The big review: Download Festival 2023
Celebrating an incredible 20 years with a whopping anniversary spectacular, here’s all the best stuff from Download Festival.
From Slipknot and Sum 41 to Tool and Tenacious D, we rank the greatest albums from the year 2001…
2001 was a big year, both for heavy music and the wider world at large. Where the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Virginia and the skies above Pittsburgh would trigger a new dark age of western fear and xenophobia, however, music was pushing onwards and upwards. The launch of Apple’s iPod and iTunes Store brought mobile MP3 listening to the masses, while artists were finally fighting free from the worst aspects of nu-metal with a range of alternative sounds that would set the stage for the decades that followed.
Whether that meant Slipknot and System Of A Down taking extreme metal mainstream, blink-182 and Sum 41 making puerile pop-punk a talking-point around suburban dining room tables, Muse and Rammstein experimenting with bold new sounds that would reinvent stadium rock for the 21st century, or Jimmy Eat World and Saves The Day keeping the fire alive for earnest second-wave emo, it was a hell of a time to be a young fan: full of mischief, new cutting edges, and untold possibility.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe quite how many classic albums we simply took in stride…
Indebted to the grungy ’90s alt.rock of My Bloody Valentine, Foo Fighters and The Smashing Pumpkins, London collective My Vitriol managed to stand out from the pack in 2001 by playing to the subtleties of the recent past rather than the smash-mouth madness of the then-zeitgeist. Having expanded from duo to four-piece between debut EP Delusions Of Grandeur and first album Finelines, songs like Cemented Shoes and Losing Touch showcased the sonic dexterity and atmospheric playfulness that made them leaders of the ‘nu-gaze’ movement. Those are just two of five striking singles the album would eventually spawn.
Yorkshire death-doomsters My Dying Bride cranked out six albums between 1992 and 1999, but the three-year wait for seventh LP The Dreadful Hours was no indication that their pitch-black well was running dry. Instead, they had marinated in misery and come back with eight songs that reaffirmed their status as the masters of melancholy metal. The nine-and-a-half-minute title-track showcases both the creeping mournfulness and crashing mania at the heart of their sound, but there was even greater intrigue in the medieval tones of Le Figlie Della Tempesta and the gloriously funereal, 14-minute closer The Return To The Beautiful.
Although his legendary thrash/industrial collective Strapping Young Lad were still very much a going concern at this point, Vancouver metal maestro Devin Townsend was already on to his sixth solo album by 2001. Convinced he’d gotten bogged down in clichéd shit with 2000’s The Physicist, Terria was his attempt at producing something more honest and grounded. A sort of stream of consciousness, the 11 songs that followed blended stark ambience and rich melody, ripping heaviosity and poppy hooks. Terria wasn’t ever going to precipitate a mainstream breakthrough, but it’s loaded with Easter eggs for hardcore fans, including the song title Tiny Tear, which is borrowed outright from a 1989 Godflesh track.
Having broken onto the American hard rock scene as four no-nonsense Californian rock chicks still in high school, it would’ve been understandable if The Donnas had suffered something of an identity crisis come legal drinking age and album number four. Instead they sneered at the doubters who had called them a spent gimmick with the aptly-titled The Donnas Turn 21. These mightn’t have had quite the same spunky razzle-dazzle as those with which they broke out, but songs like Are You Gonna Move It For Me?, Do You Wanna Hit It? and 40 Boys In 40 Nights still packed an infectious blend of bar-room swagger and riot grrrl attitude.
Norwegian black metal would be awfully different to the frostbitten nightmare soundtrack we know today without Snorre Westvold Ruch. Originating from Trondheim, the mainman behind Thorns captured the imaginations of eventual heavyweights Emperor, Mayhem, Satyricon and Burzum with legendary demos Grymyrk (1991) and Trøndertun (1992). Having been jailed for involvement in the murder of Mayhem guitarist Euronymous (orchestrator Varg Vikerness has claimed Snorre was merely “in the wrong place at the wrong time”) there was no official Thorns release until 1998’s split Thorns vs. Emperor and only this one full-length album. Featuring Aldrahn of Dødheimsgard and Satyr of Satyricon on vocals, not to forget Hellhammer of Mayhem on drums, it is one of the last true avant-garde classics to emerge from from the bloodstained Oslo scene.
