Queens Of The Stone Age to reissue three albums on vinyl – including their 1998 debut
Queens Of The Stone Age are re-releasing their debut, Villains and ...Like Clockwork on limited-edition coloured vinyl
As with the rest of human existence, the year 2000 was a time of rapid, digitised change for rock music. Stylistically, the '90s grunge revolution was a fading memory, while the nu-metal that had taken its place had largely jumped the shark, morphing from the angsty, edgy, downtuned sound of the outsider to a mainstream-straddling pop cultural force owned by fat cats attempting to monetise teenage rebellion. Traditional punk and metal were still on the wane, while pop-punk only pulled further towards the norm. In many ways these were the last throes of the music industry gravy-train – and many of the bands riding it.
At the same time, a new breed of artists – and some sleeping giants – recognised the possibilities in play. The widespread popularisation of mp3s with Apple’s first iPod might’ve still been a year away, but rapidly-evolving technology and the Napster controversy proved that music was about to become unimaginably easier to make, advertise and distribute. The world was growing smaller in front of our eyes, and music was to be a new ambassadorial force. Our collation of the stand-out albums of the year makes for a vibrant (and only occasionally cringe-inducing) trip down memory lane…
If you think the year 2000 was a total wasteland in terms of traditionally heavy sounds, you just weren’t looking hard enough. When Sleep guitarist Matt Pike decided to strike out with a project of his own, few envisioned an outfit anywhere near as impactful as the mighty High On Fire. Coming on like a dirtier, heavier, druggier Motörhead, this was stoner metal with zero chill: all neck-rending weight and bludgeoning riffage. Although much of debut LP The Art Of Self Defense isn’t up to the speed of their more definitive later work (2005’s Blessed Black Wings being the watershed moment), there is a density and abrasiveness to odd numbers like 10,000 Years, Fireface and Master Of Fists that would whet our appetites for the jawbreaking feasts to follow.
BRBR-DENG aside, Illinois metallers Mudvayne tend to be defined by their shifting eras and imagery. As such, the nightmare carnival aesthetic of L.D. 50 was their most thrillingly bonkers moment. Watching back the music video for slamming lead single Dig, it’d be all too easy to discount the quintet – like many did – as clowns. Dig into the schizoid atmospherics of -1, however, or the mathy tumult of Death Blooms and we find the experimentalist spark that’d make them a musical force for years to come.
Often compared to (a darker, heavier, nastier version of) classic prog-metallers Queensrÿche, the fourth album from Seattle nightmares Nevermore was the sound of a monstrous line-up on cruise-control. Less personal than 1999’s Dreaming Neon Black (which was inspired by the disappearance of vocalist Warrel Dane’s ex-girlfriend) there’s a more scattergun approach to hot topics as varied as drug abuse (Narcosynthesis) and atheism (Believe In Nothing), while a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound Of Silence feels absolutely unhinged. The main draw remains, of course, shred supremo Jeff Loomis’ contributions as he began to experiment with seven-string guitars.
In many ways, nu-metal was a regressive step for gender equality in heavy music. Ploughing through the machismo and misogyny, however, all-female Canadian outfit Kittie arrived on their own terms: trading in a pulse-quickening blend of Korn’s unbound heaviosity and the riot grrrl attitude of Hole and L7. With teenage sisters Morgan and Mercedes Lander at the helm, and songs like Do You Think I’m A Whore dealing with sexism, betrayal and bullying, Spit remains a provocative delight.
Never shy about their links to the world of rock and metal (frontman B-Real backed-up Prophets Of Rage, second vocalist Sen Dog went to school with Slayer’s Dave Lombardo and fronts rap-metal supergroup Powerflo, while 1994’s Black Sunday openly samples Black Sabbath), Californian hip-hop collective Cypress Hill dove in headlong with Skull & Bones. While the first half of the double-disc set was a straightforwardly excellent rap workout, the second (Bones) saw them welcome aboard Fear Factory’s Dino Cazares and Christian Olde Wolbers, Rage Against The Machine’s Brad Wilk and Deftones’ Chino Moreno to tear through metallic cuts like Valley Of Chrome, Can’t Get The Best Of Me and the thumping (Rock) Superstar.
