The 100 greatest metal albums of the 21st century

50) Immortal – Sons Of Northern Darkness (2002)

Immortal’s uncanny ability to weave the most sublime, frost-charged riffs from their love of Kiss, Motörhead and Venom reached a glorious peak with their seventh album. Taking their concept of Blashyrkh to epic new heights, Sons… forged anthems such as Tyrants and the sky-razing Beyond The North Waves that ripple across the black metal landscape to this day.

What We Said: “Not so much a revelation as a statement of purpose, Sons… proves Immortal are no longer ‘just a black metal band’, they’re compelling songwriters.”

49) Amon Amarth – Twilight Of The Thunder God (2008)

Amon Amarth’s seventh album took them from rising viking heroes to true conquerors of metal. Pulling in guest appearances from members of Entombed, Children Of Bodom and Apocalyptica, it was truly epic in scale, with the battle-glorious title track and the thundering Guardians Of Asgaard becoming their calling cards.

What We Said: “As if to prove that their affinity with viking myths is more than just a gimmick, Amon Amarth have delivered something fearless and thunderous.”

48) Carcass – Surgical Steel (2013)

Returning after a 17-year hiatus, Carcass smashed their comeback out of the melodic death metal park. Driven by a fresh lineup and an infectious sense of urgency, songs such as Captive Bolt Pistol and Thrasher’s Abattoir were every bit as monstrous, precise and distinctive as the band’s early classics. A triumphant return in every respect.

What We Said: “Carcass are back with a seething, unrelenting vengeance, and Surgical Steel is as pure and perfect as can be.”

47) The Dillinger Escape Plan – Miss Machine (2004)

When The Dillinger Escape Plan arrived on the scene with Calculating Infinity, they redefined what it meant to be extreme. So, to follow it, the band allowed new vocalist Greg Puciato to infuse melody into their tornado of seemingly impenetrable aural brutality, crafting a classic and sowing the seeds for the expansive band they are today.

46) Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009)

Band Pick: “Unlike 13, this felt like a bunch of guys who actually wanted to do an album. This had the best riffs that Tony Iommi had done since [1981 Sabbath album] Mob Rules, the bass playing is fucking amazing, and Ronnie James Dio delivered. I’m glad he got to put that out before he passed away. What an album to go out on.” – Joe Nally, Hang The Bastard

What We Said: “Every single song is a classic-to-be. This is a flawless doom metal masterpiece that crushes everything.”

45) HIM – Dark Light (2005)

Band Pick: “Delivering a follow-up to [2003’s] Love Metal was always going to be a herculean task, but HIM did it with aplomb. Dark Light just drips dark charisma. Polished, melodic, moody and mysterious, this album convinced me to invite Ville to play Lord Byron on Thornography. A definite classic.” – Dani Filth, Cradle Of Filth

What We Said: “It’s an irresistible blend of melan-gothic lyricism, metal aesthetics and consummate songwriting.”

44) Ihsahn – After (2010)

Emperor’s charismatic frontman was on a creative roll by the time he made his third solo album. After was a fervently progressive dark metal trek across cerebral and emotional wastelands, replete with spinetingling dynamics, melodic ingenuity, jarring bursts of extremity and lashings of woozy saxophone from Shining’s Jørgen Munkeby.

What We Said: “Listening to After is like stumbling into a magical garden teeming with all manner of vivid new forms and possibilities.”

43) While She Sleeps – This Is The Six (2012)

Band Pick: “The first time I heard …The Six was around the time WSS actually broke. It was a shock, because it’s got the elements that you’d consider would go into metalcore, but it sounds nothing like metalcore, which was a really big slap in the face. There are bands that take an entire career to define themselves, and they did it in one album.” – Winston McCall, Parkway Drive

What We Said: “A jaw-dropping bona fide masterclass in modernised, forward-thinking metalcore. Welcome to heavy music in 2012.”

42) Watain – Lawless Darkness (2010)

An album that defined, and refined, black metal on its own, uncompromising terms, Lawless Darkness crashed into the scene like a comet stuffed with virulent genetic material, its characteristics resurfacing across the board. An incendiary maelstrom, it was also marked out by an astute knack for dynamics and compelling songwriting, mapping out a scathing yet far-sighted breed of Satanism, whose spirit didn’t go unnoticed by their peers. The likes of Marduk, Secrets Of The Moon and a host of others started picking up on their luminous atmospherics, and many more ripped off their coil-and-pounce riffs, biker-gang-in-an-abbatoir image and ceremonial trappings. Fourth album Lawless Darkness resonated with a wider audience, but more than anything, along with the Come Reap EP by the closely bonded The Devil’s Blood, Lawless Darkness became the locus for a wave of occult rock and metal that’s defined the underground ever since.

“It was deep winter when we recorded Lawless Darkness,” recalls frontman Erik Danielsson, “and we never left the studio during the two months we were there. The atmosphere was solemn and filled with eagerness and creativity. Our goals were to write a Watain album that contained everything we had within our hearts and spirits at that point in time – which has been the case every time we have entered a studio, actually. But I will say that out of our five albums, Lawless Darkness is the one that brings back the fondest memories. Everything around us was war and hell and victory; it was a very important and severe time in the history of Watain. I definitely think we managed to get that across on the album.”

And was Erik surprised at how wide the appeal of the record turned out to be? Apparently not – not that this was ever paramount in his mind. “We had seen it coming already since [2007’s] Sworn To The Dark,” he replies. “The press wanted something real to write about and they got it. It might sound arrogant – and I couldn’t care less if it is – but the reaction from the mainstream says very little about the real impact of an album. If the press decides to make an album big, they can. In the case of Lawless Darkness, it was awarded a gold record [for the single Reaping Death] and a Grammy, and people seem to think this is something very special and noteworthy. We don’t. These things are extremely insignificant in comparison to what the album itself contains and what it unleashed.”

What We Said: “As genre-defining yet transcending as Emperor’s greatest works, Lawless Darkness looks set to become one of the 21st century’s great albums.”

41) Suicide Silence – You Can't Stop Me (2014)

Following the tragic death of frontman Mitch Lucker in a motorcycle accident, Suicide Silence regrouped and decided to carry on in tribute to him. Recruiting their friend, All Shall Perish vocalist Eddie Hermida, they released an album of defiant deathcore, the title track of which bears their fallen brother’s final lyrics. Powerful stuff.

What We Said: “It takes less than 10 seconds of opening track Inherit The Crown for you to feel like an ass-hat for having doubts over their future.”

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