20 classic albums that are 10 years old in 2021
Boiled down to its chaotic standout moments, 2011 feels simultaneously like it was both a but few weeks and a whole lifetime ago.
Earthquakes wrought havoc in New Zealand and Japan, with a magnitude 6.3 event killing 185 and injuring thousands more in Christchurch. Then, just over two weeks later, a magnitude 9 strike dwarfed it and launched a 30ft tsunami towards the Japanese mainland, reportedly killing over 22,000 and causing an explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – the second worst nuclear accident in history.
Osama Bin Laden – the al Qaeda founder and suspected mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks a decade earlier – was killed by special forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, ending one of the biggest manhunts in world history. Elsewhere, the withdrawal of U.S. troops in December ended the Iraq war after eight long, bloody years.
London was burning again, too, with riots breaking out across England following the shooting of Mark Duggan by police in Tottenham, with the violent clashes leading to a further five deaths and £200 million of property damage.
In pop culture, legendary Hollywood hellraiser Charlie Sheen was fired from CBS sitcom Two And A Half Men for “dangerously self-destructive conduct” before carrying out some of the most memorable TV interviews ever, claiming to be a “warlock” with “tiger blood” and “Adonis DNA”.
The Harry Potter cinematic saga came to a close as well, after shifting 450 million books and taking over $6 billion at the international box office, with Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows finally reaching cinemas in July. Meanwhile, catering for those movies’ maturing audience, HBO premiered its new fantasy show Game Of Thrones in April.
Rock and metal seemed to be in something of a transitional phase, too, with acts that would dominate the next decade hitting their stride as legends got experimental and newcomers aggressively broke through. So let’s look back over 20 of the most memorable releases celebrating their 10th birthday this year.
Anthrax – Worship Music
With the return of prodigal vocalist Joey Belladonna after 21 years away, New York thrash legends Anthrax roared back to the front of the metal pack with 10th LP Worship Music. It almost wasn’t to be, with the frontman coming aboard in 2005 and leaving again two years later, with Dan Nelson and John Bush both mooted to take his place. With Joey finally committed, however, they delivered their most focused, youthfully exuberant record in years, packed to the hilt with mosh-ready anthems like Earth On Hell and Fight ’Em ’Til You Can’t.
Asking Alexandria – Reckless & Relentless
It was a good year for recklessness and relentlessness in 2011, with Finnish melodic death metal legends Children Of Bodom dropping the similarly-titled Relentless Reckless Forever, but the second offering from York metalcore upstarts Asking Alexandria proved most impactful. Picking up where they’d left off on 2009 debut Stand Up And Scream, Danny Worsnop, Ben Bruce and the boys galvanised their blend of serrated ‘scene’ savagery and classic rock swagger, with the album’s six singles underlining that this was a band ready to take on the world.
Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
Pushed back following Adam “MCA” Yauch’s diagnosis with cancer and released just a year before his death, the eighth and final Beastie Boys album felt like a defiant parting statement from the New York hip-hop trailblazers. Even into their 40s, the trio still showed all the raucous confidence of their misspent youth on tracks like Make Some Noise, while others like Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win – featuring reggae fusion star Santigold – proved they were still willing to push the boundaries, too.
Black Veil Brides – Set The World On Fire
If 2010 debut We Stitch These Wounds established the dark intricacy of Black Veil Brides’ signature sound, Set The World On Fire – released less than a year later – added elements of ’80s excess and glam rock swagger that would make them superstars. Reportedly, Def Leppard’s Hysteria was their biggest influence during recording. Regardless, tracks like The Legacy and Rebel Love Song saw them spread their blessed black wings as legions of face-painted converts flocked to their cause.
blink-182 – Neighborhoods
Arriving eight years after their self-titled masterpiece, and five before they dropped California with Matt Skiba on guitar and vocals, Neighborhoods stands apart in the blink-182 canon. A last hurrah (for now, at least) with founding guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge, prevalent post-punk influences and similarities to the airy alt. of Tom’s other band Angels & Airwaves saw album number six maligned by many fans. Unfairly so, with tracks like Ghost On The Dance Floor and Natives among their most atmospherically powerful work.
Evanescence – Evanescence
By 2011, the gaps between Evanescence albums were growing wider and longer. Having waited five years since 2006’s The Open Door, however, fans were rewarded with their richest, most diverse body of work to date, shapeshifting from the springy pop-metal of What You Want, through the high melodrama of My Heart Is Broken, to the glassy minimalism of Swimming Home. March 25, 2021 will see the release of The Bitter Truth – their first collection of wholly original material since.
Five Finger Death Punch – American Capitalist
“We like to press buttons…” said 5FDP bandleader Zoltan Bathory, explaining his band’s mission as twisted chroniclers of the times to Kerrang! early last year. “When Occupy Wall Street was going on and socialism was growing in America, we brought out American Capitalist. That’s all intentional.” Indeed, although they were only six years into their existence, the Las Vegas metal supremos’ ability to tap into (and troll) the zeitgeist had already marked them out for 21st century infamy. Bangers like Under And Over It didn’t hurt, either.
Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
The sheer consistency of Foo Fighters’ output had started to be taken for granted 15 years in, but seventh album Wasting Light arrived with a sense of playfulness and experimentalism to prove they could still surprise. Grappling with themes of time, nostalgia, and second chances, mega-singles Rope and Walk featured proggy touches, while These Days added a sense of sentimentality. It was the down’n’dirty White Limo, though, which proved they could still get heavy with the best.
Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones
Frank Turner’s journey from hardcore firebrand to folk-punk troubadour was complete with his excellent fourth album as singer-songwriter. Boasting a title taken from William Shakespeare’s The Life And Death Of King John, its 12 heartfelt tracks unfold as a footloose exploration of life and death, the power of music and (apolitical) love for Frank’s native England. Eschewing the indignation and topical grandstanding of so much of his other work, EKMB remains a singularly intimate portrait.
