The year 2001 was absolutely massive for heavy music. Metal had branched out in a multitude of different directions across all corners of the world, making the genre as diverse as it ever had been. With mainstream successes conquering the charts, and underground releases that become cult and critical favorites, 2001 was jammed packed with a plethora of heavy goodness.
With so many different sub-genres to select from, whittling down 2001’s best releases to a mere 20 albums was no small feat. So who made our list? Read on and find out…
Amon Amarth – The Crusher
Building on the grassroots momentum of their first two albums, The Crusher continued the slow rise to power for the melodic death metal five-piece Amon Amarth. While the Swedes hadn’t become a household name in the metal world yet, LP number three shows their now-classic hallmarks had already fully formed – galloping drums behind tremolo-picked melodic guitar runs, with Johan Hegg’s roaring tales of the Viking past and Norse mythology. “Masters of War” and “As Long as the Raven Flies” were built for marching into battle (or at the very least the live arena) While not as immediately anthemic as Amon Amarth’s later day work, The Crusher is indeed a crushing release.
Angra – Rebirth
More than just an album title, Rebirth symbolized the resurgence of power metal act Angra. After the mass band exodus that left guitarists Kiko Loureiro and Rafael Bittencourt as the group’s sole members, the Brazilian’s took it all in their stride, found and integrated a new frontman, bassist, and drummer, and delivered arguably their finest album to date. Boasting big slick production, Angra fused power metal with progressive and neoclassical elements, as well as regional South American influences. Epic songwriting is name of the game here, with “Nova Era”, “Acid Rain”, “Heroes of Sand” and the title track packing big choruses, expansive orchestral sections, and incendiary musicianship. Rebirth was undoubtedly a gamble from Angra, but the risk paid off and the album would go on to become the band’s most commercially successful release to date.
Arch Enemy – Wages of Sin
A new vocalist can make or break a well-established band. While Arch Enemy had built a solid fanbase in Japan, they were still only slowly making inroads in the rest of the world. The addition of frontwoman Angela Gossow, as well as being armed with some of their all-time best songs, helped Arch Enemy leap into the forefront of the melodic death metal pile with Wages of Sin. The sibling tag-team of Michael and Christopher Amott on guitars makes for a formidable pairing, while Gossow’s explosive growls and screams undoubtedly showed she could stand comfortably with any of her male counterparts. “Ravenous”, “Dead Bury Their Dead” and “Burning Angel” encapsulates all the best aspects of Arch Enemy – heavy, aggressive music with fantastic musicianship, but instantly memorable and built for the blasting at maximum volumes.
Converge – Jane Doe
From the opening 79 second onslaught of “Concubine”, to the enormous 11 and a half minute closing title track, Converge’s 2001 album Jane Doe was totally at odds with what was popular in the mainstream heavy music scene – and all the better for it. An album deserving to be listened to from start to finish, its timeless aggression is what makes it one of the best releases of its decade. Best defined as a metalcore, or metallic hardcore, album, in the purest, unpolished sense of the word, Jacob Bannon’s feral screams fight with the walls of frenzied guitars and drums. A true underground cult classic, Jane Doe is an album of almost unrivaled intensity and power.
Crowbar – Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form
An album that achieves what it says on the tin, Crowbar’s seventh full length is sludge metal at its finest. Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form is built upon slow tempos, low-end heavy guitars, and frontman Kirk Windstein’s throat tearing vocals. Tonnes of raw emotion on display here from the New Orleans’ quartet; it’s a heavy collection of tunes in more than one sense of the word. Sonic Excess… packs some of their finest tracks, such as “Counting Daze”, “The Lasting Dose” and the absolutely flattening “To Build A Mountain”. Over a decade into their career Crowbar proves that their well of quality and thick riffs was far from running dry.
Dimmu Borgir – Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia
Far, far removed from black metal’s primal roots, Dimmu Borgir’s Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia is a true epic in its sheer grandiosity and scale. The definition of symphonic black metal, sweeping orchestral and choir movements sit atop shrieking vocals, thunderous blast beats, and air-tight rhythm guitars. New band additions Nicholas Barker (drums), Galder (guitar), and ICS Vortex (bass/vocals) pull their collective weights with inspired performances and key songwriting contributions. Packing some of the band’s all-time best material, including the powerhouse tracks “Kings of the Carnival Creation”, “IndoctriNation” and “Architecture of Genocidal Nature”. Boasting pristine production, ‘trve’ black metal purists may scoff at all its bombast and melodic leanings, but for many Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia is the peak of Dimmu Borgir’s career.
Emperor – Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise
Blurring the lines between black metal, classical and progressive metal, Emperor’s fourth album Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise is a challenging, yet rewarding musical opus. With frontman and main composer Ihsahn pushing the boundaries of what black metal can be, Prometheus features layers of 7-string guitars, keyboards, and orchestrations of top of classic extreme metal drumming. Opener “The Eruption” is a perfect example of the album to come – twisting, complex instrumentals, clean and harsh vocals, and an air of aggression and melancholy. “Empty”, “In The Wordless Chamber” and “Thorns On My Grave” are mini-epics, and while multiple listens are definitely required to fully appreciate the depth and complexity on display, Emperor’s final release is a fitting end to a tremendous career.
