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10 Best Metal Riffs of the 2000s

Matt Pike, Bill Kelliher, Synyster Gates
Liz Ramanand, Loudwire / Mark Metcalfe, Getty Images / Ethan Miller, Getty Images

The first decade of the 2000s is still pretty fresh in everyone’s minds as we were bombarded by a wealth of different stylings in heavy metal. Nu-metal and alternative metal dominated the earlier part of the decade, metalcore in the mid half, and an array of genres in the later half. It was a decade where simplicity and technicality both reached respective heights with bands ranging from Godsmack to Necrophagist. Regardless of their differences, these bands managed to churn out some timeless riffs.

When going through this list, you’ll notice radical differences from one to the next, proving that the 2000s was one of the most dynamic decades in metal. Of course, everyone has their preferences and favorites that they hold dear to them and some of these selections might be entirely new to fans. Going through an explosive decade in heavy music and narrowing this down to the 10 Best Metal Riffs of the 2000s was in no way an easy task, so take a look at some riffs that helped to define the first decade of the new millennium!


10

'Awake'

Godsmack
 
 

Godsmack take a hard edge to their musical approach, combining simple song structures and hooks with decidedly heavy riffing. The song 'Awake' opens up the album of the same name with a bang. It isn't often that strumming yields devastating results on a guitar, but this is what has always separated the alternative metal band from so many others.

 
9

'Stabwound'

Necrophagist
 
 

In 2004, Necrophagist didn't just blow doors open, but completely smashed them to pieces in regards to the technical death metal swarm that came immediately following this album. Neoclassical guitar playing weaves its way around the brutal death metal fabric and 'Stabwound' serves as the poster child for the genre. Necrophagist weren't the first techdeath band on the scene, but legions of guitar players have followed suit aping the style laid down here.

 
8

'11th Hour'

Lamb of God
 
 

Lamb of God were one of the biggest bands to come from the crop of metalcore acts that reigned supreme in the early-2000s. Blending heavy influences from Pantera and Testament, they paved their own way while paying tribute to their idols. '11th Hour' demonstrates lead playing alternated with rhythmic chugging that defined the genre and inspired young guitar players.

 
7

'Beast and the Harlot'

Avenged Sevenfold
 
 

With a melody-driven guitar attack, Avenged Sevenfold blend a heavy metal approach with soaring vocal hooks and straightforward song structure. The riff that opens up 'Beast and the Harlot' is the hallmark of the band's sound. The lead playing gives way to a rhythmic variation of the riff to get the rest of the song flowing before things really get started.

 
6

'Blessed Black Wings'

High on Fire
 
 

Before starting High on Fire, Matt Pike wrote some of the best Black Sabbath-inspired riffs with Sleep. He continued to flex his riffing muscles with his new band and write arguably the best riff between the two groups with 'Blessed Black Wings.' As the lone guitar player, Pike's role is to fill the void left by an absence of a second guitarist and does it perfectly opening up this song. The guitar roars, unleashing a surge of power and riffing domination.

 
5

'Rational Gaze'

Meshuggah
 
 

Meshuggah acquired custom 8 string guitars and subsequently re-recorded their 'Nothing' album with their new brand of downtuned madness. 'Rational Gaze' is one of the band's best songs, boasting a catchy groove at the beginning of the song. Meshuggah influenced what came to be the djent genre and it is almost impossible to go to an extreme metal show without seeing at least one band utilizing 8 string guitars popularized by the pioneering Swedish act.

 
4

'Schism'

Tool
 
 

It isn't often we get treated with such a memorable bass riff, but Tool have never been the ones to do anything the traditional way. 'Lateralus' helped the cement the band's legendary status even firmer, especially with the help of 'Schism.' The song saw heavy airplay on rock and metal radio stations, undoubtedly because of the unforgettable bass riff that opens up the song. The guitars are played delicately over the riff, feathering what has already been laid down.

 
3

'Down With the Sickness'

Disturbed
 
 

Disturbed are one of the decade's breakout bands. Following the "Ooh-wah-ah-ah-ah" vocal from David Draiman, the song 'Down With the Sickness' kicks into a monster riff from Dan Donegan that helped Disturbed invade rock radio with their debut album, 'The Sickness.' The band proved that a simple groove is sometimes all that you need, and Disturbed went on to become one of the biggest acts of the 2000s.

 
2

'Aerials'

System of a Down
 
 

System of a Down are one of the most unique acts to emerge in the past 15 years and their 2001 album 'Toxicity' is a modern classic. While there's several songs off the disc that are memorable, when it comes to riffs, 'Aerials' is the one that sticks in your head like no other. Following a haunting bass line, the track puffs its chest out with a meaty guitar riff that adds some metal power to an otherwise highly melodic song.

 
1

'Blood and Thunder'

Mastodon
 
 

Mastodon are one of the most fascinating bands to come out of the post-Y2K era of metal. From aggressive and humble beginnings, they have evolved over the course of their career, becoming one of metal's most successful acts without compromising anything. 'Blood and Thunder' kicks off the pivotal release 'Leviathan,' and helped bring stoner metal and the dirty Southern grooves to a brighter spotlight. The riff in Mastodon's 'Blood and Thunder' is as powerful as the song's title, which is why it sits atop this list of the 10 Best Metal Riffs of the 2000s.

 

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