Okay, okay, we get it: Nickelback kinda suck. Before the Alberta quartet were known for meme-worthy levels of butt-rock cringe (and, er, being one of the biggest guitar bands on Earth), their third album Silver Side Up caught the whole world’s attention with its blend of grungy grit, gunpowder ballast and angsty alt. emotion. Of course, we haven’t forgotten the bizarre spat singer Chad Kroeger had with Kerrang! around the time (we named him ‘Ugliest Person In Rock’ following an online poll, he challenged our man Ian Winwood to a “charity boxing match…”) but bangers like Too Bad and How You Remind Me still pack serious fist-pumping power.
Having written their legend with 1994’s In The Nightside Eclipse and 1997’s Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk, Notodden black metal heroes Emperor had moved on to a more experimental, progressive style by 2001’s fourth (and still final) LP Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire & Demise. A pseudo concept album examining the trials and tribulations of life in a band, the record hinted towards the direction frontman Ihsahn would move in with his later solo material. Still rooted in the Stygian darkness of the scene that bred them, though, songs like Depraved and The Prophet burn with infernal power.
With his Ozzfest on a roll as the biggest heavy music showcase on the planet, and still about a year before the debut of all-conquering reality TV show The Osbournes, Ozzy was, by his own admission, happy to just stay on the road and keep playing the hits. His record label had other ideas. Thank fuck for that, because his eighth solo album saw Double-O assembling one hell of a backing band (prodigal guitarist Zakk Wylde, Metallica-bound bassist Robert Trujillo, Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin) to record 11 songs that once again confronted his many demons. The likes of Gets Me Through and Facing Hell might’ve dabbled in nu-metal, but they manage to stay just about grounded in the old school, while the John Lennon-indebted Dreamer has gone on to be an unlikely all-time classic.
‘Let the bodies hit the floor / Let the bodies hit the floor / Let the bodies hit the floor / Let the bodies hit the flooooooor…’ Their penchant for repetitive songwriting aside, Texan alt.metallers Drowning Pool probably don’t get the credit they deserve as one of the defining bands of the early-2000s. Mega single Bodies is still their best-known song (and remains ubiquitous at rock clubs and fight nights everywhere) but tracks like Tear Away and Sinner deserve credit, too, for their banging attitude and angsty atmospherics. Sadly this would be the band’s only release with vocalist Dave Williams due to his untimely death the following year.
Another album overshadowed by the runaway success of its hit single, the second LP from Californian rockers Alien Ant Farm demands consideration beyond that (admittedly inspired) cover of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal. Bridging the worlds of nu-metal and goofy pop-punk, there was a knowing nostalgia and understated emotional authenticity about tracks like Movies, Attitude and Sticks And Stones that set the Riverside crew apart from their more knuckleheaded peers. Wish even appeared on the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 soundtrack: the ultimate badge of millennial cultural immortality.
If the idea of Christian nu-metal seems unspeakably naff nowadays, that’s an unfair reflection of how – ahem – alive P.O.D. (Payable On Death) seemed when they first broke onto the scene. The second album from the San Diegan collective remains a nu-metal benchmark, with songs like Youth Of The Nation, Boom and the aforementioned, utterly bulletproof Alive enduring through the decades with their sheer expansive power. Unfortunately, through no fault of its own, this was also one of the key albums in shunting American alt.metal towards the bland no-man’s-land it would inhabit for much of the ’00s. We won’t begrudge the trade-off.
