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Top 25 Metal Albums of the 2010s

on November 08, 2019, 1:33pm
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Join us all month long as we celebrate the best music, film, and television of the decade. After revealing our Top 100 Albums of the 2010s, we’re now getting a bit more specific with genre-by-genre breakdowns. Next up, our Top 25 Metal Albums of the 2010s.

Heavy metal thrived in the 2010s, thanks to a wide-range of stellar albums from an eclectic mix of bands. While there is an inherent heaviness throughout the metal universe, different subgenres have expanded the realm of what is considered “metal.”

Bands like Zeal & Ardor, who incorporate slave spirituals over extreme metal music, or Deafheaven, who combine shoegaze and black metal, have helped advance the genre. And Ghost proved that metal can be as catchy as it is heavy.

Meanwhile, veteran acts like Judas Priest, Voivod, Marilyn Manson, Megadeth, and more released some of their best works this decade, while extreme metal bands like Behemoth, Gojira, and Carcass unleashed modern metal masterpieces.

And the numbers don’t lie either. A recent study by music distributor TuneCore showed that heavy metal was the fastest-growing genre in terms of streams and downloads from 2017 to 2018. And, a couple years back, Spotify declared metal fans as the most loyal listeners.

This proved that metal will never die, no matter what happens in this fickle music industry. The future for heavy music shines bright as we head into the 2020s, but for now, take a look back at the best metal albums of the 2010s.

–Spencer Kaufman

Click ahead to see our Top 25 Metal Albums of the 2010s…


25. Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit (2018)

Zeal & Ardor - Stranger Fruit

One of the decade’s true pioneers in heavy music is Zeal & Ardor mastermind Manuel Gagneux, a Swiss-American musician who grafted slave spirituals onto a bed of extreme and industrial metal. Zeal & Ardor’s debut, Devil Is Fine, boasted one instant-classic song (the title track) alongside a number of solid cuts. Sophomore effort Stranger Fruit cashed the check the original wrote, with a bumper crop of indelible choruses plumbing the depths of occult wickedness in the blues. Defiant and delightful, Zeal & Ardor is one of metal’s most original contributions to the pop music tradition. Opposing white supremacy while in league with the devil, it’s one of a kind. –Joseph Schafer


24. Megadeth – Dystopia (2016)

Megadeth - Dystopia

Dystopia marked a crushing return to form for thrash metal legends Megadeth both sonically and artistically. Dave Mustaine returned to his favorite lyrical topics of conspiracy and corruption, and new guitarist Kiko Loureiro and Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler provide the musical spark that was lacking on Megadeth’s previous two albums, 2013’s Super Collider and 2011’s Th1rt3en. By comparison, Dystopia sounds massive, with a thick low-end and no-frills production that gives the album a live-in-the-studio aesthetic. This works in the band’s favor, presenting their technical musicianship plainly and without mixing gimmicks, which have sometimes convoluted latter-era Megadeth recordings. It’s straight-up thrash metal, and that’s all the band needed to notch their first-ever Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 2017 for the album’s title track. —Jon Hadusek


23. Pallbearer – Sorrow & Extinction (2012)

Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction

Rising from the humble underground scene in Little Rock, Arkansas, Pallbearer conjured the magic and mysticism of classic doom metal with their debut album, Sorrow & Extinction. From the haunting acoustic intro of “Foreigner” to the transcendent cascading post-metal of closer “Given to the Grave”, the album evokes images of otherworldly realms, decaying catacombs, and smoky canyons. The songs build like slow epics, with lyrics that read like pleas from a tome of ancient poetry. Pallbearer create a suspended disbelief and fantastical atmosphere on Sorrow & Extinction, as if by listening to the album we are transported into its thematic universe, like a fantasy novel or roleplaying game. The band released two solid albums after this, but has yet to top their timeless debut. —Jon Hadusek


22. Voivod – The Wake (2018)

Voivod - The Wake

What is it with Canada and prog? Rush, Triumph, Saga, Max Webster, Klaatu … the list is endless. But what about Canadian sci-fi-thrash-prog? Voivod were deemed supreme rulers of this genre long ago (admittedly, without much competition) and continue on their merry way with 2018’s The Wake. The veteran group’s 14th studio effort overall contains all the hallmarks of a classic Voivod offering, including “Obsolete Beginnings” (the apparently required speedy album opener), “The End of Dormancy” (which takes many unexpected twists and turns), and “Always Moving” (which merges psychedelia and thrash!). More than 35 years into the band’s career, it’s good to know that fans can always count on the Voivod lads to stay strange — as heard throughout The Wake. –Greg Prato


