Great music has a lot of elements to it. The instrumentation, vocals, lyrics, production value, and so much more can go into making an excellent album for the band’s fans. One quality that gets the most recognition are the lyrics. For the casual listeners, lyrics are the most accessible aspect of a song to pick up. Having good lyrics gets the song stuck in people’s heads to sing along to all day. The lyricists of the band, usually the singer, can bring out emotion for anyone listening since so much of music is based on emotion. They can express their past experiences, thoughts on significant issues around the world, or tell an entertaining story for fun. The people in this list are not ranked from worst to best along with anyone missing from the list are not to be dismissed. In this list, I will go over just ten incredibly lyricists in the rock and metal world, which is full of immensely talented individuals.
#10: King Fowley (Deceased)
The drummer and singer of Deceased, King Fowley, is one of the most underrated musicians in heavy metal. He might not have the best vocals in the world, but it works for the music. The band’s best quality is the lyrics. Fowley writes in-depth stories that are inspired by horror movies or whatever dark tales pop up in his mind. Fearless Undead Machines is one of the best concept albums ever made. A brutal eleven-track album tells an intricate story about a zombie apocalypse. The opening track, The Silent Creature, shows the beginning of this horrific apocalypse with lyrics like, “The deadly dose of chemicals have changed the course of man.” The band show more range in themes with the gruesome record, Supernatural Addiction, which details a different horror tale in each song. With inspirations from The Twilight Zone and Edgar Allan Poe, this is one dark journey to take when listening to Supernatural Addiction. With tracks like A Very Familiar Stranger which details a man’s car ride turning into a dark journey when he picks up a girl to discover she has been dead the entire time. The man’s story is full of great detail such as, “When a woman out of nowhere appeared to be in need/So I stopped to reach a helpful, friendly hand/But something wasn’t right!” If story-driven songs are for you then Deceased has to be on top of your list of bands that you need to hear.
#9: Trevor Strnad (The Black Dahlia Murder)
The Black Dahlia Murder are one of the top death metal bands who have arrived in the 21st century. The melodic death metallers have given the world plenty of albums that are full of fast, melodic, horrific music to enjoy. Like many death metal bands, one of their biggest influences is horror movies. Trevor has stated in many interviews that he got into heavy metal because of the album artwork. Being a fan of horror movies then seeing terrifying album art from bands like Megadeth, Cannibal Corpse, and Carcass got Trevor into the metal scene. Now he is not only one of the best vocalists in death metal, but one of the best lyricists too. With songs like Nightbringers that discusses death metal as the antagonist to Christianity that has offensive lyrics like, “Onward we fight yank the deadened Christ-pig right off of that cross.” One of Trevor’s favorite and first horror movies he has ever seen is Evil Dead. On the band’s 2013 record Everblack, they released a song about the cult classic titled Raped in Hatred by Vines of Thorn. The song takes a gruesome take on the films. With brutal lyrics such as, “Pierced from within her child is skewered unborn,” this is one song that will please fans of Evil Dead and make outsiders of death metal run for their lives. Fans of death metal probably know The Black Dahlia Murder by now. If you have never given the band, a listen then you need to check their music out right away.
#8: Benjamin Burnley (Breaking Benjamin)
One of the most prominent rock bands of the 2000s has been Breaking Benjamin. The band took an extended hiatus to come back in 2015 with the release of Dark Before Dawn; the group is on top of their game. Benjamin Burnley is a phenomenal vocalist who can sing the most beautiful verses, bring out a harmonic chorus, or scream his guts out in a breakdown. With the inspiration of Nirvana, Benjamin takes his lyrics with the same outlook as the late Kurt Cobain by giving the music a lot of emotion with open-ended lyrics. The audience is left to interpret the meaning and take in whatever message they feel. The lyrics range from the emotional Dear Agony that features some of the most direct and powerful lyrics such as, “Somewhere far beyond this world. I feel nothing anymore.” The band has some of the most beloved tracks in recent rock history such as Diary of Jane that has a sing-along choruses in the band’s catalog, “Something’s getting in the way/Something’s just about to break/I will try to find my place/In the diary of Jane So, tell me/How it should be?” One of the best aspects of the band is their choruses. Everything comes together to bring a melodic and often harmonic chorus for a whole stadium of fans can sing their hearts out. It is hard to resist to not sing along to songs such as Diary of Jane, I Will Not Bow, and Angels Fall. With the success of the band’s last two albums Dark Before Dawn and Ember, it will be hard to stop Breaking Benjamin from dominating the rock world.
