Converge had a great year. Their latest LP, Axe To Fall (Epitaph), found them breaking through to a more mainstream metal audience, thanks to the massively heavy thrum of walloping killdozers like "Slave Drive" and album opener "Dark Horse." It's actually been a top-notch year for metal in general, and that's made the competition at the top even more insane. But "insane" is the environment in which Converge thrive, whether it's the room-exploding fury of their live show or the claustrophobic intensity of their music (not to mention the howling screech of lead heckler Jake Bannon). The band's relentlessly racing tempo is almost un-metal in its punk zip, but the arch weirdness of guitarist Kurt Ballou's chugging ax is far too pained and brutal to be anything but capital-M metal. As long as Converge are still stalking the earth, it'll be a tall order for any other band to take this category.
4. Big Bear