The 2010s will be remembered for many things. Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo. The election of Donald Trump. The impeachment of Donald Trump. The earthquake in Haiti. The terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon and the Bataclan in Paris. Mass shootings in America. Roughly a gazillion superhero and Star Wars movies. It should also be remembered for a lot of great heavy music, from the likes of Tool, Metallica, Slipknot, Deftones, Mastodon, Gojira and many more. We all know that ranking music is absurd, let alone across 10 tumultuous years, but here we go nonetheless: Below are our picks for the best albums of the decade.
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Kentucky hardcore upstarts Knocked Loose have changed the landscape of heavy music, with an oncoming cavalcade of breakdown-crazed young bands following in their weighty footsteps. But, like leaders not followers, they swerved the competition on 2019's A Different Shade of Blue, embellishing and deepening their brand of mosh-driving heaviness with a throwback to gritty death metal à la Wolverine Blues–era Entombed and blistering thrash à la Seasons in the Abyss–era Slayer. The result is a timeless modern classic. JOHN HILL
Frontman Keith Buckley almost lost his wife and unborn daughter in childbirth in 2015, an event that permeates every track on the Buffalo, New York, band's career-best Low Teens, released the following year. The album offers a slightly more advanced version of the group's usual sound — anthemic, molten metalcore — but lyrically, it occupies a different planet. It's a solemn and furious examination of life and death and the very thin line in between, with little of the band's usual sarcasm. The terrifying "Petal" and "C++ (Love Will Get You Killed)" detail Buckley's hospital ordeal while "It Remembers," which features Panic! At the Disco's Brendon Urie, is weirdly gentle, but no less harrowing. ALLISON STEWART
Baroness' double album, Yellow & Green, hinted at the genius this band had been working towards, and Purple fully delivered. It's a more concise record that packs a huge punch, both sonically and emotionally. "Shock Me" could be the band's defining song, glorious and powerful, while "Chorine & Wine" and "Try to Disappear" each threaten to unseat as peak Baroness. "If I Had to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain)" winds the album down with an emotional resolve not often seen in heavy music. Purple is the triumph over the adversity the rockers have dealt with, and it sounds absolutely stunning. GREG PRATT
Gothic singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe unveiled her heaviest and most dynamic album yet with a little help from Queens of the Stone Age's Troy Van Leeuwen, Mustard Gas and Roses' Bryan Tulao and SUMAC's Aaron Turner. But it's Wolfe's soaring, ghostly vocals that hold it all together, and under her guidance, the beautifully overcast Hiss Spun luxuriates in serpentine melodies, moaning doom riffs and high atmospheric darkness. J. BENNETT
With their third album since the band's reunion with original singer Jesse Leach, metalcore pioneers Killswitch Engage dropped what may stand as the heaviest offering of their career. The wildly dynamic range that has characterized KsE's patented sound is on full display, from the Scandinavian melodic-death-metal-style riffery to the old-school breakdowns to the soaring triumph of the clean-sung passages. Maybe best of all, the album brought together fans divided over Leach and longtime vocalist Howard Jones, by uniting the two in song, on the fierce standout "The Signal Fire." KELSEY CHAPSTICK
Honor Found in Decay — the 10th album from psych-sludge masters Neurosis — isn't simply another brick in their already impenetrable wall of massive sonic feats; it's another entire wall in and of itself. Rife with heaving, twisting melodies, world-swallowing atmosphere, and sage lyrics, the LP serves as a booming, moaning, mind-altering testament to craftsmanship and perseverance. That it's one of the decade's best should be a surprise to no one. J.B.
