Singer Joseph Michael, currently of Los Angeles-based progressive metallers Witherfall and Seattle-based power thrashers Sanctuary, is one of America’s hidden vocal gems. Originally from upstate New York, Michael cut his teeth in Utica, New York City, and then Los Angeles. He had a one-album stint with Earache’s White Wizzard before forming Witherfall with guitar jedi Jake Dreyer and signing over to Century Media.
Two albums (and an EP, Vintage) into Witherfall and a headlining reunion tour with Sanctuary–on which they performed the entire Refuge Denied album–under his belt, Decibel reached out to Michael to learn more about the siren’s vocal foundation; his vocal influences. From Dream Theater to Type O Negative and King Diamond to Guns N’ Roses, the formative years–the ’90s–for Michael were enriched with the right cross-section of albums (and singers). He’s developed his voice off of a wide range of singers and styles, all of which can be heard on album and on stage with Witherfall and Sanctuary, respectively. Michael’s even banded together with Van Williams (ex-Nevermore, Ghost Ship Octavius), Joey Concepcion (Sanctuary, ex-Armageddon, Jasta), Anthony Crawford (Witherfall, Chon, ex-Alan Holdsworth), Alex Nasla (Witherfall), and Will Wallner (White Wizzard) for an impressive cover of Savatage’s “Chance.”
So, read on as Michael details his Top 5 albums that influenced him vocally.
5. Dream Theater — Awake (1994)
On K-Rock in upstate New York, there is a very special radio show on at midnight-to-5 a.m. on Saturday nights. The host is a very eclectic gentleman named JRRBLL. Many firsts for me were heard on his show including Nevermore, Pantera, Stevie Wonder, Cynic and on and on. The first time I heard Dream Theater was on this show. The song “Scarred” was introduced and my conception of what a band should be was forever altered.
4. Iced Earth — Dark Saga (1996)
Jake Dreyer, aside my connection to Jon Schaffer and company, goes way back. I was given this as a bootleg in the mid-’90s on cassette. Ironically, the B-side was Nevermore’s first record [Nevermore]. I was so blown away by the theatrics in the vocals and writing. To this day, I still play “A Question of Heaven” at my solo acoustic appearances.
3. King Diamond — The Eye (1990)
Though not my favorite album–that would be Conspiracy–this record was my first introduction to King. I was very deep into guitar and composition by then, but the keyboards really struck a note with me. “Two Little Girls” is so catchy. Also, in my view, the most melodic and memorable instrumental goes to “Insanity”; Hal Patinos amazing bass counterpoint and Andy LaRocque’s madness-inspiring guitars are one of my all time favorite moments in music right up there with Mozart’s “Serenade For Winds; K. 361; 3rd Movement.”
2. Guns N’ Roses — Use Your Illusion I/II (1991)
Well, without the first guitar solo in “November Rain” I would not be a musician and some cum-core guy would be talking about–insert random boring core band–breakdowns right now. Honestly, Slash and Axl are by far the most authentic duos in hard rock. It’s not contrived. Everyone wanted to be Tyler/Perry but they somehow took that template and made their own paradigm.
1. Type O Negative — October Rust (1996)
I’ve seen Type O Negative more times live than any other band and they were just mind blowing. I know some of the guys are now doing A Pale Horse Named Death, which makes me very happy, but I miss this sound. I was never one to warm up as a vocalist, but I love singing “Die with Me” before sessions and shows… RIP Peter Steele.
** Witherfall’s new EP, Vintage, is out now. Order direct from Witherfall HERE. Sanctuary, with Michael on vocals, have just finished up a North American run celebrating the Refuge Denied album. Sanctuary’s latest album, Inception, is out now. Click HERE to order Sanctuary merch from the band directly. And finally Michael and friends have just released a cover of Savatage’s “Chance.” The stunning cover is available now from Michael himself (HERE).