#7: Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian (System of a Down)
System of a Down is one of rock and metal’s most popular bands, but they have some of the most obscure and eccentric lyrics in the scene. Serj and Daron are geniuses when it comes to commentary about politics and other issues such as the power of the media in their music. Some songs can be straightforward to bash their message over the head of the listener or deliver odd lyrics that the audience needs to decipher. Prison Song is one of the band’s most blunt songs in their catalog. The song discusses the problems of the war on drugs and the prison system in the United States. Lyrics in the song include, “Following the rights movements you clamped on with your iron fists/Drugs became conveniently available for all the kids/Minor drug offenders fill your prisons, you don’t even flinch.” The group often has lyrics that are harder to decipher while maintaining a strong message. The band’s most beloved song is their hit single Chop Suey. The mix of striking fast singing in the verse to a melodic chorus along with the obscure title and lyrics, the world has been delivered a beloved and odd hit. From lyrics like, “Why’d you leave the keys upon the table,” and “Grab a brush and put a little makeup,” this is System’s most well-known song that most audience members have no idea what the message is. Sadly, the band has not released an album since the 2005 Mezmerize and released later that same year, Hypnotize, there are no signs of the group releasing another album. With a lot of back and forth news from the members, we will have to keep our expectations low for another record from System of a Down.
#6: Randy Blythe (Lamb of God)
The Virginia based metal band, Lamb of God, have had quite the career. The group has delivered some fantastic albums along with spectacular shows. Randy Blythe is one of the best vocalists in modern heavy metal. Besides his animalistic screams that bring joy to the ears of metalheads, he is a great writer. Besides writing a memoir detailing his life in prison and his addictions, the lyrics he has written are of the highest caliber. The beloved track Omerta leads for the perfect opening to any Lamb of God show. The first words spoken, “Whoever appeals to the law against his fellow man is either a fool or a coward/Whoever cannot take care of himself without that law is both/For a wounded man will shall say to his assailant/”If I live, I will kill you. If I die, you are forgiven”/Such is the rule of honor.” Fans who instantly hear the intro starting repeating every word as they gain the hype to see Lamb of God come up on stage. The band’s latest album VII: Sturm und Drang has several songs that detail the wrongful imprisonment of Randy Blythe back in 2012 when he was arrested in the Czech Republic. The single 512 paints a grim picture of Randy’s experiences. “Schizophrenic amnesia/Bid goodbye to all you knew and loved/Forget the only life that you knew outside/They bought the ticket, now you take the ride,” those lyrics alone are thought-provoking for fans who followed what was happening to Randy during that time or have read his memoir, Dark Days. Randy along with the rest of Lamb of God will go down in history for the wild success they have achieved in this heavy metal monster.
#5: Adam Nergal Darski (Behemoth)
The Polish black metal outfit has become one of the most popular black metal groups in the past 20 years. With the mix of death metal and black metal, the band has made their own identity in the extreme metal scene. Nergal plays guitar and screams for the group. Besides having those jobs, he is excellent at expressing himself with his words. He continues to spread the word of Satan to the world after releasing ten LPs and seven EPs. Besides writing “of” as “ov” which gets under the skin of some critics and metalheads, Nergal has a consistent quality to deliver to the world. “The offspring ov the stellar race/My halo fallen and crushed upon the earth/That I may bring balance to this world,” those are just some of the crushing lyrics from the first verse in the track Ov Fire and the Void from the band’s album titled Evangelion. Nergal explains the track by saying, “Whilst listening to the first demo versions of this track I had an irresistible feeling that every single tone is filled with overwhelming spirit of Dionysus; god of ecstatic chaos, source of pure joy which reaches far beyond false boundaries between good and evil, life and death, love and hate. Dionysian rave focuses entirely on Here and Now, experiential knowledge, intuition, and passion. All of these are essential factors or components of any form of Art.” For readers wanting a song to worship Satan to then O Father O Satan O Sun is the ultimate track from Behemoth. Over seven minutes of an intense, raw, and atmospheric song that takes a slow, but heavy approach. Nergal worships Satan by singing, “O Lion-Serpent Sun, the beast that whirlest forth/A thunder-bolt, begetter of life/Thou that flowest, thou that goest/Thou Satan-Sun, Hadith, that goest without will/Thou air, breath, spirit, thou without bound or bond/Thou essence, air swift-streaming, elasticity/Thou wanderer, father of all/Thou wanderer, spirit of all.” With the band writing their eleventh album, it would be wise for anyone reading to go out and start catching up on Behemoth’s extensive catalog.
