10 more of the best metal albums of the millennium

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10 more of the best metal albums of the millennium

Last week, we published a list of our 66.6 favorite metal albums of the millennium (really 67, the number is just a bit of Satanic fun), which sparked a lot more conversation on social media and elsewhere than just about any other article we’ve published this year. Not everyone necessarily agreed with it (nor would we expect anyone to—there have been an insane amount of metal albums released in the last 17 years), and there’s obviously no way we could encapsulate an entire spectrum of metal on a seven-page list. But we felt weird about leaving some stuff out, so while we stand 100 percent by that list, we decided to add an appendix. So, with the idea of broadening that spectrum just a little bit more, here’s our list of 10 more of the best metal albums of the millennium.

more best metal albums of the millennium Morbid AngelMorbid AngelGateways to Annihilation
(2000; Earache)

American death metal owes its life to bands like Morbid Angel. The Florida quartet’s second album with vocalist Steve Tucker may have single-handedly made all the leaves fall off of trees in the autumn of 2000. The rolling, mid-paced stomp of Gateways to Annihilation showed continued cohesion between Tucker, guitarist extraordinaire Trey Azagthoth and Pete Sandoval. The band also included a second guitarist, Erik Rutan, and the interplay between Azagthoth and Rutan set Morbid Angel’s music ablaze. Trey’s incendiary riffs lit up tracks like “Ageless, Still I Am” and showed that his band still had the ferocious bite it had since the days of Altars of Madness. – CD

best metal albums of the millennium blind guardianBlind GuardianA Night at the Opera
(2002; Virgin)

A slightly-less-epochal album than its predecessor Nightfall in Middle-Earth, this album nevertheless saw Blind Guardian ascending even higher on the list of greatest power metal bands of all time. At the time, the genre was looked down upon both by kvltists and outsiders; to the metal-aligned, it was viewed as cheesy even by metal’s standards (not to mention nowhere near heavy enough), and to outsiders it exemplified every cliche about heavy metal that could be made aside from ones about harsh vocals. Blind Guardian’s marriage of dense, Queen-inspired vocal choirs (and album titles) and their tightly-knotted progressive songwriting did them favors, however, and by Opera they had begun to turn heads. The 14-minute closer, a progressive metal epic about the Trojan War that doesn’t hit its first go-around of the chorus until just past the four-minute mark, immediately cemented itself as one of their absolute best, not to mention induction into the metal canon. The album stands to this day as the initiating record for many metalheads of a certain time and place. – LH

more best metal albums of the millennium AsunderAsunder A Clarion Call
(2004; Life Is Abuse)

Oakland’s Asunder built a discography that truly exemplified the idea of quality over quantity. In their eight years of existence, they released two splits and two full-length albums. None of it carried as much funereal might as their 2004 masterpiece, A Clarion Call. John Gossard and Dino Sommese’s vocal arrangements are truly haunting in their execution. Additionally, the employment of a cello throughout the album creates an enhanced emotive quality to the music. “Twilight Amaranthine” and the title track showcase this poetic beauty. Asunder had an uncanny knack for mixing poignancy and extremity, and their trajectory could have seen them rise to the very pinnacle of funeral and death doom.Too bad they called it quits after their second album, Works Will Come Undone. – CD

essential relapse tracks high on fireHigh on FireBlessed Black Wings
(2005; Relapse)

So, it might seem like highlighting another High on Fire album here is redundant, but—wait, High on Fire didn’t make the list? OK, that’s our mistake. We’ll own up to that (though Sleep did make the list, so it’s not like we’re averse to giving Matt Pike his due or anything). High on Fire’s been making some of the best metal of the past couple decades pretty much as long as they’ve been a band, and Blessed Black Wings is the album of theirs that finds the perfect ratio of burly, badass sludge to strong melodies. Everything about this album feels intense and aggressive and dialed up to the absolute limit, and yet it has a groove about it that makes it a lot more fun than simply a mission of destruction. This is a hard-rocking set of songs that speaks to the classicists while setting its sights toward the beyond.  – JT

Castevet – Mounds of AshCastevetMounds of Ash
(2010; Profound Lore)

Castevet didn’t stick around long. They only released two albums during their time together, and the sheer level of creativity and musicianship within the band suggested that they could have continued making some truly groundbreaking metal records if they were interested in doing so. But then again, they did release one near-perfect album the first time out of the gate. Mounds of Ash is a black metal album that behaves in peculiar ways, often giving way to some dense and sludgy progressions, post-hardcore riffs and art-rock structures. Mounds of Ash echoes the jagged melodies of Failure and Fugazi as it surges into progressive black metal passages, the sheer texture of these songs feeling thousands of miles from Scandinavia’s second wave. That the band cited such unconventional sources as darkwave cultists Lycia and post-rock icons Talk Talk as influences shows just how far away from traditional they were operating. It’s cerebral, it’s complex, but it still goes straight for the gut. – JT

