Top 30 Bands That Succeeded Thanks to Major Lineup Changes

As voted by UG community...

Ultimate Guitar

This week's traditional Wednesday Question saw the people of UG community discussing the matter of bands that reached success thanks to a major lineup change.

As pointed out, the roster change didn't have to be the only factor that caused success, but certainly had to be among the crucial ones. We received quite a few votes and over 400 comments, all of which were summed up into a lengthy Top 30 rundown.

Before kicking things off, honorable mentions include The Police, Jethro Tull, Between the Buried and Me, Black Flag, Yes, Corrosion of Conformity, Helloween, Avenged Sevenfold, and Amorphis.

With all that stuff out of the way, you can check out the full list below.

30. The Dillinger Escape Plan

In 2001, vocalist Greg Puciato joined Dillinger Escape Plan, becoming a crucial ingredient in turning the Dillinger boys in what they are today.

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29. Tool

Although Tool's 1993 debut album "Undertow" - featuring bassist Paul D'Amour - features several of the band's early classics, it was only with the arrival of Justin Chancellor in 1995 that the band reached the next plateau both in terms of sonic attack and commercial success.

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28. Journey

When people think Journey, they often think Steve Perry and his vocals. But the band was actually founded back in 1973, and Steve only joined in 1977.

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27. Eagles

Before 1975, Eagles had four studio efforts under their belt and were already a successful act. But that was also the year when Joe Walsh joined on guitar, and in as early as 1976 the band unveiled "Hotel California," the record that propelled them straight to rock 'n' roll superstardom.

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26. Slipknot

When they were founded in 1995, Slipknot didn't feature Corey Taylor on vocals, but a guy named Anders Colsefni. Corey joined in 1997, just in time for nu-metal explosion.

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25. Arch Enemy

Founded in 1996, Arch Enemy reached the next level only upon hiring Angela Gossow as lead vocalist in 2000.

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24. Anthrax

Anthrax were founded in 1981 by Scott Ian and bassist Dan Lilker. Before Joey Belladonna joined on vocals in 1984, the band had not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE singers - John Connelly, Dirk Kennedy, Jason Rosenfeld, Tommy Wise, and most notably Neil Turbin, who sang on the band's early-1984 debut "Fistful of Metal." As of 1984, the band became a stable unit and finally entered their classic era.

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23. Meshuggah

UG user Draconis93 explained: "Jens (the singer) used to play guitar and do vocals for the band, but after the first album, he went straight to vocals only, allowing the band to pick up another guitarist in Marten Haagstrom. They just would not be the same if it wasn't for that."

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22. The Yardbirds

MrDawson explained: "Eric Clapton first replaced by Jeff Beck then Jimmy Page, went on to be a very influential band. It also gave birth to Led Zeppelin so that's a success in my book."

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21. Van Halen

This one might be a bit debatable, but we'll allow it. On one hand, the David Lee Roth-era fetched a diamond certificate with "1984" album, but when Sammy Hagar arrived, the gang released four consecutive No. 1 albums...

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20. Motörhead

A concise explanation from slapsymcdougal: "First album, Lemmy, Larry Wallis and Lucas Fox. Wallis and Fox out, Eddie Clarke and Philthy in, and you've got the 'classic' lineup, with their best selling albums."

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19. In Flames

Founded in 1990, it took multiple lineup changes for In Flames to enter their classic era around 1998.

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18. Genesis

Sure, the Peter Gabriel-fronted Genesis released some of the ultimate masterpieces of prog rock, but the Phil Collins-fronted Genesis sold a boatload of albums...

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17. Dream Theater

Dream Theater were founded in 1985, and already had three of their crucial members onboard - John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy, and John Myung. Keyboardist Kevin Moore joined in 1986, but that wasn't enough for the band's classic era to commence. Before James LaBrie joined on vocals in 1991, the gang had three other singers in their roster: Chris Collins, Charlie Dominici - who sang on the band's 1989 debut album "When Dream and Day Unite," and Steve Stone.

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16. Opeth

Opeth were founded in 1990 by vocalist David Isberg. He asked a few other guys to join, including 16-year-old guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt who apparently said yes because they had a cool logo. David left in 1992, Mikael became the band's vocalist and mainman, and the rest is history.

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15. Killswitch Engage

Founding Killswitch Engage vocalistJesse Leach left the band after their second album, then Howard Jones stepped in and the band reached the next level. Years later, Jesse returned to the gang.

