The Top 66.6 Metal Albums of the Millennium


Charting the best metal is a lot harder than it used to be. That’s in large part due to the sheer volume of it. Literal thousands of metal records are released every year, and true to the form of a style of music whose aesthetics are steeped in the occult and the esoteric, many of the greatest are obscure, overlooked gems. And as more and more artists experiment with heavy music styles and approaches, it becomes harder to draw the line of where metal ends and another genre begins, whether it’s Alcest’s ethereal blast-beat shoegaze, Jesu’s dream-doom or whatever Blut Aus Nord is doing at any given moment. Metal is always changing—that’s what makes the present such an embarrassment of riches for fans.

The timing of this list is arbitrary; we could have waited another three years to have a solid 20 years of music to pull from. Yet the longer the wait, the harder it is to narrow down, and as it is, this list was hard enough to rein in. Since 50 albums seemed like too few to fully capture the diversity of the past 16.6 years of metal, we chose the next best thing: 66.6—the fraction of the beast. One of the important objectives in making our list of the best metal albums of the millennium was to capture as much of a diverse spread of music as possible, from the more mainstream releases of the likes of System of a Down and Deftones to the underground cult-favorites such as Yellow Eyes and Zeal and Ardor. There are definitely albums we left out that we didn’t want to, and as a rule we set a cutoff at two albums per artist—otherwise we would have had a list unusually heavy on Converge, Mastodon and Neurosis. But the end result is one we think captures the character of metal in the 21st century. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess, but it’s an exciting time to be a hesher.

best metal albums of the millennium Zeal and Ardor66.6 Zeal and ArdorDevil is Fine
(2016; Radicalis)

It says a lot about Manuel Gagneux that he was able to turn a racist 4chan music challenge into one of the most wildly experimental and subversive metal releases in years. Blending black metal with gospel spirituals and slave narrative (with a healthy dose of Satanism), Zeal and Ardor’s debut is an unpredictable amalgam of black metal blues that still feels like only the beginning to something powerful and spectacular to come. As metal debuts go, it’s hard to make a stronger first impression than this. – Jeff Terich

best metal albums of the millennium Dimmu Borgir66. Dimmu BorgirIn Sorte Diaboli
(2007; Nuclear Blast)

Those looking for a great gateway drug from mainstream metal into black metal, this is a good start. When black metal vets Dimmu Borgir released In Sorte Diaboli more than a decade ago, they took what I loved about black metal and gave it better production and hooks, and ICS Vortex sang his guts out in a way that elevated his pipes to a level on par with the greats. The cool kids would later deem this to be too enmeshed in traditional metal trappings to be cool enough for them, but they’re overlooking one of the band’s best albums and one of the greatest of the past 20 years. – Wil Lewellyn

best metal albums of the millennium Amenra65. AmenraMass V
(2012; Neurot)

It’s called “atmospheric sludge” for a reason. Somehow the space (and, subsequently, tension) between the actual notes is just as powerful as the notes themselves. For the most part, Amenra eschew the gradual buildups common in post-rock and post-metal, which has the effect of making the climaxes even more powerful. Even when I think I see it coming from over a mile away, the actual event takes me by surprise every time. – Ben Braunstein

best albums of 2016 so far Vektor64. VektorTerminal Redux
(2016; Earache)

A perfect response not only to Voivod but also to Rush. If this is the closing chapter of this promising young band, whose members were all in their early thirties when they made this, then they have near limitless potential in the years to come. It is, like many records on this list, a concept record. Hyperspeed blackened prog thrash about evil space dictators and wicked crystals? Fuck yes. – Langdon Hickman

best metal albums of the millennium Yellow Eyes63. Yellow EyesSick With Bloom
(2015; Gilead)

Ask the right people and it’ll be made perfectly clear that Yellow Eyes have been champions of the New York black metal scene for a few years now. Their 2015 effort, Sick With Bloom, put everyone outside the bustling metropolis on notice. The Brooklyn foursome’s foray on prototypical USBM stylings stems from brothers Will and Sam Skarstad’s time in Eastern Europe and Siberia. They brought back with them the ancestral fury of black metal’s earliest days and made it the focal point of their music—then added their own recorded field sounds to give it a touch of atmosphere. – Cody Davis

best metal albums of the millennium Wolves in the Throne Room62. Wolves in the Throne RoomDiadem of 12 Stars
(2006; Vendlus/Southern Lord)

