#1 Killswitch Engage – Alive or Just Breathing

Released in 2002 by Roadrunner

Best Songs: My Last Serenade, Just Barely Breathing, Numbered Days

Listen Also To Their Albums: Disarm the Descent, The End of Heartache

Interesting Facts: Alive or Just Breathing has been viewed as a landmark album in the metalcore genre and was well praised upon its release by fans and critics. The lyrics, which were all written by vocalist Jesse Leach, were aimed to bring a positive message through the music. Shortly after the release of Alive or Just Breathing, Leach left the band for personal and health issues. Killswitch Engage quickly recruited Howard Jones to replace Leach. Jones would stay in the band for nearly ten years, until his departure in early 2012, which prompted Leach to rejoin the band on the ten-year anniversary of Alive or Just Breathing. This is also the last album to feature Dutkiewicz on drums, as he would switch to guitar before the touring process.

In June 2000, Killswitch Engage released their debut album, titled Killswitch Engage through Ferret Records. The label’s CEO, Carl Severson signed the band without a contract simply to get the album out to the public because he thought the album “ruled”! After the album was released, Severson showed it to Roadrunner Records A&R man, Mike Gitter, who played the album for other Roadrunner employees and stated “The feeling was this was something that touched upon classic metal, pulls it up through hardcore, and creates something fairly new and completely exciting. When their music started circulating around the office, there was an immediate ‘Holy … this is great!’ feeling about it. After signing to Roadrunner, the band began work on their major label debut, which would become Alive or Just Breathing. Gitter has claimed that signing Killswitch Engage was the most gratifying signing of his career! The label agreed to let Dutkiewicz produce Alive or Just Breathing because they were impressed with his production skills.

Critical reception of Alive or Just Breathing was extremely positive.Metalreview.com said “it stands as a pretty trendsetting, stellar must-own example of metalcore”. AllMusic stated “This is a pure metal album that seemingly has ignored any fashionable trend and instead relies solely on skill and expertise to sculpt some of meatiest heavy metal since the glory days of Metallica and Slayer.” Dom Lawson of Kerrang! magazine (now of Metal Hammer) gave the album five “Ks” (or five out of five stars). He praised the album’s unique new sound, music, and vocal performances from Leach. CMJ said, “This album is more addictive than crack cocaine that’s been smothered in caffeine and nicotine and drenched with chocolate! Reviewing the 2005 re-release of the album, Blabbermouth.netsaid that Alive or Just Breathing is “one special album” and that its release “marked a defining moment in metal” and “one of the greatest albums of the new century”. Alive or Just Breathing is one of only 21 albums to have a perfect site rating on Blabbermouth.net!


Released in 2006 by Epic, Prosthetic
Best Songs: Walk with Me in Hell, Redneck, Blacken the Cursed Sun
Listen Also To Their Albums: Ashes of the Wake, VII: Sturm und Drang
Interesting Facts: Sacrament was the top-selling heavy metal album of 2006 and received the Album of the Year award from Revolver magazine. As of 2010, it has sold over 331,000 copies in the United States. The song “Pathetic” was performed live on the February 9, 2007 edition of Late Night with Conan O’Brien. This marked the first major network performance for Lamb of God. The song “Redneck” was nominated in the 2007 Grammy Awards for Best Metal Performance, but lost out to Slayer’s “Eyes of the Insane”.
In 1994, guitarists Mark Morton and Matt Conner, bassist John Campbell and drummer Chris Adler started a band named Burn the Priest. The band members knew each other from the college they were all attending, Virginia Commonwealth University. By the time Burn the Priest released their first full-length self-titled album, vocalist Randy Blythe and guitarist Willie, Adler’s younger brother, were added to the line up. A year later year later, a deal with Prosthetic Records was signed and they changed their name to Lamb of God to avoid being mistaken for a satanic metal band.


Released in 2005 by Roadrunner

Best Songs: Like Light To The Flies, The Deceived, Pull Harder On the Strings Of Your Martyr

Listen Also To Their Albums: In Waves, Shogun

Interesting Facts: Ascendancy marks the first Trivium album to feature guitarist Corey Beaulieu and bassist Paolo Gregoletto. It has won the “Album of the Year Award” award from Kerrang! magazine and since its release, Ascendancy has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide.

