The Top Ten Bands Of The Decade: Metal Continues To Rule Supreme

date: 12/24/2009 category: features
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Perfection is difficult to find when you sift through 10 years of bands' antics, but some valiant musicians have managed to come very close to living the dream. Of course, that could translate to mean everything from impressive record sales to critical acclaim to simply not sucking. We felt that the trusted UG community would be the best judge of which groups deserved to be recognized for making the music world a better place, and you did not disappoint in our Top 10 Bands Of The Decade poll. We see more than a few of the usual suspects appearing, but you can't knock voters for their ability to be consistent. What sticks out like a beautiful sore thumb is that at least half of the Top 10 were already going strong during the 1990's. Long story short: It seems that any up-and-coming bands in the next decade should bring their A game because we don't think the Foo Fighters are going anywhere. And in a striking victory for headbangers everywhere (and we're including all of you who blazed the trail back in 1980, too), Metallica has once again been declared the most powerful metal band in the world. Now that's what we call the epitome of consistency.

Honorable Mentions From The Top 30


When you listen to Radiohead's body of work over the past ten years, it doesn't even seem like these are same individuals responsible for the radio-favorite Creep. Not to say that the 1992 single from Pablo Honey wasn't a melodic masterpiece in its own right, but Radiohead has become veritable music gurus particularly when it comes to experimentation since that time. Even better? Vocalist/guitarist Thom Yorke and his bandmates play by their own rules, even allowing fans to pay whatever they felt the 2007 digital release In Rainbows deserved. We simply love a band thumbing its nose at a music industry that looks more like an assembly line these days.


Proving they can make a statement with much more than just their visually disturbing masks, the lads in Slipknot earned a coveted spot in the Top 30. They already had the it factor with their nine bandmates, a memorable stage show, and various ongoing feuds with other rock stars, but respectability always must nudge its way into the mix. Slipknot has been nominated for seven count em seven Grammy Awards over the past decade. Their latest album All Hope Is Gone, released in 2008, marked their first record to peak at #1 on the Billboard Charts, making Slipknot one band that can say they tied the decade up with a pretty little bow.


Last year Angus Young and the crew earned the coveted #5 spot on our Best Bands Of The Year poll, but only 12 months later they almost slipped out of the Top 30. Of course, when you break down the facts, the truth of the matter is that AC/DC has been largely inactive studio-wise for a good part of the decade. If our Best Bands of the Decade lists proves anything, it's that AC/DC with basically only one album to its name in the past decade (2008's Black Ice) can still earn a higher ranking than some of these bands churning out full-length after EP after full-length. When you've got it, you've got it.

And Your Top 10

10. Red Hot Chili Peppers

When guitarist John Frusciante returned to the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1998 after a long battle with his heroin addiction, an already-popular band was injected with more life (and dollar signs) than ever before. The 2006 release Stadium Arcadium, although nowhere near as legendary as the 90's Blood Sugar Sex Magik, was still a Grammy-winning album that confirmed RHCP's status as a viable band after 20-plus years together. But something always has to rain on our parade, doesn't it? This month Frusciante announced on his website blog that he has officially quit the RHCP. Although the split appears to be amicable and it has more to do with a change in musical direction, it marks the end of a prolific and creatively charged era.

9. Lamb Of God

Although Lamb of God had been hovering under the industry radar for the first few years of the 2000s, the quintet's aggressive, riff-fueled music is now an integral part of the heavy metal world. Undoubtedly guitarist Willie Adler and Mark Morton's contrasting approach to the guitar (Adler focuses on heavy rhythmic work, while Morton is rooted in blues rock) lends itself to instantly memorable tracks like Redneck and Walk With Me In Hell. Not everyone can say they were up for a Grammy against the likes of Slayer (who ended up earning the coveted award), but Lamb of God managed just that feat back in 2006 with the album Sacrament. Confirming this is not a flash in the pan, Lamb of God earned yet another nomination for the upcoming 2010 awards. If they keep this kind of work up, they'll be a shoe-in for our poll in 2019.

8. Mastodon

Once thought of as one of rock's best-kept secrets, Mastodon was the ultimate band's band. United by a common love for sludge metal and 70's classic rockers Thin Lizzy, guitarist Bill Kelliher, drummer Brann Dailor, bassist Troy Sanders, and guitarist/singer Brent Hinds combined forces to create a sound just as eclectic as their combined influences. The band's debut record Remission certainly created buzz, but it was 2004's Leviathan and 2006's Blood Mountain that hooked critics almost across the board. The members of Mastodon have apparently sold their souls to the devil because everything they produce these days seems to be either Grammy-nominated or hailed as utter perfection by critics. Among the latest praise? The 2009 release Crack The Skye was awarded a score of 5/5 by Total Guitar and is the second highest-rated album of the year according to Rate Your Music.

7. Dream Theater

It always seemed a bit odd that Dream Theater's first big splash onto the music scene was via the early 90's single Pull Me Under, a song which featured an extremely catchy hook and was given regular airplay with the hair bands on Headbanger's Ball. It definitely is a far cry from the fare you'd hear from the progressive metal band today. Dream Theater's technical prowess, complex arrangements, and solid grasp on memorable melodies are only a few reasons why the Long Island natives have earned a top spot in the poll. They probably deserve a slot just by their work on 2005's Octavarium and 2007's Systematic Chaos alone, but the quintet has also opened up the playing field for other forward-thinking bands by launching the Progressive Nation Tour. Drummer Mike Portnoy is usually the man behind the plan, and adding to his coolness, he's also not afraid to release a few bootlegs here and there.

