20 classic albums that are 20 years old in 2021

Relive the turn of the millennium with these 20 barnstorming records from 2001

20 classic albums that are 20 years old in 2021
Sam Law

Although it was the year 2000 that was supposed to change everything, the following year would prove far more pivotal in shaping the decades that followed.

The September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Virginia and the skies above Pittsburgh would cause almost 3,000 deaths, 25,000 injuries and $10 billion of property and infrastructure damage, triggering a new era of military reprisal in the Middle East and casting a veil of fear and xenophobia over the Western mindset for years to come.

In tech news, file-sharing platform Napster was closed down following numerous copyright-infringement suits, while the release of Apple’s iPod and iTunes Store re-commodified music and transformed fans’ mobile listening habits forever. Free encyclopedia Wikipedia also went online for the first time.

In entertainment, both the Harry Potter and The Lord Of The Rings franchises debuted on the silver screen late in the year, topping off 12 months that had also seen the first instalments of the Monsters Inc. and Shrek franchises, as well as The Mummy Returns, Jurassic Park III, Hannibal, and remakes of Oceans Eleven (so cool) and Planet Of The Apes (so cringe).

It was a landmark year for heavy music as well, with the tail-end of nu-metal producing some absolute bangers, something of an industrial resurgence, and a whole host of alternative sounds that would help shape the rock landscape for the next 20 years.

Here are 20 of the most memorable musical milestones from 2001…

Alkaline Trio – From Here To Infirmary

Chicago goth-punks Alkaline Trio 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 Skiba and Dan Andriano (this would be the only album with stopgap sticksman Mike Felum), tracks like Mr Chainsaw, Stupid Kid and now-trademark classic Private Eye introduced the masses to Trio's irresistibly caustic sonic cocktail.

Andrew W.K. – I Get Wet

Andrew W.K. likes to party. The white-clad good-time acolyte made that abundantly clear 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 a whole lot of lyrical depth here, but listeners were too busy banging along to give a shit. A celebratory soundtrack yet to be surpassed.

Avenged Sevenfold – Sounding The Seventh Trumpet

Four years before they’d really begin to resemble the arena-rock heavyweights we know and love today 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.

blink-182 – Take Off Your Pants And Jacket

If 1999’s Enema Of The State saw blink-182 deliver peak millennial pop-punk, then its 2001 follow-up/companion piece ran pretty damn close. 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 classic tracks like First Date, The Rock Show and Stay Together For The Kids. 2003’s self-titled would mark a significant maturation, but TOYPAJ remains a poignant parting-shot from those madcap kids we used to know.

Converge – Jane Doe

Jane Doe 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.

Fugazi – The Argument

Released alongside three-track EP Furniture, sixth album The Argument would be the last from seminal Washington D.C. post-hardcore collective Fugazi. Adding more and more 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.

Incubus – Morning View

1999’s Make Yourself was a breakout moment for Calabasas crew 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.

Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American

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.

Mogwai – Rock Action

As (still) Mogwai’s only big-budget offering, Rock Action remains a standout in the Scottish post-rockers’ storied catalogue. Having broken out of Glasgow’s (Chemikal) underground with 1997’s Young Team and 1999’s Come On Die Young, Rock Action saw them working with renowned producer Dave Fridmann in New York to hone their sound with an increased use of synth and electronics that would characterise much of their later work, while songs like Take Me Somewhere Nice and 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong focused more on texture than structure. At just 38 minutes long, it’s also one of their most carefully measured offerings.

Muse – Origin Of Symmetry

Coming off the back of 1999 debut Showbiz, there were still small-minded corners of the music community who regarded Devon trio Muse 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.

Opeth – Blackwater Park

Swedish prog-metallers Opeth had been on the go since 1991, building over four excellent albums up to this point, 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.

Rammstein – Mutter

Rammstein 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.

Rob Zombie – The Sinister Urge

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.

Slayer – God Hates Us All

Some fans would have you believe that Slayer stepped off a creative cliff following 1990’s masterful Seasons In The Abyss. Although there was a directionlessness 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.

Slipknot – Iowa

When Slipknot crashed the metal 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. Even better, the new levels of sonic violence only accelerated their rock star ascent.

Sum 41 – All Killer No Filler

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 break out. 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.

System Of A Down – Toxicity

Sitting at Number One in the American album charts on 9/11, System Of A Down's Toxicity 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.

Tenacious D – Tenacious D

Named after NBA sportscaster Marv Albert’s term for “tenacious defence”, comedy rock duo Tenacious D (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 and released this self-titled debut, though, that they became superstars in their own right. Lead single Tribute was absolutely titanic, but it’s credit to the overarching strength of the album that many fans of that generation can still recite broad passages word-for-word today.

Tool – Lateralus

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 years, 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 in their songcraft, compositions like Schism and Parabola somehow felt lightyears more complex than anything the Los Angeles maestros had produced before.

Weezer – Weezer (Green Album)

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, The Green Album feels like Rivers Cuomo’s response. A breezy, melodic listen full of the fuzzy guitars, harmonised vocals and 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 two decades down the line.

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