As the title says, this is all about the unsung rock/metal artists who deserve way more recognition than what they usually receive. While we know there are many who can be mentioned in this regard, we have kept the list limited to 7 unsung heroes. In the comments section you can drop your own list and show your appreciation and gratitude for such musicians. Before we start I would like to point out, we are not discussing unknown members of obscure bands here. These are bands who are well-known among listeners of rock and metal, bands who are much admired by rockers and metalheads. But these artists/individuals, who are/were a part of these bands, rarely receive proper notice for their praiseworthy works. About time their noteworthy contribution gets noted!
Tony Martin (in Black Sabbath)
It’s quite unfortunate how the Tony Martin era of Black Sabbath is overlooked. With Martin in their camp, Sabbath released one solid album after another with the sole exception of Forbidden, which also has a few good songs worth your time. Arguably, Headless Cross is the darkest album in Sabbath’s ominous but glorious musical catalogue. While Cozy Powell’s thundering drum works garner much accolades from metal-heads all over the world, Martin’s soaring, powerful vocals in the Sabbath albums are yet to find the much deserving recognition and applause on a wide enough scale. Superbly performed songs like “Nightwing”, “Anno Mundi” or “When Death Calls” can even fiercely compete with some of the finest Ronnie James Dio era songs in terms of brilliance. Despite all his splendid contributions to Black Sabbath’s music, not only as a terrific vocalist but also as a competent song-writer, Martin, much to his dismay, was left out of the legendary band’s history and was even criticized by Tony Iommi in his book.
At present, things are looking better as Iommi expressed his willingness few months back to write with Martin once again, for the reissue of the Headless Cross, Tyr, Cross Purposes and Forbidden albums. This year at the unveiling of Cozy Powell’s memorial Martin was warmly greeted by Iommi. The fans are anxiously waiting for the new material now that camaraderie between the two Tony-s has been restored.
Rick Allen (in Def Leppard)
Def Leppard have a large fan following and there is no denying their impact around the world. From their initial, momentous NWOBHM albums, to the subsequent memorable hard rock classics, they gave us a hell lot to cherish. The late Steve Clark is rightly hailed as a sterling guitarist by many for all his fantastic works, but not too many heap adequate praise on the hero Rick Allen; their immensely dedicated drummer who has been with the band since he was 15. Despite losing his left arm in an almost fatal car accident on New Year’s Eve 1984, his rock-solid spirit kept him behind the kit. To compensate for the lost arm, the unflinching skin-pounder decided to use his feet and legs to replace some of the stick-work formerly done with his missing hand. Allen’s spirit never relented and he began practicing on a foam pad with his feet while still in the hospital. The late Pete Harley built Allen’s first electric drum kit. Jeff Rich (former Status Quo drummer) deserves special mention here as he highly motivated Rick during the tough times and even designed an electronic kit for him. In August 1986, almost two years after his life-altering accident, Allen took the stage with Def Leppard for the first time with one arm and a new style of playing. Thirty years after his return to the stage, Rick Allen continues his role as Def Leppard’s dynamic drummer and as a story of inspiration, determination, and perseverance. His confidence and ingratiating grin are trademarks of a true rock and roll hero. We expect more people to tell his immensely inspiring tale of surviving life and encourage everyone else.
If Rick Allen doesn’t rock, I don’t know who does!
Bruce Kulick (in KISS)
It is understandable the attachment a vast majority of KISS fans feel towards the original line-up who irrefutably raised the bar or, at the risk of hyperbole; as Gene Simmons says “created the bar” of rock music, transforming it into a high-impact visual experience. However, in the band’s later years with drummer Eric Carr and guitarist Bruce Kulick, KISS managed to churn out quite a few indelible melodic rock tunes as well. The tragically departed Carr is still missed and is widely considered as the best KISS drummer even by a large number of die-hard fans of the original line-up with Peter Criss. But long-term guitarist Bruce Kulick rarely finds any piece of the credit. Spaceman Ace Frehley not only has the KISS army saluting him but also raised his own unit of dedicated “rock soldiers” while he was away from KISS (and when you inspire ace guitarists like Dimebag Darrell your musical career certainly finds fulfillment!). While Bruce may not be as inspiring as Ace, this long-time fretmaster for KISS definitely brought in some much needed stability for the band along with his unique style of play. When you have been a part of an illustrious rock band like KISS for 12 long years, which according to Gene is the “the hottest band in the world,” then it goes without saying you must have been doing something right. On that note it is a bit confounding and seems somewhat thankless when he was not asked to re-join when Frehley again departed from KISS after the Farewell Tour in 2002 (the original line-up was revived in 1995, MTV Unplugged) as Paul and Gene felt former Black ‘N’ Blue guitarist, Tommy Thayer, could adopt Frehley’s persona better. After his tenure in KISS, Kulick performed bass on Paul Stanley’s 2006 solo album Live To Win.
