The origins of metalcore date back to the mid 1980s, where bands like Agnostic Front and Suicidal Tendencies were mixing thrash, punk, and hardcore together. Metalcore has quickly become one of the most popular metal genres, with bands like Bullet For My Valentine, Trivium, and Avenged Sevenfold topping charts and gaining large fan bases. Here are the essential metalcore albums, ones that fans of the genre should have in their music collection.
Their first album after signing with Metal Blade, Frail Words Collapse is the band’s breaking out moment, where they finally gained some mainstream publicity and recognition. As I Lay Dying started to find a sound that best suited them, one that would carry the band to success in the future. Opener “94 Hours” and “Forever,” one of the band’s signature tracks, made up the highlights of 2003's Frail Words Collapse.
While their later albums are suspect in their quality, Waking The Fallen is the quintessential Avenged Sevenfold album. No matter what they do in the future, every album will be somewhat compared to their 2003 sophomore album. M. Shadows’ vocals are perfect in their execution, The Rev pounds the drums into oblivion, and the guitar work is sharp, even with the dry production. Avenged Sevenfold wasn’t afraid to venture in longer songs, like the two-part “I Won’t See You Tonight,” which took up almost thirteen minutes together, and the eight-minute closer “And All Things Will End.”
Bullet For My Valentine’s debut album was received with mixed critical response in the U.S. However, the album did get to gold status behind singles “Tears Don’t Fall” and “All The Things I Hate (Revolve Around Me).” The band doesn’t do anything original on The Poison, but sets forth to provide an entertaining listen, one that has a spark of creativity to it. The solos fly free, the vocals have that sharp contrast between harsh and clean, and the choruses are too damn catchy for their own good.
Considered the band’s best album by fans and critics alike, 2001’s Jane Doe is relentless in its sonic attack, piercing the listener’s ears with screeching vocals and unpredictable rhythm work. The melody was there too, with clean vocals prevalent underneath the harsh vocals. Like Shai Hulud and Overcast, Converge was one of the first bands to bring about a sound that would be imitated by hundreds of bands.
One of the first metalcore albums that began the genre’s increase in popularity during the mid '90s, Destroy The Machines is a landmark release that symbolized the start of something new in metal. Harsh vocals, a slight groove to the guitar work, and a mix of hardcore elements are the key ingredients that make 1995's Destroy The Machines a great album. Short and to-the-point, Earth Crisis’s debut album is a shining example of well-written metalcore.
Vocalist Howard Jones proved to be more than capable of taking Jesse Leach’s spot on Killswitch Engage’s third album, 2004's The End Of Heartache. The band toned down the aggression a little bit, letting melody have more of a presence in the songwriting. Jones has both the gritty harsh vocals and a soaring clean style to work off of. The epic title track and somber closer “Hope Is…” stuck with the listener long after the final note is played.
Overcast was the first band of Shadows Fall vocalist Brian Fair and Killswitch Engage bassist Mike D’Antonio. In 2008, recently reunited Overcast released Reborn To Kill Again, which is comprised of re-recorded version of 11 early tracks from the band, and two new tracks. The band had a major impact on later bands, though their earlier albums (1994’s Expectational Dilution and 1997’s Fight Ambition To Kill) were never given much mainstream attention. With strong production, a great performance by Fair, and a modern take on a handful of metalcore classics, Reborn To Kill Again is a blast from the past that is able to remain relevant, even with the over-saturation of the genre.
While they may have leaned more towards thrash metal in later years, Massachusetts’ Shadows Fall was one of the top metalcore bands in 2002 with their third album The Art Of Balance. Guitarists Jonathan Donais and Matt Bachand make a hell of a duo, with the former showcasing an impressive display of technical prowess that metalcore tends to shy away from. Shadows Fall also did a great job covering the Pink Floyd classic “Welcome To The Machine.”
Shai Hulud’s 1997 debut has quite a major impact on the direction that the metalcore genre would head in. Mixing punk, hardcore, and metal together, Hearts Once Nourished With Hope And Compassion is a monsoon of heaviness that suffocates the listener, with a powerful message to boot. While the band would add in more progressive elements into their later albums, Hearts Once Nourished With Hope And Compassion was the sound of a young and hungry band ready to take over the world.
2005’s Ascendancy is a fantastic metalcore album, one that takes the best parts of the genre and doesn’t oversaturate the album with pointless breakdowns and unnecessary cheesy ballads, save for “Dying In Your Arms.” Matt Heafy’s guitar skills can’t be denied, and he was finally finding his voice, with stronger growls and improved clean vocals. “A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation” and “Like Light To The Flies” features insane guitar work and are the best one-two punch combo on the entire album.