Fantômas – The Director’s Cut
One of the many Mike Patton-fronted supergroups, Fantômas features legendary ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, Melvins’ guitarist Buzz Osbourne and Patton’s longtime Mr. Bungle/Tomahawk musical partner Trevor Dunn on bass. The Director’s Cut sees the band tackling horror/thriller movie and television themes in a huge variety of styles, moving between thrash metal, doom, jazz, electronica – often within the same track. Patton’s performance is unsurprisingly god-tier, essentially becoming an additional instrument as he croons, shrieks and wails all over the tracks – most of which were originally recorded sans vocals. “Der Golem”, “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” are highlights, but The Director’s Cut deserves to be listened to front to back – preferably at night with the lights dimmed.
Godflesh – Hymns
An under-appreciated album by one of the underground’s most revered acts, Godflesh’s sixth record Hymns was as close to mainstream metal as the UK group ever got. The usage of a real drummer, Ted Parsons of Swans/Prong fame, makes for a more organic and overall less cold and bleak sound – something that would divide long-time fans of the group. The excellent opener “Defeated” and “Anthem” shows off Godflesh’s take on hard rock, with memorable guitar riffs and both melodic and harsh vocals, while closing track “Jesu” is a monolithic workout that builds and builds as the song progresses. Listening to two decades removed from the original release, Hymns sounds both of its time and lightyears away from the then Nu-Metal obsessed pack. An album worthy of a place in their acclaimed back catalog.
Gojira – Terra Incognita
The rough and raw beginnings of France’s greatest metal export, Terra Incognita is the powerful debut of future stars Gojira. The band’s sound was already close to being fully realized, with more than enough potential on display that proves the four-piece were onto something special. The logical next step from the 90s underground metal scene, their influences of Sepultura, Morbid Angel, Strapping Young Lad, and Meshuggah are combined and melded into the unique sound that Gojira still possesses to this day. It’s progressive and technical, yet with groove and emotion, and is filled with memorable hooks, riffs, and passages. “Clone”, “Love”, “Blow Me Away You-Niverse” and the excellent “Space Time” comfortably stands toe-to-toe with any of their more recently successful material. A very strong introduction and signs of things to come.
Kreator – Violent Revolution
After close to a decade spent exploring groove, industrial and gothic metal sounds, Kreator re-announced themselves in a big way with album number 10, Violent Revolution. Fusing their classic thrash metal sound with touches of contemporary melodic death metal, the band keeps both feet firmly planted on the gas pedal. It’s a relentlessly heavy album, and features all the hallmarks of a great thrash metal release, with Mille Petrozza’s throaty vocals sitting on top of wave after wave of rampaging guitar playing and drum work. Wrapped up in the massive production job from the then-upcoming engineer Andy Sneap, the German’s show both their fellow countrymen and overseas competition how to create a thrash metal album in the new millennium.
Opeth – Blackwater Park
Having found a musical kindred spirit in producer Steven Wilson, everything clicked for Opeth on 2001’s Blackwater Park. With one foot in modern metal and the other in the 70’s progressive rock, the album sounds just as fresh and vital as it did two decades ago. Tracks move seamlessly between beautiful acoustic melodies to aggressive death metal passages, without ever sounding jarring or forced. “Bleak”, “The Drapery Falls” and the title track are all masterclasses in progressive metal songwriting, perfectly showing off light and shade, with endless memorable twists and turns. Meanwhile the gorgeous and contemplative “Harvest” is an acoustic-driven stroke of genius. Blackwater Park is Opeth’s magnum opus and perhaps the finest heavy album to come out in 2001, nay the decade.
Pig Destroyer – Prowler In The Yard
Pig Destroyer’s breakthrough second album Prowler In The Yard is the textbook definition of North American grindcore, unflinching in it’s auditory attack. After the disturbing opening track “Jennifer” (which is an unaccompanied computerized voice) Prowler In The Yard explodes into existence with “Cheerleader Corpses” and “Scatology Homework”. With most of the songs sticking around for a minute or so, there’s no excess fat on display – the riffs come thick and fast, some of the best of which crop up on “Trojan Whore”, “Strangled with a Halo” and closing track “Piss Angel”. Frontman JR Hayes’ lyrics are surprisingly in-depth and poetic, almost being belied by his raw and primal howls and scream. Featuring 22 tracks and scrapping in just past the half an hour mark, Prowler In The Yard is a whirlwind of pure extremity and is grindcore classic.
