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The 2 Grunge vocalists that James Hetfield said are the best

James Hetfield
Images by Jeff Yager and Paul Lorkowski


The 2 Grunge vocalists that James Hetfield said are the best

Formed in 1981 by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, Metallica was one of the bands that helped in the evolution of Heavy Metal, playing heavier and faster, creating a sub-genre that would later be called Thrash Metal.


But in the 90s, Grunge, that was a new kind of Rock appeared, changing completely the focus of the records label, radios and even a good part of the fans. Many Metal groups didn’t survived the Grunge “wave” and Metallica was one of the few ones that managed to become even bigger.

In 1991, just a month before Nirvana released “Nevermind”, the Thrash Metal group released their best-selling album titled “Metallica”, but also known as the “Black Album”. Even though a kind of rivalry was created between Metal and Grunge bands at the time, Hetfield was a fan of many bands of that new style.

In 2008 he listed for Rolling Stone magazine the singers that in his opinion were the best of all time and in the middle of them there were 2 Grunge vocalists. Rock and Roll selected what the musician said about those artists over the years and his connection with some of them.

The 2 Grunge vocalists that James Hetfield said are the best

Layne Staley

The Metallica vocalist and guitarist is a big fan of Alice In Chains and placed the late singer Layne Staley on the second position among the 20 greatest singers of all time. According to the list, the only that is better than Staley is the late Rainbow and Black Sabbath singer Ronnie James Dio.

Hetfield loves Alice In Chains and praised them in interview with Revolver magazine in 2009. “I wasn’t really close with Layne. But I remember going to see Alice In Chains many times. I remember when we were down in L.A. (In 1991). I left the studio early to see them play on Clash of the Titans with Slayer.”

“I was driving like a madman in this rented van, going on the median and scaring the shit out of my friend. ‘We gotta get there!’ And we get there, and they’d just got off. I was like, ‘Aw, man!’ (Laughs) I hung with them a little bit. Always just loved their music. I’d say that Jerry (Cantrell) and I share some life experiences. Like getting a second chance at life and realizing how cool things can be.”

James Hetfield continued:

“So we’ve got kind of a kinship that way. And seeing them play — I just love hearing those songs. Those songs are awesome and should be heard, you know? They were so unique. So ahead of their time. And out of all the Seattle stuff, that stuff is the most timeless.”

“Unfortunately, Layne just loved the junk too much, man. That was that. I just read in his lyrics his obsessiveness about it. And he knew where he was goin’! It’s like, in the school of driving, look where you want to go. That’s what he was doing, it seems like,” James Hetfield said.

He had the chance to share the stage with the band in 2006 during the Rock Am Ring festival. He performed the classic song “Would?”, singing the Layne Staley parts of the song, trading lines with Jerry Cantrell.

Chris Cornell

James Hetfield placed the late Chris Cornell on the fourth position of the list of the 20 best singers of all time he did for Rolling Stone. The three vocalists that according to the list made by Hetfield is better than Cornell are Rob Halford, Laney Staley and Ronnie James Dio.

Since Soundgarden achieved fame in the early 90s, Hetfield admired the band. He had the chance to meet them many times since they played many times at festivals together. After Chris Cornell’s death in 2017 at the age of 52, Hetfield lamented his loss in an interview with WAAF Boston in 2017 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage).

“It does make you hug those around you, for sure. Bandmates, family that it’s out here, family at home. It makes you realize that there is a darkness that anyone and everyone can find, and feel that they’re trapped in.”

“I know depth of my darkness at times. It is difficult when you’re in that space to even fathom that there’s someone there that can help you or has been through that before. Sometimes you’re just in such a loss.”

James Hetfield continued:

“I can’t obviously explain what he was going through. But we have our darkness. So check in with each other, let each other know how you’re doing. It’s a sad story. There’s a lot of sad stories recently. Especially in the Grunge world,” James Hetfield said.

At the time the band paid tribute to the musician during a live concert. Hetfield said “We forgive you, Chris”, after the band performed the track “Unforgiven”. In 2019 they were part of the all-star Chris Cornell tribute show. They played two Soundgarden songs: “All Your Lies” and “Head Injury“. Also the Metallica songs: “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and “Master Of Puppets”.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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