Skip to main content

The 50 best metal albums of the last 50 years

Nine years of reflection and rejection, it’s been a strange old time for metal in the modern era… luckily, we’ve had some incredible music to see us through.

Mastodon - The Hunter (2011)

Chosen by: Bryan Giles (Red Fang)

“I’m pretty sure I heard most of the songs from The Hunter live before I heard the actual album. We were lucky enough to be a supporting act when they toured on that record, and I was hooked immediately! The diversity in vocal approach is really enjoyable, and their melodies create a cohesiveness to some dense and impressive instrumental underpinnings. It’s an album you can listen to and pull something new out every time.

“I think it was a shift to a more mainstream approach to songwriting for Mastodon, without losing any of the band’s edge. It’s definitely an inspiration to me, in that they allowed themselves to get outside their comfort zone and go to places like Creature Lives and The Sparrow. It’s a unique musical space all their own. It’s also a great reminder to me that I could use a guitar lesson or two…”

Buy from Amazon

Behemoth - The Satanist (2014)

Chosen by: Pat Sheridan (Fit For An Autopsy)

“This was such a different approach for a band of Behemoth’s style. Making music so aggressive and powerful, but still approachable. It’s still very much Behemoth, but lyrically it shows a less angry side, and a more enlightened, almost caring at times, emotional. The record has a sort of ‘giving in’ or ‘loving’ character. It feels very personal and that translates to the listener. They were very ahead of a lot of bands.

“It felt huge to me right away. It was built for the big stage, with less frills and more riffs – the total package. Musically, it gives bands like us the courage to incorporate more dynamics in extreme metal and still achieve a dark and powerful result. I think it made everyone have a more open outlook about Behemoth, and gave a fresh feeling to an already monumental band.

“I met Nergal a couple of times and Orion once. I told them I appreciate the music and the inspiration – I tried to keep the fanboying to a minimum, ha ha ha! The Satanist shows how you can still write an aggressive, scary, fast record but still make it sound huge. It raised the bar for the big-stage extreme metal band and what’s expected of them.”

Buy from Amazon

Architects - Lost Forever//Lost Together (2014)

Chosen by: Jesper Vicencio (Ghost Iris)

Architects completely upped the ante with Lost Forever//Lost Together. They made sure that they left their stamp on an otherwise saturated genre. Their breakdowns, atmosphere, lyrics and just sheer aggressiveness on this album are almost overpowering. These guys had a message – one that still continues to this day with the band’s two subsequent efforts. 

“The overarching theme is an almost gut-wrenching insight into the mind of a realist. A pessimist, yet a realist. The lyrics pull out your heart and shred it to pieces. A very dark yet realistic overview of the world’s state at the time (and the current state) and how messed up it in fact is. The music and atmosphere complement the lyrics greatly. LF//LT brought back a true hardcore punk mentality. Not the sound, but the attitude, the disdain for humanity at large and what we’re doing to our mutual home and fellow earthlings.

“Architects are a force to be reckoned with. I love their mentality and how they carry themselves. In a time of superficial bullshit, these lads are bringing heartfelt, introspective and extrospective themes to the table. Something the world is in dire need of.”

Buy from Amazon

Rolo Tomassi - Grievances (2015)

Chosen by: Charlie Rolfe (As Everything Unfolds)

“I’m quite old school. I listen to albums in one go, and I think Rolo Tomassi really played into that, where every song joins together perfectly so you don’t feel like you’re listening to an album – it’s just one big song. I think that’s totally missing from music at the moment. People will generally listen to singles and EPs, and they’re quite disjointed. And I really like Eva Spence because she’s incredible.

“I ordered Grievances on CD and put it on in my car. Normally they do intro tracks and they’re quite long and drawn out, and it takes a while to get into it, but the first song came straight in. I loved the unexpectedness. 

“Eva Spence goes from quite harsh vocals to clean vocals with ease, and makes it flow properly. It doesn’t feel disjointed at all. 

“Since that album, they’ve become more commercially viable. They’re still math and they definitely follow that trend, but it’s much more refined, and it’s allowed a lot more people to listen to it and become accepting of technical metal. It’s not strictly Slayer or the old-school stuff; it’s brought a new wave of metal to the mainstream.”

Buy from Amazon

Parkway Drive - Ire (2015)

Chosen by: Jurgen Van Straaten (For I Am King)

“This wasn’t the first album of its kind, but what Parkway Drive did with this record was something new in the metalcore scene. But it is so catchy, still very pure and Parkway Drive for me. The album has a great dynamic in the songwriting area.

“This is the moment that they made the move from metalcore band to metal band. They have also stepped up their live show since this album. It was always fun to see them live, but they added more to their live experience.

“In For I Am King, we are directly influenced by Parkway Drive – their style of writing, their work ethic. But its impact on the music scene as a whole was pretty big, too.”

Buy from Amazon

Gojira - Magma (2016)

Chosen by: Will Gardner (Black Peaks)

“I’ve been a fan of Gojira since From Mars To Sirius, and I’ve watched them grow and change as time has gone by. What really got me into them in the first place was they have a uniquely powerful but deeply emotive sound – their music can be insanely heavy or super-technical, but there’s humanity at the core of it.

