Top Albums of the Decade

Well, well 10 years have already passed since the world was anxiously awaiting the destruction of civilization brought about by Y2K, but yes, the two-thousand-aughts are drawing to a close.

Luckily, music has still not (totally) gone the way of futuristic, synthesized, computer generated blips and noise. There’s still plenty of creativity and talent, and the key to a good modern recording, for me, is using the new technology in a creative, but not overdone, way that still keeps instrumentality at the forefront.

Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, the driving forces behind The Mars Volta, artist of the 2000s

Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, the driving forces behind The Mars Volta, artist of the 2000s

Before we get into my selections for the top recordings of the decade, I’d like to present a special award to artist of the decade. This award goes to The Mars Volta. The band has released five full-length, very complex and creative records in less than 10 years.

So, in the spirit of making up rules as we go, none of the Volta’s five wonderful albums will be considered on the list of 10, since they were just awarded the special presentation, and no one band should monopolize five of the 10 available spots on the list, which the band may have very well done.

The picks can definitely be debated; why is Year Zero not on there? Well, if I have Downward Spiral, The Fragile and Pretty Hate Machine, I could live without it. Should an artist be penalized for having other great work prior to the decade. Well, again, in the spirit of making up rules, yes.

I’m obviously slightly of the hard rock inclination, so the list reflects that. If I listened to more jazz, or country, or whatever, it would certainly be different.

But without any further disclaimers or ado, here goes, the Captain’s picks for 10 thoroughly enjoyable rock records of the 2000s, minus The Mars Volta . . .


Tool – Lateralus AND 10,000 Days, OK, Tool gets two on here, but that’s all the duplication for one artist. And these both deserve top recognition. The compositions are as amazing as ever; 10,000 Days actually has some passages slightly more straightforward, and listener friendly than some on the Tool spectrum. Both are just brilliant, the players have perfected the recorded sound of their instruments.


Chimaira – The Impossibility of Reason, mind-blowing guitar work, machine-like double bass, some of the best “modern” metal out there


Avenged Sevenfold – Waking the Fallen, I really don’t care that much for where A7X has gone since this earlier record, but this is really a masterpiece; very cohesive, with many Biblical references throughout, and tons of catchy guitar riffs and groovy drums. (R.I.P. Rev; I was literally in the middle of this list when I got the news that drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan had died. Stay away from drugs, kids.)


Allison Krauss and Robert Plant – Raising Sand, The collaboration between the legendary Zeppelin vocalist and Krauss, who’s become the modern day first lady of bluegrass, is very mellow and warm. An instant classic.


Audioslave – Audioslave, Though there’s no more Rage, or Soundgarden, the much-hyped Audioslave didn’t disappoint rock fans with its first offering. The record, sprinkled with the great vocal range of Chris Cornell, certainly has some intense, hard groove moments, but also plenty of reflective valleys as well.


Killswitch Engage – End of Heartache, a nice blend of singing and screaming style vocals on a rock CD. I’m surprised KE doesn’t get more mainstream play.


Flobots – Fight With Tools, A little change of pace, but check this out if you’ve never heard the Flobots. Described to me as Rage Against the Machine meets Bach, the album features tight beats, great playing and thoughtful, challenging lyrics.


Metallica – Death Magnetic, after a somewhat ill-received St. Anger, the metal legends, now in their upper 40s, again raise the bar with a great record. Highlights for me are “Judas Kiss” and “The Unforgiven III.”


A Perfect Circle – Mer de Noms, Meynard makes another appearance with his “other band” with this offering (monopolizer!); is Thirteenth Step just as good? Maybe, but this was so amazing and refreshing and sounded SO good when it came out very early in the decade, it has to be included.


Lupe Fiasco – Food and Liquor, OK, OK, we’ll go to 11, since Tool had two on here; I don’t want to leave Lupe out. Slamming bass, a cool horn section and a very nice rap over the classic “Daydream,” Mr. Fiasco has definitely contributed to my musical enjoyment this decade.

Honorable Mentions

Just can’t stop, so many other good ones come to mind.


