When you’re at work, you very rarely hear about people sticking around, doing the same job in the same place, for decades upon decades. So it’s pretty damn impressive that so many musicians stick with their bands for their entire adult life. Metal acts that have lost all their original members are stunningly rare, but we’ve been able to dig up 10 regardless. Here are some iconic heavy bands that have completely changed ranks since starting.
Most bands that have shed their original lineup did so over years or decades – Judas Priest did it before they even debuted. The ’70s and ’80s may have seen Rob Halford, K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and their myriad drummers shimmy into the heavy music limelight, but none of them were there at the beginning. Founding frontman Al Atkins initially led the future Metal Gods, before K.K. joined and took command.
Sepultura formed in 1984 as the passion project of brothers Max and Iggor Cavalera, and their state-of-the-art thrash pulled them from the slums of Belo Horizonte to heavy metal stardom. Max notoriously left after the European leg of the Roots tour in 1996, as his bandmates wanted to fire their manager and his wife, Gloria. When Iggor also stepped down 10 years later, all traces of Sepultura’s earliest days left with him.
These djent darlings only formed in 2008, yet four of their original five members had left the lineup by 2012. Vocalist Maksym Fatullaiev was among the first to go, replaced by Tetiana Shmailyuk, whose imposing presence has been essential to the Ukrainians’ ascent. The final founder to vacate his post was guitarist Dmytro Oksen: his exit after 2014’s Cloud Factory makes him the sole member of the O.G. Jinjer to appear on an album.
Lorna Shore have been infamous for not holding down a singer: current vocalist Will Ramos has been the third man to have the job since 2009. However, none of the people that actually started the band have stuck around, either. Guitarist Adam De Micco is currently the longest-serving member, having joined in 2010 to replace co-founder Aaron Brown. Hopefully, with the Americans now rocketing up the deathcore ranks, their lineup will calm down a bit.
Vocalist David Isberg founded Opeth as a very contemporary-sounding death metal band in 1990. But, according to current frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt, he was not a liked man in the Stockholm scene – he even hired Mikael as a bassist without telling the bassist who was still in the band! Unsurprisingly, Isberg was gone by 1992, letting Mikael assume a singer/guitarist role and drive Opeth down a more progressive rock-inspired road.
Guitarist Jesper Strömblad first started In Flames in 1990, seeking a more melodic side-project to run alongside his death metal band, Ceremonial Oath. Their early years featured a revolving door of friends and one-time guests, until Ceremonial broke up and the lineup started to stabilise on second album The Jester Race. By 2010, In Flames were icons in the melodeath landscape, but Jesper left due to personal problems and health issues.
Singer/bassist Brad Lewter and drummer Travis Smith started Trivium in 1999, with now-frontman Matt Heafy joining as a guitarist very shortly afterwards. A schism over what style of music they wanted to play led to Brad soon going his own way. His ex-bandmates went on to enjoy acclaim in the rising metalcore scene, but when Travis left in 2010, it meant that, technically, Trivium just lost its last founder.
Napalm Death’s debut album, Scum, remains the touchstone for grindcore. However, none of the musicians that made it are a part of the band today. Their longest-serving member is bassist Shane Embury, who joined around the time Scum was released in the summer of 1987. In fact, almost every person in Napalm has upwards of 30 years of service, but the fact remains: none of them had a hand in making the grindcore big bang.
Cattle Decapitation have evolved immensely since 1996, from seething vegetarian grind to progressive metal and tech-death. Unsurprisingly, their membership’s been just as unpredictable. Longtime vocalist Travis Ryan didn’t join until 1997, replacing Scott Miller, and co-founders Gabe Serbian and Dave Astor were gone in 2001 and 2003, respectively. This current lineup didn’t solidify until 2019, but the releases of Death Atlas and Terrasite since have reaffirmed the band as gods of the underground.
Norma Jean technically started as Luti-Kriss in 1997 but, even since changing their name 2001, nobody that was in the band back then has stuck around. In fact, not even anyone that had a hand in that groundbreaking debut album, Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child, is in the fold anymore. The last founder to call it a day was rhythm guitarist and backing singer Chris Day, who left the metalcore heroes in 2015.