A debut that was masterful in its construction, tempered with gothic melodies and folk like inspiration, Diadem of 12 Stars provides a template of contemplative harmonies layered against throttling passages of death- and doom-tinged melancholy. This album helped contribute to the dialogue of American metal produced in the mid-2000s, while making a strong argument for the ever-increasing value and fidelity of independent production that resulted in what was truly a soul searching and harrowing tour of American black metal. – Brian Roesler

best metal albums of the millennium Jesu61. JesuConqueror
(2007; Hydra Head)

Justin Broadrick, a covert acolyte to harmony and devotee to abyssal heaviness, is the genius behind Jesu’s unique styling, a cross between fuzzy sonic landscapes and piano-accented harmonies with a distinct pop sensibility. Jesu’s second album Conqueror is far from pop, itself, but certainly within the same vicinity of strong harmonic and memorable compositions, which take their time to develop. Conqueror is meditative and strongly crafted metal that also embraces an aural beauty and unique sense of scale. – Brian Roesler

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View Comments (23)
  • I am so glad you have recognized albums here that the Rolling Stone top 100 missed, especially placing Baroness Blue at number 2. WORD.

    • Make sure never to tell us what’s on it, because we might actually enjoy a fun conversation about recommending cool records we might have missed. We’d hate that.

      • Here.

        I parenthetically included albums from the same band that would be included if I weren’t limiting it to one entry per artist

        66. Deceased… – As the Weird Travel On
        65. Deathevokation – The Chalice of Ages
        64. Emptiness – Nothing But the Whole
        63. Minsk – The Ritual Fires of Abandonment
        62. Denial – Catacombs of the Grotesque
        61. Bloody Sign – Explosion of Elements
        60. Cadaver – Necrosis
        59. Mournful Congregation – The Book of Kings
        58. Incantation – Vanquish In Vengeance (Primordial Domination)
        57. Desolate Shrine – The Sanctum of Human Darkness (The Heart of the Netherworld)
        56. Mouth of the Architect – Quietly
        55. Grayceon – This Grand Show
        54. Absu – Tara
        53. Deströyer 666 – Cold Steel… For An Iron Age
        52. Summoning – Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame (Old Mornings Dawn)
        51. Arcturus – The Sham Mirrors
        50. Inquisition – Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith (Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm)
        49. The Ruins of Beverast – Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite (Blood Vaults, Unlock the Shrine)
        48. Inverloch – Distance | Collapsed
        47. Satan – Life Sentence
        46. Sigh – Imaginary Sonicscape (Hangman’s Hymn)
        45. Enslaved – Mardraum (Monumension)
        44. Murkrat – Drudging the Mire
        43. Blood Incantation – Starspawn
        42. The Axis of Perdition – The Ichneumon Method
        41. Mortuary Drape – Tolling 13 Knell
        40. Altars – Paramnesia
        39. Varathron – Untrodden Corridors of Hades
        38. The Dying Light – Survival Guide to the Apocalypse
        37. Thorns – Thorns
        36. Predatory Light – Predatory Light
        35. Adversarial – Death, Endless Nothing, and the Black Knife of Nihilism (All Idols Fall Below the Hammer)
        34. Execration – Odes of the Occult
        33. Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall (Graves of the Archangels)
        32. Phobocosm – Deprived (Bringer of Drought)
        31. Ingurgitating Oblivion – Vision Wallows in Symphonies of Light
        30. Evoken – Quietus (A Caress of the Void, Antithesis of Light)
        29. Morbid Angel – Gateways to Annihilation
        28. Avenger – Feast of Anger, Joy of Despair (Mir v Haremu Smrti)
        27. Lvcifyre – The Calling Depths
        26. Unaussprechlichen Kulten – Keziah Lilith Medea
        25. Nightbringer – Terra Damnata (Ego Dominus Tuus)
        23. Rune – The End of Nothing
        22. Mitochondrion – Archææon (Parasignosis)
        21. Blut Aus Nord – The Work Which Transforms God (Memoria Vetusta II: A Dialogue With the Stars)
        20. The Crown – Deathrace King
        19. Ulcerate – The Destroyers of All (Everything Is Fire)
        18. Helstar – Vampiro
        17. Defeated Sanity – Passages Into Deformity
        16. Nile – In Their Darkened Shrines (Annihilation of the Wicked)
        15. Chthe’ilist – La Dernier Crépuscule
        14. StarGazer – A Merging to the Boundless (The Scream That Tore the Sky, A Great Work of Ages)
        13. Anata – Under a Stone With No Inscription (The Conductor’s Departure)
        12. Blind Guardian – A Night at the Opera (Beyond the Red Mirror)
        11. !T.O.O.H.! – Pod Vladou Bice (Rad a Trest)
        10. Negura Bunget – OM (N’Crugu Bradului)
        9. Pharaoh – Be Gone (The Longest Night)
        8. Slough-Feg – Down Among the Dead Men (Traveller)
        7. Pagan Altar – Mythical & Magical (Lords of Hypocrisy)
        6. Primordial – Storm Before Calm (To the Nameless Dead, The Gathering Wilderness)
        5. Esoteric – Paragon of Dissonance (The Maniacal Vale, Subconscious Dissolution into the Continuum)
        4. The Chasm – Procession to the Infraworld (Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm, Conjuration of the Spectral Empire)
        3. Immolation – Close to a World Below (Unholy Cult)
        2. Gorguts – From Wisdom to Hate (Colored Sands)
        1. Hammers of Misfortune – The August Engine (The Bastard, Dead Revolution)