21. Kvelertak – Kvelertak (2010)

Kvelertak - Kvelertak
Norwegian quintet Kvelertak had their sound locked in from the jump and haven’t veered from that path in the decade since their self-titled debut was released in 2010. And why would they mess with a winning formula? This band have perfected a sound that skims the edges of parody, right where power metal, boogie rock, and glam wiggle and ooze together like primordial creatures in mating season. The X factor for Kvelertak — the band and the self-titled album — was the vocals of since-departed frontman Erlend Hjelvik. Where you would expect a wail or a croon, he gave you shouting and growling and a death metal-inspired fury. Mix all these elements together for volatile results. –Robert Ham


20. Tool – Fear Inoculum (2019)

Tool - Fear Inoculum

Perhaps no other album in the 2010s was as highly anticipated as the new Tool LP … and Fear Inoculum did not disappoint. In fact, you could make a checklist and mark off the following prerequisites — mysterious album title, eye-popping artwork, zen-like lyrics, rubbery guitar riffs, prog-metal song structures, etcetera, etcetera. But when you’ve hit upon such an original-sounding and winning formula as Tool, why the heck change it? And while the 13-year gap (!) between Fear Inoculum and their previous offering, 2006’s 10,000 Days, came dangerously close to Chinese Democracy territory, the layoff did not dull the band’s focus — as exemplified by the slowly unwinding album-opening title track, plus “Pneuma” and “7empest”, while also saving some space to get a little artsy-fartsy (“Chocolate Chip Trip” and “Mockingbeat”). –Greg Prato


19. Mastodon – The Hunter (2011)

Mastodon - The Hunter

Following two lofty concept albums, Mastodon returned with an album that is nothing of a concept piece. On 2011’s The Hunter, the band fleshed out a meat-and-potatoes metal record, with each track presenting a contrasting style and sound. The Hunter may not be as cohesive as Mastodon’s concept albums, but that’s the point — and that’s the beauty of it. The LP features Mastodon pushing themselves outside their musical comfort zone, whether it’s introducing a wild-and-crazy riff or going with nearly exclusively clean vocals. Standout tracks include the album’s dark title track, which was written about guitarist and vocalist Brent Hinds’ brother, who passed away after suffering a heart attack while hunting, and “All the Heavy Lifting”, with its massive chorus and mighty riffing. While Mastodon would follow The Hunter with two more solid efforts, the 2011 disc stands as the band’s strongest release of the decade. –Anne Erickson


18. Marilyn Manson – Heaven Upside Down (2017)

Marilyn Manson - Heaven Upside Down

The 2010s were a good decade for Marilyn Manson. After a bit of a musical slump in the first 10 years of the 21st century, he upped his game with Born Villain in 2012 and the Pale Emperor in 2015. While Manson’s eponymous band has seen a revolving door of members, working with film composer Tyler Bates seemed to reinvigorate Manson’s creative spirit, and the duo really outdid themselves in 2017 with Heaven Upside Down. The album is tight all the way through with no filler, highlighted by the punk-ish sound of “Revelation #12”, the quirky groove of “Tattooed in Reverse”, the sexy sleaze of “Kill4Me”, and the epic ballad “Blood Honey”. Manson’s new sound has definitely evolved over time into something equal parts alternative, industrial, rock, metal, and country all converging into something as fresh as it is familiar, solidifying it as one of the top albums of the 2010s. –Colette Claire


17. Opeth – In Cauda Venenum (2019)

Opeth - In Cauda Venenum

Long gone is the death metal stylization that made for the first chapter of Opeth; nowadays, the veteran Swedish band are more interested in tapping into various blends of psych-rock, blues, and folk. While they’ve been utilizing these genres throughout their previous few records, In Cauda Venenum sees frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt and company fully realizing their artistry. Not only does the record display a plethora of enchanting sounds, but each track captures the band’s progressive mentality. From the bombastic drumming and wild flourishes of guitar and bass, In Cauda Venenum exudes a lovely serene nature. Each cut makes for a fascinating composition, presenting unique structure and style. In Cauda Venenum is a superb step forward for Opeth, as well as a stunning addition in the world of progressive metal. –Michael Pementel


16. Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower (2015)

Windhand - Grief's Infernal Flower

For their third full-length, Richmond doom metal band Windhand enlisted legendary Seattle engineer Jack Endino, responsible for some of the grunge era’s most lauded recordings. Warm, golden amp tones emit from the tracks on Grief’s Infernal Flower, though the songs here are far from bright. Vocalist Dorothy Cottrell sings with a sultry pain, her words contemplating bleak phrases of sadness and despair. The band’s stoner rock leanings are restrained into a droning catharsis, and while there’s still plenty of heavy riffs, they’re focused to compliment the album’s emotional weight. There’s a personal yearning to Grief’s Infernal Flower due to the palpable honesty in Cottrell’s voice, not unlike that of the inimitable Mark Lanegan, whom Endino also recorded in Seattle nearly three decades before working with Windhand. —Jon Hadusek

Click ahead to see more of our Top 25 Metal Albums of the 2010s…


15. Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind (2019)

Slipknot - We Are Not Your Kind

We Are Not Your Kind is easily the most creative and thrilling work Slipknot have released since Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses. With various lineup changes over the past few years, Slipknot have unleashed a brilliant delivery of emotional madness. From creepy jaunts to minimal atmospheres to brutal onslaughts of guitar thrashing and guttural screaming, Slipknot embrace chaos. While standing on its own as a unique work, We Are Not Your Kind also feels like an homage to the band’s history; in each track, one can pick up on various elements that have been utilized in their previous records. As the band’s sixth studio record, We Are Not Your Kind is a representation of how far Slipknot have come. —Michael Pementel


14. Judas Priest, Firepower (2018)

Judas Priest - Firepower

Judas Priest earned their legendary status decades ago, but instead of resting on their laurels, the band delivered one of their strongest albums to date in 2018. On the band’s 18th studio LP, Firepower, the metal icons serve up a powerful, raging blend of sharp riffs, thundering rhythms, and Rob Halford’s instantly identifiable vocals. Firepower is the kind of album that is created for, and by, people who simply adore metal, with each song presenting a different round of a musical arsenal. “Lightning Strike”, “Children of the Sun”, and the album’s title track are must-listens and among Priest’s best all-time songs. Firepower is a metal tour de force that is as classic as it is modern, proving that Judas Priest are as vital as ever 50 years into a celebrated career. –Anne Erickson


13. Deftones – Koi No Yokan (2012)

Deftones - Koi No Yokan

Deftones’ passionate Koi No Yokan combined the romanticism and atmospheres of 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist with the textural guitar-work Stephen Carpenter had begun to employ on Deftones’ unreleased 2008 album, Eros, and 2010’s Diamond Eyes. Around this time, Chino Moreno was also working with post-metal supergroup Palms, and some of their lush, spacious sounds may have rubbed off on his songwriting for the album. Songs like “Leathers” and “Tempest” swirl with a dream-like atmosphere that’s erotic and undoubtedly heavy. No band makes sexier metal than Deftones, and Koi No Yokan might be their sexiest effort. The album is obsessed with the spirituality of relationships, taking its title from a Japanese phrase that means “premonition of love.” —Jon Hadusek


12. Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind (2012)

Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind

Eleven years after the release of the heavily acclaimed Jane Doe, Converge would release the poetic and devastating All We Love We Leave Behind. The Massachusetts metalcore band have always provided emotion through hectic delivery; on their eighth studio record, Converge offer a collection of moving cuts, each exuding feeling and ferocity. All We Love We Leave Behind contains sporadic and slamming instrumentation, vocals screaming, and sharing intimate tales; all these elements come together to create the record’s melancholy air. In all its aggression, however, the record is a heartfelt experience. Converge are masters of capturing and presenting emotion through all facets of their band, and All We Love We Leave Behind is a phenomenal display of chaotic poetry. —Michael Pementel


11. Baroness – Gold & Grey (2019)

Baroness - Gold & Grey

Gold & Grey is the first Baroness album to feature guitarist Gina Gleason and saw the band once again expanding their palette of melodic heavy rock. It’s perhaps the most emotive and romantic album in the band’s discography, connected by interludes and atmospheric transitions that beckon the listener into the autumnal world depicted on the cover. Frontman John Baizley’s soaring melodies are complimented by Gleason’s backing vocals, adding a new facet to Baroness’ sonic repertoire. It’s not really accurate to label them as a “metal band” anymore. Just as Baroness changed course on 2012’s Yellow & Green — their previous dual-color album — Gold & Grey is another artistic pivot toward creative freedom, far from the restrictive tones of their sludge metal past. —Jon Hadusek


