Welcome to the second instalment of Rolling Stone’s three-part heavy music column, created to celebrate the release of Diablo II: Resurrected.
Music is a wonderful tool. It can bring us together, it can unite us, and it can provide memories which are as wonderful as they are long-lasting. But the best part of it all though is that music is personal; it speaks to us all differently, and it can supply memories which vary completely from one person to the next.
For many music-lovers though, their tastes in music might have been incredibly popular at the time but now – for some reason – completely divisive years later. Much like how we touched upon nu-metal last week, nu-metal was a genre which was itself completely ubiquitous during its heyday, but seemingly equally-rued by naysayers and critics alike.
Around this same time though, music-lovers like myself were diving deep into a similar genre whose popularity was at its peak at the time. That genre of course, is post-grunge. Sure, you might be wondering why we’re talking about an offshoot of one of rock’s most successful and impactful genres, but the truth is, in the early years of the millennium, post-grunge was everywhere. You’d have been hard-pressed to find a single budding guitarist out there who wasn’t in search of that perfect distortion tone, or a single festival booker not going crazy while completely spoilt for choice in regards to the litany of post-grunge rockers out there.
While many of these bands are still around and still going strong, some of these artists – like their nu-metal brethren – have found themselves the subject of scorn in recent years. But if you’re anything like me, you’re likely still bumping these classics decades down the line. So with this in mind, I’ve decided to take a look back at some of the biggest post-grunge bands of the early 2000s to see how it started, and how it’s going for these classic artists.
What were you up to back at the turn of the century? Like most of us, you might have been embracing the continuing technological rise that saw media enter our homes at a rate faster than ever, allowing music, movies, and TV to be far more accessible than it was previously. While this was happening, you might have been doing what I was doing and playing video games as often as possible, with the likes of Diablo II remaining a standout of the era while I soundtracked the experience with music.
For me, heavy music and Diablo II will be forever intertwined, and with Blizzard Entertainment having recently unleashed the fully remastered Diablo II: Resurrected, I’ve been taking a look at the era to see how everything holds up. As such, I’m going to revisit a handful of these iconic names that soundtracked the era for me, and check in to see if two decades down the line, they’re still ageing as gracefully as they should.
How it Started:
As the ’90s came to a close, few could have suspected what the future held for Canadian rockers Nickelback. Having released two albums by way of 1996’s Curb and 1998’s The State (the latter of which features the standout “Breathe”), the group followed it up with 2001’s Silver Side Up. The rest, as they say, is history.
Suddenly, Nickelback were everywhere, with lead single “How You Remind Me” hitting the top of the Billboard charts, and becoming one of the most popular rock tracks of the era. In fact, by the end of the decade, it was the most-played song on US rock radio, with over 1.2 million streams. Needless to say, things were looking up for Nickelback…
How it’s Going:
…and now 20 years later, things are still going gangbusters for the Canadian outfit. Releasing six more albums since 2001 (with all but two topping the US charts), the group have continued to be one of the most commercially successful rock outfits of all time, with more than 50 million album sales to their name. This, of course, despite the fact that they’ve long been derided and labelled a ‘joke’ by rock purists.
While it’s currently been four years since Nickelback’s latest album, it seems that plans for a sonic shift might be in order, with the rockers having joked about plans to do a heavy metal album, or a record full of Slayer covers. Whatever the case, you can be sure it’ll translate to money in the bank for the group.
How it Started:
For a brief period in the late ’90s, it felt as though the future was here, and the future was Creed. Having already had a brush with success by way of their 1997 album My Own Prison, it was 1999’s Human Clay that made them household names.
With massive singles like “Higher” and “With Arms Wide Open”, the record would sell a massive 20 million copies, before 2001’s Weathered tried to continue this momentum with tracks like “My Sacrifice” and “Don’t Stop Dancing”. Despite selling ‘only’ six million copies, it was still a huge record for the group, and an indicator that things were looking good for the foreseeable future.