The Dillinger Escape Plan's fifth album is a crushing fusion of thunderous metalcore, technically diligent jazz elements, and decidedly radio-unfriendly madness. But what's remarkable about this more-manic-than-ever effort is how the now-defunct band merged its adrenaline-fueled creativity with poppy wonderment — like the way vocalist Greg Puciato takes a break from his usual roaring self to sing with George Michaelesque soulfulness on the album's title track. The record is far from a total pop-out, however, as "Prancer" and other manic gems provide a first-rate lesson in extreme music. JEFF PERLAH
Having stretched their sound over the course of their career — in particular, using slower, more atmospheric songs and guest vocalists on their previous album, Axe to Fall — hardcore veterans Converge went back to what they do best with their 2012 offering, All We Love We Leave Behind: playing fast and loud. Along the way, Bannon & Co. hit speeds ("Trespasses") and knotty riffs ("Sadness Comes Home") that still boggle the imagination, leaving the listener speechless in the best way possible. SAMMI CHICHESTER
2017's Forever launched Pittsburgh's Code Orange into the heavy-music stratosphere, and deservedly so. The most impressive thing about the album isn't just its range — though few records encompass mosh-driving metal ("Kill the Creator," "Spy"), hooky post-grunge ("Bleeding the Blur") and atmospheric industrial rock ("Ugly," "dream2") the way that it does — it's that the record always sounds like the cohesive, signature work of one band. And that band is pissed, defiant, bursting with energy and imagination and, did we mention, pissed? BRANDON GEIST
Slipknot's 2014 album, .5: The Gray Chapter, saw the band in transition, reeling after the death of bassist Paul Gray and the group's split with drummer Joey Jordison, and solid as the LP is, it sounded like it. On the album's follow-up, We Are Not Your Kind, the Nine found themselves again — and then some, pulling new tricks out of their jumpsuit sleeves. From John Carpenter–esque synths to trip-hop vibes to the choir on "Unsainted," it's the sound of a band comfortable with their new members and in their new masks, unafraid to take risks, and reaping great rewards. J.H.
Recorded shortly after the 2009 death of Avenged drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, Nightmare captures the audacious Orange County outfit's response to the tragedy in brutal, high-definition detail; it's a document of real-life despair from a band previously known for mythologically-inspired tales from the dark side. Instead of proggy fantasy, you get emotional intensity, on bruising rockers like "Natural Born Killer" and 10-minute closer, "Save Me," as well as heartfelt ballads such as "Victim" and "Fiction." It's a testament to A7X's strength and passion that their eulogy to their fallen brother ended up such a triumph. MIKAEL WOOD
After releasing several off-mark records, Marilyn Manson writhed away from the brink with his 2015 triumph, The Pale Emperor. Shedding the freakshow industrial-metal snakeskin of yesteryear, Manson contorted through an inspired album of dark, cinematic goth-blues. From the toe-tapping "The Devil Beneath My Feet" to the hypnotic "Third Day of a Seven Day Binge" to the sordid western-swing of "Birds of Hell Awaiting," it's the sound of the self-described Mephistopheles of Los Angeles finding a more mature yet no less menacing sound. JEREMY BORJON
Released in 2016, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct is the album that we knew (or hoped) Metallica still had in them, featuring 12 lean and mean songs that split the difference between the blistering thrash of their early days and the swinging hard-rock whomp of "The Black Album." James Hetfield's dark musings on the state of the planet ("Hardwired, "ManUNkind" and "Atlas, Rise!") aside, there's no heavy concept at work here — unless you count 77 minutes of Metallica unapologetically kicking major ass as a heavy concept in of itself. DAN EPSTEIN
From the slamming tri-tones that open "End of the Beginning," to the serpentine guitar-bass interplay of "Age of Reason" and "Damaged Soul," to the down-tuned chug of the closing "Dear Father," 13 is pure, undiluted old-school Sabbath, the kind of bleak, hellish blues that's been inspiring impressionable teens to draw upside-down crosses on their notebooks and forearms for nearly 50 years. If this is indeed the metal originators' final offering, it's more than we mere mortals probably deserve. D.E.
Revered by the likes of Tool, Lamb of God and Deftones, these Swedish tech-metal titans had every right to present their latest as something massive and monumental. And when released in 2012, Koloss lived up to its own billing. Having spawned a generation of time signature-torturing imitators identifying themselves within a questionably named genre ("djent"), Meshuggah played contrarians here, simplifying and streamlining their sound on crushers like "Behind the Sun" and "Marrow" to awesome effect. B.G.
Lamb of God and their fans will, of course, remember 2012 as the year that frontman Randy Blythe was arrested and jailed in the Czech Republic. What's overshadowed by that unprecedented turn of events is the killer record LOG dropped to kick off the year. Resolution is the group's most adventurous album, building on their Slayer- and Pantera-influenced core with tracks like the Eyehategod-esque opener "Straight for the Sun" and the closing "King Me," with its black metal-ish orchestration. In between, the band mixes in clean vocals, acoustic licks and plenty of their patented "pure American metal." B.G.
