Heavy metal is roughly 50 years old, yet continues to evolve each decade. The 2010s were no exception, with intriguing new sounds emerging alongside classic riffs and thunderous beats.
Unlike other genres, there’s a greater focus on albums and discographies than individual songs, but every year sees the release of certain tracks that make their mark as metal classics.
This past decade saw the emergence and rise of bands like Ghost and Deafheaven, who certainly don’t fit the mold of traditional heavy metal. Meanwhile, classic metal bands like Judas Priest, Metallica, Megadeth, and more delivered tracks that hold their own alongside their impressive back catalogs.
From the brutal extreme metal of Behemoth to the ethereal alt-metal of Deftones, there was something for everyone this decade.
Click ahead to see our Top 25 Metal Songs of the 2010s…
25. High on Fire – “Snakes for the Divine” (2010)
Unlike other metal tunes that utilize extended song durations to show off a band’s snazzy technical skills or their poetic prose, High on Fire’s “Snakes for the Divine” is eight minutes plus of pure brutality. And there is nothing “progg-y” about the track — it’s front-to-back chock full of Matt Pike’s bear-like growls and meaty riffs, with added smash ‘em/bash ‘em drumming courtesy of Des Kensel. Kicking off the band’s colossal 2010 album of the same name, the song’s raw and live sonics fit perfectly (kudos should be given to producer Greg Fidelman) — like a furry loincloth on an axe-wielding barbarian. –Greg Prato
24. Agalloch – “Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation” (2014)
Agalloch’s 2014 album The Serpent & the Sphere opens with this 10-minute spiritual plea, which suppresses the overtly black metal tropes of their past work. The Portland, Oregon, band instead opt for a meditative post-metal minimalism on “Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation”. The space between notes is emphasized; the tempo moves slowly, letting each tone ring out and disappear. The track floats toward its rewarding climax, with the restraint making the payoff that much more rewarding. Sadly, Agalloch disbanded in 2016 due to tensions between band members, but their final album is a fitting swan song, anchored by its beautiful opener. —Jon Hadusek
23. Anthrax – “The Devil You Know” (2011)
By the time Worship Music dropped in 2011, it had been 21 long years since Joey Belladonna’s vocals were featured on a full-length Anthrax album. But the long layoff did not hinder the proceedings, as the band offered a surprisingly focused, inspired, and consistent recording — with one of its top standouts being its second single, “The Devil You Know.” And despite guitarist Dan Spitz no longer involved in the band (replaced by Rob Caggiano), “The Devil You Know” sounds like it could have fit snuggly on such past Anthrax classics as Persistence of Time and Among the Living — melodic vocals, tighter-than-a-Tupperware-container riffing and drumming, and thought-provoking lyrics. –Greg Prato
22. Rammstein – “Deutschland” (2019)
Nearly ten years after their 6th album Liebe ist für alle da, Rammstein came back strong with their untitled 2019 album. “Deutschland,” the first single from the 2019 LP, is as hard hitting and melodic as they come, a staple of Rammstein’s sound. The beginning of the song creeps up on you with Christian “Flake” Lorenz’s keyboard intro, but then Christoph “Doom” Schneider’s intense drums come in making you want to bang your head. Then the blistering lead guitar, courtesy of Richard Z. Kruspe, builds up until the song punches you in the face with full force. It slows the pace again during the verse making room for vocalist Till Lindemann’s rich, booming baritone. Then the chorus come in with all of its catchy industrial bravado, signaling a triumphant return by the German industrial heroes. — Colette Claire
21. Goatwhore – “Collapse in Eternal Worth” (2012)
Opening the 2012 Goatwhore album Blood for the Master, “Collapse in Eternal Worth” is a relentless tour de force that immediately opens with pummeling blackened metal and grows into near-flawless thrash, all in the matter of a few minutes. The raw energy of frontman Ben Falgoust — who belts out pure darkness when he sings, “Spoiled with ageless blood/ Destroy the kingdoms on the throne above/ Rising legion of the damned/ Bring forth the slaughter of the holy lamb” — is matched headbang for headbang by guitarist Sammy Duet, bassist James Harvey and drummer Zack Simmons. Of all the metal Goatwhore have created in the decade — including 2014’s Constricting Rage of the Merciless and 2017’s Vengeful Ascension — this track might very well be their crowning achievement. –Chuck Armstrong
20. Slipknot – “Solway Firth” (2019)
When Slipknot teased that they were going the heavy route on 2019’s We Are Not Your Kind, they meant it. Corey Taylor, Shawn “Clown” Crahan and the rest of the masked crew unleashed their one of their heaviest tracks to date in “Solway Firth”, which starts with a haunting and melodic intro before developing into a full-throttle assault of guitars, drums and vocals. As Taylor sings about watching “killers” enjoying some remains, a huge, cutting riff dances over colossal percussion. “Solway Firth” is a wake-up call for anyone who things Slipknot have softened over the years. –Anne Erickson
19. Machine Head – “Darkness Within” (2011)
In 2011, Machine Head unleashed Unto the Locust, their triumphant follow-up to 2007’s crushing The Blackening. While the first single, “Locust,” sets the stage for what to expect from the rest of the LP, “Darkness Within” perfectly captures Machine Head’s continued evolution and maturation since debuting in the early ‘90s. The track earned the band their first appearance on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. Regardless of commercial success, though, “Darkness Within” features frontman Robb Flynn at his most vulnerable and visceral as he finds darkness within beauty, sharing it for the whole world to experience. –Chuck Armstrong
18. Marilyn Manson – “The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles” (2015)
What could be more metal than proclaiming yourself the Mephistopheles of Los Angeles? The fourth song on Marilyn Manson’s The Pale Emperor is dismal, heavy, and bluesy, as only Manson can be. The song kicks off with what could best be described as goth surf guitar followed by an industrial swing beat that is quintessential to Manson’s sound. In the pre-chorus, Manson asks in his gravely croon, “Are we fated, faithful or fatal?” A question that could be directed to a lover or all of humanity. This leads up to the rocking, toe-tapping chorus “I feel stoned and alone like a heretic and I’m ready to meet my maker.” –Colette Claire
17. Metallica – “Spit Out the Bone” (2016)
Days before Hardwired… To Self-Destruct dropped in 2016, the eventual album-closer “Spit out the Bone” leaked online. Appropriately, Metallica fans went nuts as they consumed one of the heaviest and thrashiest tracks of the band’s 21st century career, and one of the best metal songs of the decade. From its musical complexity to its futuristic, Terminator-fueled lyrics, “Spit Out the Bone” proves to be, as Kirk Hammett once put it, the “Mount Everest” of Hardwired, and shows that mighty Metallica still have a few tricks up their sleeves almost four decades into their career. — Chuck Armstrong
16. Tool – “7empest” (2019)
By this stage of the game, it’s understandable to assume that all the grade A guitar riffs have long ago been plowed on a fretboard. But Tool’s Adam Jones uncovers a dandy on “7empest” (at the 1:18 mark, to be exact)…but in true Tool style, doesn’t showcase it for long — as there is much more terrain for the band to explore during the song’s near-16-minute duration. Despite being buried deep in the tracklisting of the band’s long-awaited 2019 effort, Fear Inoculum (it’s the second-to-last tune), “7empest” takes many a twist and turn — including another standout guitar bit at the 7:43 mark (this time one of Jones’ trademark “rubbery riffs”). –Greg Prato
Click ahead to see more of our Top 25 Metal Songs of the 2010s…