Korn – The Path Of Totality
Rolling into their 10th album, the idea that Bakersfield bruisers Korn felt the need to reinvent themselves was no real surprise to fans. Few, however, anticipated that they’d employ a host of the greatest dubstep and electronic producers – Skrillex, Downlink, Noisia – to craft such a drastically different set of songs. “I want to trail-blaze,” explained frontman Jonathan Davis. “I want to change things. I want to do things we’re not supposed to do. I want to create art that’s different and not conform to what’s going on. We didn’t make a dubstep album. We made a Korn album.” Quite.
Lou Reed & Metallica – Lulu
The year’s other crossover LP from revered Californian metal heavyweights proved even more divisive. A double-album dropped on Halloween that brought together San Francisco thrash titans Metallica and New York art rock legend Lou Reed (a last full LP appearance before his death in 2013) to musically reinterpret two century-old works by German playwright Frank Wedekind, it is a weird, unwieldy, unapologetically indulgent work. Spectacularly/disastrously so, depending on your taste.
Machine Head – Unto The Locust
Machine Head were still riding a wave after the second-wind success of 2007’s The Blackening, and the seven tracks of Unto The Locust overflow with that creative confidence. A more progressive, colourful counterpart to its monochromatic predecessor, the epic likes of Be Still And Know, Locust and This Is The End showcase a band at the height of their powers, while Darkness Within’s powerful balladry pointed to the daring dynamism they would mine (to varying effect) over the decade that followed.
Mastodon – The Hunter
Fans weren’t sure what to expect of Mastodon’s fifth album. Having rounded out their loosely-conceptualised elemental quadrilogy with trippy 2009 masterpiece Crack The Skye, though, they were free to get right to the point with The Hunter’s collection of short, sharp jabs. Although the title is a reference to the death of wildman guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds’ brother, who suffered a heart attack on a hunting trip, the overarching structure was described by the band as a sort-of mixtape of their multiple personalities, with narrative focus veering from Swamp Thing (Creature Lives) to zero-gravity sex (Stargasm). It was Kerrang!’s Album Of The Year.
Rise Against – Endgame
At the height of the Obama presidency, pickings should’ve been slim for political punks looking for something to rage against. Not so for Chicagoan firebrands Rise Against. Covering subjects as disparate as LGBT+ rights (September’s Children) and the inefficiencies of U.S. disaster relief (Help Is On The Way), they managed to push towards the top tier of rock stardom without sacrificing an ounce of their righteous crusader spirit.
Suicide Silence – The Black Crown
Californian deathcore supremos Suicide Silence had no way of knowing that this would be their last album with Mitch Lucker – the frontman would die in a motorcycle accident in Huntington Beach on November 1 the following year – but, with retrospect, The Black Crown was a defiant parting statement. As well as expanding the musical potential of the oversaturated subgenre, its 11 tracks were loaded with lyrical substance, teetering between nihilistic darkness and humanist light.
Touché Amoré – Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me
Los Angeles post-hardcore heroes Touché Amoré were still early into their stylistic evolution in 2011. Regardless, second album Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me bristles with complex ambition. On one hand, brilliant frontman Jeremy Bolm’s lyrics about coming to terms with life as a touring band, struggling with interpersonal relationships while embracing the escape of time on the road. On the other, a frantic five-day recording schedule lent proceedings a sense of the raw, lightning-in-a-bottle honesty of live performance.
Trivium – In Waves
Trivium were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t in 2011. Stick too closely to the stadium-metal template set by bands like Metallica (an outfit to whom they were once touted as heirs apparent) and they would be labelled derivative. Follow their own proggy whims too far and they would be called out for wasting their world-beating potential. And with the departure of original sticksman Travis Smith, the pressure was piled on even further. In Waves was the sound of the Floridians breaking free: an album that was by turns wildly experimental and inescapably hooky, but always 100 per cent unadulterated Trivium.
Twin Atlantic – Free
When Twin Atlantic first emerged from the Glaswegian underground with 2009 debut Vivarium, they seemed cut from the same awkward, experimental cloth as they countrymen in Biffy Clyro and Idlewild. With follow-up Free, however, they fully unleashed frontman Sam McTrusty’s prodigious pop songwriting abilities and announced themselves as arena-rock heavyweights in-waiting with super-singles like Edit Me, Make A Beast Of Myself and the absolutely gargantuan title-track. The decade since has seen a couple of significant stylistic shifts, but they remain one of the UK’s most reliably anthemic outfits.
The Wonder Years – Suburbia I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing
The middle chapters of trilogies are notoriously difficult propositions, lacking a self-contained narrative to build on or a defined conclusion to steer towards. Sandwiched between its accompanying chapters, however – 2010’s The Upsides, 2013’s The Greatest Generation – Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing makes the most of its loose threads as The Wonder Years’ frontman Dan “Soupy” Campbell reckons on a gnawing sense of disconnection. Tellingly, the title is a reference to forlorn Allen Ginsberg poem America.
You Me At Six – Sinners Never Sleep
A relatively quick-fire follow-up to 2010’s Hold Me Down, Sinners Never Sleep saw Surrey rockers You Me At Six stepping away from their pop-punk roots to deliver the most grown-up release of their career. With Oli Sykes cropping up on Bite My Tongue, and the energy of mega-singles Loverboy, No One Does It Better and Reckless, there was no lack of momentum as they slingshotted towards the next level. On December 8, 2012, the album’s globetrotting tour was capped off a one-off show at Wembley Arena in London (dubbed The Final Night of Sin), cementing YMAS’ place in the Brit-rock big leagues.
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