In the decade since their seminal debut Forest Of Equilibrium, Coventry doomsters Cathedral had moved away from gloomy graveyard atmospherics in favour of a more stoner-rock vibe. Tellingly-titled sixth album Endtyme saw them delve compellingly back into darkness with songs like Melancholy Emperor, Requiem For The Sun and Alchemist Of Sorrows. Although it didn’t scale the heights of Forest…, Endtyme retained just enough of the swagger they’d adopted over the years since to stand on its own terms. The gold-plated cover art by Sunn O))) guitarist Stephen O’Malley was also the band’s first not designed by great UK artist Dave Patchett.
Long before French metallers Gojira would wield The Heaviest Matter In The Universe and build themselves into arguably the most important act in modern metal, they were environmentally-minded kids paying tribute to their tech-death heroes. Having been forced to change the band name from Godzilla shortly before release, and funding recording with donations from friends and family, there is a seat-of-their-pants roughness to Terra Incognita (‘Unknown Territory’). But, in songs like Lizard Skin, Satan Is A Lawyer and Deliverance, there are shades at play here, too, of the all-conquering metal kaiju the Duplantiers and company would become.
Another rallying cry for future metal standard bearers. Four years before they’d really begin to resemble the arena-rock heavyweights we know and love with 2003’s Waking The Fallen and 2005’s City Of Evil, Californian metalcore upstarts Avenged Sevenfold dropped a bloodthirsty debut to put the world on notice. The goth-tinged influence of contemporaries like Eighteen Visions, Atreyu and Bleeding Through weighs heavily on tracks like Darkness Surrounding and Warmness On The Soul, but in the rabid attack of We Come Out At Night there were already hints at the world-beaters A7X would become. Superbly serrated stuff.
They say it’s best not to leave on an argument, but seminal Washington, D.C. post-hardcore collective Fugazi never really gave a shit about playing by the rules. Released alongside three-track EP Furniture, sixth album The Argument would indeed be their last. Increasingly focused on non-traditional instruments (piano, cello) and further expanding on the art-rock aesthetic they’d introduced on 1995’s Red Medicine and 1998’s End Hits, tracks like Cashout, Epic Problem and Strangelight were lauded by fans and critics as amongst the best of their already celebrated career. A fittingly awkward farewell.
Following the smash success of Ash’s breezy 1996 debut 1977 and the addition of second guitarist Charlotte Hatherley, there were mixed reviews and a lacklustre reception for 1998’s heavier, more straight-faced follow-up Nu-Clear Sounds. Frontman Tim Wheeler fell into a state of depression and returned to his native Northern Ireland to reconnect with the pop-rock sensibility with which the band had broken through. Third album Free All Angels was the joyous result, shifting between Burn Baby Burn’s exuberance to the beautifully floaty romance of Shining Light, reaffirming their status as one of British rock’s greatest-ever bands.
Having launched themselves to the front of British extreme metal with 1999’s uncompromising Rape Of The Bastard Nazarene, expectations were impossibly high for the second album from London blackened death metallers Akercocke. More subtly named after the horned representation of the demon Baphomet, somehow The Goat Of Mendes revealed an infernal power greater than even Akercocke’s most fervent disciples had expected, with tracks like Of Menstrual Blood And Semen and A Skin For Dancing In elevating them onto the world stage. Pure evil.
Too often the unsung heroes of second wave emo, New Jersey collective Saves The Day might be best known for their scene-shifting 1999 masterpiece Through Being Cool, but its 2001 follow-up Stay What You Are is the better album. Having suffered a tour van accident in March 2000 that almost ended their careers, frontman Chris Conley poured all that shock, suffering and uncertainty into a set of songs that throbbed with honesty and empathy. The likes of anthemic mid-paced banger Freakish and the incredible, heartbreaking Nightingale have long since become classics of the genre.
Produced by Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz, the debut album from Buffalo metalcore bruisers Every Time I Die was full of the energy and inspiration that would make them ragged-edged heroes of the scene, but was more chaotic than the later albums that would seal their cult appeal. “I listen back to that album sometimes and think that it sucks that there are like 55 riffs per song,” guitarist Jordan Buckley reflected to K! back in 2017. “Some of them are great, but we only play them for 10 seconds, then never again. I wish we knew how to write songs back then...” To the contrary, bangers like Jimmy Tango’s Method and Punch-Drunk Punk Rock Romance (featuring future KSE vocalist Howard Jones) still smack today.
