Y2K arrived with no major problems, and metal rolled on just like everything else. This year's selections are mostly heavy metal veterans with long careers who had a lot of success. Here's our list of the best heavy metal albums released in 2000.
After being dominant in the '80s, Iron Maiden wasn't as successful in the '90s. The decade saw the departure of vocalist Bruce Dickinson, but as a new decade dawned, he returned for Brave New World. Guitarist Adrian Smith also rejoined the band, and this CD featured a triple guitar attack. Maiden's sound revisited the glory days of the '80s, but also had a modern punch and some epic tracks. Dickinson's voice sounded better than ever, and songs like "Wicker Man" and "Blood Brothers" are highlights.
While Iron Maiden's vocalist rejoined their band, it would be a few more years before Rob Halford went back to Judas Priest. After a couple of releases with Fight, he formed Halford. Resurrection was that band's debut, and the stronger of their two studio CDs. Halford's vocal prowess is on full display as the metal god goes from lower pitched singing to his trademark high pitched wails. Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson duets with Halford on the song "The One You Love To Hate," and it's very cool to hear two of the best metal singers of all time singing together.
Their 1999 CD Dreaming Neon Black topped my year end list, and Dead Heart In A Dead World was another outstanding release. Guitarist Tim Calvert left the band, leaving Jeff Loomis as Nevermore's lone guitarist. He rose to the occasion, and Dead Heart In A Dead World features some of his best guitar work. Progressive and heavy, highlights of the album include "Inside Four Walls" and Nevermore's cover version of the classic Simon and Garfunkel song "Sounds Of Silence."
The '90s saw In Flames making regular appearances on my yearly "best of" lists, and that continued into the 2000s. Clayman was a transition album. It still had the melodic death metal style of their previous work, but also is a bit more accessible, foreshadowing a shift toward the mainstream. The songwriting on the album is strong, and some of the best tracks include "Only For The Weak," "Pinball Map" and the title track.
Their first two releases made my "best of" lists for 1997 and 1998, but Renegade marks Hammerfall's highest position so far. It was their first album with drummer Anders Johansson, and the Swedish band's power metal style progressed a bit. Their songwriting improved, with more variety in tempos and some very strong hooks and choruses. From uptempo songs like "Keep The Flame Burning" to the mid paced "Destined For Glory" to the ballad "Always Will Be," Hammerfall delivers a well-rounded effort.
By 2000 the Norwegian black metal scene wasn't as strong as it was in the early and mid '90s, but bands like Immortal continued to carry the torch. Damned In Black is sometimes overlooked, as it is sandwiched by the follow up Sons Of Northern Darkness, which was Immortal's final album, and by the one that came before it, 1999's At The Heart Of Winter. It has the harshness of their earlier work, but the improved songwriting of their later releases. It's a lethal combination of black, thrash and death metal.
Pantera's best work was in the early '90s, but they still had plenty of gas in the tank when they released what ended up being their final studio CD. Reinventing The Steel did well commercially, debuting at number 4 on the Billboard album charts. The songs have Pantera's patented groovy aggressiveness and a plethora of catchy riffs. Phil Anselmo's abrasive vocals and Dimebag's always stellar guitar work make songs like "Hellbound" and "Death Rattle" both bone crunching and memorable.
Cradle Of Filth's fourth album saw a couple of lineup changes. Drummer Adrian Erlandsson and keyboardist Martin Powell joined the band. Midian continued the polarization of fans because of its accessibility. Lush atmospheres and orchestral arrangements emphasize the symphonic in symphonic black metal, but there are plenty of harsh and extreme parts as well. "Her Ghost In The Fog" is a highlight, along with the epic closer "Tortured Soul Asylum."
Deathrace King was the second album from Sweden's The Crown. It's an extreme combination of thrash and death played at lightning fast speed. The Crown manages to inject hooks and melodies into their intense style, making for an album that's both headbanging and memorable. Some of the best songs on the CD include the opener "Deathexplosion," "Devil Gate Ride" and the slower but still powerful "Vengeance."
Their heydey was in the late '80s, but German power metallers Helloween were still very respectable throughout the '90s. After a 1999 covers album didn't get great response, they rebounded with The Dark Ride. It is a bit darker than some of their previous work, but in power metal things never get overly menacing. Helloween also increases the heaviness on this one. There's also plenty of variety, from ballads to dark mid tempo songs to traditional epic power metal tracks.