Anyone who thinks modern metal bands aren't putting out quality material is willfully choosing to bury their head in the sand. The last five years in particular have been incredibly fruitful for heavy music across the board, and capital "M" Metal in particular. From pioneering veterans continuing to prove their relevance late in their careers to 21st-century-born bands truly coming into their own as bona fide stars, the era from 2017 to 2022 has repeatedly underscored how much gas the genre we spend days obsessing over still has left in the tank.
We asked our readers to pick what they think is the greatest metal album of the last half-decade, and the results do a great job reinforcing the genre's vitality. Below, are the top five vote-getters ranked accordingly.
On Firepower, Judas Priest set the bar for what a metal record should sound like 50 years into a band's career. Rob Halford and Co.'s 2018 opus doesn't reinvent the wheel they started spinning all those years ago, but it certainly doesn't slow things down, either. Songs like the mighty title track and "Lightning Strike" can go head-to-head with practically any classic Priest cut, and despite singing these songs when he was in his late sixties, the Metal God's thunderous belt sounds as supreme as ever across these 14 cuts.
Power Trip's axe-swinging sophomore album, Nightmare Logic, wasn't just one of 2017's best albums — it remains one of the greatest hardcore albums and one of the greatest thrash albums of the modern era. Sadly, it will likely be the band's final opus following frontman Riley Gale's untimely death in 2020, but at least we have songs like "Executioner's Tax," "Soul Sacrifice" and "Crucifixation" to crank loud and proud forever and always.
For many years, fans wondered if there was ever even going to be a new Tool album — and then there was. Not only did the alt-metal auteurs put out their first LP in 13 years, but the songs were breathtakingly great, carrying their sound forward into bold, psychedelic new directions. In the four years since its 2018 release, tracks like "Pneuma" and "Fear Inoculum" have become as much of a part of the Tool canon as any of their classic hits. Hopefully we don't have to wait another dozen-plus years for the next.
It hasn't even been a full year since Fortitude was released, so its placement on this list goes to show just how much Gojira's fan base treasures their latest work of brilliance. The French metallers had big shoes to fill following their Grammy-nominated 2016 mainstream breakthrough, Magma, and they responded with an album about strength and perseverance in the face of tremendous resistance. Naturally, such a pressing theme is particularly resonant in our trying times, so we imagine fans will be keeping it close for years to come.
Emperor of Sand was big for Mastodon. Their 2017 opus was the first concept album they'd written since 2009's Crack the Skye, touching on weighty topics like cancer and mortality, but as dense as its subject matter was, it was also the band's most accessible album to date. Further expanding the elements of grunge and hard rock that they drew from on 2014's Once More 'Round the Sun, Mastodon masterfully fused those sensibilities with emotionally arresting lyrics and their signature prog-tinged metal eccentricity. It's a landmark album for Mastodon, and an era-defining record for our readers.