At the dawn of a new millennium, the world of heavy music was in a state of upheaval. Classic traditional metal bands but out some of their best work in decades, but many of these records went largely unheard in a post-grunge landscape dominated by nü-metal and new media. Times have changed, and a renewed appreciation for quality metal makes this the perfect moment to highlight some fantastic music that either get the love it deserved when it came out.
These are the Most Underrated Metal Albums Of The 2000s
King Diamond – Give Me Your Soul… Please
Sure, he’s headlining festivals again both as a solo act and with his main band, but it sure didn’t seem like anyone was paying attention when King Diamond released his 12th studio album back in 2007. It’s a damn shame too, as Give Me Your Soul… Please is easily his best record since the occult metal god’s heyday in the 1980s. Filled to the brim with killer tracks and a production that fits seamlessly alongside more celebrated albums like Abigail and Them, this unsung gem is prime for rediscovery.
Pantera – Reinventing The Steel
Released at the most tumultuous time in their storied career, Pantera reassessed their tried and true formula of getting heavier with every record (and really, how were they supposed to get more heavy than The Great Southern Trendkill?) with their ninth and final album to date. Leaning into their Judas Priest inspired past while while taking a number of southern fried sludgy hints from contemporaries like Eyehategod, Reinventing The Steel is a masterclass in pure heavy metal from a band with the history and the chops to flex as hard as they want. Coming during the nü-metal explosion, it didn’t get the recognition it so rightfully deserved.
Celtic Frost – Monotheist
After a string of genre-transcendent albums in the 1980s, Swiss extreme metal legends Celtic frost seemingly napalmed their career when they went full glam with 1988’s disastrous Cold Lake. Although they tried to right the ship two years later with the goth metal epic Vanity/Nemesis, it was too little too late and the band went on hiatus for the next 16 years. Fortunately, Tom G. Warrior and company had refilled the creative tank well past the brim by 2006, when they unleashed their stellar comeback album, Monothiest. A perfect marriage of doomy soundscapes and first wave black metal brutality that is held together with masterful precision, it stands shoulder to shoulder with the apex of Celtic Frost’s catalog and features some of their very best work.
Dio – Magica
You can’t keep a good man down. After the mid- ’90s grunge misstep of Angry Machines, Ronnie James Dio yet again recalibrated his solo band and took full ownership of his fantastic side. The result was Magica, a multi-layered concept album that makes for the best of Dio’s late-period records. As the mastermind said of the narrative theme: “Magica is the saga of Blessing, a netherworld invaded by dark forces that vaporize people into pure, evil energy. I left the ending ambivalent because evil always exists, good doesn’t always triumph and that’s the universal balance.” It might sound a little cynical, but after surviving the 1990s… who could blame the guy?
Iron Age – The Sleeping Eye
They might not be a household name in quite the same way as their progeny are, but it’s impossible to overstate the impact that Texas juggernauts Iron Age had on the landscape of modern heavy metal. While their 2006 debut LP Constant Struggle was a phenomenal exercise in Cro-Mags worship, it wasn’t until the band allowed their traditional heavy metal influences simmering at the surface to boil over on 2009’s crossover masterpiece The Sleeping Eye that Iron Age truly showed the world what they were capable of. A relentless onslaught of expertly calculated guitar hooks and tastefully complex grooves delivered with the sincerity and ferocity that only comes from a lifetime of dedication to the underground. Like countrymen Pantera did before them, Iron Age threw out the rule book and redefined what it meant to be a heavy metal band.
Gorguts – From Wisdom to Hate
Given the current ubiquitousness of the genre, it’s hard to believe that death metal ever suffered a commercial downturn. However, the grunge boom and the advent of nü-metal in the mid ‘90s are exactly what cost Gorguts their contract with Roadrunner Records after just two albums. Instead of dumbing down their sound for a wider audience, the Canadian tyrants opted to indulge their deepest technical whims in 1998 with Obscura; a deeply polarizing album that is now considered a tech-death masterpiece but was reviled by fans at the time who expected a straight bludgeoning. They corrected course a bit in 2001 with From Wisdom To Hate, a much more traditional death metal affair than its predecessor that still retained a strong backbone of jazz experimentation and atonal terror.
Outlaw Order – Dragging Down The Enforcer
Louisiana sludge miscreants Eyehategod are probably just as well known for their troubled reputations as for the music they make. Pioneers and champions of a blistering brand of drug and booze soaked hardcore-infused doom metal that has become synonymous with the greater New Orleans area, the band’s ability to tour was often limited due to members’ jail sentences, probation restrictions, or (in better days) commitments to other projects. Formed as a way to keep active while drummer Jimmy Bower was busy with Down, Outlaw Order featured key players of Eyehategod and the New Orleans sludge scene who were literally all on probation at the time. While not entirely dissimilar from their full-time band, the music on Dragging Down The Enforcer operates as an inverse of sorts. If Eyehategod sounds like Poison Idea covering Saint Vitus, Outlaw Order sounds like Saint Vitus covering Poison Idea.
Insect Warfare – World Extermination
They might only have the one proper studio album to their name, but nobody in their right minds would consider Insect Warfare anything short of prolific. Having released a constant stream of EPs and splits in the course of their thirteen year career, the Houston grind merchants broke the fucking mold in 2007 when they committed to the full-length format and released World Extermination. Stripped down and operating without a hint of pretension, the tracks herein are condensed bursts of expertly crafted, razor-sharp savagery. Fiercely loyal to the underground, it is rightfully considered one of the greatest grind records of all time to those in the know yet remains largely unheard and unheralded by modern generations.
Vader – Litany
While not as well known as their North American counterparts, Polish berserkers Vader are an essential component to the worldwide death metal scene. Founded all the way back in 1983, the band only released a handful of periodic demos before finally unleashing their legendary debut full-length, The Ultimate Incantation, in 1992. While many extreme metal bands languished in the changing musical tides of the new millennium, Vader released what is arguably their best album in the year 2000. A downtuned onslaught of drum-heavy madness that serves to replicate the violence and chaos of a battlefield, Litany benefits from a razor sharp production that keeps an emphasis on booming low-end while retaining impeccable clarity on the guitars. It’s a stunning record and should be required listening for anyone who claims to take death metal seriously.
Morbid Angel – Gateways To Annihilation
No matter how musically astounding the records are, the Steve Tucker era of Morbid Angel will never get the same kind of love that the David Vincent albums do (well, excluding Illud Divinum Insanus… but you know what I mean). It’s a sad fact that goes double for the full-length that the band made with virtuoso guitarist Erik Rutan during this period, 2000s incredible Gateways To Annihilation LP. A subtly technical monstrosity that somehow borders on the symphonic at points, the album never appears needlessly flashy or pretentious. Dark and ferocious as can be, it’s nothing shy of a masterpiece. You might not see as many Gateways To Annihilation t-shirts as you do Altars Of Madness, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the classics.