlöw has the biggest emotional and pitch range of any rock singer today. Some of you might be confused by my statement, since I spent an entire post praising James LaBrie, lead singer of Dream Theater. Don’t get me wrong. LaBrie is still my favorite. His voice touches me in a way that no other’s can. But no matter how much I like him, the fact is that his range is narrower than Gildenlöw’s. Here are some examples of Gildenlow’s flexibility:

“This Heart of Mine” is a mellow song off of one of my favorite albums of all time, Pain of Salvation’s 2004 acoustic live album 12:5

“Nauticus (Drifting)” is from the 2004 album Be. This song showcases Gildenlöw’s low range. He sounds like a completely different singer.

“King of Loss” is from the 2000 album The perfect element Part I. This song encapsulates Gildenlöw’s versatility-the low range, the high range, the heavy, and the clean vocals.

I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on these three singers. Also, I’m always looking for interesting voices. If you have any suggestions, I encourage you to share.

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2 comments on “Mikael Åkerfeldt, Russell Allen, and Daniel Gildenlöw-Three Powerhouse Voices of Progressive Rock
  1. Cool stuff!
    I agree in Gildenlöw as the winner – he is also my favourite artistically.
    I grew up with progressive metal at highschool, and it was my only musical choise, everything else was crap! Symphony X was my all time favouriteband, still got all their CDs, then came Dream Theater and then Pain of Salvation, but i think it perhaps is because PoS never stay in the same musical direction for too long. I then started enjoing more heavy stuff, like Opeth, Slayer, Satyricon etc, and I loved (I still do) the extreeemly interresting dirty, dark and evil growling of Antti Filppu – ex vocalist of Omnium Gatherum! I find a deep emotional quality in his growling, a melancolic feel.. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09RI2ndQoyw&feature=related)

    And yet now I find my self studying jazz vocals.. and I hardly listen to metal or prog eccept for nostalgic reasons. But thank you for a great nostalgic moment late at night! The jazz world of voice has some serious variety of interresting use of vocals and vocal expression! Check out for instance Sidsel Endresen (spotify:track:2TAbVXL8yQ3zBkiFOB5V15 – my favourite version of Fifty ways to leave your lover), she does mainly free improvised music but she has recorded and played alot of other stuff as well.. Or check out Jarle Bernhoft – perhaps my favourite voice in his style. He used to sing in a pretty cool rock band called Span (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2jm7sHLDOw), and then he went to do great soul stuff – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIAZtdTgsWU&feature=related. But now he has a more pop album out, which is also pretty awesome..

    So there are a few voices and some late night rambling from me.. Hope you’ll like it!

    • Hey Petter, thanks so much for all of the great suggestions! I think my favorite is Jarle Bernhoft. What a versatile artist, and I especially enjoyed the second video that you shared. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your “late-night ramblings” with me!

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