In the year 2000, hard as it may be to believe, melodic death metal’s cutting edge took the shape of the reaper’s scythe. Nowadays, overfamiliarity and an obstinate refusal to meaningfully diversify or re-energise their songwriting might’ve dulled the sheen, but – having honed their attack over 1997’s Something Wild and 1999’s Hatebreeder – Follow The Reaper saw Children Of Bodom deliver a masterclass in combining shred-heavy instrumentation and earworm bombast, with the duelling six-strings of frontman Alexi Laiho and Janne Warman catching the ears of metalheads around the world. From the springy title-track and fist-pumping Bodom After Midnight to the more atmospheric Mask Of Sanity and Hate Me!, this was Bodom at their best.
When ex-Refused frontman Dennis Lyxzén formed garage-rock project The (International) Noise Conspiracy in late 1998, fans of his previous outfit’s energy, abrasion and unbending edge were unsure about this cooler, more laid-back vision. Second album Survival Sickness won many over, however, with the driving sounds and unbending leftist politics of songs like Smash It Up and The Reproduction Of Death sublimating much of what had made that previous band great. As a bonus, the uninitiated had just as much fun shaking along.
The Nightwish formula was beginning to really fizzle by fantastical third LP Wishmaster. By some distance their grandest and most coherently-realised offering to date, the Kitee collective built on the foundations laid by 1997’s Angels Fall First and 1998’s Oceanborn with a symphonic metal masterclass. Although eccentric mainman Tuomas Holopainen has commented that it’s probably the least personal album in the band’s catalogue, the warcry title-track, She Is My Sin’s vertiginous vocals and the majestically evocative Dead Boy’s Poem – built on imagery from deep within Tuomas’ psyche which would be frequently revisited – ensured this has stood as a landmark through the years that followed.
Think Viking metal is all swords, shields and single-minded brutality? Think again. Although Norwegian visionaries Enslaved never truly conformed to the lo-fi standards of so many of their Scandinavian extreme-metal contemporaries, fifth album Mardraum (translating as 'nightmare') felt like a quantum leap. Beefing out their black metal template with elements of jazz, retro avant-garde and outright psychedelia, tracks like Større enn tid – tyngre enn natt (Greater Than Time – Heavier Than Night) and Krigaren eg ikkje kjende (Warrior Unknown) proved as vibrant as Asgard’s rainbow bridge.
Rob Halford’s 1990s exploits were the stuff of metal infamy, with neither of his semi-experimental post-Judas Priest side-projects (Fight and 2wo) getting close to the glaring brilliance of his 1990 parting shot Painkiller. As the decade turned over again, however, the Metal God made his way back on track with the aptly-titled Resurrection. The tellingly-titled likes of Made In Hell and Locked And Loaded packed plenty to get fans banging along, but it was his inspired collaboration with prodigal Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson on cheekily-titled cracker The One You Love To Hate.
Following a minor fan backlash to the darker, more complex sounds of 1999’s otherwise-acclaimed fourth album The Hot Rock, Washington riot grrrls Sleater-Kinney clapped back with All Hands On The Bad One. Thematically fixated on the perception and expectations surrounding women – not just in rock, but in broader modern media – the likes of sardonic opener The Ballad Of The Ladyman and Male Model demanded that these women be viewed on their own singular terms. Meanwhile, other cuts like Youth Decay and Pompeii plumb into the anxieties of growing up in that harshest of spotlights.
Perhaps the last truly great Morbid Angel album proved that – even 11 years after defining release Altars Of Madness – they were still at the very forefront of death metal. Featuring the stacked line-up of bassist/vocalist Steve Tucker, guitarists Trey Azagoth and Erik Rutan, and drummer Pete Sandoval, Gateways To Annihilation dampened the frenetic pace of 1998’s Formulas Fatal To The Flesh in favour of a more suffocating attack in line with 1991 masterpiece Blessed Are The Sick. Tracks like He Who Sleeps, To The Victor The Spoils and Opening Of The Gates proved that you don’t need orchestral accompaniment for a truly epic extreme metal sound.
