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1999 - 2009: decade of death, destruction and heavy metal


When losers say it's over with you know it's a lie,
'cause the gods made heavy metal and it's never gonna' die.

-- Manowar

As long as the four pillars of society remain -- as long is there is war, disease, death and sodomy -- there will be metal.

Its intensity, at times, may waver; its numbers may swell or wane; its enemies will come, and one by one, they will die.

On the battlefield of "heavy music," metal may, at times, be outnumbered, but it will always stand stronger than the latest trends, more fit for long-term survival.

Just ask nu-metal (Rest In Pain, 1995 - 2005), the latest headstone in the growing lineup of pop metal casualties.

So long as metal remains powerful, so long as it remains the ultimate image of perversion, bloodlust and blasphemy, there will always be musicians and record labels who wish to subvert its imagery into something weaker, safer and above all, less war-like.

In the 1980s, record companies gambled on glam (defined by Dave Mustaine as "Gay Los Angeles Metal") and won big at the cash registers; bands like Twisted Sister and Skid Row sold millions of records in the late 1980s. Yet, by the middle of the 1990s, those bands, like the rest of the glam metal fad, were dead and gone -- banished to the neverwhere of reality shows on VH1.

Nu-metal arrived in the mid-1990s as an attempt to reproduce the same strand of pop metal that had died with glam, but just as quickly as nu-metal had sprung to life in the late 1990s, so, too, did it die a rapid death, burning out no more than five years into the 21st century.

But unlike glam metal, nu-metal's million-dollar heroes didn't have a cable television network to crawl home to -- instead, they vanished from the world of "heavy music" entirely.

Limp Bizkit? Gone. System of a Down? Gone. Kid Rock?

Metalcore is next. The pig squeals and single-note breakdowns? They are no different than the rapped vocals and light switch dynamics of nu metal: gimmicks that, over time, will lose their luster once the current generation of carpal-tunnel, ADD, social-network junkies find another brand of "unique," "ironic" music to serve as the soundtrack to their suburban, middle-class depression.

Here are their executioners -- bands who have killed before, and given the chance, will kill again. 

In this murderers' row, you will find no flannel shirts, no trucker hats, neither hair gel nor eyeliner -- simply skullcrushing, christraping heavy metal -- the way Odin intended it.

If you are a false don''t entry
because you''ll be burned and died.

-- Sarcofago

Gorguts - Obscura

That Obscura comes a year before this article's cutoff date does not prevent it from sounding more modern than any other album you will find in the decade that proceeds it. That the majority of these songs had already been completed by 1994 just shows how far ahead of the curve Canada's Gorguts were before lineup instability permanently disrupted their ch'i.

Olympic (1998)

Mütiilation - Remains of a Ruined, Dead, Cursed Soul

France's finest export since the days of Massacra produce vile, rotting black metal, coated in a mix so grimy it sounds as if it was recorded from the bottom of the pile of bodies that graces Remains'... front cover. The wails and shrieks that pass for vocals are no less unsettling, and the guitar strings vibrate as if ready to snap in two, staring up at a guillotine of razorblade guitar picks. 

Drakkar Productions (1999)

Immolation - Close to a World Below

Heed the cover's warning: Immolation's parting gift to Metal Blade Records is a bundle of twisted, disfigured burning-in-hell death metal, with vocals that sound drug across molten rocks and guitar solos as smooth and fiery as the flow of lava running underfoot. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Metal Blade Records (2000)

Deströyer 666 - Phoenix Rising

From the ashes of war comes hope, and so this album paints in alternate strokes of brutality and melancholy. Melody is Deströyer 666's weapon of choice, which its guitarists wield with the power of a panzer tank rolling through a formation of tight infantry.

Season of Mist (2000)

Antaeus - Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan

Morbid Angel was much more direct with their 1986 command to Bleed for the Devil, but Antaeus' modern interpretation of a classic theme is no less successful in channeling the violence and blasphemy that runs through the veins of all who answer to the power of unholy black metal.

Baphomet Records (2000) 

Destruction - The Antichrist

To all the wannabes and has-beens who took part in this decade's "retro thrash" movement, Destruction's finest non-'80s album is a double-barreled "@#$% You." The dinosaur bands may have forgotten what speed metal what was all about; the younger groups -- despite the fact that they learned how to play along to all the right records -- might have never really understood the music in the first place; but Germany's Destruction have and always will Thrash 'Til Death.

Nuclear Blast (2001)

The Chasm - Conjuration of the Spectral Empire

2004's The Spell of Retribution aside, this decade has not seen a single release from Mexico's The Chasm that doesn't qualify as an instant death metal classic. Conjuration... receives this spotlight only because it is the A+ student standing tallest amongst a room full of Ivy-league applicants.

