We kick off our 2019 Best Of coverage with something a bit different. Senior Editor Greg Kennelty decided to compile a list of 150 albums he thinks you need to hear from the last decade. More Best Of lists coming all December.
Some albums become a part of who you are. They become so closely attached to specific memories that hearing even the opening seconds instantly brings you back to a place and a time. This list of 150 records is more than a collection of albums that stuck with me over the past decade because of their fantastic music. They're attached to a lot of diverse moments – from beautifully scenic and solitary drives, to creating bonds with lifelong friends; from the difficult days of mental black clouds, to grieving the deaths of cousins and grandparents. These bands are the overarching soundtrack to the past decade of my life, and these albums are the ones that mean the most to me.
This list is purposefully unranked. Attempting to rank 150 albums I love for roughly 150 different reasons is completely arbitrary. Instead, this is presented in alphabetical order with an accompanying Spotify playlist of my favorite song from each (found at the end of the post and also at this link), and links to the full albums on YouTube (just click the album names).
Abigail Williams – The Accuser (2015)
Abigail Williams drops the symphonic elements and goes for a straight-on approach to grimy, desolate, blackened death metal.
The Acacia Strain – Death is the Only Mortal (2012)
The Acacia Strain picks up some influence from Meshuggah and does far more pummeling than moshing.
Aegaeon – Dissension (2011)
The textbook on how to make deathcore with orchestral elements that meshes all its instrumentation flawlessly.
After the Burial – In Dreams (2010)
After the Burial sticks to shred and time signature confusion, though with a much catchier edge than previous efforts.
Anaal Nathrakh – Vanitas (2012)
38 minutes of nothing but grinding nihilistic hate toward everything under the sun.
Ancestors – Suspended in Reflections (2018)
Journey into the technicolor thoughts of a band whose sound is best defined as progressive dream doom.
Animals as Leaders – The Joy of Motion (2014)
Animals as Leaders finally leans way harder into their love of jazz and other non-metal genres for tastefully musical results.
Aquilus – Griseus (2011)
More symphonic than metal, Aquilus crafts one of the most subtly horrifying albums of the decade.
Archspire – Relentless Mutation (2017)
Archspire moves at speeds that seem damn near impossible while still making well-written technical death metal.
The Atomic Bitchwax – Gravitron (2015)
Gravitron is a masterclass in writing progressive, psychedelic stoner rock with entertaining stories in the lyrics.
Baroness – Purple (2015)
Baroness' shortest record to date is all massive choruses, driving stripped down rock, and gritty production.
Barren Earth – On Lonely Towers (2015)
On Lonely Towers is what would happen if Opeth and Amorphis had a baby.
Beardfish – Mammoth (2011)
Beardfish throws a little King Crimson-esque hard rock into their usual 70s prog, keyboard-heavy sound.
Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper (2018)
Bell Witch explores grieving the loss of drummer and cofounder Adrian Guerra in one long, sorrowful track.
Black Crown Initiate – Song of the Crippled Bull (2013)
Black Crown Initiate comes out of nowhere with a thematically-connected EP that tops the progressive death metal game.
The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers (2017)
Every song on Nightbringers is peak musical The Black Dahlia Murder. Trevor Strnad's lyrics have never been creepier.
Blood Incantation – Hidden History of the Human Race (2019)
Awakening from years of seeking the perfect cosmic death metal record to this multifaceted effort from Blood Incantation.
Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral (2014)
Bloodbath's first effort with Paradise Lost vocalist Nick Holmes is straight from the grave and encrusted with years of rot.
Born of Osiris – The Discovery (2011)
Born of Osiris ascends to higher planes of existence across 16 tracks. If Obscura attempted deathcore, this is it.
Bummer – Holy Terror (2018)
Pissed off noise rock with the mentality of "caveman" death metal, Bummer knows only how to hit as hard as possible.
Carach Angren – Where the Corpses Sink Forever (2012)
The horrors of war personified and told through the cold voice of the beyond.
Chimp Spanner – All Roads Lead Here (2012)
Djent-strumental that was head and shoulders above the droves of eight-string wielding bedroom warriors of the time.
The Contortionist – Clairvoyant (2017)
The Contortionist marries their deathcore roots with the jazz and pop hooks that had slowly been creeping into their music.
Crosses – Crosses (2014)
Deftones singer Chino Moreno, Far guitarist Shaun Lopez, and bassist Chuck Doom made a trip-hop album.
Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas – Mariner (2016)
Kings of post-metal Cult of Luna and unique vocalist Julie Christmas make an album about space exploration. It's amazing.
Cynic – Kindly Bent to Free Us (2014)
Cynic abandons progressive death metal in favor of a more psychedelic approach, and to great affect.
Daath – Daath (2010)
Everyone in this band is a mutant at their instrument and it never fails to shows.
Daylight Dies – A Frail Becoming (2012)
Daylight Dies casts Scandinavian levels of depressing doom across the world from not-so-depressing North Carolina.
Dead Now – Dead Now (2018)
Ex-Torche vocalist and guitarist Andrew Elstner hashes out chunkier, weirder, longer rock songs than with his former band.
Deafheaven – New Bermuda (2015)
Deafheaven takes a step back from being purely blackgaze to bring in some Slayer riffs.
Deftones – Diamond Eyes (2010)
Written after Chi Cheng's accident and scrapping Eros, Deftones gets heavier and groover than you heard them in a while.
Der Weg einer Freiheit – Stellar (2015)
Unrelenting, dynamic black metal with moments of sun-eclipsing darkness that build toward obliterating climaxes.
Destrage – The King is Fat'n'Old (2010)
Destrage weirdly marries thrash, a little metalcore, and the short attention spans of nü-metal into something incredible.
The Dillinger Escape Plan – One of Us is the Killer (2013)
One of us must die, but the killer won’t survive (the onslaught of mathcore and neck-breaking dynamic shifts).
Dodecahedron – Dodecahedron (2012)
Avant-garde black metal that draws on influences like Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord, and Ulcerate.
Doom:VS – Earthless (2014)
Johan Ericson moves just a hair faster than funeral doom to get across his solemn points.
Elder – Lore (2013)
What if early Yes was around when stoner rock was coming to prominence?
Elephant Tree – Elephant Tree (2016)
What if The Wall-era Pink Floyd was around when stoner rock was coming to prominence, but wrote way shorter songs?
Eneferens – In the Hours Beneath (2016)
Home brewed blackened doom that heavily trods the paths of clean guitars and soaring clean vocals.
Enslaved – In Times (2015)
Float on the viking-ravaged seas. Look toward the cold shores. It's raining and there is light coming from the forest.
Extol – Extol (2013)
Extol returns after eight years for one final album that leans very heavily into their Undeceived-esque progressive roots.
The Faceless – Autotheism (2012)
The Faceless abandons endless technicality to bring in organs, clean vocals, saxophones, and acoustic guitars. It's great.
Fair to Midland – Arrows & Anchors (2011)
Fair to Midland bows out of existence with a collection of catchy songs that kick ass, groove hard, and are a little unsettling.
Fallujah – The Flesh Prevails (2014)
Ambient technical death that looks toward the stars as much as it does scorching the earth.
Fates Warning – Theories of Flight (2016)
Fates Warning effortlessly proves why they're the forefathers of modern progressive metal.
Full of Hell – Weeping Choir (2019)
Weeping Choir is a maelstrom of noise and chaos, harsh industrial grime, and straightforward death metal.
Galar – De Gjenlevende (2015)
Choral arrangements, woodwinds, and pianos make their way into this Norwegian black metal trio's third effort.
Gates – Bloom & Breathe (2014)
Gates might dazzle with their sparkling instrumentation and melodies, but their lyrics are going to make you cry.
Ghost – Opus Eponymous (2010)
Ghost channels Mercyful Fate and King Diamond on their lo-fi debut album.
Glassjaw – Material Control (2017)
Post-hardcore with lots of weird noises and a rhythm section that sounds like getting punched in the face every single hit.
God Forbid – Equilibrium (2012)
Metalcore that draws on melodic death metal, God Forbid's final effort punctuates their career with an exclamation point.
Gojira – L'enfant sauvage (2012)
You want Morbid Angel pick scrapes, waves of chugging, and meticulously intricate drumming? You got it.
Gorod – A Perfect Absolution (2015)
Gorod masters the art of making technical music that switches style from song-to-song, yet remains undeniably Gorod.
Gridlink – Longhena (2014)
Grindcore veterans stuff emotion, beauty, and violence into a short time. Longhena is simply a landmark in the genre.
Haken – Visions (2011)
Early Dream Theater-esque prog metal album about a boy who tries to avoid the death he sees in his dreams.
Here Lies Man – Here Lies Man (2017)
What if Black Sabbath was an afrobeat band?