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14. Pantera

In 1981, Pantera was born, with Dimebag Darrel on guitar, his brother Vinnie Paul on drums, Donnie Heart on vocals (formally, he was only in the band for rehearsals), Terry Glaze on rhythm guitar, and Tommy Bradford on bass. Doonie soon left and Terry took over the vocals, while Rex Brown replaced Tommy on bass. This was the beginning of glam Pantera, which went on to release three albums. In 1986, Phil Anselmo joined, but the boys were still not classic Pantera. They released an album called "Power Metal" in 1988, and then finally made the earth really tremble with 1991's "Cowboys From Hell."

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13. Deep Purple

Deep Purple were founded in 1968, featuring Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, bassist Nick Simper, and vocalist Rob Evans. They released three albums before hiring Roger Glover on bass and Ian Gillan on vocals in 1969. In 1970, they released "In Rock"...

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12. Nirvana

Before hiring Dave Grohl in 1990, Nirvana had five different drummers come and go through their roster - Dale Crover, Dave Foster, Chad Channing, and Dan Peters.

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11. Blink-182

Blink-182 were founded in 1992, but it was only in 1998 with the addition of Travis Barker on drums that the band hit the big time.

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10. Queens Of The Stone Age

As MrDawson stated, though Queens of the Stone Age have the lineup changes with every album, having Dave Grohl join on the "Songs for the Deaf" album on drums in 2002 participated to this album's massive success.

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9. The Beatles

Pete Best out, Ringo Starr in, classic Beatles born...

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8. Metallica

Ron McGovney out, Cliff Burton in... also, Dave Mustaine out, Kirk Hammett in...

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7. Fleetwood Mac

While the Peter Green-fronted Fleetwood Mac did release some quality tunes since the band's formation in 1967, it was only in 1974 with the arrival of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks that the band exploded as one of the best-selling acts of all time.

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6. Faith No More

On their first two albums, Faith No More featured vocalist Chuck Mosley. Then, Mike Patton arrived and things changed for good...

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5. Red Hot Chili Peppers

Anthony Kiedis and Flea were there from the start, but so were two dudes name Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons. It took two more guitarists and two more drummers, but Chad Smith and John Frusciante were in the band by 1988...

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4. AC/DC

First of all, replacing Dave Evans with Bon Scott, but then also hiring Brian Johnson after Bon's death...

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3. Pink Floyd

Replacing Syd Barrett with David Gilmour proved to be a crucial step in Pink Floyd ultimately becoming one of the greatest bands of all time...

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2. Rush

The very first Rush lineup in 1968 featured Alex Lifeson, bassist/vocalist Jeff Jones, and drummer John Rutsey. Within weeks, Jeff was out and Geddy was in, and then six years late John was also out and Neil Peart was in, and that was it.

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1. Iron Maiden

Before Paul Di'Anno, Iron Maiden had two other vocalists - Paul Day and Dennis Wilcock. Dave Murray wasn't the first Maiden guitarist either, as two guys named Dave Sullivan and Terry Rance were there before him. Nicko McBrain was far from the band's first drummer, and so was Clive Burr, as three other dudes were there first - Ron Matthews, Doug Sampson, and a guy named Thunderstick. Steve Harris was there all along, though. Needless to say, when Bruce Dickinson joined the band, Maiden exploded with "The Number of the Beast."

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And that wraps it up! Hope y'all enjoyed the ride, stay tuned until next week for another edition of WQ!

