Hatebreed – Perseverance (2002)
Roadrunner has always had a very good relationship with hardcore: Madball, Shelter, Earth Crisis, Vision of Disorder...plenty of top-class hardcore acts had been on the roster over the years. It wasn’t until Hatebreed came along, though, that one really connected outside the confines of the hardcore scene. Much of it has to do with Perseverance, an album that takes the street-level stomp that hardcore is famous for, pumps it full of Slayer riffs until it’s ready to burst and then lets the world's most positive human pit bull, Jamey Jasta, bark out inspirational, motivational quotes all over it. A winning formula that they’ve never really deviated from since.
Killswitch Engage – Alive or Just Breathing (2002)
Metalcore was not a big deal, commercially speaking, back in 2002, and you’d be called a liar if you were there at the time and said it was going to be. Killswitch Engage's marrying of punk rock energy and European melodic death metal was as far from the times' zeitgeist of nu metal, pop-punk and garage rock as you could imagine. Yet Alive or Just Breathing was so good that no one could ignore it: Jesse Leach’s impassioned, scabrous roar, Adam D’s razor-sharp riffs, those grooves, those inhumanly massive choruses, all contributing to changing the direction of heavy music. That’s how good this album is.
Trivium – Ascendancy (2005)
Metal’s obsession with finding the new Metallica has never really born much fruit. Looking back, the closest we ever came is arguably when a group of teenage metal fans decided to make a record that encapsulated their obvious love of everything from the classic British heavy metal of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, to the European melodeath of In Flames and At The Gates, to the brutality of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal. Ascendancy’s release was so exciting, such a shot in the arm for the scene, that we can’t help but continue to search for something similar to that giddy thrill we got upon first hearing Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr or Dying In Your Arms.
Opeth – Ghost Reveries (2005)
Opeth had been around the block a while, and had already made at least two legit genre classics, by the time they signed with Roadrunner. Still, their eighth record and Roadrunner debut is considered by many to be the finest moment of their career. Ghost Reveries is something of a swansong for their most extreme elements, with the moments in The Baying of the Hounds and The Grand Conjuration sounding fantastically brutal, but they are tempered by the both the progressive, expansive experimentation and delicate, beautiful folk leanings of the album. Ghost Reveries' sonic mix is beguiling, unique and should be Exhibit A when proof is asked of the quality of Mikael Åkerfeldt’s songwriting ability.
Machine Head – The Blackening (2007)
Machine Head could easily have appeared earlier in this list. Both of their first two albums, 1994’s Burn My Eyes and 1997’s The More Things Change..., are absolutely exceptional pieces of work. But, due to the fact that their career had nearly crashed only a few years before this astonishing achievement, we’ve gone for The Blackening. Routinely considered the closest thing 21st century metal has produced to rival Metallica’s legendary Master of Puppets, this is a record of staggering quality; the grace of a song like Halo sitting in the same track list as the untameable rage of Aesthetics Of Hate sums it all up perfectly. Dense, complex, emotional and, crucially, heavier than a constipated elephant, The Blackening is basically perfect.
Megadeth – Endgame (2009)
Megadeth are a legendary band, but most of their truly legendary albums were not released on Roadrunner (truth be told, two of the three albums they released on the label were a little patchy). But, for one glorious effort it all came good and we got Dave Mustaine and friends firing on all cylinders. Not many saw Endgame coming, but the dizzy and excitable reaction to the record when it arrived showed just how much the metal community loves Megadeth at their best, and this really is Megadeth at their best. Producer Andy Sneap deserves immense credit for his part in making them sound as sleek and savage as ever, but is the star here is Mustaine, who was back to writing swirling tornado riffs and snarling like a viper all the way through this fabulous record.
Alter Bridge – AB III (2010)
At the start of the new decade Alter Bridge were slowly but surely becoming one of hard rock's hottest new artists. With two very fine albums in their back pocket they signed to Roadrunner, who, with the likes of Airbourne and Nickelback on their books, were no strangers to the big hitters of rock 'n' roll. What was delivered with AB III was perhaps Alter Bridge's strongest set to date, and pushed them just that little bit further up the ladder, to the higher end of festival bills and arena stages around the globe. It’s hard to argue AB III does anything revolutionary for the genre, but hearing the quality of Mark Tremonti’s bulky riffing and Myles Kennedy’s liquid honey voice in tandem on songs like Isolation and Wonderful Life, it’s impossible to deny they deserve their spot here.
Gojira – L'Enfant Sauvage (2012)
Routinely anointed as the finest metal band of the modern generation, Gojira have had an incredible journey from France’s tiny death metal scene into the arena filling-giants we now know them as. Their progression has been remarkable, if steady, and if one album hits the sweet spot between their crushing past and the broader and more cerebral present then it is L’Enfant Sauvage. Just check out how Pain Is Master, all blasting and pick-scraped savagery, morphs into Born In Winter’s dreamy, ethereal soundscape. Gorija’s fifth album is the finest moment in the career of the millennium's finest metal band.
Code Orange – Underneath (2020)
After the release of 2017’s Forever, Code Orange had plenty of eyes on them. They had managed to transition from super-aggro hardcore band into something far darker and more artistically challenging, but that album was a hell of a high bar to reach to follow it up. The fact the Underneath is now comfortably considered their finest record now says it all; they hopped that bar as if it wasn’t even there. Bringing in more elements of experimental electronica, marrying it with classic alternative sounds you’d previously associate with Alice In Chains or Type O Negative and losing none of the intensity, Code Orange created a dizzying amalgam of styles and ideas that set a new peak for modern heavy music to match.
Turnstile – Glow On
Turnstile come from the hardcore scene, but it’s hard to accurately describe them as a hardcore band these days. With their third album the Baltimore punks fully transitioned from underground cult faves into the genre-splicing mainstream success story we now know them as. From the opening notes of Mystery all the way through to Lonely Desires, Glow On is a trip that takes in 90s alt-rock power, 80s yacht rock neon excess and modern hip-hop's slacker swagger, all played by a group of young men that are much, much cooler than you or I. A true modern classic.