High on Fire – Snakes for the Divine (2010)
Stoner thrash? Check. Filthy sludge? Check. Matt Pike riffs? For days and days.
Ihsahn – After (2010)
Ihsahn writes everything from classic twin guitar heavy metal to 10+ minute opus that stomp forth on frozen ground.
Imperial Triumphant – Vile Luxury (2018)
The soundtrack to a version of an Art Deco-only New York city that's rotting from the inside out.
In Vain – Ænigma (2013)
Norwegian progressive melodic death metal reminiscent of Enslaved and In Mourning.
Insomnium – Winter's Gate (2016)
Freeze to death as Insomnium ventures across the rolling ice plains of the mind, singing epic and melodic songs.
Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows (2016)
Sludge with blasting and stonewall riffs that aims only to suffocate you in the darkness.
Intronaut – Habitual Levitations (2013)
Like Mastodon, Tool, and a fretless bass having a dolphin baby that dropped out of life with bong in hand.
Iron Thrones – The Wretched Sun (2010)
Current Skeletonwitch vocalist Adam Clemans used to be into way longer, multi-part songs.
Job for a Cowboy – Sun Eater (2014)
Job for a Cowboy recruits Cephalic Carnage & ex-Intronaut members to explore the nuances of their death metal sound.
Junius – Reports From the Threshold of Death (2011)
Likely what you'll hear seconds after passing away, Junius crafts the equivalent of an infinite warm light enveloping your soul.
Katatonia – Dead End Kings (2012)
Jonas Renkse tells stories of darkness overtop a band whose sound is akin to hearing midnight.
Kauan – Sorni Nai (2015)
One long, slow epic telling the tragedy of the 1959 Dyatlov Pass incident.
Khemmis – Hunted (2016)
Khemiss bestows upon themselves the crown to the kingdom of doom.
Killer Be Killed – Killed Be Killed (2014)
Members of Soulfly, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon, and ex-The Mars Volta groove along and destroy all.
Krallice – Go Be Forgotten (2017)
Krallice breaks out the keyboards and atmospheres for a black metal album that's more experimental than it is evil.
Last Chance to Reason – Level 2 (2011)
Last Chance to Reason are trapped in your computer, but they've gained its ability to make sounds. Upload complete. Forever.
Leprous – Coal (2013)
Everything from the usual Leprous bombast to well-executed minimalism, Coal is a trip.
A Life Once Lost – Ecstatic Trance (2012)
One rhythm per song with a few riffs caught in its orbit and simple drums grounding the experiment.
Lillake – Lillake (2016)
Ex-Suicidal Tendencies and ex-The Faceless members craft a uniquely melodic thrash punk record.
Magic Circle – Departed Souls (2019)
Like Led Zeppelin and Candlemass with more keyboards and maybe a little LSD.
Mastodon – Once More 'Round the Sun (2014)
Mastodon stops trying to be progressive and dive headfirst into radio-friendly hard rock territory.
Memfis – Vertigo (2011)
Sweden's best kept secret, and one that should've been recognized alongside bands like Burst and C.B. Murdoc.
Meshuggah – Koloss (2012)
Meshuggah finally has the production they've always needed. Koloss sounds roomy and colossal, bringing the band to life.
Misery Signals – Absent Light (2013)
Misery Signals comes back after five years with some new orchestral twists on their proggy metalcore sound.
Monolord – No Comfort (2019)
Reaching down to the depths of low end, Monolord dredges up tones miles beyond your standard Sabbath worship band.
Moon Tooth – Crux (2019)
Crux is high-energy rock, face-melting progressive metal, a little blues and jazz, and loads of mind-bending guitar work.
Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma (2018)
The Incubus of Karma is what you hear if you travel too far into outer space and accidentally encounter god.
Mutoid Man – War Moans (2017)
Converge & Cave In members' third album solidifies them as songwriters masters with a unique understanding of melody.
Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat (2015)
Napalm Death grinds along with plenty of punk and experimental touches.
Ne Obliviscaris – Citadel (2014)
Citadel is an opus of untouchable proportion. Classical violin meets prog death metal, Ne Obliviscaris crafted a masterwork.
Obscura – Akróasis (2016)
Obscura gets adventurous with fretless guitars, vocoders, and string quartets alongside their usual blindingly fast affairs.
Obsidian Kingdom – Mantiis (2012)
You are being held captive by men in black cars. It's almost five o' clock. Or maybe you're not, and it isn't.
