Artists of the 2000s
The last decade was kind to heavy metal. Not only did veteran acts release some of their most exciting work, a flurry of new bands also came out of nowhere to demand their place among the greats. Noisecreep recently compiled lists of the best songs and albums of the past decade and it’s been nothing short of controversial. It’s impossible to please every single metal fan with these lists, but we’ll keep them cranking them out!
With the decade coming to a close, Noisecreep asked a panel of music insiders (label reps, musicians, artist managers) what their 10 favorite metal bands of the 2000s were, and this list reflects the most popular choices. Who would you have picked?
10. High on Fire
Born out of the ashes of Sleep, High on Fire took that band’s Black Sabbath worship and married it with the grit of early Motörhead and vintage Celtic Frost. Their four studio albums (all released in the ’00s) are splitting at the seams with the kinds of irresistible riffs that will have you air-guitaring in your work cubicle. Matt Pike is one of the most revered musicians in the rock underground, and High on Fire is clearly his show. Whether it’s through his lean and mean guitar parts or his fevered vocal performances, Pike steers their work.
9. Amon Amarth
Amon Amarth are purists. Their Viking-inspired lyrics and their album covers that depict scenes of warriors fighting off mythical beasts just ooze classic metal. Imagery aside, it’s their attention to songwriting dynamics that makes them so dangerous. Amon Amarth sure have the technical abilities to fuss up their arrangements if they wanted to, but they never let their playing get in the way of their songs. They are also one of the most consistent groups out today. When you buy an Amon Amarth album, you can count on it being in your stereo for the next few months. Not many bands can deliver that kind of reliable satisfaction. The people on our panel certainly gave collective thumbs up for these dudes.
8. Lamb of God
The 2000s were good to Lamb of God. Not only did the thrash goliaths go from basement shows to arenas, the band even signed to Epic Records, something a band as heavy as them rarely does successfully. They kicked off their successful ’00s run with ‘New American Gospel,’ but it would be ‘As the Palaces Burn’ (2003) and ‘Ashes of the Wake’ (2004) that would elevate the Virginia quintet to magazine cover star status. On these albums, and their latter two, LOG keep things simple yet no less commanding. They have taken what thrash legends like Testament and Overkill were doing in the late ’80s and injected it with hints of Pantera informed groove and American styled death metal. Anyone who says that major labels have sucked the life out of every great heavy metal band hasn’t heard LOG yet.
7. Pig Destroyer
Like any other act playing grindcore these days, Pig Destroyer owes a debt of gratitude to Napalm Death. Like the British troop, PxDx love their blast beats and acid burnt vocals on top of their metal and fast hardcore, but they’ve also looked beyond the blueprint and taken big chances with their sound. To say that the risk has paid off for Pig Destroyer would be an understatement. Scott Hull whips together a never-ending array of discordant guitar riffs coloring them in with shades of the Melvins and Eyehategod. Meanwhile, J.R. Hayes’s perverse lyrics make him come off like Stephen King on a PCP bender. With each album and EP the group releases, they somehow top themselves. We’re talking about a band that had the balls to release a 37-minute song called ‘Natasha’ and then watch journalists fall over each other to praise them for it. We aren’t certain if Pig Destroyer will be releasing a new album in the coming year but if they do, we have a feeling we’ll be writing about it come ‘best of 2010′ season.
Tool has never been the type of group that bends for a current trend, and their stubbornness has been one of their most valuable assets. Everything they’ve done has been on their own terms and you would be hard-pressed to find another band that sounds like them. The combo will be celebrating their 20th anniversary this coming year and they have a lot to be proud of. Their ‘Lateralus’ and ‘10,000 Days’ albums further cemented their reputation as mavericks of the hard rock world.
Lead by a wiz guitarist who calls himself Nergal, Behemoth have released some of the most critically-lauded albums of the last decade. The Polish band’s singular combo of black and death metal is somehow ferocious and hooky at the same moment. 2009’s ‘Evangelion’ and their previous two albums will be celebrated by future generations of metalheads, but we have a feeling Nergal and his crew are just getting started.
You wouldn’t have been crazy to think that the success of Slipknot’s 1999 self-titled album was nothing more than a flavor-of-the-month kind of fluke. The Iowa nine-piece band was tagged by a lot of critics with the dreaded ‘nu metal’ label during that period and had them lumped in with inferior labelmates like Coal Chamber and Spineshank. Slipknot would go on to release three albums throughout the ’00s and in the process they became one of heavy metal’s most respected and best selling acts. Even the journalists who had written them off earlier in their career can’t deny how great Slipknot have become.
Blending the twin-guitar harmonies of Thin Lizzy and the muscle of mid-period Metallica with the untamed arrangements favored by bands like King Crimson and Gentle Giant, Mastodon’s iconoclastic spirit is a throwback to the hallowed days of the ’70s hard rock. From their 2001 ‘Lifesblood’ EP to this year’s stunning ‘Crack the Skye’ full-length, they’ve continuously shown listeners that no matter how psychedelic their music becomes and how far out their lyrics get, they can still rock harder than 98 percent of their peers. Actually, Mastodon doesn’t truly have that many peers, when we think about it.
Regular readers of Noisecreep already know how we feel about these guys, and it seems like our panel of experts agree with us. There are few acts that have had more impact on the metal community as this Massachusetts institution has in the last 10 years. Their work on ‘Jane Doe’ alone would have probably gotten them a slot on this list. Their 2001 masterwork is the ‘Reign in Blood’ of modern hardcore, and its influence is as evident today as it was the year it came out. Converge went on to release three more albums in the ’00s, and they’re all essential.
No matter what style and era of music they meld into their framework, Opeth always sound at home. That’s mostly a testament to Mikael Åkerfeldt’s world class playing chops and supreme songwriting skill. The Swedish singer-guitarist’s formative years were spent in the worlds of thrash and death metal but Opeth’s recorded output throughout the ’00s defied categorization. How one band can go from the lush tapestry of a song like ‘Windowpane’ and still crush us with something like ‘The Funeral Portrait’ and make it so incredibly believable is beyond us. Mark our words, if Åkerfeldt chooses to keep the band together, Opeth will be on this list when we compile it in 2019.