2009: the last year of the first decade of the new millennium. It proved to be a year rife with innovation, comebacks, breakthroughs, and goodbyes in rock music.
Thrash metal began in the '80s with Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax, who, incidentally, will tour together for the first time in 2010. Their influence can be felt today as we are in the midst of the new wave of thrash metal bands, led by Skeletonwitch, Warbringer and Toxic Holocaust. And I would be remiss not to mention the inspirational story of thrash metal band Anvil, as told in the documentary Anvil: The Story Of Anvil, which made waves across the industry in 2009.
Black metal, an extreme subculture in the '80s and early '90s, has seen a push towards the mainstream this year. Beyond a New York Times piece on a Black Metal symposium and appearances in high fashion, 2009 saw the release of Until The Light Takes Us, which documents Norweigian black metal's early and most controversial years. The popularity of Adult Swim's Metalocalypse and solid albums by black metal-leaning bands Behemoth, Satyricon, Enslaved, Marduk, and Gorgoroth have also elevated the genre.
However, 2009 kinda belonged to Mastodon. For a metal band who's been working hard for 10 years, Crack The Skye has proven to be the true breakthrough album for them. Though missing from the GRAMMY nominations, this concept album has been a critical success and is my personal favorite album of the year. The album's prog metal leaning, along with recent efforts from bands like Baroness and Pelican, have brought new fans into the genre.
As 2010 approached, a resurgence of all things '90s popped up, especially in the realm of the Seattle sound or grunge. 2009 marked the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's debut album, Bleach. We saw the return of Alice In Chains, who have seen success with their new album and tour, including a GRAMMY-nominated single. And just minutes before the clock struck midnight for 2010, Soundgarden announced that they were getting back together after a 12-year hiatus. Oh, Limp Bizkit also reunited — but it's still too soon for a late '90s revival...
Several rock stars pulled together supergroups and branched out with side projects in 2009. Jack White teamed up with Alison Mosshart for the delectable Dead Weather. Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones got together for Them Crooked Vultures. Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, and Chad Smith pulled off Chickenfoot. And Maynard James Keenan exposed us to his side project, Puscifer.
Twitter's real-time updates became wildly popular in 2009. As musicians signed up, fans were able to directly connect with their favorite artists and peer into their lives in a different way than ever before. Rock and metal musicians have been omnipresent in this trend as fans followed updates from Trent Reznor, Chris Cornell, Zakk Wylde, Tom Morello, Dave Navarro, and Jamey Jasta throughout the year.
Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails have done much to push the fragile music industry forward in recent years. In 2009, the band released an iPhone application that allowed fans to connect with each other and share content. An open-camera policy was also implemented at their concerts, leading to fan shot-and-edited high quality videos of NIN shows. Despite this activity, the band played their final shows for the foreseeable future in September.
Bands like Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against The Machine have recently been involved in efforts to stop the use of music to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Rock and metal tracks make up the bulk of the list of songs that are played at high volumes in this heinous misuse of art.
A Facebook campaign aiming to end "X-Factor"'s reign over the UK Christmas charts banded together music fans — Rage Against The Machine fans in particular — from all over the world. RATM's "Killing In The Name" emerged victorious and earned the No. 1 slot on the UK Singles Chart at Christmas. All I want for Christmas is my metal!
Unfortunately, 2009 may be remembered as one of the deadliest years in music. Beyond losing the King of Pop, we said goodbye to Ron Asheton of the Stooges, Lux Interior of the Cramps, Rowland Howard of the Birthday Party, Les Paul, and Vic Chesnutt. We'll never know the full potential of James "The Rev" Sullivan of Avenged Sevenfold, Brian Redman of 3 Inches Of Blood, and Mike Alexander of Evile.
All in all, 2009 has been a good year for music. It makes me excited for what 2010 holds for all of us rockers and metalheads out there.