The Top 11 Heavy Metal Albums of the Decade
Okay, with all the recent "best [blank] of the decade" going on, I decided it was high time I got involved. Seeing as how I can only proclaim myself to be an expert in a few things, and "best pork roast recipes of the decade" didn't seem terribly theme appropriate, I got to thinking about heavy metal, as I so often do.
So, without further delay, here is "M. Drew's highly subjective, totally biased list of the best metal albums released since 2000." And since everyone else everywhere did a list of ten items, I decided to do eleven, because a) I'm contrary to convention like that, and b) c'mon, the "it goes to eleven" jokes practically write themselves. Just a couple quick ground rules. 1) I decided to keep variety at the fore, so every band only qualifies once. If a band put out two fantastic albums this decade, I weighted their one entry a little heavier. 2) I decided to keep the list solely to things that are (almost) undeniably heavy metal. Otherwise, Jurassic 5's "Power in Numbers" would absolutely be on the list. As a side effect, Priestess' "Hello, Master," and Airbourne's "Runnin' Wild" do not appear.
First, but not to be ignored, the worthy list of honorable mentions:
Lazarus AD - "The Onslaught" (2007/2009) - This band might do great things for American thrash, but they couldn't crack the list yet.
Anthrax - "We've Come For You All" (2003) - Scott Ian thinks this is Anthrax's best album. Who am I to not include it?
Fireball Ministry - "Second Great Awakening" (2003) - I am the only person I know that even knows what this album is. Someone back me up that it exists, please.
Type O Negative - "Life is Killing Me" (2003) - Could be my favorite Type O album, and it was hard to not include it, but it didn't make the cut.
The Kidneythieves - "Zerospace" (2002) - The shame with this is that the album hasn't held up well over time at all. But this was another album under the radar that I quite enjoyed.
The Union Underground - "An Education in Rebellion" (2000) - Generic? Maybe. Mainstream? Yeah. Awesome? You bet.
#11. Rob Zombie - "The Sinister Urge" (2001)
If for no other reason than because someone on this site has to carry the banner for the reputable portion of Rob Zombie's career. I have no explanation for this crummy film making or general disregard for the attitudes which carried him to height of musical stardom, but I will reminisce at great length about the period when his career was rising to the rafters. Sadly, "The Sinister Urge" would be the last true hallmark of Rob's unerring run. Still, the album itself is almost without fault (though I personally find "Never Gonna Stop" distasteful.) Bonus points for the song "Dead Girl Superstar" which samples audio from the Isaac Hayes blaxploitation classic "Truck Turner." Couple the heavy hitting promise of "Iron Head" with the simple but effective video for "Feel so Numb," and everyone thought Rob would just keep marching on. Here's hoping "Hellbilly Deluxe 2" doesn't disappoint.
#10. Warbringer - "Waking Into Nightmares" (2009)
I think I said this when I reviewed the album back in the spring, but wow. Just wow. If you haven't heard this yet, and are at all a fan of classic American thrash, you owe it to yourself to find this album and see what it's about. Even more than their contemporaries Lazarus AD, Warbringer has a strong, demonstrated understanding of not only the roots of thrash, but the genre's very soul. Nic Ritter is an impossibly good drummer, and whether it be the blistering pace of "Scorched Earth," or the call and response fist pumping choruses of "Forgotten Dead," this band is on the way up.
#9. Blackguard - "Profugus Mortis" (2009)
I can't really defend this album on any serious musical level, but I think that may be the point. It's not really a serious album. Rather, it exists as the pinnacle of tongue-in-cheek folk metal. Heavy on keyboards, atmosphere and hearty ale, Blackguard set out from Montreal, whether by intention or accident, to make an album that sounded reminiscent of a night at the ole' hockey arena. This is one of those albums that makes me chuckle at its sheer ridiculousness and good-natured thrashing. It's heavily layered with musical themes and instruments, and actually produced quite well; the balance of each instrument is appropriate within the context of each individual song. I love this album. I can't help it. It reeled me in.
#8. Metallica - "Death Magnetic" (2008)
Before everyone starts with the Metalli-hate and we get all ramped up on this album again, I included "Death Magnetic" not just for what it is, but for what it represents. Prophetically, on the 25th anniversary of American thrash, the kings of the genre all started recording new albums and releasing new material. With Anthrax yet to go, the first three (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer) have all put out their best effort in years. "Death Magnetic" is probably the best of the three out so far, but that's not an insult in any way to "Endgame" or "World Painted Blood." "My Apocalypse" is thankfully reminiscent of the music that Metallica could have, and should have, been composing all along. We owe Rick Rubin. Big Time.