Los Angeles post-hardcore heroes The Icarus Line had already been through a lot by the time they released fiery debut LP, Mono. The loss of close friend (and drummer in their high school outfit Kanker Scores) Tim Childs in a car crash in 1997 left deep wounds, while two 1998 EPs – Highlypuncturingnoisetestingyourabilitytohate and Red And Black Attack – established a swaggeringly discordant sound. It took the arrival of Mono, however, and songs like You Make Me Nervous and Enemies In High Places to really prove their mettle and see them sharing stages with esteemed contemporaries The Dillinger Escape Plan and Cave In.
Before she was the platinum-haired countess of outsider pop, Gwen Stefani was the singer in Anaheim ska-punk outfit No Doubt. Six years removed from their all-time classic Tragic Kingdom, Gwen’s transition into a world of synth-laden sheen and nightclub rhythms was already well underway on heavily electropop/new wave-influenced fifth album, Rock Steady. As much as mega-singles Hey Baby and Hella Good felt custom-tooled for mainstream chart success, there was enough quirk and attitude on show here for longstanding fans to get down with their heroes one last time before they went full Hollywood.
The sixth album from Brummie industrialists Godflesh, and the last before their 2002 break-up, bears the hallmarks of a troubled production, and a band in identity crisis pulling away from the harsh sheet-metal sounds with which they made their name, in favour of something more traditionally hard rock. The result was a 13-track, 74-minute behemoth – featuring live drums by Ted Parsons – that required real commitment to wrap one’s head around. If you managed that, though, there is a potency of thrusting rhythm, twisted talent and raw vitriol about tracks like Defeated and Deaf, Dumb And Blind that still sounds like it’s spilled straight from the bleeding edge.
The second album from New Jersey screamo pioneers Thursday was the one that changed their world. The potential at play in 1999’s Waiting caught fire in the brilliance of Full Collapse, bridging the heart-on-sleeve honesty of emo and the angular abrasiveness of post-hardcore in songs as simultaneously strained and spectacular as Understanding In A Car Crash and A Hole In The World. Frontman Geoff Rickly’s frayed psyche was poured wholly into the sound: an intoxicating cocktail of existential uncertainty and fragile hope. Ironically, Full Collapse turned out to be an uplifting crutch for those of us who needed it most.
Chris Goss might be better known as the producer behind some of the most important records from ‘Palm Desert scene’ bands like Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age, but the Syracuse, NY native has always been plenty capable of writing some bangers with his own band Masters Of Reality. Fourth album Deep In The Hole was a driving return to form after 1999’s somewhat directionless Welcome To The Western Lodge, with the pounding stoner rock of Third Man On The Moon and Sabbath-worshipping highlight Scatagoria hammering through. It didn’t hurt that everyone from Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri to Mark Lanegan and Troy Van Leeuwen dropped in for colourful cameo appearances.
‘He's got a brand new car / Looks like a jaguar / It's got leather seats / It's got a CD player, player, player…’ Newport pop-rockers Feeder had already released two albums full of earworm promise by 2001, but Echo Park was the moment that everything clicked. Suddenly it seemed realistic that they’d go from up-punching into scademy-sized spaces to getting an experimental Donington headline slot just four years down the line. Everyone loves the carefree sing-along absurdity of Buck Rogers and Japanese edition bonus track Just A Day, but there are bangers front-to-back here, from the faintly psychedelic Piece By Piece to the brilliantly crunchy Seven Days In The Sun. A Brit rock classic.