Described by the brothers Madden as Good Charlotte’s “brightest”, “most innocent” and “starry-eyed” moment, the Maryland pop-punks’ self-titled debut now feels like a lucid glance back through time. ‘This song is dedicated to every kid who ever got picked last in gym class’ begins opening track Little Things, and the wholesome odes to the underdogs just keep coming. There was little of the Hollywood cool that would define later releases in songs like The Motivation Proclamation and Change/Thank You Mom, but it also spoke its message more directly to those downtrodden fans who needed to hear it most.
Broadly acknowledged as their defining work, the second album from Ancient Egypt-obsessed tech-death-metallers Nile was a quantum leap for both band and genre. Although 1998’s Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka hinted at their complex ferocity, Black Seeds Of Vengeance captured it in its full widescreen (gory) glory. The influence of recently-recruited guitarist Dallas Toler-Wade is plain to see in the compelling economy of songs like Defiling The Gates Of Ishtar and Masturbating The War God, while the chant-along title-track remains their go-to set closer.
After the genre-defining brilliance of their output throughout the 1990s, sixth album Conspiracy Of One was a jarring change of pace for some Offspring fans. Teaming with hard rock super-producer Brendan O’Brien, there was a more professional tightness and maturity, with elements of hip-hop and grunge making it into the mix on bangers like Come Out Swinging, Want You Bad and Million Miles Away. The old sense of humour was there too, of course, in tongue-in-cheek hit single Original Prankster. The band’s vocal stance in favour of file-sharing might’ve hit sales, but the album still achieved a platinum rating and – more importantly – extended their crowd-pleasing run.
Methuen, Massachusetts mavericks Cave In cemented their uber-ambitious credentials with this sophomore epic. Their meld of metal, post-hardcore, noise and alt.rock that was only really hinted at on 1998’s debut LP Until Your Heart Stops – and which was beginning to take shape on 1999’s Creative Eclipses EP – was in full-on psychedelic flow by the aptly-titled Jupiter. Openly inspired by outfits like Failure and Radiohead, the soundscape swells and subsides through the crushing Big Riff and on into the otherworldly In The Stream Of Commerce and acoustic closer New Moon. It remains the standout release in the catalogue of vocalist Caleb Scofield, who tragically died in a 2018 traffic accident.
There’s a single-minded political purpose that stands out even two decades down the line from Amen's third full-length. Referencing Ohioan heroes Dead Boys’ 1978 release We Have Come For Your Children, We Have Come For Your Parents found frontman Casey Chaos on vitriolic form, with the socially-charged purpose of songs like Mayday, Dead On The Bible and Too Hard To Be Free feeling thrillingly ahead-of-their-time. That the video for lead single The Price Of Reality featured Casey reconfiguring Francis Bacon’s nightmarish 1954 painting Figure With Meat overlaid with fragments of lurid Americana speaks loudly to their lofty artistic ambitions.
The use of 18 guest musicians across 12 tracks undermined the credibility of Max Cavalera’s post-Sepultura project as early as its second album for some fans. With the benefit of hindsight, however – and the nine more conventional Soulfly releases that have followed in its wake – Primitive stands as a shapeshifting (yet slab-heavy) landmark in Max’s extended catalogue. Whether nailing-on big-name vocals (Slipknot’s Corey Taylor on Jumpdafuckup, Slayer’s Tom Arya on Terrorist) or dabbling in more experimentalist waters (Deftones’ Chino Moreno and Will Haven’s Geady Avenell crash the spring-loaded pain, while Sean – son of John – Lennon ruminates with Max over lost fathers on Son Song), this was a fascinating testament to the Brazilian legend’s towering reputation in heavy music.
