The Best Band in the World: The 2000s
In this very special guest feature Nate Garrett (Spirit Adrift, Gatecreeper) is taking you on a year-by-year journey through the greatest live performances of each year over the last four decades. We’re continuing our trip with the crunkest decade, the 2000s. Take it away, Nate.
If the 1990’s was a weird time for music, the next decade was even weirder. The 2000’s were straight up sad. Just watch Some Kind Of Monster. All the heavy metal heroes of the past had lost their way or run out of good ideas. Fortunately a new wave of genuine, passionate bands would keep the riff alive in the underground during these strange times. Let’s check some of them out.
While one note open-string breakdowns, DJ’s, and nonsensical lyrics about nookie or freaks on leashes were taking over, Opeth were channeling classic 1970’s prog, death metal, and jazz into a cerebral, enthralling sound all their own. They released their fourth full-length Still Life in 1999, and would release perhaps the finest album in their catalog, Blackwater Park in 2001. In the midst of this streak of creative triumph, Opeth performed at Milwaukee Metalfest in 2000. This period was a turning point for the band, as their climb from the underground into widespread popularity began.
Let me make it clear I am playing devil’s advocate with this entry. This should actually just be Pantera again, as there’s a ton of killer footage of them supporting 2000’s bad ass Reinventing The Steel all over the world. But that seemed too easy. Slipknot is a much more fun and divisive choice. Let me take you back for a moment. When this band started getting popular in my hometown, I was probably about twelve or thirteen years old. I didn’t give a flying fuck about Slipknot. At all. I was listening to Sabbath and Slayer by that time. As far as I was concerned, all these people who suddenly decided “black band t-shirts are cool after all,” were posers. Fast forward to Ozzfest a few years later. I was waiting in line to meet Slayer, and Slipknot started playing. When I turned around and saw what was going on, it finally clicked. What was happening on that stage was too much to even process. Microphones were flying through the air, the stage was swarmed with dudes that looked like they got kicked out of some meth-nightmare carnival, random auxiliary percussion was being bashed, fans were screaming every word, and the band was almost comically aggressive. In other words, shit was popping off. So whether you love them, hate them, or don’t care (I’ve grown to like them, I think?), Slipknot in 2001 was a force to be reckoned with. For better or worse, they changed the course of heavy music. Furthermore, whether or not anyone wants to admit it, there’s a handful of highly-praised bands in metal today who are basically just ripping off what Slipknot was doing almost 20 years ago.
Queens Of The Stone Age
QOTSA are one of the greatest rock bands ever, and one of the few bands that stayed true to the cause through the tumultuous ‘90s and 2000s. In 2002, they assembled their best lineup and released their best album Songs For The Deaf. Just soak in the immediate chemistry between Dave Grohl and Nick Oliveri at the link. That’s what rock and roll is all about. As an added bonus, they’ve got Mark Lanegan performing the same stuff he sang on the record.
Lamb of God
Lamb of God has the type of success story you love to hear about. Some friends started a band, played house shows, did some small tours, hopped on some festivals, worked their asses off and ended up taking over the fucking world on their own terms. Back in 2003, Pantera looked like they were done, the Big Four were not so big anymore, and there was a void that needed to be filled. Lamb of God filled that void. Timing is everything, and these dudes from Richmond came along right when we needed them the most. This video catches them shortly after the release of As The Palaces Burn, which got them some serious notice, and before Ashes Of The Wake, which took them to the next level. As with all the greats, the energy and momentum was palpable during this crucial period in their career.
The first two Mastodon albums are the best Mastodon albums. Let’s be real here. The release of Remission was a landmark moment in the timeline of heavy music, and the anticipation for its follow-up Leviathan was sky high. I will contend to this day that the 3-part caveman screaming fits this band better than any sort of melodic singing. At the very least, it did back then. Once Leviathan dropped, the band started getting some serious recognition, and it was obvious they were the next big thing. The band at the link below is one that’s driven by both underground hunger and an electric anticipation of something huge happening.
Unfortunately, I never had the honor and pleasure of attending Emissions From The Monolith. I was a little too young to be tapped into that scene when it was going down, plus I was stuck in small-town Oklahoma. In the years after the festival’s demise, I was fortunate enough to hear plenty of stories from people who were there, and I’ve got a pretty good idea of what it was like. No band represents this kind of communal, symbiotic love and passion for heavy music better than YOB. Check out the video below and transport yourself to a special place in time.
