The first decade of the new millennium was a big one for me, and also for the metal community. After the nu-metal craze and all the hoopla about grunge music, many metal acts began to feel disjointed, releasing boring or bad albums that stagnated them instead of letting them progress further. But metal always prevails, and in these first ten years it has seen a resurgence of bands that are the future. Some bands on this article are not “metal”, but are a type of rock music that is heavy in it’s message and lyrics, and not necessarily guitar tone. This list is dedicated to what I think are the most important albums of that first decade, and I hope you enjoy!
10. THE MARS VOLTA – FRANCES THE MUTE
What can be said about The Mars Volta that as not already been said time and time again? The dynamic duo of Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is one that is both famous and infamous, from their humble beginnings in At The Drive In to the present day. Critically lauded as one of the greatest live acts around today, these guys have had a slew of albums, but one album of theirs is truly a stand-alone work of genius, and one that contains not only my favorite song of theirs in ‘Cygnus… Vismund Cygnus‘, but also my favorite conceptual piece. That album, of course, is Frances The Mute.
Their sophomore album builds on the influx of chaos from their first record, but does so in a much better way. Rather than construct a concept, they built a story. Not only that, but the tracks run together on the latter half of the album, which is roughly 46 minutes of the total 77. The writing, as always with a Volta album, is not only cryptic and hard to follow, but borderline genius. The sporadic nature of the lyrics contrasting some of the straightforwardness of the songs they play over is remarkably hard for any band to attain, even The Mars Volta.
Omar, however, is The Mars Volta. He writes the vast majority of the music for the band, and I think he is one of the greatest musicians of our time. Just listen to the shifts from chaotic, all over the place to building soundscapes, while he wanks his guitar in the background like a 13 year old learning it for the first time. He definitely knows how to create layers upon layers of sound.
I love this record. It embodies every aspect of The Mars Volta that I love and leaves all the errors elsewhere. If there was ever a band that felt pressure to release their sophomore album, it was The Mars Volta, and they knocked it out of the park.
09. SYSTEM OF A DOWN – MEZMERIZE/HYPNOTIZE
Let me preface this by saying why I included both albums. This isn’t two separate albums; it’s one album stretched over two releases. From the first track on Mezmerize, ‘Soldier Side- Intro’ to ‘Soldier Side’ on Hypnotize, these two releases showcase the best work from one of the best bands to come around in the late nineties, surrounded by the nu-metal bonanza that was quickly sweeping the world. Combining alternative rock, metal, and even pop-style choruses, System Of A Down showed everyone that they were not a band to be messed around with.
The reason these albums are so great is simply because they are the great package; great production, awesome artwork, heartfelt lyrics, and fantastic musicianship. All four members are on point throughout, showcasing their skills in a variety of different ways.
The thing that stands out most to me is the ability to write lyrics around the feel of a song. A song that’s upbeat has some more upbeat lyrics compared to the somber lyrics in songs like ‘Soldier Side’ and ‘Lost In Hollywood’. Every song feels complete, and there isn’t a spot on either release where I’m going “Eh, could have been better,” because each song is already at their best.
The song that will always stand out on Mezmerize to me is “Lost In Hollywood,” specifically because it’s the most toned down song from either release, and it really gives you an enjoyable break from the heavy guitars and shouted vocals. On Hypnotize, “Soldier Side” is the song that connects with me the most, both for it’s lyrical content (any guesses?) and because it’s just a heavy, heartfelt song.
Two of the first real hard rock/metal albums in my possession, they remain staples of my collection, and with each listen, the experiences gets better, and the connection gets stronger. These releases are truly modern art in its most popular medium: music, and should be on display everywhere.