The Ocean – Pelagial (2013)
The Ocean travels to the bottom of the ocean to fulfill their wishes, learning this may have been a mistake along the way.
Old Man Gloom – No (2012)
Ex-Isis, Zozobra, Converge, and Cave In members make sludge noises and noise noises.
Omnium Gatherum – New World Shadows (2011)
Like sleeping in the ruins of a world, staring up at the star-studded sky, and knowing that somewhere close there are others.
Opeth – Pale Communion (2014)
All the best (non-screamy) bits of Ghost Reveries and Heritage thrown into a blender from the 70s.
Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction (2012)
There is fear in the cosmos. It is slow moving. You will face it alone and you will think about your regrets.
Panopticon – Autumn Eternal (2015)
Austin Lunn emerges from the woods with a perfect representation of his bluegrass-tinged black metal.
Paradise Lost – The Plague Within (2015)
Dreary English death doom that just can't find any hope in sight for miles and miles.
Pears – Green Star (2016)
Frantic, shreddy Louisiana punk rock whose influences range from Metallica to A Wilhelm Scream.
Periphery – Periphery II: This Time it's Personal (2012)
Devoid of old djent-heavy demos, Periphery turns to a new, progressive sound with electronica influence.
The Physics House Band – Horizon / Rapture (2013)
Experimental instrumental trio hopping between instruments to create beautifully twisted psychedelic experimental rock.
Pig Destroyer – Book Burner (2012)
Pig Destroyer wanted to make a fast and brutal grind record. Pig Destroyer made a fast and brutal grind record.
Pilgrim – Misery Wizard (2012)
Vocalist and guitarist Jonathan M. Rossi passed on too soon. What we have left is his flawless, albeit too brief, doom legacy.
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness (2016)
The Pineapple Thief snags ex-Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison for a fantastic alt rock progressive record.
Power Trip – Nightmare Logic (2017)
Thrash that should get every single person with ears ready to punch someone.
Primitive Man – Caustic (2017)
The sound of just hating everything in slow motion.
Propagandhi – Victory Lap (2017)
Political punk rock that has more in common with technical 80s thrash than it does with anything else.
Protest the Hero – Volition (2013)
Then-Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler teams up with Protest the Hero for a catchy, blistering chunk of metal.
Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork (2013)
Elton John, Trent Reznor, Nick Oliveri, Mark Lanegan and more contribute to this desert rock classic.
Rikard Sjöblom's Gungfly – Friendship (2018)
Post-Beardfish Rikard Sjöblom is just as progressive as ever, though experimentation, effects, and concise structures prevail.
Royal Thunder – CVI (2012)
Mlny Parsonz's voice soars high above Royal Thunder's stripped down approach to grungy, new wave classic rock.
Rush – Clockwork Angels (2012)
Clockwork Angels is a concept album about alchemy, magic, anarchists, and the unseen Watchmaker. One of Rush's best.
The Safety Fire – Grind the Ocean (2013)
Sean McWeeney's throat-destroying yells and overtop Dez Nagle & Joaquin Ardiles's spidery prog riffs remains underrated.
Scar Symmetry – The Unseen Empire (2011)
Scar Symmetry trades in scientific lyrics for ones about the hidden hands of society overtop stadium metal riffage.
Septicflesh – The Great Mass (2011)
If this record doesn't play the day the world ends, I'm going to be pissed.
7 Horns 7 Eyes – The Throes of Absolution (2012)
7 Horns 7 Eyes makes slow tempos just as complicated as any technical band with their brand of progressive death metal.
Sleep – The Sciences (2018)
Y'all smoke weed or what.
Slice The Cake – The Man With No Face (2012)
Silly band name, deadly good progressive deathcore with just the right amount of dramatic flair.
Solution .45 – For Aeons Past (2010)
Christian Älvestam is hardly done bringing the hard-hitting, heavy hooks like he used to in Scar Symmetry.
Spawn of Possession – Incurso (2012)
The technical death metal album by which all others were judged for quite some time. What a way to end a career.
Spectral Voice – Eroded Corridors of Unbeing (2017)
Three-fourths of Blood Incantation slows things down and conjures a new dimension of cosmic terror.
Spirit Adrift – Curse of Conception (2017)
Once a doom band, Spirit Adrift has risen to be one of the leading authorities on all things American heavy metal.
Steven Wilson – Hand Cannot Erase (2015)
Ex-Porcupine Tree vocalist Steven Wilson tells the lonely death of Joyce Carol Vincent in a beautifully tragic way.