The band formed in 1999. At his Lake Brantley High School talent show, Matt Heafy performed a cover version of “No Leaf Clover” by Metallica. Singer Brad Lewter noticed Heafy and asked him to try out for his band. The pair went over to drummer Travis Smith’s house where they played a rendition of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. Impressed with Heafy’s performance, they accepted him into the band known as “Trivium”, which is a Latin three-way intersection they used to explain their music as combining metalcore, melodic death metal and thrash metal. Two weeks after Matt joined the band, Brad had left the band before performing.


Released in 2007 by Metal Blade

Best Songs: Forsaken, Within Destruction

Listen Also To Their Album: Frail Words Collapse

Interesting Facts: Upon its release, it debuted at number 8 on the Billboard 200, with sales close to 39,500 and No. 1 on the Top Rock chart. The album features singles “Nothing Left”, “The Sound of Truth”, “Within Destruction” and “I Never Wanted”, with music videos produced for all four. An Ocean Between us won for the band the “Ultimate Metal God” award from MTV2 at the first annual “All That Rocks” special; was named “Artist of the Year” at the San Diego Music Awards and was nominated for a 2008 Grammy Award for the song “Nothing Left”.

as i lay

Released in 2004 by Roadrunner

Best Songs: At the End of August, The Heart and the Shape

Listen Also To Their Album: Rest Inside The Flames

Interesting Facts: The band’s name comes from the Jackie Chan film Jackie Chan and the 36 Crazy Fists. 36CF originated from the remains of three bands from Anchorage, Alaska: Grin, Hessian, and Broke. JD Stuart played in Grin, Brock Lindow in Hessian, and Steve Holt and Ryan Brownell in Broke. One of the circumstances influencing the formation of 36CF was the murder of Broke’s drummer Duane Monsen. On 28 January 1994, Broke played a set at the Underground bar in Anchorage. Later that night there was an altercation between Monsen and a drunken soldier. According to an article in the Anchorage Daily News, Monsen tried to apologize and defuse the situation, but was fatally stabbed in the neck. He was 27 years old. In the wake of this tragedy, Monsen’s friends organized a benefit concert to raise funds for his family. Monsen’s protégé Thomas Noonan played the drums at this show and the musicians decided that they were an excellent match. In retrospect, it became the first 36CF performance.


Released in 2004 by Relapse

Best Songs: Iron Tusk, Blood and Thunder

Listen Also To Their Album: Blood Mountain

Interesting Facts: Leviathan is the group’s first concept album and is loosely based on the Herman Melville novel Moby-Dick. Three magazines awarded it Album of the Year in 2004: Revolver, Kerrang! and Terrorizer. It also ranked second in a list by Metal Hammer (UK) of the best albums of 2004. ‘Blood and Thunder’ which featured Clutch vocalist Neil Fallon, was chosen as one of the most important recordings of the decade by National Public Radio in November 2009, and that the entire album epitomizes “a phenomenal decade for metal”!


Released in 2003 by Hopeless

Best Songs: Unholy Confessions, Chapter Four

Listen Also To Their Album: Nightmare

Interesting Facts: Waking The Fallen is the first release by the band to feature lead guitarist Synyster Gates, the record also features some guitar solos. The record is notable among fans due to M. Shadows’ slightly higher pitch in his voice and high notes he sings on songs like “I Won’t See You Tonight” (both parts).

Avenged Sevenfold emerged with a metalcore sound on their debut Sounding the Seventh Trumpet which continued with Waking The Fallen, but their style had evolved by their third album and first major label release, City of Evil, into a heavy metal and hard rock style. The band continued to explore new sounds with their self-titled release and enjoyed continued mainstream success before their drummer, James “The Rev” Sullivan, died in 2009. Despite his death, the band continued on with help of now-former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy and released and toured in support of their fifth album Nightmare in 2010 which debuted on the top spot of the Billboard 200, their first number one debut.