Swedish melodic death metal icons Arch Enemy had already released three albums with ex-Carnage man Johan Liva on vocals by the turn of the millennium, but it was the arrival of snarling German bombshell Angela Gossow that slingshotted them onto global metal’s main stage. Making a mockery of tired “female-fronted” clichés, Angela brought a ravenous focus and raw power to tracks like Enemy Within and Burning Angel that forced metal extremists to sit up and take notice. Perfecting the twin-guitar attack of Michael and Christopher Amott, too, the likes of sweeping instrumental Snow Bound and smashing masterclass Dead Bury Their Dead proved the band had overflowing technical proficiency to match her flame-throated attack.
With both band and album named after great Capcom arcade beat ’em up Rival Schools: United By Fate, the debut LP from New York post-hardcore mob Rival Schools really needed to pack a punch. Including NYHC veterans and ex-members of Gorilla Biscuits, Youth Of Today, Iceburn and Die 116, these mean street-dwelling players were well up to the task. Rather than reverting to bloody-knuckled formula, though, they added an edge and angularity to the sort of alt. sounds popularised by Foo Fighters, Nirvana and Bush. The sweep and emotional stopping power of tracks like Travel By Telephone and Used For Glue set a bar that few outfits of Rival Schools’ ilk have ever managed to surpass.
Following the break-up of Faith No More in 1998, their prolific frontman Mike Patton went straight back to work with his original band of misfits Mr. Bungle, as well as forming the equally avant-garde Fantômas. After meeting The Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison at a 1999 Mr. Bungle concert in Nashville, Mike decided to start Tomahawk, too, with Helmet drummer John Stanier and Melvins bassist Kevin Rutmanis in tow. Delving deeper into atmospheric darkness than Mike’s other outfits, Tomahawk’s self-titled debut was an opportunity for the vocalist to showcase his murderous range across the skittish, nervy likes of Flashback, the wry soundscapes of Pop 1 (‘This beat could win me a GRAMMY…’) and the aptly-titled banger God Hates A Coward. Songs for the brave.
Having broken out of Glasgow’s (Chemikal) underground with 1997’s Young Team and 1999’s Come On Die Young, Rock Action found post-rock pioneers Mogwai striving to develop an already layered sound. Turning to renowned producer Dave Fridmann in New York for what remains their only big-budget production to date, songs like Take Me Somewhere Nice and 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong showcase an increased use of synth and electronics that would characterise much of their later work, focused more on texture than structure. Rather than some overly-arty diversion, though, the 38-minute LP remains a compelling, impressively measured listen.
‘Jennifer wrestled her friend playfully to the ground in front of the snow cone stand and began licking at the girl's eyeballs, as if they were sugar cubes…’ Right from that eerie synthesised speech sample at the start of opening track Jennifer, the second album from Virginian grindcore collective Pig Destroyer is an utterly unsettling affair. A concept album from the perspective of a broken mind, its storytelling via the unhinged sonic violence of songs like Cheerleader Corpses, Trojan Whore and Strangled With A Halo ensures it’s still the finest American offering in its maniac genre.
It seems almost unthinkable in the wake of 2003’s all-conquering Elephant, but Detroit garage-rock revivalists The White Stripes were still releasing records independently (via Sympathy For The Record Industry) as recently as 2001. Dipping into a batch of songs written over a four-year span and drawing on themes of love and betrayal, hope and paranoia, White Blood Cells might just be their finest release, with the likes of Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground, Hotel Yorba and Fell In Love With A Girl pounding down amongst a 16-song tsunami of fuzz. Even unheralded deep cuts like the twangy Now Mary and spartan piano ballad This Protector drip with bluesy soul.
Despite not actually featuring the greatest song in the world, the self-titled debut from comedy rockers Tenacious D makes our Top 20. Named after NBA sportscaster Marv Albert’s term for “tenacious defence”, the duo (Jack Black and Kyle Gass) had been around since 1994, building a cult following and befriending legends like Pearl Jam, Tool and Foo Fighters. It was only after they signed with Epic Records, though, that they became superstars in their own right. Lead single Tribute was absolutely titanic, playing on loop on Kerrang! TV back in the day, but it’s credit to the overarching strength of the album that many fans of that generation can still recite broad passages of the likes of Wonderboy and Fuck Her Gently word-for-word today.