Storm Corrosion – Storm Corrosion (2012)
Speaking of Wilson, he and Opeth vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt teamed up for this trip through the demented atmospheric ether.
Sumac – What One Becomes (2016)
Ex-Isis vocalist Aaron Turner and crew explore the space between notes on this elaborate, occasionally improvisational record.
The Sword – Warp Rider (2010)
The Sword goes hard with a sci-fi concept, though all the riffing you've come to expect is certainly still there.
Thank You Scientist – Maps of Non-Existent Places (2012)
Trumpets! Violins! Saxophones! An entire rock band! Thank You Scientist is less of a prog band and more of a prog ensemble.
Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise (2014)
Thantifaxath is what happens when you want to make discordant, terrifying black metal and you're smart enough to nail it.
Tongue Party – Looking for a Painful Death (2018)
Rev up those distortion pedals kids, because Tongue Party is here to blow out all your speakers with their brand of noise rock.
Tool – Fear Inoculum (2019)
Fear Inoculum is a massively dense album that expands Tool's progressive tendencies to the absolute maximum.
Torche – Admission (2019)
Torche retains their usual tuned-to-drop-fuck-ness and throws in a few radio bangers.
Tribulation – Down Below (2018)
Gothic rock dressed up as black metal and written as the soundtrack to scorched earth where only the dead and dragons live.
Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Caesar (2017)
Ulver tells historic stories overtop electronica-heavy pop tracks. Enter the era of post-ambient Ulver, where hooks reign supreme.
Un – Sentiment (2018)
Sentiment is the beautiful, colorful veil beyond which there is only death. Embrace the slow moments during which you pass.
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – Mind Control (2013)
Tales of cults, murder, and everything else you'd ever want in an album that sounds like it was recorded at the height of Manson.
United Nations – The Next Four Years (2014)
Pissed off screamo meets post-hardcore with some blasting and tons of lyrics about chronicling one's own failures as a person.
Veil of Maya – [id] (2010)
Veil of Maya perfects their formula of incredibly techy djent-styled riffing while remaining more accessible than ever before.
Vein – errorzone (2018)
Vein‘s errorzone is a well-tuned hardcore machine that only sounds like it’s constantly on the verge of breaking.
Vildhjarta – Måsstaden (2012)
Strings bend but they never break. They only transport you to dark forests where somewhere, something is watching you.
Voivod – The Wake (2018)
A twisting labyrinth of prog nightmares that appear in the shadows and dissipate into nothing just as quickly as they came.
Whitechapel – A New Era of Corruption (2010)
Whitechapel adds a little death metal into the mix right around the time when deathcore is starting to fade.
Whores – Gold (2018)
The noise rock album of the decade. There is simply no topping what Whores has done here.
Wilderun – Sleep at the Edge of the Earth (2015)
Progressive folk metal that feels genuinely adventurous and whose musicianship is incredibly, but never overblown.
A Wilhelm Scream – Partycrasher (2013)
A Wilhelm Scream is the punk rock version of Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy, should they have listened to more thrash.
Windhand – Soma (2013)
Be warned – Windhand's brand of sludgy stoner metal might actually suffocate you to death in its overwhelming distortion.
Wintersun – Time I (2012)
The definition of an epic album. Wintersun's long-awaited Time I is a behemoth of orchestration and grandiose vocals.
Witchcraft – Legend (2012)
Witchcraft accurate sums up the entirety of the retro rock movement in one album while giving future bands detailed instruction.
Woods of Ypres – Woods V: Grey Skies & Electric Light (2012)
David Gold's finest moment proves to be his last. Woods V is a downtrodden effort rife with sorrow and regret told in baritone.
Wytch Hazel – II: Sojourn (2016)
Low distortion heavy metal that sounds more like it was recorded in a studio next door to Jethro Tull.
Xerath – II (2011)
Death metal riffing atop flourishes of strings and horns, Xerath shows off their aspirations to be movie soundtrack composers.
Xibalba – Hasta la muerte (2012)
Hasta la muerte sounds like it was recorded live in a garage by a band who were extremely pissed off that day.
Year of the Goat – Angels' Necropolis (2012)
How Year of the Goat has never been picked up by Ghost for a tour is completely beyond me.
Yob – Our Raw Heart (2018)
The torment, the fear, and the rebirth and swelling heart of one Mike Scheidt.
Hopefully you found something new to listen to through this list, and hopefully I'll hear all your opinions about this on Twitter. Here's to the next decade!