The 100 greatest metal songs of the 21st century

Amon Amarth

(Image credit: Press)

90. Amon Amarth - Cry Of The Black Birds (2006)

2008’s Twilight Of The Thunder God may have been the album that cemented Amon Amarth as the undisputed kings of Viking metal, but it was With Oden On Our Side that first broke them into metal’s wider consciousness – chiefly thanks to this irrepressible, galloping heavy metal monster. Axe-swingingly epic.

89. Soil – Halo (2001)

If you knew you were going to be remembered for one track, you could do a hell of a lot worse than this. Giving the nu metal template a kick up the ass by adding some Pantera-sized grooves, Soil staked their place in the rock club anthem hall of fame forever.

88. Turisas – Battle Metal (2004)

“It’s not often that a band comes along and both labels and defines a genre, and Turisas did just that with Battle Metal. From the epic, trumpet-led intro to the rallying battle cry of the chorus, Battle Metal is the perfect soundtrack to get you in the right frame of mind to take on any challenge.” Freddy Lim, Chthonic

87. Venom Prison – Abysmal Agony (2016)

‘SANE DUALI-TEEEEEEEEH!’ Built on huge, rumbling grooves and riffs that sounded like they were written on a chainsaw, Venom Prison stormed onto the scene with this crushing single, dragging UK death metal kicking and screaming into a bright new future and putting the quintet on the map.

86. Strapping Young Lad – Love? (2005)

Like the title of their debut album had suggested, Strapping Young Lad really were as heavy as a really heavy thing, but Love? was also strangely accessible. During the chorus – which was apparently ripped off from prog titans Yes’s City Of LoveDevin Townsend’s operatic vocals soared atop a flurry of blastbeats, turning a relationship crisis into something cathartic and beautiful.

85. Audioslave – Cochise (2002)

Despite featuring all the members of Rage Against The Machine apart from frontman Zack de la Rocha, Audioslave were a difference beast altogether. Pressing pause on political agitation, they teamed up with Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell to produce three albums of timeless rock anthems. This was the epic song with which they chose to announce themselves to the world.

84. Coheed And Cambria – Welcome Home (2005)

It was the prog rock song so epic and instantaneous it even had emo kids losing their shit. The closest thing the mid-00s got to its own Kashmir, Welcome Home was both mountain-shakingly bombastic and searingly intimate, its emotional core swathed in proggy tempos and pure, heavy metal thunder. Not bad for a track written in Coheed And Cambria frontman Claudio Sanchez’s bedroom.

“I was still working a nine-to-five job, so Coheed wasn’t a full- time thing,” he reveals. “We had just signed to Columbia so it was becoming that, but I was living at my parents’. I remember getting the riff and then moving into the chord progression, and being so excited… then my mother walked in to do the laundry! I was in my boxers and she’d caught me in this heightened creative moment. It was pretty embarrassing.”

Nonetheless, the song made an indelible impact, uniting prog heads, metal lovers and emo scenesters, and confirming Coheed as one of the most unique bands of their generation. And yet - perhaps due to its less-than-radio-typical six-plus minutes running time - there were reservations about whether to release it as a single.

“It was the song we thought should be the flagship for the record,” says Claudio. “But the label weren’t so keen! It was kind of given treatment as the soft single, and there wasn’t a lot put behind it. They didn’t see us as ‘that band’, and they thought The Suffering would be the first single. But the band all thought that this was the song that best represented us, and it proved itself, because every once in a while, even to this day, it pops up on something.”

‘Pops up’ is an understatement. While Coheed have arguably only got better and better as time has worn on, Welcome Home remains their hallmark single and one of the definitive anthems of its time - over 70 million streams on Spotify alone says it all. It’s appeared in videogames and film trailers, been used as the weekly theme of WWE NXT, and even been sampled by grime heavyweight Ghetts for his 2014 track Menace. All pretty wild stuff for a song that’s layered and expansive enough to warrant the ‘prog rock’ tag. 

“We wanted it to be as complex and challenging as we felt the subject material was,” adds Claudio. “It’s a song that came out of, what I thought was, the end of a relationship with a woman who is now my wife. There were a lot of ups and downs, and that record is a kind of perplexing love letter, and with Welcome Home we wanted to reflect that. So I tracked all these vocal tracks that don’t necessarily match up. I wanted it to feel like all these different voices. All these parts of my personality. Like, multiple personalities singing the same thing. It’s kind of jarring!”

83. Enslaved – Bounded By Allegiance (2004)

Isa was the first Enslaved album I heard, and I clearly remember listening to Bounded By Allegiance over and over in my college dorm room back in 2004-2005. It’s a killer, and often-overlooked, song with so many killer moments. FEASTING ’TIL THE END OF TIME!Benjamin Hutcherson, Khemmis

82. Negura Bunget – Țesarul De Lumini (2006) 

Steeped in the folklore of Negura Bunget’s Transylvanian homeland, Ţesarul De Lumini felt like an awakening for both the band and black metal as a whole. Engulfing as if being granted access to an incandescent, other- worldly realm, its 13, heart-stopping minutes culminated in a post-coital, tremolo-picked refrain to echo through the ages.

81. Letlive – Banshee (Ghost Fame) (2013)

For a moment, Letlive looked like they could have been the biggest band of their generation – and never more than on this emotional, vibrant single, mashing punk rock fury, flamenco beats and Jason Aalon’s Butler’s gorgeous vocals to craft one of 2013’s biggest anthems. To be fair, he’s done alright since.

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