The year 2000 was the beginning of a new millennium. It was chance for the whole world to into a bright new future, to erase the mistakes of the past and start again from scratch – assuming the Y2K bug didn’t bring society crashing down around our ears. How quaint that sounds now…
One thing that has definitely stood the test of time from those 12 crazy months is the music. For metal and rock in particular, it was a time of insane creativity and brilliant records. Nu metal officially became the biggest sound around, thanks to mega-successful releases from Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and Disturbed. In Europe, In Flames and Within Temptation were making albums that would step them up to the big leagues, while bands from the underground metal and punk scenes were pushing things ever forward.
These are the 20 best albums from those 12 explosive months.
AFI - The Art Of Drowning
While they have always been more at home in the punk and, later, emo scenes, there was always something about AFI that resonated with metalheads in the early 2000s, and never more so than on their fifth album, The Art Of Drowning. Furthering the huge strides from snotty hardcore into anthemic gothic rock that saw them rise out of the underground with Black Sails In The Sunset, it showed a band reaching the peak of their powers. The Days Of The Phoenix would become one of 2000’s definitive anthems, while the urgent likes of The Lost Souls and Wester offered goth-punk perfection.
A Perfect Circle – Mer de Noms
The first proper album Maynard James Keenan sang on outside Tool was an alt.metal masterpiece. Its lush songs were mostly written by understated genius Billy Howerdel, former guitar tech for Tool and Nine Inch Nails, his shimmering tones underpinned by the genius drumming of Josh Freese, as Maynard’s vocals crept, soared or raged over the top.
Some of the record was emotionally heavy; Judith touched on his mother’s unwavering belief in God, despite the hypocrisy of her church community and a stroke that left her paralysed on the right side of her body. Other songs tapped into a murky stream of eroticism, such as pulse-racing opener The Hollow and the rhythmic, unashamed Thinking Of You, clearly about having a cheeky wank.
Despite Maynard’s issues with Christianity’s god, the album’s dreamy, reverb-drenched melodies, careful intonation and primal percussion gave it an undeniable spiritual quality, making for a spinetingling listen even today.
At The Drive-In – Relationship Of Command
By the dawn of the millennium nu-metal had become crass and bloated, and Ross Robinson was viewed as guilty by association. To escape the monster he’d helped create, the producer began to seek out other avenues and styles to explore. Texan post-hardcore band At The Drive-In had already released two albums before they hooked up with Robinson, but Relationship Of Command took things to another level.
Sprawling, incendiary and instantly influential, it introduced ATDI to a whole new audience and showed there was much more to the producer than downtuned guitars. The band’s trajectory to stardom was assured until underlying tensions exacerbated by success boiled over and they split less than a year after the album’s release. It’s the sort of thing Robinson would have been proud of.
Cave In – Jupiter
Cave In’s second album might have been released on noisy label Hydra Head (see: Isis), but it saw the band make a dramatic left turn, going beyond the hardcore scene and into new melodic territory. Like the planet of the title, it glowed and bubbled with space rock energy, via Middle-Eastern melodies, squally fretwork and crashing percussion. Stephen Brodsky’s vocals were mostly clean (and would become even more radio-worthy on following album Antenna), but remained impassioned and full of character. Sadly, bassist Caleb Scofield passed away in 2018, but this album stands as some of his finest work.
Cradle Of Filth - Midian
The fourth album from Dani Filth and co emerged from the gloom with the tagline, ‘Does the world really need another Cradle Of Filth album? Of course it does. It’s a bad world and needs to be punished.’ They were in punishing and playful form on Midian, with the return of guitarist Paul Allender after a five-year absence, and a loose concept based on Clive Barker’s novel, Cabal. Death Magick boasted narration from horror legend Doug Bradley – aka Pinhead from Hellraiser – while the operatic Her Ghost In The Fog became a mainstay of music TV. Its demonic brilliance marked Cradle out as a corsepainted national treasure.
Deftones – White Pony
One of modern music’s most challenging and definitive statements. White Pony turned Deftones from one of the best bands in a rapidly oversaturated scene into a genre all of their own. New member Frank Delgado brought a whole new set of subtle sonic touches to the band, Chino Moreno captivates throughout with a haunting, beguiling vocal performance and drummer Abe Cunningham keeps an irresistible rhythmic tattoo rolling from the first second till the last and even guitarist Stephen Carpenter, the one member openly unsure of the bands attempt to break free from the shackles of metal, manages to crowbar in enough jaw dropping riffs into the album. The closest thing metal has ever had to an album such as Radiohead’s Ok Computer, and the most compelling reason for why Deftones exist in a bubble all of their own making.
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Disturbed – The Sickness
Oo-wa-hahaha! Whether through rock club DJ, music TV or stupid meme, most metal fans have got Disturbed Down With The Sickness. It was the ultimate 2000s nu metal anthem, boasting a giant hook, a massive um, disturbing breakdown and a whole lot of swearing. Then there were its similarly catchy cousins, singles Stupify and Voices, both reflecting the kind of Hot Topic angst that saturated the scene. Simple as they seemed on the surface, these songs hooked in a generation of fans who were new to heavy music, and excited to identify with a subculture that spoke to them. And let’s not forget the impact of David Draiman – that double chin piercing was cool at the time, and his voice was just as distinctive. Their Tears For Fears cover (Shout 2000) was an unexpected addition, ultimately paving the way for their epic reworking of The Sound Of Silence.
Electric Wizard – Dopethrone
Electric Wizard’s core, layered, loping and drug- fugged groove has become an altar upon which doom has laid offerings ever since. Although their reputation had been simmering by the time their third album was released, Dopethrone quickly became epochal. In the likes of Cathedral and Sleep, doom wasn’t short of lysergic visions and transcendent Sabbath worship, but Wizard’s straddling of raw, parochial discontent and slowly percolating Lovecraftian horror opened up vast portals where lived experience became infected with writhing, cosmic dread. The bristling, belligerent itch of Barbarian gave way to torturously slow, abyssal yet claustrophobic excursions such as I, The Witchfinder, instilling a petrified awe that’s slithered into doom’s unconsciousness for evermore.
In Flames – Clayman
By a distance the most successful graduate of The Class Of Gothenburg, for many In Flames reached their zenith on Clayman. Their stubborn evolution from cutting edge, catchy-as-fuck death metallers into a cutting edge, catchy-as-fuck modern metal hit machine saw them march into the new millennium with an album so stacked full of bangers it could have held its own 4th of July party. Elitists might have sneered at their shameless grab for mainstream metal glory, but when you’re writing songs this damn good, who the fuck cares? Songs like Bullet Ride, Pinball Map, the title track and Swim would write themselves into In Flames lore. Only For The Weak, meanwhile, would become an all-time great metal anthem – its synth-heavy hook instantly burying itself into your brain. There’d be more great In Flames albums to come, but Clayman was the final uppercut of a run of absolute, iron-clad knockouts.
Isis – Celestial
The debut album from Boston post-metallers Isis expanded on the epic sound of their EPs. Rising and falling, swelling and receding, ebbing and flowing, their largely instrumental landscape was both emotional and cerebral, building on foundations laid down by the likes of Neurosis, as well as their fertile local hardcore scene (frontman Aaron Turner released many of these bands, as well as this record, on his own label Hydra Head). With such dynamic passion and sludgy intensity, they took the genre to a dazzling new level that many would imitate both at home and across the pond.