The mid-2000s saw heavy metal start to reach different heights as nu-metal was starting to fade away and a new crop of bands were poised for the global stage. In 2004, we saw a huge burst that once again shook the metal community as metalcore became the weapon of choice for so many extreme metal fans. After getting their start in the underground, bands like Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall saw their hard work pay off in unimaginable ways. At the same time, the underground was still churning out all sorts of different styles while some legends resurfaced with their best album in quite some time.

This year saw newer groundbreaking bands coexisting among some pioneers of the '80s, truly showcasing another rebirth of metal on the whole. Whether you're strictly a fan of the classics, someone who became a metal convert with these newer bands, or love it all, 2004 was a good year for any metalhead. In one of the most explosive years of the decade, we're sure some of these albums have never left your car. This wasn't easy, but we narrowed it down to the 10 Best Metal Albums of 2004:

  • Sanctuary

    'The System Has Failed'


    Following a string of underwhelming albums, Megadeth fans were skeptical regarding what was intended to be a Dave Mustaine solo album. With the Megadeth moniker slapped on the album cover, Mustaine states 'The System Has Failed' would be the last Megadeth album. Had it been so, the band would have gone out with a bang here. Tracks like 'Die Dead Enough' and 'Kick the Chair' are just a couple examples of a full-fledged return to form that had fans rejoicing immediately.

  • Nuclear Blast
    Nuclear Blast

    'Tempo of the Damned'


    Reunion albums are never certain to be a hit and can build fans up only to knock them back down. Exodus knocked everyone down in a different sense, aligning with their thrash credo of hurling bodies around in the pit. 'Tempo of the Damned' saw the short-lived return of vocalist Steve 'Zetro' Souza, but it has had a long-lasting impact. Cuts like 'War is My Shepard,' 'Culling the Herd,' and the stomping 'Black List' proved that Exodus were indeed back and a force to be reckoned with once again.

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    Pig Destroyer

    Pig Destroyer are an all out sonic assault, with their bass-less grind leaving a devastating effect on the listener's psyche. 'Terrifyer,' of course, is no exception to the band's reputation. Their third album is often a subject of debate when fans argue over their favorite Pig Destroyer album, citing songs like 'Boy Constrictor, 'Carrion Fairy' and 'Torture Ballad' as evidence. The album is comprised of 21 songs spanning just over 32 minutes, making for a quick and effective beatdown.

  • Regain



    When some bands sign to a major label, they lose a bit of their edge and ferocity that made them so popular. Behemoth trampled this notion with their crucial release, 'Demigod.' The band one-upped their blackened death metal sound they had began employing on 'Satanica.' The countless vocal layers make founder Nergal sound like a demon as he barks out his blasphemy over fan favorites like 'Conquer All,' 'Slaves Shall Serve,' and 'The Nephilim Rising.' 'Demigod' launched Behemoth's headliner status, which has taken the band on some of metal's biggest tours.

  • Century Media
    Century Media

    'The War Within'

    Shadows Fall

    Shadows Fall were one of the numerous metalcore acts that dominated the mid-2000s, releasing one of the many highlights of their career in 2004, 'The War Within.' 'The Light That Blinds, 'Enlightened By the Cold,' and 'What Drives the Weak' are just a couple songs that jettisoned the band into the extreme metal spotlight. Shadows Fall embraced their hardcore roots a little more noticeably than other bands in the scene. Singer Brian Fair's voice showcases the ebb and flow of the band, utilizing his strong harsh and clean vocals.

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    Necrophagist released one of the most influential metal albums of the decade with 'Epitaph.' The neoclassical guitar playing is injected with pure technical death metal that really blew the doors off what had become a fairly stagnant death metal scene. Mainman Muhammed Suicmez paved the way for what became a supernova-like explosion in death metal, seeing guitar players attempt to one-up each other in technicality over the next decade. Songs like 'Stabwound' and 'Diminished to B' are still unmatched.

  • Epic

    'Ashes of the Wake'

    Lamb of God

    Lamb of God were another breakout band in 2004, poised for the spotlight coming off a critically acclaimed sophomore album, 'As the Palaces Burn' the year before. 'Ashes of the Wake' again takes influence from Pantera and Testament, among others, as the band furthered their own unique sound with 'Laid to Rest' and 'Now You've Got Something to Die For' counting as some of the finest metal songs of the decade. Vocalist Randy Blythe's intimidating howls and shrieks were matched by his manic stage presence as the band became noted equally for their music and live shows.

  • Roadrunner

    'The End of Heartache'

    Killswitch Engage

    The biggest metalcore release of 2004 was undoubtedly Killswitch Engage's 'The End of Heartache.' The title track and 'Rose of Sharyn' dominated car stereos, headphones, and any other way metal fans listened to their favorite music. In the sudden metalcore explosion of this year, Killswitch sat atop the heap. Then singer Howard Jones was lauded for his clean singing voice, which was often the weakest link in metalcore outfits. His vocal strength really set the band apart from their contemporaries and propelled the dynamic songwriting.

  • Roadrunner

    'Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)'


    In 2004, Slipknot seized their moment following up their massively successful album 'Iowa' with 'Vol 3: (The Subliminal Verses).' Boasting six singles, the record saw the band expand on their sound, incorporating more of Corey Taylor's clean, melodic vocals to counter the pure aggression. Just a couple of the hits here include 'Before I Forget,' 'Vermillion,' and 'Duality.' The lyrics delved deeper into Taylor's troubled mind, using Slipknot as a vehicle to get it all out.

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    Mastodon's 'Leviathan' is one of the greatest triumphs of the metal underground. The band really spurred a revolution for heavy metal here, coming from humble beginnings to being thrust into the spotlight. Without any significant radio play like nu-metal and metalcore on more edgy stations, Mastodon broke the mold, crafting beloved tunes like 'Blood and Thunder,' 'Megalodon,' and the epic 'Hearts Alive.' Simultaneously a black sheep and a diamond in the rough, this quartet is in a genre that can only be classified as 'Mastodon.'

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