SBR Top 7 Vocalists of 2023

The vocalist-of-the-year accolade is one that we take seriously at Scream Blast Repeat. It gives us a chance to recognise the talents of those outside the radio mainstream, although who listens to radio in 2023, and is there even a homogenous mainstream these days?

The vocalists that we used to worship as distant aristocratic greats are no more. In the age of streaming and diminished album sales, the singers of our favourite bands are often on YouTube or Twitch delivering one-take performances or explaining the science behind their songs. We’ve never been closer to them or as privileged to see them close up and in the studio working their magic.

A new vocabulary exists alongside the modern fascination with the more extreme vocal styles, which now receive praise and respect from the unlikeliest of sources, including pop vocal coaches. At last count, Jinjer’s ‘Pisces’ hit 81 million views – a sure indication of a viral hit that continues to surprise people who have no knowledge of the innovations in metal that women can produce.

Our award knows no distinction between male and female, but we look for dynamic range, intense emotion, and the ability to command a presence in songs that are often driven by distorted guitars and thundering drums. These are the SBR Top 7 vocalists of 2023…

7. Lukas Magyar (Veil of Maya)

Few vocalists in metal can project their voice with as much murderous aggression and silky smooth pizzazz as Lukas Magyar. The Wisconsin native treated us to a wide spectrum of personalities on Veil of Maya’s first album since 2018, though none of them would be considered dissociative. His ability to take Veil of Maya’s prog metal experimentation to new pastures of extremity and serenity place him at the forefront of this generation’s new breed of versatile mic manipulators.

Watch the Behind the Album interview we did with Lukas Magyar here.

6. Serena Cherry (Svalbard)

You’ll know the meaning of pain after listening to Serena Cherry shred her vocal cords on Svalbard’s latest record. But you’ll also know the strength of resistance. Is there a more poignant description of depression than in her immortal lines, “In a house of empty rooms / I kneel at the floor, I plead at the walls / Please don’t let this be my tomb”? Cherry roars like a lion and aches like a seal awaiting the club of the Inuit hunter. Underneath her spume of aggression and torment, is a fragile voice that flickers like a candle. British metal has a new icon, but is she ready for the attention?

Read the original SBR review of The Weight of the Mask by Svalbard here.

5. Daniel Droste (Ahab)

German avant-doom quartet, Ahab, might be the only band this year whose album would benefit from being longer than its running time of one hour and six minutes. Part of this reason is the spellbinding voice of frontman, Daniel Droste. Forget about the prejudices you have against funeral doom as a sluggish form of music, Droste’s morbid growls juxtapose his tuneful baritone melancholia to perfection. They base their albums on famous novels set at sea and retell the stories like protagonists immersed in a permanent state of fear. Ahab are a unique metal band.

Read the original SBR review of The Coral Tombs by Ahab here.

4. Krista Van Guilder (Benthic Realm)

Massachusetts metal veteran, Krista Van Guilder, is an unfamiliar name this side of the Atlantic, but you’ll not forget the exhilarating power of her voice after one listen to Benthic Realm’s debut album. Her gritty fortitude and bellowing melodies can easily give way to a head voice that resonates with the lustre of a Sigourney Weaver character. Listen how she ascends the octaves at the end of closing track, ‘As It Burns’, if you want an example of supreme endurance levels. And yet she doesn’t consider herself a true vocalist… We disagree.

Read the original SBR review of Vessel by Benthic Realm here.

3. Spencer Sotelo (Periphery)

They might have delivered the weakest album of their career this year, but a weak LP by Periphery is the equivalent of a discography high-point for most artists. He produced the best vocal performance of the last decade on 2019’s Periphery IV: Hail Stan, and he came close to replicating some of those moments of awe on Periphery V. You’ll not hear anything as vicious as the mathcore chaos of ‘Everything Is Fine!’ or as suave as the electronic pop sparkle of ‘Silhouette’. Spencer Sotelo can do it all. How many vocalists have expanded the deeper elements of their register and stretched their higher range as far as he in the last ten years?

Read the original SBR review of Periphery V: Djent is Not a Genre by Periphery here.

2. Chelsea Murphy (Dawn of Ouroboros/Tegmentum)

The only person on this list to record an album with two bands in 2023, Chelsea Murphy took the world by storm as the vocalist for progressive black metal quintet, Dawn of Ouroboros, and tech-death supergroup, Tegmentum. On the former record, she hit peaks of emotion beyond most singers and roared her way through the songs as if possessed of dragon fire. Yet the forget-me-nots and greenbottles are never far away from the surface tension of her screams. She has a sorrowful voice that aches for those things that cannot be recovered from the glorious past. We’ll be hearing a lot more from Chelsea Murphy over the next few years.

Watch the Behind the Album interview we did with Chelsea Murphy and Tony Thomas of Dawn of Ouroboros here.

1. Daniel Tompkins (Tesseract)

He assured us that he’d push his voice even further on the new Tesseract record, and we didn’t think science would allow this. Daniel Tompkins dug deep into his register and emerged with a new-found aggression and a higher level of melody. Listen to him cover the entire spectrum of rock and metal in the eleven-minute title-track and climb to falsetto croons beyond Prince on ‘Legion’. Is there a better example of the heroic metamorphosis of the human will in music? Dan Tompkins invents new techniques and experiments with untried ideas the way Jimi Hendrix revolutionised the guitar. There is no better singer in the world in any genre.

Read the original SBR review of War of Being by Tesseract here.

Honourable mentions

Avienne Low (Vintersea)

Kaan Tasan (Heart of a Coward)

Lina R (Predatory Void)

Michel Nienhuis (Autarkh)

Travis Ryan (Cattle Decapitation)