As a band member, every musician has a strong responsibility to uphold. Whether it's a plucked string, well-timed hi-hat, or tap on the keys, each musical element has to come together perfectly. And while no instrument is necessarily more important than the next, it’s no secret that that many music fans end up loving or hating a song based on the vocals.
Typically the face of the band, a main vocalist not only has to appeal to the listener by way of sound, but they tend to have a hand in songwriting, developing a band’s stage presence, and interacting with the crowd.
It can be a difficult juggle all that — and to do it well. So we wanted to put the spotlight on the best hard rock vocalists in the Valley of the Sun, using as criteria current band activity, vocal range, personal style, and, of course, some crossover into heavy metal. Here's who made the cut.
Doll Skin frontwoman Sydney Dolezal originally wanted to be a pop singer, but apparently the hard rock gods weren't having it. Developing a penchant for performing at a young age, Dolezal found herself meeting other like-minded artists at the Phoenix School of Rock in 2013, and Doll Skin was born. The four-piece blends punk, hard rock, and pop (think Rancid meets The Runaways) and quickly got the attention of Megadeth’s Dave Ellefson. Ellefson produced the band's debut release in 2016, and it landed on AP Magazine’s 2016 list of “7 of the Best Rising Bands Under 21.” Dolezal is the youngest member of Doll Skin, but you wouldn’t know it from her vocals, which call up Caleb Shomo (Beartooth), Vic Fuentes (Pierce the Veil), and Lzzy Hale (Halestorm). In 2017, Doll Skin dropped their sophomore LP and performed on the Vans Warped Tour. And Dolezal says she’s planning to develop a heavier style.
Razer are no stranger to national attention. The band’s 2015, self-titled debut received accolades by Classic Rock magazine (three songs were rated as Tracks of the Week) and reviewers who were blown away by Chris Powers’ vocal prowess. He considers himself an R&B vocalist who sings hard rock. He studied flamenco guitar and music theory at the American School of Music in Manhattan. And his resume's pretty impressive. Powers sang on "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" (downloaded over 10 million times) on the Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock video game, and he always seems to be working on new music or with his classic rock cover band. Guided and co-produced by Alan Niven, whose credits include kickstarting Motley Crue, Great White, and Guns N’ Roses, Razer is poised to do big things with Powers at the helm.
"Desert rock" couldn’t describe CO-OP better. The band's influences range from Corrosion of Conformity to Soundgarden, but there’s no bigger impact that comes to mind than Alice Cooper. And that's no coincidence, as CO-OP frontman Dash Cooper is the shock rocker’s son. Dash's vocals blend whiskey-drenched outlaw, ’90s grunge, and modern-day soaring hard rock (gotta love that Cooper family howl). All that works well with the band's hooky, melodic measures and hard-hitting, shreddy breakdowns. CO-OP have been gaining ground, opening for national acts like One-Eyed Doll, hosting Alice Cooper cameos, and signing with Dave Ellefson's EMP Label Group in 2016.
Groove metal trio Incite have undergone a few lineup overhauls since coming together in 2004, but there’s always been one staple: Richie Cavalera. Name sound familiar? His dad, Max Cavalera, has been a staple in the local metal scene for years, with bands like Sepultura, Nailbomb, Soufly, and Cavalera Conspiracy. Incite are working on their fifth full-length, due out next year. And the band are best known for tightly implemented, straight-to-the-jugular music. Richie’s throaty screams roil and claw against doublebass and heavy (yet catchy) guitar riffs. While the majority of the vocals are guttural-based screams, the overall sonic experience is that of a finely tuned metal band. Heading out on a large North American tour, Incite will finish 2017 on a European run and start recording a new album in 2018.
Cade Miller of Concertina
Listed among Phoenix New Times' “17 bands to watch in 2017,” desert groove trio Concertina have put that vision to work. The band finished writing their first full-length, and this month, they are heading into the studio to record. The band embraced being a trio after their guitarist left in 2016, and while frontman Cade Miller already had guitar/vocal duties, he’s picked up even more responsibilities instead of adding another guitarist to the roster. Miller pulls from influences like James Hetfield, Henry Rollins, and Ozzy Osbourne, creating a style of gravelly vocals with a ’90s inflection. It's high-velocity yet sludgy — Crobot meets Volbeat meets the Sword — with instrumentals tailored to heavy grooves, crunchy down-tuned riffs, undeniably tight guitar solos, and a healthy peppering of that NOLA sound. Time will only tell which path Miller will navigate: bluesy sludge metal, outlaw hard rock, or a different hybrid altogether.
Alexia Rodriguez of Eyes Set to Kill
Even though the band was founded in 2003, Eyes Set to Kill could be considered veterans of the Phoenix scene at this point. Gracing the cover of USA Today, landing on Alt Press’s coveted “100 Bands You Need to Know” list, and touring the globe multiple times, the band's back with a new lineup, a new single, and a new album coming in 2018. While sister Anissa Rodriguez has departed from the group, Alexia is still going strong. And her vocals on the upcoming album make a statement with a combination of metalcore meets nu-metal stylings. The new single “Break” immediately launches with Alexia’s raw melodic shouts, transpiring to clean, soaring vocals. Eyes Set to Kill have always been about sticking to it and never giving up. So 2018 promises to be a big year for the band.