The Polish blackened death-metal outfit's 10th album is the definition of "blood, sweat and tears." While The Satanist's original cover painting literally contains frontman Nergal's blood, the record — the first since the vocalist-guitarist's public battle with leukemia — is emotionally and artistically infused with the pain and effort of that fight for his life. The result is a masterpiece that is spiritually unnerving yet oddly empowering. Having looked Death in the face, Behemoth realized their singular vision to its fullest. S.C.
Released 17 years after the British grindcore pioneers Carcass broke up, their comeback LP Surgical Steel is a painstaking replica of their best work from the Nineties. A frenetic exercise in extreme metal, it's cranky and dark, occasionally melodic, frequently unlistenable, and generally gross. It's also thoroughly and unapologetically great, a work of merciless precision that's perfectly crafted and instantly familiar. A.S.
On paper, it sounds like a terrible idea: Mix black metal, shoegaze, and snatches of dream pop so subtle they're almost subliminal, add screamed vocals, and coat with a layer of Hipster. But Sunbather, the breakthrough sophomore release from San Francisco-based Deafheaven, wass a jaw-dropper when it dropped in 2013, and it still is: a sweeping, brooding classic that's both hopelessly pretty and ridiculously heavy. A.S.
A smoldering, satisfying blast from the past, unleashed ahead of its creators' 50th anniversary (and on a sadder note, axman Glenn Tipton's retirement), Judas Priest's Firepower isn't just the band's strongest effort in 30 years — it's a towering, unforgettable hard-rock behemoth, with unparalleled riffs, hooks and, most vitally, attitude. ZOE CAMP
Mastodon's first concept album since 2009's Crack the Skye found the progressive-metal foursome grappling with such weighty subjects as cancer and mortality. It was hardly a bummer, though, thanks to the record's intensely uplifting music, which once again attested to Mastodon's innate ability to be both accessible and really friggin' far out at the same time. D.E.
Hailed by everyone from Dave Grohl to Philip Anselmo, occult rockers Ghost B.C. not only lived up to the hype with their sophomore offering, they demolished it. Seeped in the tradition of legends such as Blue Öyster Cult and Mercyful Fate, the mystery-enshrouded Swedes greatly expanded their retro-metal sound, creating an opulent satanic ritual complete with carnivalesque keyboards, black-mass choirs and even surf guitar. But it's Papa Emeritus II's pop hooks that steal the show — and set the stage for the band's arena-headlining ascent. JEREMY BORJON
Of course, Tool's latest opus, Fear Inoculum — for which fans waited more than a decade — is one of the albums of 2010s. In terms of sheer magnitude and audacity, it may be the album of the decade. A top-selling album that's nearly 90 minutes in its full, digital version. A prog-metal album that dethroned Taylor Swift. An album bearing the longest song (the title track) to ever hit the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. But all these facts are but footnotes. Fear Inoculum stands here on the merits of its music, virtuosic convolutions and spiritual meditations to be dissected for decades to come. B.G.
Though its French title translates to "The Wild Child," Album No. 5 saw the forward-thinking tech-death quartet playing their most evolved material to date. The title track is an especially dynamic and sinuous number that takes the group's Morbid Angel-meets-Isis sound to new heights, masterfully blending infectious songwriting and progressive chops, as do other standouts like "Explosia" and "Liquid Fire." Through all the grooving, scraping riffs and acrobatic drumming, the band asks big, existential questions. There are answers in this music. DAVID McKENNA
Alt-metal heroes Deftones pulled great art out of tragedy with their 2010 magnum opus, Diamond Eyes. Two years before, bassist Chi Cheng was in a car crash that left him in a coma (he would die in 2013), an event that clearly crystalized for his bandmates the need to make a new beginning — they scrapped an album, Eros, recorded before the accident — and truly seize the day. As a result, their sixth full-length seethes and bursts with vibrant, primal, sexual urgency, simultaneously embracing the youthful adrenaline of their earlier material ("Royal," "Rocket Skates") and the sultry atmospherics of 2000's White Pony ("You've Seen the Butcher," "Risk"), a watershed album topped here. B.G.