10 Greatest Metal Songs of 2003
The year 2003 might not come up during the conversation when discussing heavy metal's landmark periods, but that doesn't mean it didn't leave behind some stellar releases. Whether it was veteran acts taking stylistic chances, or younger bands looking at the past for inspiration, 2003 gave metalheads a lot to be happy about. It didn't matter of you loved thrash, melodic hard rock, black metal or anything in between, your local record store (remember those?) had a new album for you to sink your teeth into. Since it's been a decade already, Noisecreep decided no time is better than now to countdown the 10 Greatest Metal Songs of 2003.
Kicking off our 10 Greatest Metal Songs of 2003 list, Children of Bodom’s ‘Needled 24/7’ is so heavy even its keyboard solo is able to tear skin clean off the bone. Like In Flames, the Children of Bodom has always masterfully balanced the ferocity of death metal with the more melodious leanings of traditional metal. ‘Needled 24/7’ finds the Finnish “hate crew” firing on all cylinders, showcasing both the heaviest and the most melodic side of their attack in one swoop.
Featuring the unmistakable baritone vocals of late frontman Peter Steele, ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Me’ is a Type O Negative fan favorite. Over a chugging riff laid down by guitarist Kenny Hickey, Steele sings the story of a man so depressing that “He fell asleep in the snow / never woke up, died alone.” Sadly, Steele would too die, seven years after ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Me’ was recorded, from heart failure.
The intertwined double bass drum and twin-guitar pattern that starts off Lamb of God’s ‘11th Hour’ sounds like a blitzkrieg warning, and things don’t get much nicer after that. A nasty, groove-laden track, ‘11th Hour’ might as well be a modern heavy metal guitar riff clinic. Just when you think the song’s exhausted its riff reserve, Mark Morton and Willie Adler lunge another six-string flurry in your direction.
Maybe it wasn't straight-up metal, but air guitarists across the globe had their prayers answered a decade ago when ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ first hit radio. Featuring a riff that could have come off an Bon Scott era AC/DC album, and a chorus that probably made the dudes in Def Leppard jealous, the song made it clear that the Darkness were aiming for the rafters, commercially speaking. It’s no surprise the band hired Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, Journey) to produce their next record.
In a career packed with thrash classics made for the mosh pit, ‘Safe Home’ is a bit of an anomaly in Anthrax’s discography. With its slower pacing, romantic lyrical tone and generally melancholic feel, ‘Safe Home’ might be a bit of a left turn for the Big 4 titans, but only a fool would deny the power of the song’s seductive chorus. Trivia hounds should check out the official video for ‘Safe Home’ which features none other than Keanu Reeves.
Appearing on Avenged Sevenfold’s ‘Waking the Fallen’ album, ‘Unholy Confessions’ showcases many of the elements that make the band so irresistible: Euro-kissed thrash riffs, hard rock vocal hooks, unexpected rhythmic shifts and a stadium-ready chorus. Despite all of its “heavy metalness,” ‘the single still squeezed its way onto radio playlists in ’03, introducing Avenged Sevenfold to a new legion of fans. Platinum plaques and sold out arena tours would be just around the corner for the SoCal quintet.
Famously, ‘Damnation’ is Opeth’s most reflective moment, an album devoid of many (if not all) of death metal’s stylistic traits, instead favoring the spirit and sonic approach of the ‘70s progressive rock records frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt holds so dear to his heart. Boasting atmospheric keyboard swells, crystalline acoustic and electric guitar runs, and a rhythm section laying down a steady groove fit for a jazz-fusion combo, opening cut ‘Windowpane’ weaves a hypnotic spell and perfectly encapsulates the mood of the album.
A cacophony of barbed wired guitars, demonic and operatic vocals, thundering drums and orchestral keyboard parts that wouldn’t sound out of a place in the score of a Hollywood sword and sandal epic, ‘Progenies of the Great Apocalypse’ remains Dimmu Borgir’s finest moment. Credit must also be given to producer/mixer Fredrik Nordström’s superb studio work. A multilayered symphonic metal opus of this caliber must have taken weeks to mix down.
Featuring lyrics like “Someone feed the monkey while I dig in search of China / White as Dracula as I approach the bottom,” A Perfect Circle’s ‘Weak and Powerless’ is rumored to be about heroin abuse. Driven by a spidery rhythm and a magnetic vocal performance from Maynard James Keenan, ‘Weak and Powerless’ is A Perfect Circle’s most commercially successful track, reaching the top spot on both the Mainstream Rock Tracks and Modern Rock Tracks Billboard charts.
Based on the Battle of Passchendale which took place during WWI, Iron Maiden's ‘Paschendale’ is another epic track for a band with many gracing their hallowed discography, and a fitting way to top off our 10 Greatest Metal Songs of 2003 list. Written by Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith, the song clocks in at over eight minutes, but its glorious chorus, dynamic arrangement and dramatic lyrical flair keeps you engaged throughout. Come to think of it, get a great screenplay together, hire Ridley Scott to direct it, and ‘Paschendale’ would make for a kickass motion picture.