It’s hard when our favorite bands switch up on us.
Still, there are dozens of great rock bands who (somehow) carried on after transitioning lead singers. Dance Gavin Dance has cycled through three different clean vocalists and multiple band members but have somehow continued to curate great post-hardcore tunes, and everyone knows Genesis actually got better once Phil Collins took the helm.
Regardless, it’s a hard transition to accomplish, and many bands have not been up to the task, especially within the confines of post-grunge’s short-lived early-aughts heyday. A successful post-grunge act depends so much on the capabilities of its lead vocalist. Breaking Benjamin’s tumultuous legal drama, complete line-up change, and scattered return to music wouldn’t have been possible had Ben Burnley left alongside Aaron Fink and Mark Klepaski. Here are a few bands from that era that unfortunately weren’t so lucky and fell into obscurity once they switched up vocalists.
At the height of their career, Flyleaf’s post-grunge take on Christian rock was refreshingly earnest. Their self-titled debut went platinum, and Lacey Sturm became one of the most talked-about ladies in mainstream metal outside of Amy Lee. Her cathartic voice could be ghoulish and demonic (“I’m So Sick”), but she could switch seamlessly into powerful and uplifting melodies (“Red Sam,” “Fully Alive”). After two more excellent albums with Flyleaf, Sturm announced her departure from the band. She had become a mother and was grieving the loss of the band’s sound engineer, Rich Caldwell.
But her departure, and the tepid vocalist named Kristen May who replaced her, sucked the life out of the band. The group’s 2014 release, Between the Stars, was as compelling as bathwater, and May announced her departure from Flyleaf soon after. The band remains on hiatus, but without Sturm at the helm it’s hard to imagine this group returning as anything other than a shell of their former self.
The Pennsylvania rock group ushered in the early-aughts post-grunge boom. The group spawned numerous Billboard hits and multiple platinum records in their early days. Their 2003 record, Natural Selection, was nominated for a Grammy, and their music videos were all over MTV and VH1. As of now, the group has sold over 4 million records. The band’s lead singer, Brett Scallions, had all the angsty charisma of Chris Cornell and was able to growl with just as much intensity.
But when he left the band in 2010, the group asked American Idol contestant Chris Daughtry if he was interested in filling the spot. He was not, so the band instead hired Toryn Green, a young spiky-haired rocker who wanted to sound like Scallions real, real bad. His growls sounded forced and put-on, and his thick eyeliner and all-black attire looked goofy and inauthentic. The group released Angels & Devils in 2007, and it was critically panned. Green soon left and Scallions returned, but by the time 2013’s Puppet Strings rolled around, the damage had already been done.
Three Days Grace
At their peak, Three Days Grace was the face of early 2000s post-grunge music. Alongside Breaking Benjamin, they were the subgenre’s most prominent act. Lead vocalist Adam Gontier had a unique, gravelly tremor in his voice that could be stretched and molded into just about anything. He could soar into radio-friendly pop melodies (“Lost in You”) but then delve into acidic barks and howls (“Animal I Have Become,” “I Hate Everything About You”).
The band’s first three albums all achieved multiple platinum certifications thanks to Gontier’s compelling balancing act, but by the time 2012’s Transit of Venus rolled around, the group’s chemistry was notably off. Gontier sounded winded and uninspired, and his bandmates merely sounded like they were trying to keep up.
A year later, on the verge of a massive co-headlining tour with Shinedown, Gontier told his bandmates through a lawyer that he was done. He left the group without any discussion or reason, and the remaining members were left scrambling (Gontier cited “health issues” for his departure before saying later he was merely ready for a “new chapter”). The group quickly recruited Matt Walst, the lead singer for a crude, misogynistic rock group called My Darkest Days, to replace Gontier on tour. Walst was a perfectly OK rock vocalist, but he wasn’t nearly as versatile as Gontier. Two weak albums later, and the band remains a hollow shell of what they used to be.
The Australian band burst onto the scene with 2007’s Dressed Up as Life, a compelling collection of pop-rock tracks perfect for the radio. Shimon Moore was a clean vocalist whose ear for melody would land the band’s debut a gold certification. After three more solid rock efforts, Moore was kicked out of the band for allegedly trying to dissolve the group through a lawyer. Moore denied those accusations and said his bandmates had blindsided him but that he “wished them well.” The group’s replacement vocalist, Bryan Scott, was irredeemably bland, and the group’s relevance petered out faster than it came.
To be fair, Hinder was never actually good. 2005’s Extreme Behavior was panned by critics, but Austin Winkler’s grinding voice resonated with Def Leppard fans and was perfect for rock radio. Songs like “Lips of An Angel” and “Get Stoned” have since taken on lives of their own, but the group’s relevance disappeared when Winkler did. Each release that followed Extreme Behavior was lewder and not as warmly received. After Winkler abruptly entered rehab halfway through a fall tour in 2013, the band amicably parted ways with the distraught singer. Winkler’s departure was the nail in the coffin, and replacement Marshal Dutton hasn’t done anything to elevate the dated rock act past their expiration date.
Unless you were deeply in tune with the post-grunge movement, the name Evans Blue may not resonate with a lot of people, but their debut The Melody and The Energetic Nature of Volume was a nightmarish adventure into finding love, and the album’s eerie moodiness was elevated by emotionally distraught vocals from Kevin Matisyn. They were nominated for “Best New Band” at the Juno awards in 2007, and their sophomore effort was also warmly received.
But as the buzz surrounding the group grew, Matisyn was voted out. “We did not choose anyone over him,” the band wrote on MySpace. “He was simply voted out, not only because of musical differences but business differences as well. He simply was not making good decisions for this band anymore.” Matisyn’s replacement, Dan Chandler, wasn’t a profound enough vocalist to keep the band’s buzz afloat, and the group has led a relatively quiet career ever since.