VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild
WRITTEN BY: Cameron Johnson
If you grew up in the 2000s, you definitely rocked out to these bands! For this list, we'll be looking at the most critically and commercially successful rock groups that kicked off the 21st century by reviving a classic hard rock sound. Our countdown includes Wolfmother, The Mars Volta, Foo Fighters, and more!
Top 10 Hard Rock Bands of the 2000s
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hard Rock Bands of the 2000s.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most critically and commercially successful rock groups that kicked off the 21st century by reviving a classic hard rock sound. These bands parted from contemporary alternative trends with more technical grooves and driving instrumentation, often with a dash of heavy metal.
Who are your favorite hard rock torch-bearers of the 2000s? Jump into the comments below.
Who in the 2000s could say old-school hard rock was dead after hearing this Sydney power trio? Playing to the roots of stoner rock and neo-psychedelia, Wolfmother echoed the high-energy virtuosity of the classics with the intensity of a new age. Though the group has gone through extensive lineup changes, Andrew Stockdale's wailing vocals and guitar riffs make their sound unmistakable. Their dynamic musicianship and trippy lyrics immediately won a massive fanbase with their award-winning debut album. Some listeners, however, feel that Stockdale and company may be too faithful to the frills of old. Still, with regular releases and explosive live performances, Wolfmother is one of Australia's hottest rock acts going on 20 years.
#9: Breaking Benjamin
Named for singer and guitarist Benjamin Burnley, Breaking Benjamin is known as a major figure in the post-grunge and alternative metal movements of the 2000s. In fact, they had a hard rock drive and aggression to give their notably moody tone a unique scope. Although the band has undergone regular lineup changes, Burnley's signature artistry has never broken. This integrity set his group apart from alternative acts of the time while helping to express the angst of a new generation of hard rockers. Breaking Benjamin may be far from the most traditionalist example of their genre, but their streak of success and acclaim has had a lasting impact on the sound of modern hard rock.
Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, and the 2000s post-grunge movement, Shinedown had more pop appeal than many contemporary hard rock bands. Of course, they further stood out from the crowd with a more classic rock song structure that emphasized melodic tones and guitar solos. With Brent Smith's visceral vocal range upfront, the group has captivated a wide audience with both passionate ballads and hard-driving anthems. Like many popular post-grunge bands of the time, however, Shinedown has been criticized by some as being too commercial. While there is no debating the band's unique mainstream success, it is also hard to deny their old-school hard rock talent and soul.
#7: Velvet Revolver
After leaving Guns N' Roses in '97, guitar god Slash remained a fixture in hard rock as a solo artist. With the end of Slash's Snakepit, however, he and other GNR alums reunited to break into the alt-metal scene. Velvet Revolver blew down the door between two genres with Stone Temple Pilots vocalist Scott Weiland at the helm. His grungy grit and the band's fast-paced hooks were killer enough without Slash's epic leads. Velvet Revolver was a hit, with more than two million records sold and a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. Though the supergroup only made two albums before disbanding in 2008, with a one-off reunion in 2012, they showed how well old-school hard rock can jam with modern alternative.
#6: The Mars Volta
It's like rocket science to describe the style of this El Paso ensemble. After leaving the groundbreaking post-hardcore band At the Drive-In, vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López completely overturned progressive and experimental rock with The Mars Volta. These high-powered virtuoso musicians further infused jazz, metal, Latin, and more into the driving riffs and wailing force of hard rock. With an alien sound and intense live shows, the band became a rare favorite for both prog and hardcore fans throughout the 2000s. Sadly, they disbanded only three years after winning the Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance in 2009. But with a reunion and an acclaimed self-titled album coming out a decade later, it seems The Mars Volta is still out-of-this-world.
#5: Avenged Sevenfold
One of the biggest heavy metal bands of their generation, Avenged Sevenfold actually started out as full-on metalcore. However, with the incorporation of hard rock by their breakout third album, "City of Evil," they achieved a distinct style that was both unique and classic. From thunderous rhythms to fiery guitar solos, behind vocalist M. Shadows' rugged swagger, balanced popular appeal with stellar musicianship. They have gone on to dabble in more progressive sounds to show off the latter. But more than most 21st-century bands of their status, Avenged Sevenfold can back up their popular brand by giving fans of old-fashioned hard rock and heavy metal their due.
#4: System of a Down
Stylistically and lyrically defiant, System of a Down is the quintessential thinking person's hard rock. Their extreme metal intensity, progressive time signatures, and infectious riffs made every moment of every song unpredictable. But it wasn't just this insane yet accessible musicianship that caught everyone's attention. The band's bold lyrics confronted challenging psychological, social, and political themes, especially those relating to their shared Armenian and American identities. This unique songwriting resonated with both critics and mainstream listeners as much as their equally heavy hooks. Although System of a Down has become more selective with new material since their reunion in 2010, their catalog throughout the 2000s was among the hardest rock of the decade and is just as powerful today.
Rage Against the Machine with Soundgarden's frontman sounds like a recipe for intense metal. However, with the departure of Zack de la Rocha in 2000, his seminal rap rock band decided to steer away from politics to express their love of traditional rock. Audioslave seamlessly adapted to classic hard rock flow with a funky alt-rock twist, naturally enhanced by Chris Cornell's awesome vocals. Killer jams, moving anthems, haunting power ballads–this band had it all. Unfortunately, they only had it for three hit albums, before the project disbanded for the reunion of the bands that started it all. Still, for their six years and brief reunion in 2017, Audioslave became the biggest hard rock supergroup of their era.
#2: Foo Fighters
Through the second half of the 1990s, former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl's new band helped usher in a new style of grunge using the more groovy and melodic traditions of hard rock. But while this post-grunge movement was taking off in the new millennium, Foo Fighters started moving deeper into their roots. At the forefront of the hard rock revival of the 2000s, the band blew up mainstream alternative conventions with classical songwriting to impress modern and old-school rockers alike. After almost 30 years, they continue to innovate their style to massive critical and commercial success. But as the definitive conduit between alternative and hard rock, Foo Fighters have earned their place as one of the biggest bands of the 21st century.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
This Heavy Yet Melodic Group Bridged Alternative with Authentic Hard Rock & Heavy Metal
The Versatile Cult-Favorite Falls Smack in the Middle of Driving Rock & Groovy Metal
A Perfect Circle
Tool Frontman Maynard James Keenan's Side Project Furthered His Progressive Experimentation with Heavy Hooks
The Eclectic Danish Hard Rockers Don't Miss a Beat From Rockabilly to Alternative Metal
Three Days Grace
This Staple of Canadian Post-Grunge Brought a Refreshing Punch of Hard Rock & Alt-Metal
#1: Queens of the Stone Age
By the end of the 1990s, traditional hard rock was slipping from the mainstream. Queens of the Stone Age helped change that with their rugged sound, but it was hardly traditional. At the forefront of the Palm Desert scene in California, they infused alternative, blues, and psychedelia into a hard rock flair. Josh Homme, a pioneer of stoner rock, fronted this complex style with natural presence. This groundbreaking combination quickly became one of the most distinct styles of rock for a new era. Even as the group has grown less prolific over internal conflicts, they're considered as relevant and acclaimed as ever. It's safe to say that with this new age of hard rock, Queens of the Stone Age are true royalty.