When we take a look back at the journey of KISS so far, acknowledging Kulick’s largely commendable work as their lead guitarist is imperative.
Uli Jon Roth (in Scorpions)
Riff-guru Uli Jon Roth is highly respected as the face of neo-classical rock music and he continues to inspire guitarists as accomplished as Yngwie Malmsteen. On the other hand, the Scorpions have admirers all over the world who celebrate their rich, profound musical journey passionately. But Uli Jon Roth in Scorpions seems like an unsung genius if you compare all the recognition the long serving (and still serving) guitarist Matthias Jabs has amassed for his smashing six string stings. Jabs sincerity and proficiency is indisputable. Now when we speak of Roth it is essential to point out how severely underrated the overall musical output of 70s era Scorpions itself is. The band is mostly popular for their electrifying 80’s hard-rock tunes. The raw, powerful metal (or proto-metal) songs from the 70’s are hardly discussed and thus their Uli Jon Roth days lack the much deserving eminence. Be it the stupendous live album Tokyo Tapes or just the transfixing intro of “The Sails of Charon”, the brilliance Uli Jon Roth added to Scorpions’ music back in the 70s is worthy of tremendous applause.
Paul Di’ Anno (in Iron Maiden)
If Black Sabbath fathered metal, Iron Maiden fathered the New Wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM). If you ask Maiden fans what they love about their favorite band you will hear about the mighty vocals of the air-raid siren Bruce Dickinson, the magnificent guitar tandem of Dave Murray/AdrianSmith, the rumbling bass magic of Steve Harris, the Herculean energy of sticksman Nicko McBrain and even the timeless mascot, Eddie. Not too often you will find someone mentioning their very first vocalist Paul Di’ Anno. In case of Scorpions, like I said previously, their 70s music is generally overlooked, but Iron Maiden’s self-titled album along with Killers are neither ignored nor underrated. Yet Paul Di’Anno as the once Iron Maiden frontman is often overshadowed. It is true Bruce has been in Maiden way longer than Paul, so maybe there is not too much to talk about the very early days of Iron Maiden as far as Paul Di’Anno is concerned. But whatever little there is, it calls for undiluted appreciation for his unalloyed efforts, for his unforgettable ripping vocals. No matter how colossal the contribution of the other members have been, leaving out Paul Di’ Anno from the overwhelming success story of Iron Maiden leaves the story of their conquest incomplete itself.
A few months back we heard Di’ Anno is battling cancer, but he is responding to treatment. We wish him a complete speedy recovery and good health ahead.
Tim “Ripper” Owens (in Judas Priest)
The significance of Judas Priest in the history of Heavy Metal is monumental. Rob Halford was, is and will always be the metal god. However, Tim “Ripper” Owens is no push-over. As a matter of fact, the heaviest album by the heavy metal veterans is Jugulator where Owens simply owns with his mind-blowing vocals. Being a Priest tribute singer himself, Tim did everything he possibly could to do justice to his role, to the faith shown by the band he drew inspiration from. The result was an even darker, heavier album than the phenomenal Painkiller. His second and last album with Priest, Demolition, was considered by a strata of metal-heads as a step in the right direction by the band. As a vocalist of a band bearing the “Judas Priest” moniker. Tim once again delivered impressively.
The stratosphere piercing vocals of Halford, the epic twin-guitar attack of Glenn Tipton/K.K. Downing, the outstanding drumming of Les Binks and Scott Travis are all entitled to our kudos. But while remembering the greats of Judas Priest, let’s not forget the valiance of Tim “Ripper” Owens. Here is “Cathedral Spires”, one of the most remarkable Judas Priest songs ever, to commemorate Tim’s stunning stint as their vocalist:
Kurdt Vanderhoof (in Metal Church)
This brings us to the final unsung artist of this list of 7. Kurdt Vanderhoof is the actual architect of the much hallowed Metal Church. Metallers count Metal Church as one of those important bands who contributed to the evolution of metal that sparked the Thrash metal revolution. Both the David Wayne and Mike Howe days of Metal Church have been acclaimed by metalheads for decades. However, contribution of the actual binding force of the band, the founder Kurdt Vanderhoof himself, goes largely unnoticed. Even when lead guitarist Vanderhoof went away from the band in the mid-80s (after the second album The Dark), Metal Church still had songwriter Vanderhoof with them. Since the beginning Metal Church’s sound has been influential and many renowned bands later on built on their swift thrash-leaning riffage. Vanderhoof’s tight musicianship and unwavering vision which put Metal Church on the map of the glorious metal empire deserves all the lofty laud.
Their latest studio album XI, released in March 2016, received positive reviews and has been regarded by many as one of their best albums so far. Mike Howe’s return to the band was rejoiced by elated fans. Both Howe and Vanderhoof have totally maintained their edge and Metal Church have lived up to the reverence with XI.