Maryland blues rockers Clutch were already becoming a legendary live band by the time they’d gotten to fifth LP Pure Rock Fury. Pouring that onstage expertise into the songwriting, along with shedloads of their particular tumbledown eccentricity, Neil Fallon and the boys were able to push on to a level of raucousness that surpassed even 1998’s esteemed The Elephant Riders. Clutch mightn’t yet have nailed the hit songwriting that would see them drop bangers like Electric Worry and The Mob Goes Wild over the next two decades, but the manic swagger and depthless grooves of Careful With That Mic… and Smoke Banshee flashed the genius that was already there.
As really, really, ridiculously good-looking as they were, Brandon Boyd and his Calabasas compatriots were more than just pretty faces. 1999’s Make Yourself was the breakout moment for Incubus, but rather than derivatively building on that established foundation, their 2001 follow-up was the sound of musicians with the shackles off, making the music they wanted to make – and pushing even further than before. Blending genres with an easy, sun-baked sense of verve and virtuosity, everything from hits like Wish You Were Here to deep cuts Circles and Just A Phase were the product of an outfit comfortably on top of their game.
Robert Bartleh Cummings – better known as Rob Zombie – was on the precipice of a proper mainstream crossover in 2001. His four albums at the helm of White Zombie and breakout 1998 solo offering Hellbilly Deluxe had brought him right to the brink. 2003’s directorial debut House Of 1000 Corpses, which would see his singular wrath extend onto the silver screen, was just around the corner. The Sinister Urge found him brimming with confidence, combining nu-metal bombast and pulsating industrial on songs like Dead Girl Superstar and Feel So Numb, while he even managed to get Ozzy to jump in for banging highlight Iron Head.
Rumours swirled, in the months before its release, that the third album from Sacramento noisecore heroes Will Haven would be a two-part affair, with the raucous main disc accompanied by another of ambient, experimental material. The lean, mean, 10-track offering that eventually materialised was nothing of the sort, but it spoke volumes that no-one batted an eyelid. Such was the unpredictable, volatile reputation that Will Haven had generated: one more than matched in the strange, dissonant seven-and-a-half-minute sprawl of BATS and Dolph Lundgren’s muscular, yet defiantly sludgy assault.
They say that green is not a creative colour. Bollocks to that. Although, with time, 1996’s Pinkerton has been reappraised as Weezer’s finest record, its pained songwriting was not what many fans were looking for initially. Having taken much of that criticism to heart, and turning back to Ric Ocasek, the producer of ‘Blue’, their ‘Green’ album feels like Rivers Cuomo’s response. A breezy, melodic listen full of the fuzzy guitars, harmonised vocals and the same lyrical self-deprecation that’d made them massive in the first place, more sophisticated critics would see a regressive insubstantiality here, but tracks like Hash Pipe and Island In The Sun still pack an irresistible earworm quality.
‘New Year's Eve was as boring as heaven,’ Matt Skiba cries on Private Eye, the outstanding opening track to Alkaline Trio album number three. ‘I watched flies fuck on channel 11 / There was no-one to kiss / There's nothing to drink / Except some old rotten milk someone left in the sink.’ The Chicago goth-punks were already a known force following 1998’s Goddamnit and 2000’s Maybe I’ll Catch Fire, but it was the more polished pitch black pop-punk of From Here To Infirmary that made them stars. Perfecting the interplay between co-vocalists Matt and Dan Andriano (this would be the only album with stop-gap sticksman Mike Felum), tracks like Mr Chainsaw, Stupid Kid and that classic opener introduced the masses to Trio’s irresistibly caustic sonic cocktail.
All Killer No Filler? It’s an audacious statement, but it does what it says on the tin. Following on from blink-182’s reinvention of the genre, Ontario mob Sum 41 were the first of many like-minded pop-punk breakout acts as the genre went from strength to strength throughout the 2000s. The previous year’s (11-track!) EP, Half Hour Of Power, had made waves, but the 12 songs and gnarly intro of debut LP All Killer No Filler saw them truly explode. The Beastie Boys-on-steroids punch of mega-single Fat Lip was absolutely inescapable that summer, but the angsty, joyous skate-punk of Motivation, In Too Deep and Summer was more representative of what they were really all about.