Rammstein – Mutter
Rammstein’s third LP Mutter continued the German’s enormous rise to rock and metal international superstardom. Featuring the strongest A side of the band’s career, the album’s first six tracks is amongst their finest material, with the thunderous opening trio “Mein Herz Brennt”, “Links 2 3 4” and “Sonne” purpose-built for the live arena. Rammstein actively reduced their earlier dance and industrial sounds, and in their place is a stronger orchestral influence and an all-around epic atmosphere. Mutter’s production is absolutely huge, with thunderous drums and thicks walls of guitars and bass. Till Lindemann’s signature baritone vocals are a powerful force to be reckoned with, whilst showing his emotive range on the mournful minor-key ballad-esque title track. A huge hit album across the world, Mutter helped solidify Rammstein as Germany’s biggest musical act since Scorpions.
Slipknot – Iowa
Grabbing the momentum built from their 1999 self-titled debut album, Slipknot’s Iowa took the nine-piece from underground startups to mainstream metal kings. With expectations and pressure running high, Slipknot doubled down on the most extreme elements of their sound whilst distancing themselves further from their more groove and hip-hop-influenced Nu-Metal peers. “People = Shit” and “The Heretic Anthem” is amongst the band’s heaviest material, verging into death metal territory. Meanwhile, Grammy-nominated “My Plague” and “Left Behind” show the band expanding their melodic side, with the tracks featuring big, singalong choruses. Arguably the most commercially successful extreme metal album of all time, Iowa achieved multiple platinum and gold certifications across the world. It also pushed Slipknot into the big leagues of the rock and metal world.
Soilwork – A Predator's Portrait
Soilwork’s third full-length A Predator’s Portrait is a prime example of the late 90s/early 00s Swedish melodic death metal sound. Being notable for the band’s first album to utilize frontman Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid’s powerful clean vocals on top of this usual screams and roars, this more melodic approach to singing and songwriting became the hallmark of Soilwork’s career. Opening duo “Bastard Chain” and “Like The Average Stalker” are pace-driven belters, yet with clearly defined choruses and hook-filled musical passages. “Shadowchild” and the closing title track are showcases for Strid's huge voice, as well as guitarists Peter Wichers’ and Ola Frenning's impressive riff and lead writing abilities. A Predator’s Portrait would be the album that had Soilwork standing eye to eye with their elite fellow countrymen.
System of a Down – Toxicity
One of the biggest, if not the biggest metal album of 2001, System of a Down’s Toxicity was impossible to avoid. As “Chop Suey!”, “Aerials” and the title track scaled the charts and branched out into the ears of even the most casual rock music fan, the band’s second full length was a global smash. With super-producer Rick Rubin helping guide the band in the studio, System of a Down delivered an LP that was bridled with manic energy, yet accessible enough to grab the mainstream’s attention. Lyrically treading the line between biting political and social issues (“Prison Song”, “Deer Dance”), to bizarre weirdness (“Bounce”, “Psycho”), while Serj Tankian's operatic vocals were a breath of fresh air in the heavy music scene. A runaway success, Toxicity was a commercial and critical hit that sounds fresh and exciting 20 years later.
Tool – Lateralus
Tool’s third album, and their first to hit the Billboard charts at number one, Lateralus is arguably the Los Angeles’ quartet's finest release. It’s a truly progressive experience with lengthy complex workouts, yet also being able to grab the listener on the first listen – a skill that is a tribute to their tremendous songwriting ability. Like all other Tool albums, it’s designed for front-to-back consumption, with interludes and experimental passages adding the album's peaks and troughs. “Schism”, “Parabola” and the title track are amongst Tool’s most iconic songs, while deeper cuts like “The Grudge”, “Disposition” and “Ticks & Leeches” highlight everything great about heavy progressive rock. Packaged in its now-iconic Alex Grey artwork, Lateralus continued Tool’s uncompromising rise to commercial and critical success.
Devin Townsend – Terria
One of the hardest workers of his generation, Devin Townsend’s fifth solo release Terria is an introspective and expansive musical voyage. An uber-talented vocalist, guitarist and producer, Townsend’s take on the classic ‘wall of sound’ production style makes Terria massive sounding and completely absorbing. Opening duo “Mountains” and “Earth Day” are both classic Devin Townsend tracks, with Gene Hoglan’s drums pushing along thick grooves behind the heavy guitars and strong vocal melodies. The dreamy and ambient “Deep Peace” and “Tiny Peace” show a more melodic and restrained side to the Canadian. Terria is an album that is impressive on the first listen but is dense enough that it reveals more and more details of itself through repeated visits.
Rob Zombie – The Sinister Urge
Rob Zombie really captured the commercial heavy music zeitgeist with The Sinister Urge. Almost everything about his sophomore album is huge (and fun), from the hooks, production, and performances. Featuring two of his biggest tracks in “Feel So Numb” and “Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy)”, it’s no surprise that a large number of the songs found their way into a variety of mainstream outlets, from movie soundtracks, video games and wrestling. The uptempo, fist-pumping “Demon Speeding”, “Iron Head” and “Scum Of The Earth” are tailor-made for sports arenas and action movies. The stripped-back creepiness of the album-closing “House of a 1000 Corpses” was a sign of things to come from Rob Zombie. Not long after the LP’s release Zombie would be thrust deeper into the public’s eye with his slew of successful films, to the extent that his music career would play second fiddle, and never really top The Sinister Urge.
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