117 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This week's question also got me thinking the opposite way: What are some great bands that failed spectacularly thanks to a major lineup change? Maybe this could be answered next week..??
    Iron Maiden again (Blaze), Motley Crue (John Corabi), Judas Priest (Tim Owens).....and the list goes on. It's funny though, these 3 examples are all great singers in their own way!
    I-Am-The-Man · Jun 11, 2016 12:54 AM
    Oh man I love Corabi's record with MC... Best one for me, not the classic sound of MC but very good in my opinion.
    that's a good one, great actually. If I had to think of one off of the top of my head, maybe Van Halen with Gary Cherone for VH III? It was such an odd time for the band during the mid to late 90's. Hagar left, they went on stage with Roth at the MTV Music Awards, did 2 songs with him for a Best Of album, do "Humans Being" with Hagar for Twister, Hagar leaves/gets fired again, Cherone joins the band during a time when Eddie's drug use got worse. I wouldn't say Cherone was a problem, it was just so much drama that culminated over such little time beforehand that led to a much lesser VH album that he ended up singing for. And Michael Anthony so unceremoniously getting the boot is another thing entirely. Miss his background vocals so much
    Perhaps "failed spectacularly" is too strong of a term, but what you said about VH, and what was said about Maiden and Priest below are what I was getting at. Some band goes through a big change (i.e. someone gets fired, someone quits, someone joins, someone dies), but the band soldiers on anyway, and we as fans say "you know, this band just isn't quite the same without so-and-so, or, since so-and-so joined". Said band lost some vitality because of the change. A lot of acts on this weeks list could get nominated again.
    The only fail I can find is Queen hiring Paul Rodgers for The Cosmos Rocks. I really hate that album, the only good songs in the album was We Believe by Roger Taylor. I really love Bad Company and I really love Queen, but their original composition (Not the live band since I never see 'em in concert) was cringe worthy.
    That would be much harder to determine, though, the above example of Blaze-era Maiden illustrates it perfectly - great singer, and even though he was massively different to Bruce, the "let's get someone completely different" concept has worked out for quite a few bands in similar situations. The main problem was that it was generally a hard time for the band and songwriting was weird - The Clansman is proof that they were perfectly capable of writing songs that matched Blaze's voice PERFECTLY and were fucking awesome. (As amazing as Bruce is, I still prefer the track with Blaze.) Much easier to find cases when bands clearly needed just the right "someone" to let them unleash their full potential but had already been decent before that, whereas a new member single-handedly screwing things up is rare and extremely debatable in most cases. How about "Great bands with impressively stable line-ups" instead? Yeah, I know Rush has already won before this is even posted but I'd nominate Paradise Lost for example. Fourteen albums with the same four out of five members and only drummers changing, and something like five different genres from death/doom metal to synthpop represented in their discography...
    GNR...easy #1 Van Halen...NOT because of Hagar (which was better IMO), but the exclusion of Anthony and adding Wolfgang/Cherone. Skid Row - you can't have that band without Bach. Blink 182 - gotta have Tom's vocals.
    Tha Funkinator
    Good question. It's harder because...well, usually, the failure means they never got the fame they should have, so nobody knows them. I guess I'd go with... -James Gang: After a ton of touring with and building their name, they had a hit with "Funk #49" and "Walk Away," and they were really coming into their own...but Joe Walsh felt confined in having to split the bill and began his solo career, and Jim Fox and Dale Peters could never find a solid replacement. -Duran Duran: I like their late-'80s material, but when the bandmate carousel started up and they lost two of their Taylors, they went from energetic synthpop that happened to have teenybopper appeal to yacht-rock that never quite hit home the way their first three albums did. -The Velvet Undeground: It wasn't exactly a loss of fame (in that they never had much), but mention Squeeze to any VU fan and you can bet they'll start cursing Doug Yule's name. -The Supremes: Diana Ross wanted to prove she was the focal point of the band and racked up #1 hits as a solo artist. The Supremes wanted to prove they were still viable but the longer they went without Ms Ross, the less successful they were. A lot of Canterbury Scene bands suffered a similar fate, though they were never successful in the big name/big money senses: -Caravan: After The Land of Grey and Pink, they were poised to finally break through from Canterbury stars to an actual major act, but keyboardist Dave Sinclair left for Matching Mole. He came back, but then cousin Richard Sinclair left for Hatfield and the North and the lineup swaps kept changing their sound and derailing their momentum. By the time they got all together, they missed their moment. -The Soft Machine: Kind of strange to say, since they changed lineups after every album, but after Robert Wyatt left, they went from one-of-a-kind psychedelic/first-wave fusion band into a more generic jazz-rock one. -Gong: Lost a lot of its freewheeling spirit and weird marijuana-informed mythos after Daevid Allen was ousted. And a lot of bands that became famous then tried to carry on after the death of their singer and public face: -The Doors: There's a reason nobody remembers that they did two albums after Jim Morrison's death. -Sublime: Is "Sublime with Rome" even still around? -Lynyrd Skynyrd: They went from a genre-defining Southern rock group to a derivative knockoff of themselves after the plane crash.