Do you like to party? Because Andrew W.K. likes to party. The white-clad good-time acolyte stamped his credentials hard across the 12 tracks of his overpowering debut LP – from raucous 90-second opener It’s Time To Party and the evocatively-titled Party ’Til You Puke, to all-time jamboree-anthem Party Hard. Beyond the throttled route one hard rock and hammered keys of big Andy’s trademark sound, there wasn’t an ounce of unnecessary depth or introspection, but listeners were too busy banging along to give a shit. A celebratory soundtrack yet to be surpassed.
A bloodstained bible nailed shut with that infamous logo burned onto the cover? Subtle. Some fans would have you believe that the LA thrash gods stepped off a creative cliff following 1990’s masterful Seasons In The Abyss. Although there was a lack of direction to their 1990s output (and downright alarming nu-metal inflections on 1998’s Diabolus In Musica), God Hates Us All would prove to be as definitive as any release in their cacophonous canon. Embracing the bloody evil on tracks like Disciple, God Send Death and New Faith, while playing to the concussive strengths of drummer Paul Bostaph, GHUA remains Slayer’s post-millennium masterpiece. One hundred per cent blunt-force attack.
There was nothing sedate about the sound of suburbia back in 2001. Where 1999’s Enema Of The State saw blink deliver peak millennial pop-punk, its 2001 follow-up/companion piece ran pretty damn close, adding just a shade of encroaching adulthood to an all-colour picture. Picking up right where they left off with the, er, anthemic Anthem Pt. 2, any drop-off in anarchic Tom(Mark/Travis)foolery was more than made up for with the supremely polished songwriting of First Date, The Rock Show and Stay Together For The Kids. 2003’s self-titled LP would mark a significant maturation, but TOYPAJ remains a poignant parting-shot from those madcap kids we used to know.
Stadium rock was in a tired place at the start of the 21st century, but Muse were one of those bands with the freshness of vision make it bigger, better and more bonkers than ever before. Coming off the back of 1999 debut Showbiz, there were still small-minded corners of the music community who regarded the Devon trio as a knock-off Radiohead, undeserving of consideration on their own terms. Origin Of Symmetry changed that. Taking its title and theme from an abstract concept popularised by theoretical physicist Michio Kaku in his book Hyperspace, and boasting incredible songs like Megalomania, Plug In Baby and New Born, it was the arrival of a band unlike any other.
Never underestimate the value of pitch-black atmospherics in death metal. Or how great Opeth were back when they growled. The Swedish prog-metallers had been on the go since 1991, building over four excellent albums, but Blackwater Park was the point they really stepped into the light (or should that be darkness?). Combining acoustic melody and electric intricacy across sprawling compositions like Harvest, The Leper Affinity, The Drapery Falls, and that incredible title-track, they raised themselves to the upper echelons of the metal hierarchy. More than that, Blackwater Park roadmapped a more high-minded way forward for a genre that had too long been held up by sheer boneheadedness. Exquisite.
It seems ridiculous that Rammstein’s greatest album – the one that set them on their own stadium-conquering trajectory – doesn’t even crack the 2001 Top Five, but that’s not to say we don’t understand it’s absolutely fucking brilliant. The sexy Berlin sextet had already established themselves as the standout act of the Neue Deutsche Härte scene with 1995’s Herzeleid and 1997’s Sehnsucht, but Mutter was the moment they confirmed themselves as one of the greatest industrial powerhouses of all time. Front-loaded with those six enormous singles, it leaves off with the insidious strangeness of Zwitter, Rein Raus, Adios and Nebel for one of the most iconic listens in all of heavy music.