Binaural marked a major creative watershed for Seattle legends Pearl Jam. A decade since their formation, the band stepped away from producer Brendan O’Brien (who had presided over the previous four releases) in favour of Tchad Blake and a more atmospheric, less hook-oriented sound. There were a handful of catchy cuts in God’s Dice, Evacuation, Grievance and Light Years, but the rest of the album is an unapologetically experimental affair that signposted the way for much of their later work. The ukulele-led Soon Forget even hinted at frontman Eddie Vedder’s later solo output.
All bright ideas and rough-edged execution, Killswitch Engage’s debut remains a breathlessly exciting listen. Formed from the remnants of metalcore also-rans Aftershock, Overcast and Nothing Stays Gold – with a band name nicked from an episode of The X-Files and eventually pivotal guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz on drums – Killswitch were all about marrying the grandiosity of classic and death metal to the energy of the rising metalcore and NWOAM scenes. From cutting intro Temple From The Within (a match for the album’s serrated artwork) to the high atmospherics of closer One Last Sunset, it was a fitting beginning to one of the most dramatic journeys in modern metal.
When troubled frontman Lynn Strait was struck and killed in a traffic accident on December 11, 1998, it seemed to have spelled the end for renowned Californian funk-metallers Snot. Having already started work on what would be their second LP, however, his bandmates decided to complete the project in tribute to their departed friend. Rather than welcoming an outsider into the fold, the decision was made to get Strait’s friends to fill in. The assembled cast of contributors – from Serj Tankian and Jonathan Davis to Max Cavalera, Corey Taylor, Fred Durst and even Ozzy Osbourne – was one of the most impressive in the history of heavy music. It was the lower-profile contribution of Sevendust’s Lajon Witherspoon (and bandmates) on Angel’s Son, though, which would make for the album’s stand-out track.
If 1998’s genre-defying Life Won’t Wait proved that Berkeley roughs Rancid weren’t slaves to their street punk heritage, 2000’s self-titled follow-up (not to be mistaken with 1993’s also-self-titled debut) confirmed that they were still very much bound to it. Veering close to hardcore, its 22 tracks in 38 minutes are overflowing with aggression and energy, with the no-holds-barred likes of Disgruntled and Corruption loading on the Black Flag influence, while righteous ruminations like Antennas and Dead Bodies reaffirm their unimpeachable social conscience.
It wasn’t released until April 2001 in the US, but the fifth album from New Jersey stoner metal legends Monster Magnet dropped several months earlier for UK fans. Recorded in a turbulent flurry as the band’s label A&M was being merged with Interscope and Geffen – and less than two years since the release of banging breakthrough Powertrip – there was an obvious element of striking while the iron was hot, with tracks like Heads Explode and Doomsday attempting to recapture the magic, while the industrial inflections on Queen Of You and Silver Future attempted to tap into the nu-metal zeitgeist. Oozing swagger, Dave Wyndorf and the boys had a fair bit of success, too.
Although roundly regarded as one of Smashing Pumpkins’ lesser releases, the sheer scope of ambition and stylistic dexterity exhibited on Machina demands celebration. Conceived as the self-referential swansong for a band whose brilliance has always been enhanced by their skirting on implosion, its broad, high-minded approach to songwriting was the antithesis of the knuckle-dragging nu-metal movement that so many of the rest of the rock mainstream had bought into. From bristling, overdriven opener The Everlasting Gaze through the deep textures of Stand Inside Your Love and the dreamy acoustic of Try, Try, Try to towering, heart-on-sleeve climax Wound, the swirl of bittersweet purpose here only feels intensified by age.
The second album from Detroit duo The White Stripes was arguably the greatest example of their combination of retro pop-rock and modern garage stylings. Quickly gaining buzz, the band’s peculiar mystique (were they brother and sister; husband and wife; ex-lovers?) threatened to outshine their music on occasion. Whether peeling off some classic blues (Death Letter), spinning-45 swagger (Why Can’t You Be Nicer To Me?), twanging country (Your Southern Can Is Mine) or Dylan-esque folk (A Boy’s Best Friend), however, they oozed weirdo class.
