In global terms, 2009 felt a lot like the calm after the storm. With Barack Obama moving into the White House on January 20 and Britain still at the tail end of New Labour, the upheaval of the preceding years had settled in the political sphere, with little foreshadowing of the rightward lurch to come. The news was filled with minor milestones: the miracle on the Hudson; the death of the uber-controversial ‘Prince Of Pop’ Michael Jackson; Rage Against The Machine’s heroic reclamation of the UK Christmas Number One. People seemed happy just getting on with getting on. A decade down the line, it all seems oddly mundane.
Rock was in a hell of a place, however. With the late-'90s and early-'00s explosions of pop-punk, nu-metal and post-grunge alternative having subsided, a new breed were beginning to emerge. Reactionaries to the sophomoric tendencies of those gaudier genres, they forced a new wave of intellectualism into heavy music – from the ponderous prog of Mastodon and Baroness to the more heavyweight terror of Cobalt and Yob. Metal classicism took a spike, too. Although neither of them released a record across these specific 12 months, Iron Maiden’s miraculous noughties resurrection and the return of Metallica after over a decade away had emboldened old-schoolers and revivalists alike. Diversity flourished, with hardcore-stalwarts The Bronx and Frank Turner exploring folkier sounds from opposite sides of the Atlantic and Rammstein bringing non-Enlish language representation to stadium rock. Perhaps most thrillingly, hardcore punk was at an all-time high, with everyone from Converge to Gallows billowing with righteous rage.