Red Hot Chili Peppers – By The Way, Stadium Arcadium: Sometimes melody is emphasized more than flashy instrumentation, but some beautiful songs and RHCP fury in these three discs.


Radiohead – In Rainbows: A good range of Radiohead’s Sound. the Brits released this one on their own after leaving EMI and let downloaders pay any price.

the Brits
released this one on their own after leaving
EMI and let downloaders pay any price.


Hank Williams III – Straight to Hell: He has more country in one drop of his outlaw blood than a whole block of Music Row.


Bob Dylan – Modern Times: Great. Dylan.


About the Author

Bracken, a 2003 graduate of MTSU’s journalism program, is the founder and publisher of The Murfreesboro Pulse. He lives in Murfreesboro with his wife, graphic artist and business partner, Sarah, and son, Bracken Jr. Bracken enjoys playing the piano, sushi, Tool, football, chess, jogging, spending time in his backyard with his chickens, hippie music, climbing at The Ascent, bowling, swimming, soup, tennis, sunshine, revolution, defiance and anarchy. He can cook a mean grilled cheese, and can fry just about anything.

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  • Sexton Hardcastle

    I have a difficult time agreeing with your list here. I am not slighting you for this – I just think your taste in modern “music” is somewhat tainted.
    Audioslave never put out anything that was beyond being labeled “decent.” Cornell is much better solo, and obviously, in Soundgarden.
    If I may be so bold, I must say that “Death Magnetic” is pure shit compared to Megadeth’s most recent release, “Endgame.” However, with that being said, I will admit that DM is MUCH better than that turd “St. Anger.” Even the most hardcore Metallica fans admit that.
    Killswitch Engage are not guilty of having ever made a great record. No. They are guilty of hijacking, and anal raping, the Gothenburg [Sweden] sound originally created by bands like Carcass, At The Gates, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, etc. However, KSE never have been able to write anything near as brilliant as the aforementioned bands.
    I do give you credit for recognizing the brilliance and mystique of one Maynard James Keenan. I love his work with A Perfect Circle, Tool and most recently, Puscifer. Everything he touches turns to gold, indicative of his artistry. Tool’s “Lateralus” may very well have been the greatest prog/ alt metal album of the decade. APC’s “Thirteenth Step” stole my heart upon first listen. I cannot even find the proper wording to describe my feelings upon it.
    I will not even speak on Avenged Sevenfold. I do not acknowledge them. Their “music” is pure aural cacophony. I cannot understand why teens love and idolize them so greatly. It is beyond me.
    My final descrepancy with you is in regards to “Raising Sand.” I do not believe it is bad at all. It is well-produced and well-written. My issue is with Allison Krauss. She has made a career off of harmonizing with other artists. Big deal. That does not require a great deal of talent. Robert Plant is only famous because he fronted the most-overrated rock band of all time. Led Zeppelin were great for their time, though they are hardly greater than the likes of Rush, Yes, Black Sabbath, etc.
    In closing, you’ve listed a few great albums, but the rest are pure shit. I mean nothing personal towards you at all. Please do not take this personally. This is simply a difference of opinion. If I may, I would like to submit my top 10 album of the decade list to you. Shoot me an email.

  • linwood

    you left off the rod stewart “american songbook volumes 1 through whatever”
    way better than tool.

  • Bracken Mayo


    Thanks for the comments!
    I will say, I do enjoy Chris Cornell’s solo Euphoria Morning incredibly, more than Audioslave, really. It would have been on this list without a doubt, but it was a 1999 release. Amazing . . .

    Have you listened to Waking the Fallen by Avenged Sevenfold?
    If so, and you reject it, that’s your decision. If you’ve not listened to it, then you can not speak to it. It’s really a great offering. It is on a completely different level than the band’s later major label stuff that was clearly a more commercial attempt for superstardom and radio play, and less artistic expression.
    But I stand by that one. Waking the Fallen is a creative product put out by a group of very young musicians way more talented than you or I. They’re good players.

