Believe it or not, metalcore is now a genre with over two decades of history behind it. The bands who emerged in the late Nineties and early 2000s, playing a style of heavy music that melded the screamed ferocity and technical prowess of (mostly Swedish) death metal with the pile-on pummel of hardcore, are now ancestors to the multiple generations of groups that they continue to inspire to this day.
With such a deep lineage to draw from, we wanted to know what our readers consider the single greatest, most genre-defining song in the entire lifespan of metalcore. Naturally, this was a super tough question that yielded a near-endless variety of responses representing all eras of the style's timeline. But these are the top five vote-getters, ranked accordingly below.
Trivium haven't really been a down-the-middle metalcore band in over a decade now, having adopted more influence from thrash and stadium-sized prog metal that's made them one of the leading groups in our world. Their early records, however, feature some of the most proficient musicianship in 'core history, especially "Like Light to the Flies" from 2005's Ascendency. The heaviness is there, but it's the rippin' guitar solo that truly dazzles, as well as the clean chorus that brings to mind Waking the Fallen-era Avenged Sevenfold in its sing-along-ability.
As I Lay Dying are a defining band of the 2000s metalcore boom whose music really only got better as their career went on (2010's the Powerless Rise and 2012's Awakened are underrated opuses). That said, the San Diego band's breakout was 2005's Shadows Are Security, which contained the runaway single "The Darkest Nights." From that melodeath lead riff and axe-like swing of the screamed verses, to the instantly memorable chorus, this song proved As I Lay Dying had the chops to stand out in the pack and remains an iconic track from that era.
Parkway Drive were nothing short of bone-crushing during their metalcore era, but the Australian giants truly carved an identity of their own with "Carrion." The standout from their 2007 LP, Horizons, is essentially a power ballad that pushes the definition of that songwriting archetype to its mightiest iteration. It has the tidal-wave heaviness of a moshy metalcore track, but an anthemic, mid-tempo chorus that manages to be supremely catchy with nary a clean vocal to be found. There really isn't a song — in their catalog or anyone else's — that sounds quite like it.
Norma Jean are still making innovative music today, but their 2002 debut — and only album with OG vocalist Josh Scogin, later of the Chariot — is by far their most influential. Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child's immortal banger "Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste" shrewdly merged the chaos of Converge with the angelic melody and dramatic flair of From Autumn to Ashes and their ilk. Its relentless breakdowns and piercing vocal shrieks were an indelible influence on next-gen Warped Tour headliners like the Devil Wears Prada and Of Mice & Men, but this is the source material.
In many ways, Killswitch Engage laid the foundation for every other band on this list. The Massachusetts group were one of the first to popularize the convergence of Swedish melodeath leads with post-hardcore sing-alongs and hardcore breakdowns, but "Rose of Sharyn," from their 2004 genre pillar, The End of Heartache — their first with vocalist Howard Jones — is when their mark on the metal world at large finally became unavoidable. Everything about this song is a masterclass in metalcore craftsmanship — the chunky production, the quality of that lead riff, the way Jones' mighty belt contrasts with Adam Dutkiewicz's croons. It's just perfect.