From righteous punk rock to rabid extreme metal (see entry 12 on this list), there was a fixation on the idea of a New America that ran through rock music at the turn of the millennium. The eleventh album from Los Angeles stalwarts – and the last of their major-label affiliation with Atlantic Records – tackles the pitfalls of encroaching modernity with a pre-9/11 frivolity that seems strange now, especially on tracks like I Love My Computer and The Hopeless Housewife. But when Greg Graffin got personal discussing his punk coming of age (A Streetkid Named Desire) and recent divorce (1000 Memories) there was an unusual warmth and intimacy in the rebel songwriting.
Three years after they’d pushed the stylistic envelope with Wu-Tang Forever, New York hip-hop legends Wu-Tang Clan returned to the formula with which they had risen to fame. All stripped-back beats, grindhouse attitude, soul swagger and kung-fu punch, tracks like Hollow Bones and Protect Ya Neck (The Jump Off) were the perfect soundtrack to back-street wrongdoings, generally avoiding macho posturing in favour of more streetwise hustle. Collaborations with heavyweights like Snoop Dogg (Conditioner), Nas (Let My Niggas Live) and Busta Rhymes (The Monument) emphasised their wide-ranging influence, while the appearance of soul legend Isaac Hayes on I Can’t Go To Sleep showcased elements of velvety vulnerability thus far unseen.
Finnish Love Metallers HIM were at the absolute height of their powers on this scintillating sophomore offering. Painted in deepest gothic black and passionate blood red, concepts showcased on 1997 debut Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666 were distilled into something singularly seductive. With frontman Ville Valo growing in confidence and his band nailing down their shadowy, surging schtick, songs like Poison Girl, Join Me In Death, Gone With The Sin and Right Here In My Arms swelled a swooning fanbase well beyond their homeland where – as it happens – the album raced to number one and eventually went double-platinum.
Heavily inspired by legendary Liverpudlian author Clive Barker’s novel Cabal – and its cinematic adaptation Nightbreed – the fourth album from Suffolk metal extremists Cradle Of Filth unfolds as a nightmarish sort-of concept album, and the closest they’d ever get to a truly cinematic experience. Having welcomed guitarist Paul Allender back into the fold after five years away, their trademark twin-leads were swapped out for a more vicious style, with Dani Filth’s typically overblown performance, and some unapologetically hammy narration from Doug Bradley lending a horror movie accessibility to otherwise brutal cuts like Cthulhu Dawn. Meanwhile, the high gothic textures of Her Ghost In The Fog earned their most comprehensive mainstream exposure yet.
The debut LP from nu-metal survivors Disturbed showcases the best and worst of what the movement had to offer, while also indicating the more straightforward hard rock direction with which they would find massive success. There are unheralded levels of cringe in the bone-headed lyricism of Stupify and the slathered-on synths of The Game, but there is bombastic brilliance, too, in David Draiman’s delivery across highlights like Voices and the ingenious absurdity of the now-iconic title track. Altogether now: 'Ooh, wah, ah, ah, ah – oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!'
Some argue that by the year 2000 In Flames were past their peak. Following on from the 1990s unholy trinity – The Jester Race (1996), Whoracle (1997), Colony (1999) – the future was clay in their hands, the ‘Metallica conundrum’ looming large: stay put as big fish in the underground pond or break cover in a run for mainstream metal success? Going one last round with longtime producer Fredrik Nordström and refusing to blunt their razor's edge on full-blooded bangers like Pinball Map and Another Day In Quicksand, there was the sense of one foot planted safely in their past. But with an influx of stadium-worthy hooks and a ramped-up focus on melody – from the untouchable, oft-harmonised guitars of Jesper Stromblad and Bjorn Geloette turning tracks like Swim and Suburban Me into compositions worthy of a hoarse-throated Iron Maiden or Thin Lizzy, to the glaring synth-lines colouring Only For The Weak – another found traction in fresh ground.