    Genesis again; Calling All Stations probably ruined their legacy.
    Something fucking strange started slowly happening to Tool starting from when they changed bass player. Sure, they're all brilliant musicians, but if you listen to, I don't know, Intolerance, and then Pushit, you can really hear the excellent influence the man had on that band. It's what was needed to channge them for the better. Just listen to The Grudge, or Jambi...
    Justin Chancellor has Synesthesia. When he hears sounds, he perceives colors along with them. I think that has a lot to do with it.
    After all these years of being bullied by everyone, the bass players unleashed their curse to the world and soon we will all perish...
    You said it, the atmosphere totally expanded after Justin came on board and the fact that he was a big fan of them before he even joined to me shows a lot of respect for the creative potential that they have continued to fulfill. Lateralus will always be a special album to me but i could listen to the bass tracks alone on 10k Days and be completely satisfied.
    Just gonna say it: I love Sammy Hagar, but David Lee Roth was better
    It's almost like two different bands really. The band with Roth was more about rock and guitar solos, while Van Hagar had more pianos/synths and IMO, more depth to the songwriting. I can't think of too many other bands that more or less changed their whole style between 2 singers and were as successful.
    I completely agree. If I had to pick one, I'd say I like Roth better. But yes, everything feels more aggressive with Roth at the helm. Perhaps a little more radio-friendly with Hagar.
    Am I the only one that has trouble distinguishing between the two? I like both but if I hadn't known there were different singers and you played one song from each, I'd have a tough time trying to determine that there were different singers. I personally can't say I like one more than the other. They both brought the goods. I think the whole van Halen vs van hagar beef is just Roth fans being butthurt.
    With Sammy, a lot of the songs had more layers to the sound and the guitar work wasn't as complex as it was when Roth was singing (partly as a result of Eddie playing synths and Sammy playing the backing guitar). I admit, there are some songs where Sammy's voice is almost indistinguishable from Roth's but listen to 1984 vs 5150 and you can hear the evolution of the band between just 2 years and 2 singers.
    Soundgarden took a huge leap forward in songwriting when Ben Shepherd replaced Hiro Yamamoto.
    What about Chris Cornell moving from being a singing drummer to solely a singer, allowing them to hire the one and only Matt Cameron. A man whose ability to make the messed up time signatures Soundgarden plays in sound relatively normal is extremely underappreciated.
    Let's not forget a few things: It was Hillel Slovak who first taught Flea how to play bass. If he hadn't died, you can bet he would have stayed in the band. Piper at the Gates of Dawn might not have been a commercial success for Pink Floyd, but if you judge a band solely by that measure, you're doing it wrong. Even after it was time for Syd to leave Floyd because his trips were getting out of control, they helped him with his first solo album. Peter Green leaves Fleetwood Mac,...and they replace him with three different people. That's how much he actually did for them, aside from leaving them the name. Page and Beck were actually in the Yardbirds at the same time. Originally Page was playing bass until they found out what a great guitarist he was. He then switched places with rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja and they had both Page AND Beck on lead guitars. The rest is history.
    Yeah, Hillel Slovak and Peter Green both deserve a lot more credit than they get, not just for "starting off" bands that became more successful, but for what they actually did when they were in those bands.
    I really enjoy rush but I only got into them a few years ago. I knew Neil peart joined after their original drummer but I had no idea Geddy wasn't a original member.Learn something new everyday.
    I always thought Arch Enemy were better with Johan, not that I don't like Angela, in fact I got into Arch Enemy with Dead Eyes and Doomsday Machine, but after listening to the older stuff it just sounded so much better. When it was recorded again on Root of all Evil, it just didn't sound right, lost a certain sound... Also for In Flames, I found that from Jester Race onwards the already had their sound down. Lunar Strain and Subterranean were off albums for me however.
    Second Rate
    It seemed like they started simplifying the music around the time that Angela joined.
    That Barlow era Iced Earth my brothers.
    Barlow is excellent but I do like the direction they took with ripper. It was significantly less reptitive. I feel like they rehash the coming curse riff way too much. I was stoked about stu block joining but was saddened to hear him basically just mimicking barlow.
    Pretty surprised Quiet Riot wasn't mentioned. They had zero success outside of the strip and 2 basically unknown (at the time) albums in japan. Rhoads, Garni and Forsythe left. DuBrow put together a whole new lineup with Cavazo, Sarzo and Banali and they hit it huge. I mean they did have the first heavy metal album to top the Billboard chart. Staying power wasn't quiet there for them but you have to admit they reached much higher levels of success after the major lineup change.
    Dang, I should've nominated Death or Cannibal Corpse. Or Morbid Angel, for that matter.
    Second Rate