Ihsahn more best metal albums of the millenniumIhsahnEremita
(2012; Candlelight)

You can tell a lot by someone’s favorite Emperor album. To the black metal purists, In the Nightside Eclipse can’t possibly be topped; not just because it’s a near-flawless record, but also because main composer Ihsahn’s musical interests became far too progressive and symphonic from that point forward. For those so inclined, Ihsahn’s immense talents as a black metal guitarist, singer and composer transitioned to the more extreme side of progressive metal with great ease, following the collapse of his previous band with a string of highly-acclaimed progressive metal albums that have more to do with Devin Townsend and Leprous than they do Dream Theater or Fates Warning (no knock to those legends meant, of course). Eremita, his fourth solo album, is the final record of what can be viewed as his first period and is a summation of his thoughts up until that point. The conceptual thread about a hermit in recollection, borrowed loosely from Thus Spake Zarathustra, serves as inspiration for his most moving, triumphant, pained and powerful set of songs released yet. It’s greatest feat: Eremita justifies why an Emperor reunion isn’t needed. – LH

Gorguts - Colored SandsGorgutsColored Sands
(2013; Season of Mist)

Released the same year as Carcass’ phenomenal comeback Surgical Steel and Deafheaven’s breakout Sunbather, Colored Sands threatened to be overshadowed by several of its peers. After all, Gorguts’ brand of particularly skronky progressive death metal wasn’t an especially popular turn for the band at the time, and the tragic circumstances of their initial dissolution following the suicide of their drummer made most think Luc Lemay and company would move on to other things. Yet their return, like Cynic’s before them, showed a band that had previously struggled to breakthrough return not only to great acclaim from the metal world but with perhaps their best work yet. In retrospect, the choice of Colin Marston and Kevin Hufnagel to fill out the compositional body of Gorguts is the only choice in the world; allowing their arrangement and occasional compositional input helped musically bridge the gap of understanding from their work over a decade prior to the much more avant-garde friendly present. In retrospect, Surgical Steel and Sunbather got more (albeit deserved!) coverage, but Colored Sands is pound-for-pound the better album of the three. – LH

Thou HeathenThouHeathen
(2014; Gilead)

A New Orleans band with a background in DIY hardcore and a penchant for massive, slow moving compositions, Thou are a rare breed in metal. They cover Nirvana songs, self-release much of their own music and seem to exist outside of easy categorization. If they play sludge, it’s some of the most beautiful music to ever bear such a grotesque name. Heathen is the band’s career peak, an epic 2xLP sprawl of mesmerizing dirges that take their time to build and develop, to reveal themselves as the masterpieces of intensity that they are. As such, Heathen is an album that requires a certain level of patience, for its 74 minutes aren’t to be rushed. Music this powerful can’t be. In colossal statements such as “Free Will” and “Feral Faun,” Thou show the vastness of depth within their sound, and suggest so much more beyond the margins. This is their best album to date, but there’s no telling how much higher the bar will be raised. – JT

Vastum Hole BelowVastumHole Below
(2015; 20 Buck Spin)

It’s not a stretch to call Vastum a supergroup, the Bay Area death metal troupe featuring members of Hammers of Misfortune and Acephalix among its ranks. Yet Hole Below is greater than the sum of the individual players’ résumés, its dark, grim and ominous sound particularly potent for this strain of old-school death metal. The legacy of wayback brawlers Entombed and Autopsy course through their veins, and Vastum certainly do their demon heritage proud. But there’s a sharpness and pointedness to their vicious death metal anthems that sets them apart in a league above their contemporaries. A track like “Amniosis” is raw, yet impeccably crafted, its eerie atmosphere and razor-sharp riffs a perfect death metal blend. Given that the various members of the band have their share of amazing bands outside Vastum, it speaks volumes that Hole Below is still one of the best albums in their collective discography. – JT

Power Trip Nightmare Logic reviewPower TripNightmare Logic
(2017; Southern Lord)

This is a pretty new one in the scheme of the millennium’s best metal, but it’s a great one. Power Trip started off the year right by ushering in a set of old-school inspired thrash metal that set its sights on oppressive authority figures, society’s worst actors and a civilization on the brink of collapse. Nightmare Logic is an urgent and topical album, but it’s one that’s ultimately hopeful if only because of the implicit suggestion that the way out of our deepest crises involves some headbanging. With four songs per side, each one a whirlwind of power chords and whammy-bar solos, Nightmare Logic never takes a break from its devastation. Nightmare Logic isn’t a radical reinvention of thrash metal, but it features some incredibly strong and most immediate songs, earning it an early best-of-genre honor less than a year after its release. – JT

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