If you haven’t heard Annihilation Time, you should amend that. Their second album, released in 2005, is a masterpiece. It harkens back to Deep Purple, Sabbath, Mahogany Rush, and tons of other classics. This ‘70s riff worship is then filtered through the lens of West Coast hardcore such as Black Flag and Bl’ast!. By 2006 they were locked in tight, and still featured the same lineup that played on that amazing second album. These guys embodied rock n roll danger more than any other band this decade. Ask anybody who was lucky enough to see them, and check out the video below.
Witnessing Rwake in person is difficult to accurately describe with words. When they’re on, it’s scary. Literally scary. The hair on your arms and the back of your neck stands up. The oxygen gets sucked out of the room. There’s a distinct feeling that something is wrong, that something really bad is about to happen. In February of 2007, they released Voices of Omens, a peerless documentation of the band’s primal, destructive energy. Then in May, they played the revived Emissions From The Monolith, which had moved to Austin, TX. It’s difficult to capture just how heavy these guys are on video, but you get the idea.
High on Fire
When Jeff Matz joined High On Fire, it was game over. These three guys create a perfect band, and their finest hour could very well be Matz’s first outing with them, 2007’s Death Is This Communion. There’s not much I can say about High on Fire that hasn’t already been said. I’ll just contend that they’re the most consistent band of a generation. By far. Anyway, treat yourself to the best power trio in metal, at the top of their game.
Story time. I woke up in a motel room in Atlanta with the flu. This was particularly shitty because later that day was the first Scion Rock Fest. At first I said I wasn’t going to go. Fortunately, my friends convinced me to drink cough syrup and whiskey until I felt better (it took a lot of both), and we dragged our asses to the Masquerade for the show. So, a few months earlier Sanford Parker had been singing the praises of some band called US Christmas. I didn’t know what the hell that name meant or what they sounded like, but it stuck with me. At one point, I was outside watching Kylesa, looked down at my program, and saw that US Christmas was about to play inside. I took a chance and it paid off. To this day, I’ve not seen a set that was more disorienting, psychedelic, ominous, and left-field than US Christmas in 2009. It was the first, and probably only time I had zero frame of reference for what I was experiencing. It was so unique, I gave up trying to anchor the situation with familiar comparisons after a few seconds. These motherfuckers took me to outer space. The video included here is from this exact performance, but it doesn’t nearly do it justice. If you want more of an idea of how incredible these guys were, check out 2008’s Eat The Low Dogs. By the way, frontman Nate Hall still makes great music in North Carolina.
Check back next week for the thrilling conclusion to this series, The 10s. In the meantime, check out some of Nate’s upcoming tour dates. He is surely, positively coming to a venue near you.
Jun 07 Detroit, MI @ Sanctuary
Jun 08 Toronto, ON @ Velvet Underground
Jun 09 Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz
Jun 10 Boston, MA @ Sonia
Jun 11 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus Bar
Jun 12 Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter
Jun 13 Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn
Jun 14 Nashville, TN @ The End
Jun 15 Little Rock, AR @ White Water
Jun 16 Ft. Worth, TX @ Ridglea
Jun 17 San Antonio, TX @ Limelight
June 29 – Denver, CO @ Electric Funeral Fest
July 25 Blueberry Hill Duck Room – Saint Louis, MO
July 26 Indiana City Brewing Company – Indianapolis, IN
July 27 Ace Of Cups – Columbus, OH
July 28 Mr. Smalls Theatre – Pittsburgh, PA @ Migration Fest
July 29 Metro Gallery – Baltimore, MD
July 30 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
July 31 Union Pool – New York, NY
August 2 Great Scott – Boston, MA
August 3 3S Artspace – Portsmouth, NH
August 4 Bar Le Ritz – Montréal, QC
August 6 House Of Targ – Ottawa, ON
August 7 Hard Luck – Toronto, ON
August 8 Lager House – Detroit, MI
August 9 Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL
August 11 Lee’s Liquor Lounge – Minneapolis, MN
August 12 Riot Room – Kansas City, MO
August 15 Urban Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT
August 18 Psycho Las Vegas – Las Vegas, NV
August 21 Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA