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The 100 greatest metal songs of the 21st century

Babymetal

Babymetal (Image credit: Press)

30. Korn – Here To Stay (2002)

Korn’s fourth album, Issues, might have split the fanbase, but the first single from the multimillion-dollar follow-up Untouchables was an in-your-face banger propelled by the immense partnership of guitarists Munky and Head. Epitomising Korn’s knack for channelling emotional pain into cathartic dancefloor-fillers, Here To Stay even won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 2003 and helped inspire British grime legend Dizzee Rascal’s 2007 single Sirens. Altogether now: ‘Anticipating all the fucked-up feelings again…’


29. Babymetal – Road Of Resistance (2015)

“I know the metal elitists will disagree with me on this one, but I think this song is awesome. When this group popped up, I thought they were a joke, but when I listened to this song that mixed the guitars of Dragonforce with J-pop vocals in such a fast and technical way, I couldn’t help but take Babymetal more seriously. I know they’re ‘manufactured’ of course, but if they make good, entertaining heavy metal, why not?” Daniel Pleitez, Metal Hammer reader

28. Skindred – Nobody (2002)

“I heard Nobody after [2011’s] Warning came out. We supported Skindred, and I enjoyed that song every night on tour. It was my first reggae-core song. That was so fresh to me – its composition is not like a proper nu metal song; there are only a few guitar riffs and strong vocal hooks mixed with groovy drums. Nobody is very simple, with a repeating refrain. It’s so strong live because each member of Skindred knows how to make grooves that let the metal fans dance and bounce.” Ken Koie, Crossfaith


27. Limp Bizkit – Rollin’

A song so iconic it’s sparking memes 20 years later (yes, we’ve seen the one about the vaccine roll-out), Rollin’ was the crowning achievement of nu metal’s obnoxious invasion of the mainstream. A stupidly catchy song, it was a No.1 smash in the UK and became the definitive rock club dancefloor hit of a (g-g-)generation, cementing Limp Bizkit as pop culture’s newest anti-heroes. It even got performed for The Undertaker’s entrance at WrestleMania. 


26. Parkway Drive - Vice Grip (2015)

“This isn’t just another Parkway album,” Winston McCall told us ahead of the release of Ire in 2015. He wasn’t kidding; Parkway Drive shamelessly embraced their heavy metal side for their fifth studio album, launching it with an absurdly catchy, bouncy-as-hell and delightfully gung ho lead single in Vice Grip. It was a song that had ‘This Is Going To Go Off Live’ written all over it, and sure enough, it became an instant setlist classic. 


25. HIM - Wings Of A Butterfly (2005)

“It was doing the same thing again with a different set of ingredients,” was how frontman Ville Valo reflected on the recording process for Dark Light - the follow-up to 2003’s colossal Love Metal. A fair point; HIM rarely strayed too far from their template of subtly Sabbathian riffs smothered in romantic gothic soundscapes. However, on Dark Light, they not only tweaked the formula to perfection, but produced their biggest-ever single in Wings Of A Butterfly – a track that took everything that made HIM so recognisable and made it stadium-sized. Sixteen years on, it still stands as their most celebrated anthem. 


24. Bring Me The Horizon - Shadow Moses (2013)

Were Bring Me The Horizon just upstarts with shit haircuts, or a serious force to be reckoned with? They proved themselves to be the latter with Shadow Moses, essentially a title track for fourth album Sempiternal. Oli Sykes blended cleans with uncleans, and with the addition of keyboardist Jordan Fish and a chorus that exploded in a monumental way that had only been hinted at on predecessor There Is A Hell… it set them on a steep upwards trajectory.


23 Dragonforce – Through The Fire And Flames (2005)

It was the song that both confirmed Dragonforce as the biggest thing to ever hit power metal and broke the fingers of everyone who had Guitar Hero III. Through The Fire And Flames served as the first track and lead single from Dragonforce’s third album, Inhuman Rampage, proving a quick hit with fans of the fast-growing UK cheese-metal kings thanks to its dizzying mix of faster- than-light shredding and catchy, instantly hummable melodies. It was also the song that fulfilled guitarist Herman Li’s longstanding wish to inject power metal with a healthy dose of, er, videogames.

“I was messing around with that ‘Pac-Man noise’ but never actually found an opportunity where I thought it would be cool to use it in a song,” he notes. “That was kind of the theme for the album; stuff we hadn’t done before that we hadn’t heard other bands do… these noises of retro videogames that we like.” It was an approach that made the song - and the rest of the album - sound less like speed-driven, flamboyant heavy metal and more like a happy hardcore song filtered through guitars and drums (with added solos, natch). “It ended up being seven minutes long,” adds Herman, “and I guess it became our most famous song.”

There’s no guesswork about it; Through The Fire And Flames currently has more than 117 million streams on Spotify. While it’s an anthem worthy of big numbers in its own right, it would be silly to deny that its inclusion as the toughest track in a certain videogame had just a little impact. 

“People can use Guitar Hero to slag us off and say, ‘Oh it’s because of Guitar Hero that they got big,’” says Herman. “But to be honest, no, because we’d done a massive world tour before that game hit the store and afterwards it just carried on generating interest in the band. So it helped us, but then I heard fans who were like, ‘I used to like you guys but not anymore because my 10-year-old sister was into Dragonforce too from playing Guitar Hero.’ You can’t win. But it made us a household name in a lot of countries and we got a platinum record for Through The Fire And Flames in America, with more than a million sold.”

Those kinds of numbers seem impossible to even compute for a power metal band from the UK in the modern era, but Through The Fire And Flames put Dragonforce on the world stage like few British metal bands in history. It remains a setlist staple today, still sounds as ludicrous as ever and, um, apparently still works underwater.

“In 2015, on Full Metal Cruise, there was a pool in front of the stage, so I was like, ‘Let’s play it live in the pool!’ I was holding my breath under the water with the guitar floating above my head and just playing it,” remembers Herman. “If we’re on a cruise and you see water around us, expect the unexpected.” 


22. Tool – Schism (2001)

Schism is mind-bending, sonically standalone, and for me it’s the epitome of Tool. It was released with a stunning music video and is full of complex rhythm, changing meters and metaphorically deep lyrics, and was a song that changed my view on heavy music and influenced my own musical direction. No wonder it won a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. This is, without a doubt, ‘peak performance Tool’ that absolutely changed the face of modern metal.” Daniel Tompkins, Tesseract


21. Clutch - Electric Worry (2007)

As the 00s rolled on, Clutch began to hit peak form. 2007’s From Beale Street To Oblivion marked yet another high point for Maryland’s finest foursome: an incendiary slab of heavy, groovy rock’n’roll underpinned by lashings of stoner rock, blues and heavy metal with a sense of swagger unmatched by any of their peers. The album’s star turn was Electric Worry: a delicious, simmering jam that weaved influence from blues legends like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Mississippi Fred McDowell while injecting a whole new sense of vitality and urgency. It remains one of Clutch’s most beloved, hallmark tunes.