2008 was one of the most interesting years for metal in this millennium. Finally, the heaviest acts began to deviate from linear grooves that dominated the genre since Pantera took the flag and hoisted it throughout the '90s, changing the face of metal on the whole with their indelible stylistic mark.

Largely thanks to Necrophagist's groundbreaking sophomore effort, Epitaph, the technicality found in death metal in the early '90s resurfaced. Seemingly overnight, every guitarist was suddenly tearing off flawless sweeps, neoclassical leads and arresting yet intricate melodies. It's like all the notes that hadn't been played over the last 15 or so years had been bubbling beneath the surface and erupted with Pompeii-like might.

Even those who were more rhythmically-minded were working in more challenging arrangements and nuanced drum work, spurring a revolution with the ripples still being felt today.

This list favors the more extreme artists, but that's indicative of the state of heavy metal in '08, as another wave of relative newcomers arrived, mixing in with others who were finally gaining some recognition and some veterans who kept moving forward, challenging themselves and their listeners.

Scroll through the gallery below as we count down the 10 Best Metal Albums of 2008.