Witches Brew (2002)

Mithras - Worlds Beyond the Veil

Space is a topic frequently explored in heavy metal, but none have explored it to the heights that Mithras reached on their second full-length album. Though the 2007 follow-up, Behind the Shadows Lie Madness, would send the band plummetting back down to Earth, Worlds Beyond the Veil is a work that will remain forever-etched in the stratosphere.

Golden Lake (2003)

At War With Self - Torn Between Dimensions

That "progressive" music often manages to say so little with so many notes only demonstrates why knowing how to play an instrument is a totally separate skill from knowing how to play music; while most "prog supergroups" are too caught up in technical excess of their own playing to bother getting their hands dirty in any serious composing, At War With Self's 2005 debut proves that great musicians, occasionally, can also be great composers.

Free Electric Sound (2005)

Averse Sefira - Tetragrammatical Astygmata

The tritone, also known as "The Devil's Interval," once again provides the harmonic foundation for Averse Sefira's mix of black metal and ancient symbolism. Buildings may crack and crumble, but no one -- not even the band themselves -- will topple this edifice of malice and hatred.

Evil Horde Records (2005)

Crimson Massacre - The Luster of Pandemonium

Had Sweden's At the Gates not fallen into a diabetes-induced coma upon completion of the first three tracks from 1993's With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness, this very well could have been the type of album that Alf Svennson's baby eventually matured into, had its development not been disrupted (and ultimately thwarted) by domestic disputes. Milton's image of a tyrannical, underdog Satan looms in the center of this modern death metal classic.

Deathgasm (2005)

Sorcier des Glaces - Moonrise in Total Darkness

While this one-man-group's second album was actually written way back in 1999, it did not see a public release until seven years after its completion, by which time its talent for crafting fine melodies had become a welcome reprieve from the mindless blasting and melodrama of Hot Topic bands like Dark Funeral and Dimmu Borgir.

Mankind (2006)

Summoning - Oath Bound

After reaching the summit of symphonic metal on their 1996 classic, Dol Guldur, Summoning tumbled back down the bottom of the hill with a pair of missteps in 1999's Stronghold and 2001's Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame. But in 2006, Summoning surprised their doubters by returning from a five-year hiatus to produce, in Oath Bound, their best, most consistent album to date.

Napalm Records (2006)

Profanatica - Profanatitas De Domonatia

Despite reforming in 2001, Paul Ledney's Profanatica did not actually release a new album until 2007. The time between, it seems, was spent crafting some of the best material Ledney has been associated with since his early days as a drummer/vocalist in Incantation and Revenant.

Hell's Headbangers (2007)

Master - Slaves to Society

Easily their best effort since 1991's legendary, On the Seventh Day..., Master's latest album proves that basic, d-beat death metal is not a dead format, but remains -- still -- a powerful, relevant vehicle for musical expression.

Twilight-Vertrieb (2007)

Skepticism - Alloy

Skepticism's brilliant career is one of the few arguments against the scientific theory that all doom metal must be A) derivative Black Sabbath or B) more akin to indie rock or hippie jam music than actual heavy metal. Instead, Skepticism's grinding, pipe-organ harmonies bring the band closer to classical music than anything existing in the lower, evolutionary category of rock 'n' roll.

Red Stream (2008)

Portal - Swarth

It's rare to see a group that, three albums into their career, is still taking significant steps towards improving their sound rather than turning on the auto-pilot controls or nosediving to a violent, firey death. But as you may have guessed from the wizard hats and executionor masks that appear in their photo shoots and live performances, Portal -- both aesthetically and musically -- are no ordinary band.

Profound Lore Records (2009)

Beherit - Engram

Fourteen-year breaks between albums usually aren't a sign of a healthy band, but for Beherit, the extended leave only seems to have replinshed the band's venom. While many of this decade's reunions seemed like little more than an attempt to capitalize off the revived interest in heavy music, Beherit, with Engram's opening statement, insist they are only back "because, I just @#$%ing hate this world." After 40 minutes of uncompromising black metal, who is left to argue?

Spinefarm (2009)

 Never trust your eyes; things are always worse than they appear in the best of times and better than they appear in the worst times of them all.


  • dave 5 years ago

    you suck born of osiris is the best metal band ever

  • Cryptic 5 years ago

    This article is great, and full of truth. Metal founded solely on image and gimmicks is doomed to a swift, pathetic death.

  • Cryptic 5 years ago

    This article is great, and full of truth. Metal founded solely on image and gimmicks is doomed to a swift, pathetic death.

  • Metal of Death 5 years ago

    Hails, great list and article!

  • Profile picture of Kollgrim
    Kollgrim 4 years ago

    This is an exceptional list, very helpful. Keep up the good work!

  • Boomhauer 3 years ago

    Engram is a half-baked piece of crap.

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