10. Mayhem – Daemon (2019)

Mayhem - Daemon

It is a wonder that the legendary band Mayhem, whose legacy is rife with controversy, are still alive, let alone still releasing kick-ass albums like Daemon. Bassist Necrobutcher, who is the only founding member left in the band, is joined by fellow classic members Attila Csihar on vocals, and Hellhammer on drums, along with guitarists Ghul and Teloch. With a creepy atmospheric sound that only they can create, Daemon is brimming with the galloping rhythms and tremolo picking that defined the signature Norwegian black metal sound Mayhem helped create. Tracks like the symphony of evil “Falsified and Hated” and the searing bonus track “Black Glass Communion” solidify Mayhem’s legacy as a band that is worthy of the hype that surrounds them. Daemon is a perfect blend of the newer style on albums like Ordo ad Chao and the classic sound of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, with slightly better production. –Colette Claire


09. Gorguts – Colored Sands (2013)

Gorguts - Colored Sands

After Gorguts temporarily disbanded in 2005 following the suicide of drummer Steve McDonald, the band’s leader, Luc Lemay, disappeared into a life of woodworking. Lemay briefly joined Negativa as a guitarist for a short stint, eventually reforming Gorguts upon Negativa singer Steeve Hurdle’s suggestion. Following a lengthy contract dispute with Gorguts’ old label, Century Media, the band returned in 2013 with the masterful Colored Sands — some of the most elaborate technical death metal of their illustrious career. Far more mature than the Morbid Angel-inspired gore metal of their formative years, the compositional extremes of tracks like aptly titled “An Ocean of Wisdom” demanded virtuosity from Gorguts’ new lineup of Lemay, bassist Colin Marston, lead guitarist Kevin Hufnagel, and drummer John Longstreth. While essentially a new band, they sound like they’ve been playing together for years. —Jon Hadusek


08. Carcass – Surgical Steel (2013)

Carcass - Surgical Steel
Aptly titled as ever, the first album in nearly two decades from one of England’s finest thrash/death metal bands, Surgical Steel was as precise and clean and perfect as a scalpel removing a vital organ. Six years after Carcass had finally, gloriously reformed, they proved they had lost not a step in the interim. If anything, they’d gained a lot more strength with the inclusion of new drummer Daniel Wilding and concentrating on what they could do as a power trio. That left the room for guitarist Bill Steer to send his fleet-fingered solos slicing through each song like razor wire. And left nowhere to hide from Jeff Walker’s unholy growl and his visions of exsanguination, disembowelment, and other bloody bits of nastiness. –Robert Ham


07. Bring Me the Horizon – Sempiternal (2013)

Bring Me the Horizon - Sempiternal

Prior to going in a more pop direction on their last two albums, That’s the Spirit and amo, Bring Me the Horizon unleashed a metalcore masterpiece in 2013 with Sempiternal. In a genre that started seeing a cookie-cutter formula in crafting songs, the UK act delivered a truly unique and captivating LP that is as infectious as it is heavy. The album’s masterwork is the anthemic “Shadow Moses”, a crushing track with a sing-along chorus. Elsewhere, songs like “Go to Hell, For Heaven’s Sake”, “Sleepwalking”, and “Can You Feel My Heart” impacted rock radio, evoking vibes of Linkin Park and Deftones. Sempiternal brought Bring Me the Horizon to new heights, and deservedly so. It’s a crowning achievement for a band that continues to evolve musically. —Spencer Kaufman


06. YOB – Our Raw Heart (2018)

YOB - Our Raw Heart

While struggling with a serious heart issue, YOB singer-guitarist Mike Scheidt was able create what would become Our Raw Heart. As the doom metal act’s eighth studio LP, Our Raw Heart is a captivating delivery of somber emotion and grit. Along with heavy distortion comes melancholy strings and vocals, all woven together to create a tapestry of majestic sound. Unlike other doom acts that solely rely on dense distortion, however, YOB present a thrilling experience throughout Our Raw Heart; touches of melody elevate the music’s aggression, adding an ethereal pain to each composition. Even though this is a very personal record for Scheidt, Our Raw Heart is a work capable of exuding profound emotion to all who listen. —Michael Pementel

