Experimentation is the theme of this battle. Which of these discs will move on in our March Metal Madness search for the best metal album of the 21st century? When it comes to critical praise and undisputed originality, these two bands are ranked in the elite. Ahead of their time, compositionally complex and deeply imaginative, no acts on Earth sound quite like either of these sonic blueprinters.

Already boasting a pseudo-religious fan base, Tool gave their followers yet another masterpiece with 'Lateralus' in 2001. Perhaps the most well-rounded example of Tool's style to date, 'Lateralus' hit a mainstream audience with 'Schism' while providing one of the act's most complex and multidimensional pieces with the album's title track. For the 21st century, 'Lateralus' is essential listening.

Technical and experimental metal pioneers Cynic returned to the studio after a 15 year drought, releasing 'Traced in Air' in 2008. Much like Cynic's debut album, 'Focus,' 'Traced in Air' was received with the highest acclaim, allowing Cynic to remain as a true band's band. Although technical metal was beginning to catch up to the vision of 'Focus,' Cynic raised the bar once again with 'Traced in Air.'

Tool's 'Lateralus' or Cynic's 'Traced in Air'? Vote for your favorite 21st century album in the poll below!

(This poll will end on Sunday, March 9 at 11:59 PM ET. Fans are able to vote once per hour, so keep coming back to make sure your favorite album wins!)

Headbanger Region Round 1

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