Best Songs of the 2000s
The people we reached out to include many facets of the industry so we got input from a wide range of folks. The list below is a celebration of heavy metal's free-spirited variety.
10. Lacuna Coil -- 'Heaven's a Lie' from 'Comalies' (2002)
Cristina Scabbia gets tons of press for her gorgeous looks but her work with Lacuna Coil has given her a career most hard rock and metal singers would kill for. 'Heaven's a Lie' is the song most people first heard her and Lacuna Coil. There's nothing extravagant about the arrangement and the guitar parts are far from techy but it's the Herculean chorus and overall vocal melody lines that make 'Heaven's a Lie' so momentous. In a cooler universe, this song would have been a top-five smash single.
9. Every Time I Die -- 'Ebolarama' from 'Hot Damn!' (2003)
Metalcore gets a bad rap these days but back in 2003 Every Time I Die had a lot of people betting the farm on the subgenre. The Buffalo bad boys have taken their sound into a rockier direction on their last two albums but on 'Hot Damn!' they had more 'metal' in their metalcore. 'Ebolarama' is the record's crowning moment. They cram the song with an endless array of riffs but they thread them together with expert ease and everything sounds like it belongs there which is one of metalcore's biggest failures.
But the praise doesn't end their folks! 'Ebolarama' also swings like nobody's business. Refused also had traditional rock roots peaking out of their frenzied material but ETID show off their MC5 boogie parts in full display. In one part lead vocalist Keith Buckley even declares, "... this is a rock 'n' roll takeover," and who are we to question him? The band takes just under three minutes to decimate their so-called peers of the day.
8. Opeth -- 'Windowpane' from 'Damnation' (2003)
This epic sounds like a long lost gem you would have heard from some obscure prog band on the Harvest Records label in the early '70s. The sweeping rhythms during the introduction dictate the feel of the song while lush keyboards caress the open spaces in between the vocal parts. Mikael Åkerfeldt's restrained performance on the singing side of the arrangement falls in perfectly with the hushed surroundings. His and Peter Lindgren's tasteful guitar work on 'Windowpane' reveal a pair of musicians who truly know that the song comes before the player. Though it's far from their heaviest track, 'Windowpane' is Opeth's most accomplished songwriting moment.
7. Stratovarius -- 'Hunting High and Low' from 'Infinite' (2000)
Power metal doesn't do big business in the States but during the early '00s, it wasn't that out of the ordinary to find bands like Hammerfall sitting next to pop stars on the charts throughout Europe. Of that era, no song is better than Stratovarius's 'Hunting High and Low.' The Finnish quintet know their way around a melodic hook and this stunner has one so undeniable in their chorus that all it takes is one listen for it to gets its impaled inside your head. This song is like the natural counterpart to Helloween's equally essential 'I Want Out' single from 1988. Like that song, 'Hunting High and Low' is the kind of anthem that will never go out of style.
6. Mastodon -- 'Oblivion' from 'Crack the Skye' (2009)
The opening track from one of this year's best albums has a lot going for it. Let's break it all down by its separate strengths. Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher's Thin Lizzy by way of Iron Maiden twin guitar riff javelins are deliciously technical but at the same time catchier than the swine flu. Brann Dailor is one of the music community's most celebrated drummers and his contributions on 'Oblivion' prove he's worth the hype. Meanwhile the always reliable Troy Sanders doesn't try and get all fancy on us with his bass lines instead locking in with Dailor's exhausting kick drum arrangement.
In the chorus section, Hinds casts the spirit of Black Sabbath era Ozzy in his vocals lending the cut even more of a classic metal touch. 'Oblivion' exists in a weird artistic place that is forward-thinking but by the same token conjures up a sort of nostalgia when you hear it. Whatever black magic they used to awaken this monster of a song should be bottled up and sold in stores.
5. Converge -- 'Concubine' from 'Jane Doe' (2001)
This unholy racket of a song has often been imitated but the disciples have fallen short. Kurt Ballou's migraine inducing guitar parts alone are worth the admission but it's the manic immediacy of the arrangement that lands it on this list. Entire sections fracture apart in odd moments as if the musicians had seizures in the middle of recoding them. Jacob Bannon caterwauls like he's infected with rabies and Ben Koller treats his drum kit like it did something bad to him. 'Concubine' is the sickest thing that Converge have ever put on tape.
4. Pig Destroyer -- 'Natasha' from 'Terrifyer' (2004)
Our panel picked a lot of Pig Destroyer songs but the irony is that one of the most uncharacteristic selections from their catalog won a place here. The Virginia act built their reputation largely on the back of their hyper speed grindcore skills but 'Natasha' is a world apart from that realm. The song clocks in at over 30 minutes and it's one of the frightening things the metal world has ever produced. The song has more in common with the doom metal of bands like Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus than the breakneck attacks of most of their discography. In a song with many creeped-out moments, it's the quieter parts on 'Natasha' that drive chills down your spine. If you let yourself get lost in the experience, you might even forget that you're listening to Pig Destroyer. Critics have described the music of artists like Rob Zombie horror metal but he has nothing on PxDx.
3. Slipknot -- 'Left Behind' from 'Iowa' (2001)
This Iowa murder squad has had more chaotic and lyrically disturbing songs than 'Left Behind' but this is the track where most of the band's most compelling sonic traits come together the best. In the relatively short span of just over four minutes Slipknot unleash shadings of death metal, thrash, and a lot of the in-between stuff, and somehow make it come off uncluttered. Not only that, their busy musical fusion is completely intoxicating. The bottom end pulsates like Godzilla stomping through Tokyo while the guitars slither in between the beats like anacondas.
Corey Taylor does it all on 'Left Behind.' One moment he's screaming like he's fronting 1991 era Godflesh and then the next he's smoothly crooning a section in the hooky chorus. This song was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in the 2002 but lost out to the aforementioned single 'Schism' from Tool. At least Slipknot lost out to someone cool.
"There is a part of me that's always sixteen / I've found the secret of eternal youth / Some get high on life or money / But there's an escape / Drop out of the race / To walk through the world by one's self / You can't be protected / Your trust is in whisky, weed and Black Sabbath / It's goddamn electric"
1. Tool -- 'Schism' from 'Lateralus' (2001)
One of the biggest misconceptions outsiders have of metal is that all of the songs are exploding with hurried energy. 'Schism' from Tool is the antithesis of that idea. Rather than lay everything out early in the arrangement, the song is a slow burning movement that is more meditative than anything else. That doesn't mean there aren't headbanging worthy parts within. The mountain high riffs Tool are known for seep their way into the track but the hypnotic pacing is the key here.
Adam Jones's pastoral guitar passages and Danny Carey's pounding tom toms carry the spacey ambience of top notch shoegaze and Maynard Keenan sets down some of the most impassioned singing we heard the entire decade. Modern rock stations may still have 'Schism' in their rotations but there wouldn't be Tool without heavy metal.