Click ahead to see the very best of our Top 25 Metal Albums of the 2010s…


05. Ghost – Meliora (2015)

Ghost - Meliora

Originally a one-off studio project credited to a single nameless ghoul, Swedish wunderkind Tobias Forge made his name (with a helpful endorsement from Darkthrone’s Fenriz) as Ghost with 2010’s Opus Eponymous. A lively mix of Blue Öyster Cult with King Diamond-ish vocals, the rock-solid debut gave way to pop-leaning experimentation on Infestissumam before reaching full power on Meliora. With much-improved vocals and rock-solid riffs (dig that ballistic bass riff in “From the Pinnacle to the Pit”), the third Ghost record completed Forge’s transformation from a solitary metal hobbyist in Linkoping to Papa Emeritus III, global metal dandy. Props to Tobias for packing satanism and socialism with so many hooks. No new metal act this decade has navigated success so well — nor brought sweet unadulterated blasphemy to the homes of so many. –Joseph Schafer


04. Power Trip – Nightmare Logic (2017)

Power Trip- Nightmare Logic
Power Trip’s aesthetic of throwing every one of their influences against a wall and seeing how it splats and festers and molds and rots was presented in its purest form on the Texas group’s second full-length, Nightmare Logic. A bit of zonked out electronic f*ckery courtesy of Dominick Fernow (aka Prurient) stitched onto a knuckle-dragging thrash tune? Hardcore punk rhythms met with a guitar solo that squealed so loudly it could crack glass? A fist-pumping ode to cutting off someone’s head with an axe? Yes, yes, and yes again. If it felt good, then by golly, Power Trip were damn-well gonna do it, no matter what kind of mess they left behind. Just don’t worry about the smell. You’ll get used to it eventually. —Robert Ham


03. Deafheaven – Sunbather (2013)

Deafheaven - Sunbather
Arguably the biggest crossover success of any metal album of the 2010s, Sunbather effectively bridged the gap between black metal and shoegaze. Thus, the genre was dubbed “blackgaze,” entreating indie-rock fans who may have once scoffed at heavy metal to dabble in the genre and Deafheaven’s influences. The Sunbather effect went both ways, however, as hardcore black metal fans saw Deafheaven — with their short hair and clean black button-ups — as an invasive threat of co-opted sonic appropriation and poserism. Those debates were silly back then and they’re even more arbitrary now. When approached on its own terms, the music on Sunbather is often beautiful and adventurous. It stands as a pinnacle black metal album for the very open-mindedness that incited its backlash. —Jon Hadusek


02. Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage (2012)

Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage

There are few bands that craft progressive and brutal music like Gojira. The French metal act released two masterful albums in the 2010s — 2012’s L’Enfant Sauvage and 2016’s Magma, but we’re giving the former the slight edge. With touches of death and groove metal, the band use bombastic instrumentation to deliver devastating and intricate technicality on L’Enfant Sauvage. Thanks to their skillful songwriting, the band presents various compositional structures and styles to keep each track engaging. At the same time, Gojira infuse their music pulse-pounding adrenaline, providing forward-thinking thrills. The balance that Gojira maintain throughout the record is impressive; for a band to deliver such ferocious instrumentation and keep each technical element fresh is astonishing. It goes without saying that L’Enfant Sauvage is an absolute beast of a record and a fantastic work of progressive metal. –Michael Pementel


01. Behemoth – The Satanist (2014)

Behemoth - The Satanist
When, on the opening track of Behemoth’s 2014 masterpiece The Satanist, frontman Nergal growls out the line, “Hail my return,” he’s singing as much about the subject matter at hand (the destruction of mankind through Armageddon, natch) as he is himself. The Polish death metal band’s 10th album was the first burst of sound from Nergal since being diagnosed with — and successfully fighting — leukemia. That brush with the beyond set the trio’s collective jaw and inspired the most vicious and unrelenting release in their abundant discography. Behemoth’s lyrical concerns have stayed true with plenty of blasphemous fury and shout outs to the dark lord, but on The Satanist, the music is a steady assault, as forceful and foreboding as an army of the dead appearing on the horizon. —Robert Ham

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