Magma is one of the most deep and moving albums I’ve ever heard. It was written during the period where the Duplantier brothers’ mother was dying, and it’s unbelievably sad. From my interpretation, it sounds like a lot of the songs are questioning the dying process – the point of actual death. One song, Low Lands, seems to be about the journey of their mother into another realm: ‘Tell me what you see when you’re everywhere.’ I listened to that on an aeroplane when we were touring and I was just bawling my eyes out.

“They’re one of those bands whose influence you can hear everywhere without always realising it. They’ve definitely been an influence on Black Peaks – there’s loads of Gojira on All That Divides. But they’re just too unique – nobody can sound exactly like them.” 

Buy from Amazon

Neurosis - Fires Within Fires (2016)

Chosen by: Colin H. van Eeckhout (Amenra)

“I embraced the release of this album like no other thing during the last decade. I remember hearing the rough mix through the car stereo while touring the EU with Scott [Kelly, vocalist] in 2016’s cold winter. It became the soundtrack to my life for the months to come. The moment where one of your favourite bands releases an album – right when you need it most. It has everything a Neurosis album needs. It’s your back-up when you battle life’s hardships. Fighting off everything that threatens the love in and outside you. And it’s the hand on your shoulder when you’re lost. And when you are left all alone.

“It’s the first of a couple albums that got under my skin again. Thirty years after their inception, they proved that their strength and vision is everlasting. They’ve influenced bands starting out and Grammy nominees. They’ve incorporated folk and country seamlessly into post-metal. Their beautiful vocal harmonies, screaming guitars, and pounding bass and drums are aural poetry. On this record, A Shadow Memory harbours crushing riffs, leaving behind most bands in the genre. In the words of Reach, ‘They will never see all that we see.’”

Buy from Amazon

Code Orange - Forever (2017)

Chosen by: theOGM (Ho99o9)

“I listened to their record, I Am King, which came out in 2014, and thought it was really tight. As far as Forever goes, I first heard it when I saw them live, opening up for Anthrax in LA at The Wiltern. I had never seen them before, so hearing that record was really cool. On The New Reality, there’s a breakdown probably 30 seconds into the song, and that shit gets me hyped every time.

“Then they got nominated for a Grammy! I mean, shit, for what they are doing, their style, young bands like them, like us, they don’t get these cool opportunities. Sometimes it’s so laughed at, everybody wants the music to be underground and stay underground, but the fact that that record was so powerful and so instrumental to change in our new age of internet and time and music, that shit got nominated for a Grammy, so obviously it had a very big impact. 

“In the metal world, sometimes we give so much praise to the legendary bands, and it’s so refreshing to see a band like Code Orange being recognised, because their music is phenomenal and heavy. It’s metal, but there are some bits in there that are so experimental and so off that you wouldn’t get on a traditional album. That’s what makes it unique, you know?”

Buy from Amazon

Myrkur - Mareridt (2017)

Chosen by: Ardo Cotones (Calligram)

“I was negatively biased against Myrkur because I’d watched some videos of her playing guitar and it’s not impressive, to say the least. But I gave this a listen, and didn’t dig it; I thought it was too folky. Then a few weeks later, I saw her piano and voice rendition of King Diamond’s Welcome Home, which changed my mind about her playing, and I kind of drifted back into the record and got massively hooked. Spotify tells me I spent 25 hours listening to it in 2018! 

“The atmosphere of this record is spot on; the skilful songwriting makes all the different instruments and genre variations work well as a whole, and her voice is hypnotising. It’s very diverse and ambitious, and it merges several different genres very effectively.

“So much controversy surrounds Myrkur because she ditched a cheesy pop music career and gave black metal a go. Black metal is the most precious genre to purist metalheads and they just hate its traditional conventions being tampered with by anyone. So it annoys boring purists as well, which is always a win.”

Buy from Amazon

Ghost - Prequelle (2018)

Chosen by: Dani Filth (Cradle Of Filth)

“I’m a Ghost fan. I love the aesthetics of the band, and I love what they do with their music. I really like stuff like Blue Öyster Cult, that slightly occultish 70s rock, which they’re definitely influenced by. And then there’s the whole King Diamond association – you can hear that in there, too. 

“They seem to have carved out a niche for themselves that they sit very nicely in. They manage to straddle every cool thing about heavy metal, but not actually be heavy metal, which is the weirdest thing – they’re a rock band, and they have big rock songs. Prequelle certainly goes more into that more dramatic, theatrical side, and it does have some killer tracks like Rats, Witch Image and Life Eternal, which is epic. But Dance Macabre is my favourite song. I remember being in Athens and hearing it for the first time, and it was, like, ‘Wow, what is this? This is brilliant!’

“The funny thing is that the whole creepy Satanic aesthetic has become their thing, but they’d probably be a lot bigger if they didn’t have it. Or would they? I don’t know. I suppose people love a bit of Satan.”

Buy from Amazon

Metal Hammer

Founded in 1983, Metal Hammer is the global home of all things heavy. We have breaking news, exclusive interviews with the biggest bands and names in metal, rock, hardcore, grunge and beyond, expert reviews of the lastest releases and unrivalled insider access to metal's most exciting new scenes and movements. No matter what you're into – be it heavy metal, punk, hardcore, grunge, alternative, goth, industrial, djent or the stuff so bizarre it defies classification – you'll find it all here, backed by the best writers in our game.