    Hey, I really like Alison Krauss’ stuff in her early days. She has a beautiful voice. No doubt, pairing with Robert Plant brought her to a whole new audience, but you can’t fault someone for surrounding themselves with talented, notable people and trying to make music. Mandolinist Dan Tyminski has stolen the show from her voice sometimes too, but that’s part of being in a band, there’s more than one player.
    And yes, Zeppelin is overrated; there’s a lot of talent there, but they, probably way more than Killswitch Engage, ripped off numerous artists.

    The In Flames stuff I heard is great. I’m not too familiar with the other bands you noted. Will check them out though.

    It just seems there are Metallica people, and there are Megadeth people.
    I am, always have been, and always will be a Metallica person.

    But yes, do send in your list of 10, or 16 or so as mine turned into . . . very interested to see your favorites.

    One music lover to another,


  • Joshua Rogers

    I originally posted this on facebook. But here it is.

    I could not stick with just the typical 10, so here we go…

    1) AFI “The Art Of Drowning”
    This album is epic. Plain and simple. I listen to this album from start to finish every time I return home from Tennessee. This album best defines who AFI were before going mainstream. Easily their best release while on Nitro Records.

    2) Sentenced “The Cold White Light”
    Easily one of the best Finnish albums I’ve ever purchased. Everything about this album struck a chord in my soul upon first listen. “Blood and Tears” was the first song I had heard from this band, this album. Give it a spin.

    3) HIM “Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights”
    Probably the most poetic album I have ever heard. I absolutely love this band.

    4) Justin Timberlake “Justified”
    Let the flaming begin…I loved this album, or atleast all the tracks played on the radio here in Atlanta. Love/hate him, you can’t deny how catchy his songs were.

    5) Hank Williams III “Straight To Hell”
    In my professional opinion, this is the first real country album released this decade, followed by his 2008 release “Damn Right and Rebel Proud.” This album may be vulgar and raw, but it is worthy of his grandfather’s legacy.

    6) System Of A Down “Toxicity”
    This was the first ‘extreme metal’ purchase I ever made, or most accepted mainstream metal. This album is insanely heavy, grooving and most imporantly…infectious. Every track on this album is solid.

    7) Coldplay “Parachutes”
    Probably my favorite British album of the decade. I never get tired of this one. Flame me if you will, but I love this one.

    8 ) Cradle Of Filth “Nymphetamine”
    As much as I hate this band, this album caught my attention upon hearing “Absinthe With Faust.” Though their last two releases have sucked, in my opinion, this is an epic, heavy, extreme album.

    9)” Roadrunner United: The All Star Sessions”
    This album was just fun to listen to – it ranges from Misfits-inspired punk, to death metal, thrash metal, groove metal, goth, metallic rock, alt-rock, etc. “In The Fire” with King Diamond on vox, Matt and Corey from Trivium on guitar, Ill Nino’s drummer and Steve Digiorgio on bass is kick-ass. It really is.

    10) Megadeth “Endgame”
    Dave Mustaine finally returned to form after almost two decades since the release of the landmark thrash metal album, “Rust In Peace.”

    11) Shadows Fall “The War Within”
    This one defines who the new guard of metal in America are. It was nominated for a grammy. I believe that speaks volumes to its greatness. Jason Bittner’s drumming abilities are what enabled this band to go from complete obscurity to the forefront of metal. I highly recommend picking this up.

    12) Tool “Lateralus”
    This album personifies Tool’s enigmatic persona. Easily the best prog album released this decade. I may be wrong.

    13) Orphaned Land “Mabool”
    Epic prog-death-metal from Tel Aviv, Israel. This album is a masterpiece.

    Honorable Mentions:
    Coheed & Cambria “No World For Tomorrow”
    Muse “Absolution,” “Black Holes & Revelations,” and “The Resistance”
    AFI “Sing The Sorrow”
    Oasis “Dig Out Your Soul”
    Dashboard Confessional “A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar”
    Nevermore “Dead Heart In A Dead World”
    Opeth “Damnation”
    Katatonia “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”
    Opeth “Watershed”
    Nevermore “This Godless Endeavour”

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