The Top 20 best metalcore albums

Killswitch Engage – Alive Or Just Breathing (2002)

Killswitch Engage (opens in new tab)

The most important metalcore album ever? Killswitch Engage (opens in new tab)’s second record has more claim than most. Back in the early 2000, few saw any commercial value in melding underground hardcore with Swedish melodeath (opens in new tab), but KSE – newly signed to powerhouse metal label Roadrunner (opens in new tab) – suddenly became one of the talked about new bands on the plant. And it was all down to this record, and the fantastic songs that appeared on it.

Norma Jean – Bless The Martyr, Kiss the Child (2002)

Extreme music was beginning to mutate into new shapes in the early 00s, and Norma Jean were beneficiaries of this brave new sonic world. The Georgia band’s mixture of stabbing riffs, jarring time signatures and grander, more expansive sonics was perfect on Bless The Martyr, Kiss The Child. The line-up dissolved almost immediately afterwards, but the album itself proved to be hugely influential. (opens in new tab)

Extreme music was beginning to mutate into new shapes in the early 00s, and Norma Jean were beneficiaries of this brave new sonic world. The Georgia band’s mixture of stabbing riffs, jarring time signatures and grander, more expansive sonics was perfect on Bless The Martyr, Kiss The Child. The line-up dissolved almost immediately afterwards, but the album itself proved to be hugely influential.


Bleeding Through – This Is Love, This Is Murderous (2003)

Metalcore’s musical boundaries were long established by the time Bleeding Through released their third album. But the Orange County six-piece tweaked the sonic formula - Brandan Schieppeti’s pitbull vocals were offset by keyboard player Marta Peterson, whose gothic tones added a whole different dimension to Love Lost in a Hail of Gun Fire and Number Seven With a Bullet. (opens in new tab)

Metalcore’s musical boundaries were long established by the time Bleeding Through released their third album. But the Orange County six-piece tweaked the sonic formula - Brandan Schieppeti’s pitbull vocals were offset by keyboard player Marta Peterson, whose gothic tones added a whole different dimension to Love Lost in a Hail of Gun Fire and Number Seven With a Bullet.


Trivium – Ascendancy (2005)

Trivium (opens in new tab)

Trivium (opens in new tab) were barely old enough to be let into venues without an adult when they released their second album. Anthemic songs such as A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation, Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr or Dying In Your Arms turned it into an instant success, leading to the Florida band being held up as the new Metallica. They may be in better shape than ever these days, but Ascendancy (opens in new tab) was an era-defining moment.


Every Time I Die – Gutter Phenomenon (2005)

Buffalo’s Every Time I Die had already written one hugely beloved album in 2003’s Hot Damn!, but their third record, which arrived two years later, set the band on a hot streak that continues to this day. Gutter Phenomenon comes roaring out of the traps as refuses to stop. A thrill ride of a record. (opens in new tab)

Buffalo’s Every Time I Die had already written one hugely beloved album in 2003’s Hot Damn!, but their third record, which arrived two years later, set the band on a hot streak that continues to this day. Gutter Phenomenon comes roaring out of the traps as refuses to stop. A thrill ride of a record.


Parkway Drive – Deep Blue (2010)

Reverence (opens in new tab)

Before busting their sound open on 2015’s Ire and 2018’s Reverence (opens in new tab), Parkway Drive (opens in new tab) were a quintessential metalcore band. The Australians were at their most savage on their third album, thanks to Joe Baresi’s taut production job and tracks such as Sleepwalker and Deadweight, which showed how adept they’d become as songwriters. Deep Blue suckers itself to your brain and doesn’t let go.


The Devil Wears Prada – Dead Throne (2011)

Before they released their fourth album, The Devil Wears Prada’s unexpected success and refusal to hide their religious beliefs turned them into the scene’s whipping boys. They responded by serving up a record of such undeniable, crushing quality that it shut everyone up. With Killswitch’s Adam D producing Dead Throne, TDWP never sounded heavier, more metallic or more propulsive. It gave the band some grudging but deserved respect from the naysayers. (opens in new tab)

Before they released their fourth album, The Devil Wears Prada’s unexpected success and refusal to hide their religious beliefs turned them into the scene’s whipping boys. They responded by serving up a record of such undeniable, crushing quality that it shut everyone up. With Killswitch’s Adam D producing Dead Throne, TDWP never sounded heavier, more metallic or more propulsive. It gave the band some grudging but deserved respect from the naysayers.


While She Sleeps – Brainwashed (2015)

a split with their label (opens in new tab)

While She Sleep’s second album was plagued by problems, from frontman Loz Taylor’s vocal issues beforehand to a split with their label (opens in new tab) shortly after it was released. But it’s the best thing the Sheffield band have put their name to. Intelligent, angry, filled with world-class riffs and chant-along choruses that would sound equally at home on the football terraces as they do in a mosh-pit, this is why they’re Britain’s premier metalcore band.


Code Orange – Forever (2017)

Underneath (opens in new tab)

With their third album, 2020’s astonishing Underneath (opens in new tab), Pittsburgh genre-smashers Code Orange (opens in new tab) transcended the ‘metalcore’ tag. The signs were there on Forever, which twisted metallic hardcore into new shapes, mixing in classic grunge (opens in new tab) (Bleeding In The Blur), industrial metal (opens in new tab) (Hurt Goes On) and shoegaze (dream2) to create something truly unique. That they went from underground punks to Grammy nominated artists in the process was proof it was a risk worth taking.


Darkest Hour – Godless Prophets And The Migrant Flora (2017)

Twenty-year veterans of the scene with a host of great albums to their name, Darkest Hour had seemingly peaked by the time they released Godless Prophets And The Migrant Flora. But their ninth album marked an unexpected career high. Enlisting Converge’s Kurt Ballou as producer, Darkest Hour sounded harder, faster and nastier than ever, songs such as the twisting Timeless Numbers and the thrash-paced Those Who Survived stunning old fans and introducing the band to a new generation of mightily impressed metalheads. (opens in new tab)

Twenty-year veterans of the scene with a host of great albums to their name, Darkest Hour had seemingly peaked by the time they released Godless Prophets And The Migrant Flora. But their ninth album marked an unexpected career high. Enlisting Converge’s Kurt Ballou as producer, Darkest Hour sounded harder, faster and nastier than ever, songs such as the twisting Timeless Numbers and the thrash-paced Those Who Survived stunning old fans and introducing the band to a new generation of mightily impressed metalheads.

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.