Having parted ways with their long-time management and seen tensions with Earache Records boil over following 1998’s Words From The Exit Wound, Napalm Death were in bristling (but liberated) form going into their ninth LP. Ditching the deeper grooves that had characterised their late-90s run we saw a return to the grindcore violence they had pioneered. On the final record to feature guitarist Jesse Pintado, too, tracks like Vermin, Thanks For Nothing, Necessary Evil and Cure For The Common Complaint burn with renewed anti-establishment purpose. Excruciatingly brilliant.
While the contemporary sludgy stoner doom genre was a recognisably American phenomenon, Dorset trio Electric Wizard had established themselves as purveyors of a brand of sonic suffocation every bit as heavy as anything from the other side of the Atlantic. Loading up the sheer heft of riffmasters like Black Sabbath, Sleep, Saint Vitus, Cathedral and Candlemass, and, er, electrifying it with a sense of manic, tripped-out purpose, they were already recognised as one of the heaviest bands on the planet. Dopethrone picked up where they had dropped off on 1997’s Come My Fanatics… with the crazy heaviosity of songs like Vinum Sabbathi and Funeralopolis setting the bar for years to come.
Falling between landmark 1998 debut Goddamnit and 2001’s commercial breakthrough From Here To Infirmary, Maybe I’ll Catch Fire often feels like the overlooked gem of Alkaline Trio’s back-catalogue. After relatively optimistic opener Keep ‘Em Coming, the record unfolds a shade darker than what had preceded it. Madam Me is all stabbing six-strings and pained regret, You’ve Got So Far To Go is one of their best-ever Dan Andriano cuts and album closer Radio – with that immortal opening line ‘Shaking like a dog shittin’ razorblades / Wakin’ up next to nothin'’ – has become arguably their most instantly-recognisable anthem. The fire burns.
'CUT MY LIFE INTO PIECES, THIS IS MY LAST RESORT!' With their numerous reinventions and renaissances since, Papa Roach have put serious distance between themselves and the scene from which they emerged, but their smashing second LP remains their apparently immovable high watermark. Detonating dance-floors with Last Resort, tugging heartstrings with Broken Home and getting under our skin with Between Angels And Insects, Jacoby Shaddix’s Californian mob delivered angst-overload via the hookiest songwriting nu-metal would ever see.
Across four sprawling tracks comprising almost 90-minutes of music, Canadian collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor redefined post-rock for the new millennium. Presented across two discs whose artwork did not feature the band’s name, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven painted a potent yet mysterious apocalyptic vision of capitalist society in collapse. A ravaged, largely wordless soundscape that veers between moments of rattling dissonance and others of transcendent beauty – sampled voices occasionally peeking through – this still feels like a strangely sepia-toned glimpse into a broken future just about to unfold.
On the strength of a demo recorded with local producer Don Fury, New York post-hardcore upstarts Glassjaw found themselves being championed by the mighty Ross Robinson (Korn, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit), signed to Roadrunner Records and whipped across the country for recording at Robinson’s renowned Indigo Ranch studio in Malibu, California. These twelve tracks were the result. Although the label (from which the band split, somewhat acrimoniously) didn’t seem to know what to do with the explosion of emotions at play in songs like Pretty Lush, Siberian Kiss and Ry Ry’s Song, their biting brilliance – and enduring influence – has been transparent in the years since.
As evidenced elsewhere on this list, there was a huge garage-rock revival in the early-2000s – with bands like The White Stripes, The Strokes, Kings Of Leon and Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs all playing their part – but few outfits broke out with the unabashed abandon and sheer sense of fun that we got from Swedish wildcards The Hives. Led-on by uber-charismatic frontman/ringleader Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, the high-energy likes of Hate To Say I Told You So, Main Offender and Die, All Right felt custom-tooled to get bodies shaking and fists pumping. Crucially, there was a wry self-awareness that meant both band and fans were enjoying the stupidly good times with no strings attached.