Jane Doe is not an easy listen, but it is an essential one for anyone who considers themselves a real fan of cutting-edge heavy music. Converge’s fourth LP was an absolutely revolutionary record, not just for the jaggedly metallic underground realm from which it emerged, but as a looming milestone in the storied history of hardcore punk. Suddenly, the serrated sound the Salem gang had been toying with across the previous 10 years clicked perfectly, sounding simultaneously more unhinged and increasingly refined, with the intertwining rage, melody and catharsis that powered tracks like Concubine, Fault And Fracture, and the staggering 11-minute title-track setting a bar that may never be reached.
It was no small irony that 2001’s sweetest rock release found itself shrouded in deep circumstantial shadow. Originally released on June 24 as Bleed American, Jimmy Eat World’s fourth LP was re-released as self-titled following the 9/11 attacks that took place seven weeks later. Either way, it’s a masterpiece. The Arizona quartet had already delivered one towering emo milestone in 1999’s Clarity, but this was the record that made them huge. There were greater pop sensibilities in the songwriting of tracks like The Middle and A Praise Chorus, but so too were there signs of the intelligence that set them apart from the rest of rock’s then-vacuous mainstream in the crunch, philosophical sounds of Bleed American and Get It Faster.
Eighty-four years after the end of the Armenian Genocide, the pointed relevance of System Of A Down’s Toxicity was a poignant reminder of how the evil that men do lives on. Sitting at Number One in the American album charts on 9/11, it was – musically and thematically – the ideal heavy album for its moment. 1998’s self-titled debut was weightier, and 2002’s Steal This Album! had more absurdist verve, but the balance between gouging riffs, political commentary and surrealist humour here was nigh-on perfect. LA’s other great rock revolutionaries Rage Against The Machine had disbanded the year before, but this was a promise that the fire would not easily burn out.
Five years felt like an absurdly long wait for Tool fans at the turn of the millennium. Opiate, Undertow and Ænima had arrived within the space of four and a half, but legal wrangling with label Volcano Entertainment had enforced time away, with the unfurling of some truly vertiginous artistic ideas its result. Deploying the Fibonacci sequence and the sounds of Tibetan monks’ chants into their songcraft, compositions like Schism and Parabola somehow felt lightyears more complex than anything the Los Angeles maestros had produced before. As the rules of rock were changing, too, vocalist Maynard James Keenan found himself the prototypical rock star for a new generation of fans who demanded stranger and more strident performances.
Whoever thought that howling ‘People equal shit’ into crowds of thousands would be the gateway to extreme metal populism… When Slipknot crashed the scene with their self-titled 1999 debut, there was no question that they were the strangest, most visceral thing to happen to mainstream metal in years. But the novelty act colour and nu-metal undertones meant the nightmarish picture didn’t feel fully in focus, like some blinding flash in the pan. That changed with 2001’s Iowa – a record that felt unapologetically unhinged in its non-stop bleakness and savagery. Boasting riffs that sound like a meat cleaver being scraped across a butcher’s block and lyrics that alternate between twisted nightmare imagery and middle-finger-raised defiance, it captured the imagination of a disaffected youth desperate to push closer to the edge. Slipknot’s path has been littered with triumphs and tragedies ever since, but Iowa will always be their broken home.
Celebrating an incredible 20 years with a whopping anniversary spectacular, here’s all the best stuff from Download Festival.
Slipknot’s keyboardist and sampler Craig Jones has left the band, they have announced.
Slipknot’s European tour kicks off tonight (June 7), but Clown has announced he won’t be there as he’ll be staying at home to support his wife.
How will the weather hold up for the 20th anniversary of Download Festival? Let’s take a look…
Kerrang! sits down with The Nine’s founding mastermind Clown in search of where he and Slipknot are at, where they’re going, and why everyone – not least himself – should be scared…
With Slipknot back on the road for some massive festivals and headline shows, Clown considers how they could tour in the future – including residencies where they could play every album at a “reasonably sized venue”.
Ahead of their record-equalling fifth headline set at Download Festival, we go deep inside the mind of Slipknot’s Clown for an eye-opening, revealing conversation about fears, family and the future…