6. Megadeth

There has always been a rumor swirling around that Megadeth guitarist/vocalist Dave Mustaine isn't the easiest to work with, and that idea is probably not far off of the mark judging by the revolving lineup. The past decade hasn't been all smooth sailing, with a brief breakup caused by Mustaine's arm injury, a reformation, and a slew of guitarists in and out of the band. When a comeback album The System Has Failed hit the shelves in 2004, it did in fact seem that Megadeth a veteran band that almost veered more toward rock than metal in the 90's had rediscovered its roots. Mustaine discovered he also had skills as a tour creator when he founded the Gigantour Festival, which has brought out the likes of Lamb of God and Dream Theater. While the recent releases United Abominations and Endgame might not have sold quite as well as an iconic album like 1992's Countdown To Extinction, critics are fully embracing Megadeth's latest musical direction.

5. Foo Fighters

After over 20 years of performing, Dave Grohl still hasn't tarnished his image as the nicest guy in rock. That certainly didn't hurt Foo Fighters' chance at being named one of the most impressive bands of the decade, but the Seattle group has long since proven that it has the talent to back up the sweet talk. Foo Fighters is one of those bands that has the uncanny ability to appeal to everyone from metalheads to, well, your grandmother. While some musicians have a difficult time maintaining their popularity, the Foo Fighters have done the unthinkable by hitting their peak record sales a good decade after their debut record. The 2005 release In Your Honor not only showed that the Foo Fighters aren't afraid to explore their sensitive side on an all-acoustic second disk, it also featured one of the biggest hits to date for the Foo Fighters, Best Of You.

4. Green Day

Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tr Cool took some big risks over the past 10 years, and rarely have such career moves been so lucrative. When the trio created the punk opera American Idiot, it was a case of perfect timing. With its cynical views on politics and the state of the Bush administration, American Idiot struck a universal chord that earned Green Day multi-platinum status. The 2009 release 21st Century Breakdown labeled yet another punk opera didn't receive quite the warm reception that its predecessor did, but it still marked Green Day's best chart performance to date. While some fans might be calling foul on the band's new grandiose musical direction, it's also understandable that Armstrong, now approaching 40 years of age, might not relate all that much anymore to the Dookie era.

3. Muse

Armed with an eclectic approach to music, Muse has shown that it's not afraid to fuse genres that might seem at odds with one another. Dabbling in everything from classical to jazz to its primary forte, rock and roll, the British trio exploded with one critically acclaimed album after another this decade. An immediate impression was made with 2003's Absolution, which five years later would be deemed the 23rd Best British Album Of All Time according to a Q Magazine public poll. The follow-up CD Black Holes and Revelations didn't do too shabby in that same poll, earning a spot at #34. At the helm of Muse is vocalist/guitarist/pianist Matthew Bellamy, who somehow has managed to make his live show just as impressive as the labor-intensive studio albums.

2. Avenged Sevenfold

Although Avenged Sevenfold has been fairly prolific this decade, it wasn't until 2005's City of Evil that the tide truly turned for the Huntington Beach band. The decision to abandon pure metalcore for a more alternative/straightforward rock approach driven by guitar harmonies seemed to be a wise move in terms of popularity, as vocalist M. Shadows and the gang suddenly found them thrust into the mainstream music world (including MTV's Total Request Live and Guitar Hero II). The self-titled 2007 release left you all severely divided (Avenged was at the top of both the annual best and worst polls), and we can only hope that the upcoming fifth full-length produces a similar love/hate relationship with our readers. It's just too entertaining.

1. Metallica

For as many times as Lars Ulrich pissed off his fans due to the whole Napster debacle, it does seem that quality music wins out in the end. Of course, we weren't so sure Metallica could pull it off. When we witnessed the band's dramatic therapy sessions in the 2004 film Some Kind Of Monster, things weren't looking so good. The changing lives of Metallica's bandmates now family men with very different routines seemed to doom the course of their musical career. It's true that 2003's St. Anger was met with as many scowls as smiles (Pitchfork went as far as to give the album only .8/10; yes, that's a point before that 8), but the legendary quartet put the drama aside and renewed our faith with 2008's Death Magnetic. This year there seems to have been a general consensus across the board that Metallica, after 28 years as a metal institution, deserve its just rewards. Congratulations to James and the boys for going where few metal bands dared to go: The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

And Those That Rounded It All Out

11. Slipknot 12. Between The Buried And Me 13. Trivium 14. Coheed & Cambria 15. Radiohead 16. Opeth 17. Tool 18. Linkin Park 19. System Of A Down 20. Iron Maiden 21. Children of Bodom 22. Bullet For My Valentine 23. Rise Against 24. Queens Of The Stone Age 25. Wolfmother 26. blink-182 27. My Chemical Romance 28. The White Stripes 29. AC/DC 30. Disturbed 31. Arctic Monkeys 32. Protest The Hero 33. Paramore 34. Killswitch Engage 35. The Mars Volta 36. Alter Bridge 37. Coldplay 38. Porcupine Tree 39. Slayer 40. The Strokes 41. Kings of Leon 42. Dethklok 43. In Flames 44. Limp Bizkit 45. Brand New 46. Them Crooked Vultures 47. Nickelback 48. Billy Talent 49. August Burns Red 50. Audioslave Text by Amy Kelly Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2009
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