#4: David Draiman (Disturbed)
It is hard to be into modern rock and metal without ever hearing Disturbed. The group has sold millions of albums around the globe and are still growing strong, especially after their cover of the classic Sound of Silence. David Draiman has one of the unique voices and styles in modern rock. Along with his talents with creating melodies and animalistic sounds, he writes some of the most empowering lyrics in modern hard rock. With the aggressive chorus to Down with the Sickness, “Get up, come on get down with the sickness/Open up your hate, and let it flow into me/Get up, come on get down with the sickness/You mother get up come on get down with the sickness/You fucker get up come on get down with the sickness/Madness is the gift, that has been given to me,” to the first pumping Indestructible, “Indestructible/Determination that is incorruptible/From the other side/A terror to behold/Annihilation will be unavoidable/Every broken enemy will know/That their opponent had to be invincible/Take a last look around while you’re alive/I’m an indestructible master of war.” David has a wide range of topics that he expresses his thoughts towards from both experience or his thinking. Indestructible and The Warrior serve as tributes to the men and women fighting for the United States military. Inside the Fire expresses David’s feelings and experience when an ex-girlfriend committed suicide when he was sixteen years old. Like many rock bands, there are plenty of songs about heartbreak and the struggle everyone faces in relationships such as Stricken, Hell, and Crucified. David’s range in topics to tackle is never ending and manages to express himself in different styles. The last few albums have leaned more towards storytelling while his early work in the band ranges with a mix of obscurity and directness. The group have wrapped their new work and will be releasing an acoustic EP and their next full-length album sometime in the next year.
#3: Caleb Shomo (Beartooth)
Beartooth is a band that is quickly rising in the rock and metal world. Caleb Shomo started the group after exiting Attack Attack. His blend of hardcore, metalcore, and traditional rock has come together in an excellent package for all of the headbangers around the world. Each album has been a different insight into Caleb’s battle with depression. With lyrics like, “So I jacked up, blacked out, wasted all those memories,” from Sick of Me to “Remember the time I said god I’m ready to die,” from Sick and Disgusting are powerful representations of what it is like to struggle with depression. Caleb does branch out with songs like Hated by singing, “There’s a bullseye painted on our chests/In the crosshairs of the ignorant.” Caleb’s singing and lyrics are some of the most emotion-provoking in the scene. Out of any recent band, Beartooth is a prime example of using music as an outlet for negativity.
#2: Jonathan Vigil (The Ghost Inside)
The Ghost Inside is heavy as can be, but manage to put out some of the most positive music in the scene. With skull crushing breakdowns and the heavy screams from Jonathan Vigil, you would think the band is quite aggressive. Turning things around to play music with more uplifting lyrics creates a perfect contrast. Having a powerful, positive lyric before a massive breakdown is hard to beat. Hearing, “I’d like to think I’d never cave in/A vicious battle I may never win/And I’d like to think I’ll come out stronger/Life’s swinging hard but I’m swinging harder,” before a heavy breakdown is satisfying and empowering. Like many hardcore musicians, Jonathan is straight edge. The band has the perfect straight edge tune with Engine 45. Jonathan singing, “If it’s a war you came to see you will never see a waved white flag in front of me/I can’t end up dead, I won’t be misled/I’ll keep singing this song inside my head,” sends a powerful message to avoid addiction of any kind. Sadly, after a horrible accident, it is unknown when the band will finally return to make more music. Be patient for their return and be sure to blast The Ghost Inside whenever you have the chance.
#1: Johann Hegg (Amon Amarth)
When your band focuses on Vikings and Norse mythology, you are set up perfectly with material to create some of the best music in metal. Johann Hegg takes Viking metal to a different level with his knowledge of Viking history and Norse mythology. Their latest album Jomsviking is the first full concept album developed by the Swedish headbangers. In an interview with Blabbermouth, Johann explains the record by saying, “The Jomsvikings were a shadowy and legendary sect of Viking mercenaries, as shrouded in myth now as they were when they fought across Europe and the Middle East. Ruthless and deadly warriors who fought for the highest bidder, their code was simple: Show no fear. Never retreat. Defend your brothers, and when called upon, avenge their deaths.” The album kicks off viciously with the track First Kill. The protagonist’s journey begins bloody with lyrics like, “The first blood I spilled was the blood of a bard/I had to wipe the smile away/I was not yet a man, nor was I a boy,” which brings him down a dark road full of death. When it comes to Norse mythology, Johann shows his knowledge across the band’s large catalog. In Twilight of the Thunder God, Johann pays tribute to Thor, the God of Thunder. Detailing one of the most well-known gods in any mythology, Johann screams, “Jormundgandr twists and turns/Mighty in his wrath/The eyes are full of primal hate.” When it comes to this subgenre, Amon Amarth is one of the most beloved. They can prove themselves, and this is only one of the many great aspects of the band.
That is just ten of the many incredible musicians in the rock and metal world. Everyone has their unique style and delivery, but all bring the highest quality of lyrics to the music. The amount of musicians I have missed is astounding, so there is plenty of room to return to talk about ten more lyricists. What did you think of these artists? Who do you think are some of the best lyricists in rock and metal? Comment your thoughts below.