#7. The Mad Capsule Markets - "010"/"OSC-DIS" (2001/2002)
I realize that this is actually two albums, but I'm lumping them together because they're so different and similar at the same time. The Mad Capsule Markets is one of those bands that I wish I could recommend to a lot more people, but it's hard to do so when I have to throw their name out cold. By that I mean that in a discussion with someone else about music, there is no band that comes up that I can respond with "you know who else sounds like that? The Mad Capsule Markets." For some reason, it's hard to find a contextually appropriate place to talk about a Japanesepunkindustrialrapmetal band. They just don't come up much. So, I'm taking the opportunity to recommend them to all of you in this forum here. If you're in the mood for something different, and I mean 'different,' try one of these two albums on for size. If you're more metal-minded, try "010." if you're more into punk, shoot for "OSC-DIS."
#6. Children of Bodom - "Follow the Reaper" (2001)
This album set the pace for so much of what was to come in metal, and not just for Children of Bodom. By fusing Scandinavian metal themes with Western mosh-pit sensibilities (if they can be called that,) Children of Bodom set themselves up to take the metal world by storm. There seems to be almost no chance of stopping them now, as their die-hard fan base continues to grow by leaps and bounds. For a while, I though Children of Bodom would always stay in the shadow of Inflames, but I was clearly mistaken.
#5. The Sword - "Gods of the Earth" (2008)
We've been here before. This album is incredible, a dramatic but not overwrought display of the sheer power of heavy metal. Like a grown-up Black Sabbath, The Sword pumps out stoner metal in the extreme, and adds a twist of articulate guitar solos and winding but accessible riffs. There's not a lot else to say about "Gods of the Earth," except that it ideally is an example of metal in its purest form; a pounding beat driven affair with an admirable level of artistic musicianship added in.
#4. Scissorfight - "Mantrapping for Sport and Profit" (2001)
If The Sword is producing metal that combines and orchestrates all the facets of both designer and manufactured heavy metal, then Scissorfight is the exact opposite. "Mantrapping..." is a twisted, burning wreckage of slag, beaten into form with chipped, rusty hammers. A product of primitive woods living, Scissorfight captures the antithesis of everything that Thoreau idealized in "On Walden Pond." The album is dirty, unforgiving and unpolished. Perfect for hunting man, the most dangerous game of all. Also perfect for first dates. Go ahead, try it and see.
#3. The Cursed - "Room Full of Sinners" (2007)
In keeping with the trend of albums that live the tenets of heavy metal by trolling them through the mud, I present "Room Full of Sinners." Easily the best blues-metal experience since "Danzig III," the Cursed has an undeniable knack for creating a low-lit, smoky atmosphere of heavy metal. I found it surprising that I would place what essentially amounts to a side project so high, but the effort released by Bobby Blitz of Overkill and Dan Lorenzo of Hades is not only impressive of its own right, but because it sounds so different that everything else they've done. There's no thrashing to be had here; just good old fashioned blues riffs with the distortion turned way up, and the driving beats layed down underneath. Oh, and a couple tracks with a saxophone. You owe it to yourself to listen to this album. Repeatedly.
#2. Soilwork - "Figure Number Five" (2003)
The first time I heard this album, I thought it was good but not great. Since the second time I heard it, I have never thought that again. Over the years, I have run out of superlatives for this album, and this band. The album is wild, unbridled and fearsome. It seems like I appreciate the album more and more each time I hear it. Who knows? If I'm blessed enough to do a "best albums of the first quarter century" list in 2025, maybe this'll be number one by then. There's nothing else I can say about it. It is just shy of the best accomplishment in metal since 2000. Which means...
#1. Clutch - "Blast Tyrant" (2004)
Yeah. It seems hard to defend this album so vehemently now, since Clutch, while still a superior band, has slid into a different permutation of the genre in recent years. But at the top of their game, they produced a masterpiece of what I've come to call 'swamp metal' in Blast Tyrant, a collection of head-banging fare that could not be topped this decade. "Mob Goes Wild" is one of the most infectious songs produced in years, and the album holds together well, even in the face all the albums from all the bands that have come since. It is a practically perfect effort, with single minded and driven focus. "Blast Tyrant" needs to be revered as one for the ages.
I encourage you to compose your own lists in the comments, since I'm curious to see if any of these albums show up in your preferences, not to mention seeing where we differ. Metal is such a segmented and subjective genre that I'm looking forward to the arsenal of albums that are sure to be discussed. Get to it!