        • These are all excellent albums. We just happened to choose different ones by a process of six people voting. But hey, good couple of decades for metal, that much we can agree on.

        • I can see you’re hitting the nail on the head with your list that I feel is wrong in the list in the article . . .

          Power Metal, Progressive Metal, Melodic Rock/Metal, Black Metal, Gothic Metal, REAL Death Metal are all . “Uncool” and ignored by these fly-by-night trendhopping artblogs. They want ONLY the “cool” things. No need to pay attention to whatever comes from outside their narrow very narrow bandwidth

          • You’re correct of course, but would it make any sense for them to do otherwise? Because it’s not a metal site, it is a sampling of the more arty side from an outsider’s perspective. Want a list from lifers, get Iron Fist to do a list!

          • I wouldn’t say that we’re outsiders. The six of us that wrote the list listen to a lot of metal and have for a long time. However, Treble isn’t specifically a metal site, so maybe we’re just coming at it from a more eclectic perspective? Either way, we love metal, we love metal that’s unconventional, we love metal that’s traditional, it can all coexist.

        • Beyond the Red Mirror as Blind Guardian’s 2nd best album? You crazy. Tales, Somewhere, Imaginations, and Nightfall are all way better.

  • Needs Cobalt and more Isis and Panopticon. In fact, it needs the album Panopticon from Isis, and Autumn Eternal from Panopticon.

  • This is such a great list! Well done! Thank you, thank you, thank you for including Yob, Inter Arma, Pallbearer and Elder on your list, but especially…Kylesa. I don’t know why, but Kylesa always gets overlooked on these lists. They are, hands down, my favorite band and I love their evolution from their self titled debut through Exhausting Fire. I just hope we hear from them again. I celebrate their entire collection!

  • good list !!, but too much doom or black metal and yea… something like that, i expect more thrash or death, but as i said, it’s still good list

  • Thanks for this list, it’s been a good reference for an old man to catch up on what’s been happening in the scene for the past 17 years. Metal certainly has grown up since the 70s and 80s, although I am finding there is a LOT of “hipster shoe-gaze” in this list.

  • This is what you get when indie kids and hipsters make a metal list. Boris??? Gimme a fucken break. Most of these albums place discordant noise above all else. As another person asked: where is the power metal, the melodic death metal, the “true” metal..? Not one Amon Amarth record here. Nor Grand Magus and other titans of genuine metal craftsmanship.

    Go back to groomin yer beards ya wankers.

  • Good list. Glad to see you got High on Fire on the addendum, obvious omission by anyone’s perspective.

    I’ve only really gotten into metal in the past ~5 years, so can’t make a list of 66 amazing albums of the 21st century that’s particularly deep or representative, so instead here’s a list of my idiosyncratic faves that includes metal as well as hardcore and punk which I have a longer history of appreciating. And yes, I ranked Horse the Band over Mastodon (personal preference is just that – I’m certainly not arguing that they are a more influential, talented, or popular band lol). R.T.’s list looks awesome, so many bands there I need to check out. or whose full albums are in my bandcamp cart.

    Converge – Jane Doe – 2001
    Propagandhi – Supporting Caste – 2009
    Pig Destroyer – Phantom Limb – 2007
    Bane – Give Blood – 2001
    Tragedy – Vengeance – 2001
    Mgla – Exercises in Futility – 2015
    Majority Rule – Interviews With David Frost – 2001
    Against Me! – Searching for A Former Clarity – 2005
    Suicide File – Some Mistakes You Never Stop Paying For – 2005
    Cloud Rat – Qlipoth 2015
    Planesmistakenforstars – Up in Them Guts – 2004
    High on Fire – Snakes for the Divine – 2010
    Cobalt – Slow Forever – 2016
    Transistor Transistor – Erase All Names and Likeness – 2005
    Isis – Oceanic – 2002
    Blacklisted – No One Deserves Here to Be Here More Than Me – 2010
    Boysetsfire – After The Eulogy – 2000
    American Nightmare – Background Music – 2001
    City of Caterpillar – S/T – 2002
    Blackeyes – S/T – 2003
    Tau Cross – S/T – 2015
    Gridlink – Longhena – 2014
    Eternal Champion – The Armor of Ire – 2016
    Nux Vomica – S/T – 2014
    Capital – Homefront – 2007
    Battle of Mice – A Day of Nights – 2006
    Modern Life is War – Witness – 2005
    Leftover Crack – Fuck World Trade – 2004
    Horse the Band – R. Borax – 2003
    Agoraphobic Nosebleed – Arc – 2016
    Krallice – Hyperion – 2016
    Fucked Up – Hidden World – 2006
    Sumerlands – S/T – 2016
    Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf – 2002
    A Wilhelm Screen – Mute Print – 2004
    Mastadon – Leviathan – 2004
    Panopticon – Kentucky – 2012
    Darkest Hour – Mark of the Judas – 2000
    Boris – Akuma – No Ata – 2001
    The Sword – Age of Winter – 2006
    From Ashes Rise – Nightmares – 2003
    Strike Anywhere – Change is a Sound
    Municipal Waste – Hazardous Mutation – 2005
    Cattle Decapitation – Monolith of Inhumanity – 2012
    Blood Brothers – Burn, Piano Island Burn – 2003
    Deafheaven – New Bermuda – 2015
    Gospel – The Moon is a Dead World – 2005
    Shai Hulud – That Within Blood Ill-Tempered – 2003
    Rwake – Voices and Omens – 2007
    pageninetynine – document #8 – 2001
    Death spell Omega – Fas – Ite, Malediction, in Ignem Aeternum – 2007
    Fuck the Facts – Desire Will Rot – 2015
    Kylesa – Spiral Shadow – 2012
    Kowloon Walled City – Container Ships – 2012
    Children of Bodom – Hate Crew Deathroll – 2003
    Discordance Axis – The Inalienable Dreamless – 2000
    3 Inches of Blood – Advance and Vanquish – 2004
    Pelican – Australasia – 2003
    Pure Disgust – S/T – 2016
    Akimbo – City of the Stars – 2004
    Hope Conspiracy – Endnote – 2001
    Immortal Bird – Empress/Abscess – 2015
    Mutoid Man – War Moans – 2017
    Oathbreaker – Rheia – 2016
    Theories – Regression – 2015
    Nightwish – Wishmaster – 2000

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