By 2000, Lamb Of God were shaping up as one of the dominant forces of the New Wave Of American Metal and they hit the next millennium with a fresh name (previous moniker Burn The Priest having been jettisoned to avoid accusations that they were an overtly Satanic outfit) and 'debut' album to prove it. Bridging the gap between the brutalist death-inflected sounds with which they emerged and the groovier direction that would lead them to the top of the metal mountain, New American Gospel isn’t the best LOG release, but killer cuts like Black Label and Pariah cement its importance in the millennial metal landscape.
After nine years and four previous LPs, The Art Of Drowning finally saw shady Californian punks AFI make some kind of mark on the mainstream. While still flirting with the horror-punk of their early years, this was slower and more melodic with a pronounced gothic influence bleeding through tracks like Ever And A Day and 6 To 8. They confidently showcase other shades, too: surging stand-out The Days Of The Phoenix burning with a sense of arms-in-the-air catharsis while The Lost Souls blueprints much of the punchiness and raw emotion with which they would ascend to real stardom on 2003’s Sing The Sorrow.
Although it’s roundly recognised as the weakest offering released after their 1990 reinvention, there is a pugilistic defiance about Pantera’s final LP that ensures it cannot be ignored. With internal cracks stressed further by massive external pressure, the album is characterised by the tension between classic metal (of which the band had become regarded as defenders), the increasingly experimental tendencies of the Abbott brothers and the more extreme death and black metal influence frontman Phil Anselmo was keen to explore. Chuck the baggage to one side, though, and tracks like Revolution Is My Name and I’ll Cast A Shadow stand tall.
Although the album marked something of a commercial dip for the Berkeley punk heavyweights, Warning found Green Day daringly evolving their sound in a way that would prove pivotal. Building on the foundations laid by 1997’s Nimrod, there was less outright high-tempo punk influence, with shades of pop and folk often coming to the fore. The jangling acoustic attitude of the title track and underrated minimalist melancholia of anti-commercialism closer Macy’s Day Parade showcased Billie Joe Armstrong’s more nuanced songwriting, while the thumping Minority sowed the seeds of more political thinking that would bear world-conquering fruit with their next LP: 2004’s American Idiot.
Limp Bizkit took the ridiculous/sublime dynamism of nu-metal to its (il)logical conclusion. From its bewildering lyrics (‘Ben Stiller, you are my favourite motherfucker!’) to frontman Fred Durst’s insufferable wannabe-celebrity swagger to an album title literally referencing the human anus, Chocolate Starfish had no right to succeed. But with guitarist Wes Borland embracing the insanity, cranked-to-11 smashers like My Generation, Rollin’ and Take A Look Around won pretty much everyone over regardless, setting sales-records for a rock band and burrowing into the subconscious of a whole generation of fans.
Iron Maiden might’ve never officially gone away, but 2000’s Brave New World remains one of the greatest comebacks in the history of heavy metal. Having struggled with artistic decline and dwindling audience numbers for the best part of the 1990s, the British metal legends welcomed human air-raid siren singer Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith back into the fold, setting up their ultimate three-guitar line-up and giving their sound an epic escalation perfectly befitting 2002’s subsequently iconic live album Rock In Rio. From pounding opener The Wicker Man via the stirring Blood Brothers to high-wire closer The Thin Line Between Love And Hate, Brave New World opened the floodgates for a bright new era.
A Perfect Circle became one of the more remarkable metal side-projects of the millennium for a variety of reasons. When Billy Howerdel transitioned from working as guitar tech to alt.metal figurehead in his own right and managed to recruit Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan as vocalist, the stage was set for a musical blend that combined the thumping heaviness of Tool with an atmospheric dexterity more like something from a movie soundtrack. Mer de Noms (French for 'Sea Of Names') was the grandstanding first release. Mesmeric highlight Judith remains the landmark, but the darker shades of 3 Libras and The Hollow were further stand-out singles, while the mysterious likes of Sleeping Beauty and Thinking Of You expanded that rich initial world-building.
