20 iconic metal albums that turn 20 in 2023

2003: the new millennium was well underway, and the world was as crazy as ever. The US launched a long and costly war on Iraq, the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia were killed after it disintegrated on re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere, while fears of a global pandemic arose after the SARS virus hit more than 30 countries.

It wasn’t all bad news. Apple launched iTunes, Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King and The Matrix: Reloaded cleaned up at the cinema, and climate change activist Greta Thunberg was born.

In the world of rock and metal, things were calming down after the insanity of the nu metal era. Iron Maiden and Metallica returned with blockbuster – and in the case of the latter, controversial - albums, Linkin Park restaked their claim to being the biggest band of the new decade, and the goth revival that had been bubbling away in the scene’s darker corners suddenly stepped into the spotlight courtesy of Evanescence, HIM and AFI. Lamb Of God, Cradle Of Filth, Machine Head, Arch Enemy… there were almost too many great albums released in 2003 to count. We've whittled it down to the 20 very best…

AFI - Sing The Sorrow


If 2000’s The Art Of Drowning opened the door then AFI’s sixth album blew it right off its hinges, elevating them from underground darlings into genuine global contenders. While still holding onto their gothic and hardcore edge, it was the sheer grandeur of the album’s composition and tracks like Girl’s Not Grey that ushered in a brave new era for the band.

Anthrax - We've Come For You All


With doubts surrounding the potency of the Big Four during nu metal’s domination, Anthrax took a sledgehammer to the idea they were finished by writing an album packed with the stomp, grit and pace to match anything in their back catalogue. Their defining work with John Bush, We”ve Come For You All revitalised the veterans, and introduced a new generation to the power of thrash.

A Perfect Circle – Thirteenth Step


Back when you only had to wait a few years for a new A Perfect Circle album, the supergroup’s second effort from saw a few notable additions to the core duo of Maynard James Keenan and Billy Howerdel.  But Thirteenth Step’s real headlines were the emotive The Noose, Weak And Powerless and Vanishing that made for a more distinguished, seamless journey than its predecessor.

Arch Enemy – Anthems Of Rebellion


While 2001’s underrated Wages Of Sin marked the trajectory-changing arrival of Angela Gossow, it was that album’s follow-up – and most predominantly hook-riddled crushers such as Dead Eyes See No Future and all-time classic We Will Rise – that saw Arch Enemy make a deafening march on the metal mainstream. It remains their definitive statement.

Avenged Sevenfold – Waking The Fallen


Though City Of Evil was the album that would see Avenged Sevenfold expand their sound, transcend their scene and begin the relentless upwards journey that has taken them into arenas and to the top of charts and festival bills, for pure, unadulterated song power, Waking The Fallen remains utterly untouchable. The album that put them on the map may have been a far more straight-up metalcore affair, but there were already enough sprinklings of overblown rock‘n’roll theatrics to mark them above their peers. And then there’s the songs. Unholy Confessions. Chapter Four. Remenissions. Second Heartbeat. It felt like a greatest hits set, and with barely any songs clocking in under the five-minute mark, Avenged already looked like a band ready for big things. Even we, however, didn’t realise just how big.

Children Of Bodom – Hate Crew Deathroll


It may have been the last album with the original lineup, but Hate Crew Deathroll was nonetheless a celebration for Children Of Bodom, catapulting them onto the global metal stage. Their mix of death, thrash and power metal still sounded like nothing else, and was now refined into killer, immediate tunes such as You’re Better Off Dead and Sixpounder

Chimaira – The Impossibility Of Reason


The New Wave Of American Heavy Metal’s standard-bearers delivered one of the movement’s definitive albums in 2003, offering up a pummelling mixture of groove metal clobber, thrashy hooks and a touch of nu metal swagger. Chimaira may have become metal’s ultimate Nearly Band, but this was still a post-millennial classic.

Cradle Of Filth - Damnation And A Day


When they released the breakthrough Midian in 2000, Cradle Of Filth were met with growing mainstream notoriety. In following it up, it was a matter of go big or go home. Dani Filth and co. did the former, signing to major label Sony and recruiting the entire Budapest Film Orchestra. That next step paid off, continuing Cradle’s ascendancy and setting them up for the career-best Nymphetamine.

The Darkness – Permission To Land


Was it a joke? Was it legit? Who fucking cares when you can roll out a debut that stands up to most rock legends’ greatest hits albums? The Darkness would ultimately be broken by the weight of their own expectations, but song for song, Permission To Land remains one of the greatest debut albums of all time. Just find a line you don’t know off by heart. Go on.

Deftones – Deftones


Given the impossible task of following up the massive success of White Pony it’s obvious why Deftones self-titled opus is regularly overlooked. But don’t for a second think that this is an artistic failure. The heaviness was back in spades, maybe more so than ever, on opener Hexagram and the totally brutal When Girls Telephone Boys, but the new found love of exploring new musical spaces and textures were all over Minerva. An unsung classic.

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