    I considered nominating Death, but it seemed pointless as their entire creative direction was the product of a single person. Chuck had some outstanding musicians in that band, but the songs likely would have been nearly the same regardless of who you stuck in the second guitar slot, or on drums.
    I never log in and commented too late on the other one, but wanted to suggest Underoath as a contender. Spencer taking over for Dallas brought them "to another level". Back to lurking I go...
    Got any Megadeth ?
    indeed. Would think Megadeth would win this one for being no 1 on that list
    Absolutely not. Megadeth was a milestone in thrash metal since their first album. Of course they sold better during the Marty era, but they were successful from the start.
    AC/DC and Iron Maiden are no brainers. Nothing wrong with their past lineups, but they got even bigger with the changes.
    Pantera should've been #1, not Iron Maiden, their first albums weren't successful at all and then Cowboys was a huge album. Iron Maiden were already pretty successful with Clive Burr & Paul Di'Anno.
    No Megadeth? Bringing in Marty Friedman pushed their technical ability to the next level and helped them garner some mainstream success.
    REO Speedwagon didn't really have anything until Kevin Cronin came in, though I once saw them play a show at a Wal-Mart sooooo....definition of success? lol
    Kataklysm also changed a lot and got really successful when Maurizio took over edit: oh yeah sure downvotes totally make sense here lol
    I think some people think the opposite and prefer older kataklysm more
    i never said the new ones better? i just wrote they changed + they got successful since Maurizio
    Jesse Leach leaving KSE and Howard Jones coming in was the best thing that ever happened to them. Those first 2 albums with Jesse aren't very good at all. Jesse wasn't a good singer at all back then. And now, since Howard left and Jesse came back, Jesse is a much better singer, but has been trying to sound like Howard and not quite pulling it off. Lol
    Dude, Alive or Just Breathing is their best album and no other KSE album surpassed that one in terms of pure raw intensity. Jesse Leach's harsh vocals in that album destroys any harsh vocals Howard ever did. As Daylight Dies is their only album from Howard's Era that is equal to AJOB in terms of song writing but otherwise AJOB remains unsurpassed.
    Lol Howard's vocals far surpass Jesse's on the early stuff. Just listen to both of their versions of Fixation on the Darkness. Howard's are easily much better.
    I like Jesse's version of "Fixation" much better. This Jesse vs Howard shit will never be settled. It's personal preference. To me, they were both awesome.
    Yeah and Howard's clean also got worse while Jesse got way better. I can't stand Howard's clean vocals on DYK.
    Mate, Feed, Kill, Repeat is Slipknot's only listenable album. "Gently" is a masterpiece.
    Completely agree with most of the list, especially Maiden at 1 but I'm honestly surprised Tool is so low. Not that D'Amour was bad (he was actually great) but Justin Chancellor has been one of, if not, the biggest contributing factor in their sound moving forward. But Bruce Dickinson FTW!!!! not to mention Adrian rejoining in 2000 with him.
    How dare Hillel Slovak not get the respect he deserves.
    Hillel Slovak deserves a bit more credit than this article states, but it is definitely true that Frusciante wrote most of the most iconic RHCP riffs (even Navarro contributed to some of those). That being said, Hillel influenced Frusciante quite a bit and was such a crucial part of the RHCP formation. Not to mention a very close friend to them.
    I kept scrolling thinking "Faith No More...Iron Maiden...I KNOW you're here somewhere"! Was not disappointed.
    Nice profile pic, Local H is definitely a band that's amazing regardless of its lineup changes. Especially since Joe's back (sort of)
    I forgot to mention Periphery when the question was asked. They went through a couple of singers before they arrived at Spencer and replaced Alex Bois with Mark Holcomb. The band wouldn't be what it is today without them.
    Mustaine leaving Metallica didn't help them at all. Imagine how amazing they'd be if they got along and there was no Wah Wah Kirk.
    Octane Twisted
    How could you not mention King Crimson? The line up changed with almost every album. I mean look at that list of ex members !
    Yeah but they haven't reached success thanks to a major lineup change. All of their lineups are awesome, sure, but it was actually the first lineup that was most successful and influential
    Oasis - Tony McCarroll for Alan White and then later of course Bonehead and Guigsy for Andy and Gem.
    I always thought the Killswitch thing killed two awesome bands. Alive or Just Breathing is still their best album, and that remaster of their real self titled is fantastic. Then they got Howard when Jesse left, which ended Blood Has Been Shed, another great band. They then proceeded to release their three worst albums, with each one getting progressively worse, I mean, that second self titled is their only album I don't own. Buuuuut, now Jesse is back, Disarm was sweet, Incarnate is awesome, and Howard apparently has his diabetes under control to the point he can do Devil You Know. I thought the stuff I heard from them on Octane is pretty good. So all ends well.
    Dark Tranquillity should have also been on this list. Because Mikael Stanne was originally the rhythm guitarist of the band and Anders Fridén was the singer of the band and when they fired Anders because they couldn't agree on musical stuff, Stanne switched to vocals and they got another guitarist to fill in
    Top 30 examples of failing to understand that correlation does not imply causation.
    Call me crazy, but I prefer Arch Enemy's original vocalist. Angela is great but, come on, let's talk about Burning Bridges.