If, as many believed, American hard rock was crying out for saviours at the turn of the millennium, big-haired El Paso collective At The Drive-In were the heroes we’d been holding out for. Righteous anger and unbound creativity spilled freely from Cedric Bixler’s almost Dio like vocals and Omar Rodriguez’s hard guitars on One Armed Scissor and Invalid Letter Dept. Hell, the king of punk himself, Iggy Pop, even crops up to lend guest vocals on the agitprop firecracker Rolodex Propaganda. The record has been lauded many times since as one of the most important rock records of all time, and it’s damn hard to argue.
Even after the shock-rock-redefining greatness of 1996’ Antichrist Superstar and 1998’s Mechanical Animals, Marilyn Manson’s ferocious fourth album is the release that lingers in so many fans’ minds. Featuring that mega-provocative image of a jawless Manson as the crucified Christ, the record was a scathing response to the scapegoating – that perceived artistic martyrdom – Manson suffered in response to the 1999 Columbine school shooting. Returning fire, the God Of Fuck opened-up on guns, God and government, attacking the moral ignorance and hypocritical rot at the heart of modern America from rock-club-ready bangers Disposable Teens and The Fight Song to The Nobodies’ lingering creep, the rigour-mortise jerk of Cruci-fiction In Space and despondent closer Count To Six And Die (The Vacuum Of Infinite Space Encompassing).
Although 1998’s cult classic, self-titled debut slipped under the radar somewhat, Rated R catapulted Queens Of The Stone Age straight into rock’s mainstream. Having already contributed to Seattle stalwarts Screaming Trees, fronted desert-rock icons Kyuss and co-founded boogie-rockers Eagles Of Death Metal, Josh Homme was a respected face in the scene. This was the moment he really stepped into the sun, though. Bringing aboard livewire bassist Nick Oliveri, eventual EODM co-conspirator Gene Trautmann and Trees’ frontman Mark Lanegan, wordily-titled hits The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret and Feel Good Hit Of The Summer were towering tentpoles, but it was the consistency of inspiration and invention from the fast-fire Quick And To The Pointless to sprawling closer I Think I Lost My Headache that made this an all-time classic.
Although Deftones’ entire catalogue demands a degree of reverence, White Pony remains their undisputed masterpiece. Severing ties, for good, with the flailing nu-metal genre into which they had been lumped, the Sacramento visionaries delivered their most artful, progressive offering. Bred from the battle for creative control – and subsequent brinkmanship – between guitarist Stephen Carpenter and vocalist Chino Moreno (who had recently picked up his own six-string), the breakneck shifts from extreme heaviness to near-ambience created a tension and pulsating ebb-and-flow. The textural contributions of electronic specialist Frank Delgado added yet another dimension to tracks, from the crashing Mini Maggit to the ethereal Digital Bath and brooding mega-single Change (In The House Of Flies). The appearance of Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan (at the height of his powers) on the incredible Passenger was further icing on the cake.
What more needs to be said? In a sense, the titular Hybrid Theory of Linkin Park’s peerless debut was the concept of nu-metal distilled down to its purest form. The elements are all there: crunching rock guitars, perfectly integrated rhymes, atmospheric electronics and an industrial sense of purpose. There is little lurid storytelling here, mind, with band members’ (undeniable) demons refracted through open-ended lyrics and glimpsed darkness offset by soaring catharsis. Neither is there braggadocious machismo, with co-frontmen Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda coming on as impassioned everymen, exuding far more empathy than the made-up freaks and outlandishly dressed gangsters who had somehow become the norm. Crucially, though, every song on the album landed with the right balance of iconic immediacy and heartfelt honesty to stick forever in fans minds. Two decades on, there is even more poignancy in hearing crunching riffage slams up against Chester’s glassy vocals on Crawling and In The End, while One Step Closer remains the rock-club-detonating banger to rule them all. An irresistible mix of angst and innovation, Hybrid Theory still feels as exciting today as it did the first time, standing as the ultimate monument to one of rock’s greatest bands.
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