How it’s Going:
Sadly, Weathered marked the beginning of the end for Creed, with an infamous 2002 performance at Chicago’s AllState Stadium being so panned that audience members lodged a lawsuit claiming that Creed owed the crowd refunds. Though the lawsuit was thrown out of court, the damage was done, and Creed announced their split in 2004. Though the members who weren’t vocalist Scott Stapp would form Alter Bridge with Myles Kennedy, fans still wondered what the future held for Creed, with a reunion eventually following in 2009.
Releasing new album Full Circle that same year, critics applauded the group’s return, and wondered how long it would last. Sadly, no new material followed from the group, and by 2012, Creed were back on hiatus, with Alter Bridge becoming the main focus of most members. However, all hope it not lost, with 2020 bringing with it news that another reunion may just be in the works at some point.
How it Started:
The first few years of Staind’s life were relatively uneventful, with debut album Tormented famously disgusting Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, before he changed his mind and worked with the group for their second album, Dysfunction. However, by the time 2001’s Break the Cycle emerged, the group had done what the title implied and had moved into a more melodic post-grunge sound that deviated from their early work.
Tracks like “Outside”, “It’s Been A While”, and “Fade” helped propel the group to massive popularity globally, topping the charts worldwide and selling more than four million copies in 2001 alone. Needless to say, the record made Staind a hot ticket in the music world, and one of the most prominent post-grunge bands of the era.
How it’s Going:
Sadly, the years since Staind’s heyday haven’t been quite as kind. While a pair of chart-topping records would follow Break the Cycle (and two more top fives after that), their dissolution in 2012 would give way to years of uncertainty for fans. While technically Staind have been on hiatus for the last decade, rumours have circulated as to whether they will indeed get back together to record, or if extensive touring will take place at all.
Though frontman Aaron Lewis has given conflicting remarks, sporadic shows have occurred, despite Lewis claiming he had no desire to return to the touring life he once knew. Plans for large-scale touring were entertained in 2019, but unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has left fans wondered if Staind will indeed return to stages again.
How it Started:
Now, it goes without saying that when folks think of the post-grunge genre, Matchbox Twenty aren’t exactly the first band that comes to mind. But in the ’90s, it was hard to not realise that the group had all the hallmarks of a post-grunge band that would take the world by storm. With debut album Yourself or Someone Like You becoming a massive hit upon its release (selling 15 million copies to date), anyone could see that Matchbox Twenty were gearing up for big things.
And those big things came thick and fast, with the likes of 2000’s Mad Season cementing their status as globally-recognised hit-makers, and relentless touring making them favourites across the US and even countries such as Australia.
How it’s Going:
While third album More Than You Think You Are arrived in 2002, it took a few years for more material to arrive from the group, with 2007’s Exile on Mainstream giving fans a few new tracks as part of its semi-compilation status, and ending a brief hiatus. However, since 2012’s North, the band haven’t given us a full-length album, with absence only making the heart grow fonder.
Despite this lack of material, Matchbox Twenty are still going strong, with their current musical focus instead being placed onto touring, while frontman Rob Thomas also works on a solo career. That’s not to say they’re done making music right now, but it might be a few years before we get the chance to see them return to the post-grunge sound they once were trailblazers of.
Reflections on a Golden Era
Throughout the late ’90s and early ’00s, it was obvious that music was changing once again, with the long-haired, fuzz-soaked sound of the grunge era being replaced by the fittingly-titled post-grunge era. It was a refreshing time for lovers of commercialised rock, with the bands’ sounds being seemingly custom-made for radio.
For those there at the time, the music was remarkable, and something that has stayed with us all for decades now. But for some others, hindsight had allowed them to look back and start questioning why post-grunge was ever popular in the first place.
Well the truth is, when the world hits upon music it likes, it becomes popular. A lucky few works can, like Diablo II, become timeless; just as culturally relevant and beloved today as they were decades ago, while others are relegated to being products of their time. Tastes might change, focuses might shift, but above all, the music and the memories remain, and that’s all that matters.