While the 2010s were a rough decade for rock, the genre certainly isn’t dead. Unlike the crazy decade of rock music created in the 1980s or the experimental phase that defined the early 2000s, this decade saw a decline in popularity and less mainstream media attention.
Instead, this decade focused on featuring the future of music. Bands new to the genre, as well as experienced veterans, took new risks and experimented with sound to bring new life into the genre. The following albums played with that sound in a creative way, not only sparking the light of hope in the world of rock and roll, but creating music that is great to listen too.
10. “Trench” – Twenty One Pilots (2018)
Don’t click away just yet, this is the only pop-rock entry on the list. I’ll be first in line to argue that Twenty One Pilots is far from the original values of the rock genre and their sound is a far cry from the headbangers of classic rock and roll. Similar to nu metal, this sound of rock is one that appeals to a very specific demographic: new listeners transitioning from more popular genres.
The album is actually pretty good, with songs like “Chlorine” and “Jumpsuit” providing strong beats and interesting guitar work. While it doesn’t match the original intensity and attitude of the rock genre, the album is enjoyable to listen to and incorporates some of the staples of the genre. Less of a garage playlist, fans of rock bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers or those moving into the genre from performers like Post Malone will find themselves enjoying “Trench” more than the fans of the classic angst of the 80s.
More of a “vibe” band, Twenty One Pilots has the same place in the genre as Nickleback or Creed. Leading a sub genre, it entices younger listeners to get engaged with rock with something closer to hip hop or rap. The band is effective, and doesn’t sound bad, so their mark on the industry will be one that people don’t forget.
While I won’t sit down and listen to “Trench” over the classics or other entries on this lists, the variety of sounds can be good to mix into the rest of a traditional rock playlist. If bands like Twenty One Pilots are recruiting new listeners and performers to the genre, their sound may be able to create something unique in the future.
9. “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell (Part 1)” – Five Finger Death Punch (2013)
Unlike Twenty One Pilots, Five Finger Death Punch has spent the decade focused on perfecting high octane, aggressive rock and roll. While entries such as “Got Your Six” and “American Capitalist” are good contenders for their best of the decade, nothing can top the over the top quality of “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell.”
Featuring an album choked full of high intensity rock music, Five Finger Death punch hit their stride with this album. Ivan Moody hits his stride early in the album, showing his range in tone with songs like “Anywhere But Here” and “M.I.N.E (End This Way).” The titular track, “Wrong Side of Heaven,” still remains one of the band’s best tracks for a good reason, being an excellent emotional high within the album.
Adding in a baffling, yet stellar, cover of “Mama Said Knock You Out” made the album hard to compete with. The band has had some hits since this album, but the pure aggression and emotions the band provided in this album was one the best of their career and the decade.
8. “Disobey” – Bad Wolves (2018)
Bad Wolves is fairly new to the rock scene, but quickly made a name for themselves over the past two years through their stellar performances. While their playing isn’t necessarily complex on this album, the pure energy and enthusiasm from the band makes it rock that much harder. Combine this with Tommy Vext’s impressive vocal range and you have a rock album worth talking about.
“Disobey” was a great way to start the band’s career, giving fans great songs to add to their collections. From the high energy of songs like “Learn to Live” to the beautiful singing on “Hear Me Now,” there is something on this album for everyone. Their most popular song from the album, a cover of The Cranberries’ “Zombie,” provides a ballad worth adding to any rock lovers playlist.
There are high expectations for Bad Wolves, with the band bring an aggressive yet beautiful style to the world of rock and roll. While they only have two albums under their belt, I’m sure their name will appear on the top ten lists of the next decade as well.
7. “Drones” – Muse (2015)
Before “Drones,” I had no clue what sound Muse was trying to achieve with their albums. Most bands have a straightforward sound or tone, yet Muse seemed to change with every album. A strange combination of alternative rock and electronic, the band had to many ideas about what they wanted to sound like and not enough drive to pick a single genre.
“Drones” broke this streak, having a clear genre: hard rock. Painting a scary picture of drone warfare, the band perfected their sound to tell a story through this concept album. While the lyrics are often nothing to write home about, songs like “Reapers” and “The Handler” show a unique way of playing that leaves you wanting more by the end of the albums run time. The sheer skill presented is impressive, making it one of the best performances of the decade.
6. “Prequelle” – Ghost (2018)
When I first heard “Rats” on the radio in my car, I thought that I was having a day dream. I had listened to Ghost a few times before I heard the song, but they never had the energy to win over a mass audience with their sound. A fairly niche band, only die hard fans really talked about their albums and casual audiences likely didn’t even know a song by the band.
After “Prequelle,” all of that changed. Creating a unique sound that balanced the traditional Ghost style with a strong central beats made a combo that was hard not to like. “Dance Macabre,” “Rats” and “Miasma” all enter the Ghost “Hall of Fame,” creating an album fans will be talking about for years.
5. “Human” – Three Days Grace (2015)
Of all the bands to emerge victorious from the nu-metal tragedy of the mid-2000s, Three Days Grace has been one of the best. Releasing consistently solid music, they now serve as one of the pillars of the hard rock genre. While they certainly didn’t slow down in the 2010s, “Human” is what made sure the band was one of the greats this decade.
Featuring popular hits like “Fallen Angel” and “I am Machine,” as well as great songs like “Painkiller” and “Nothing’s Fair In Love and War,” the album is a great example of what the band is capable of creating in the rock and roll scene. Hopefully next decade will see more great releases from the band.
4. “The Getaway” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
I may have lied about Trench being the last pop-rock album on this list, but the sound that the Red Hot Chili Peppers provide to the genre are more akin to the greats of rock than Twenty One Pilots. Providing a unique sound to the decade, there is plenty of reasons to love “The Getaway.”
“Dark Necessities” shows off Flea’s sheer mastery of the bass guitar, creating a song that defines the band’s sound. Followed by the impressive “Go Robot” and “Sick Love,” this album gives a more mellow tone that rock needed while still staying true to the ideals of rebellion, love and guitars that make the genre worth listening to.
3. “The Strange Case of…” – Halestorm (2012)
I often compare Halestorm to a modern AC/DC, which isn’t an accolade I hand out lightly. Capturing the original energy of the rock genre, Lzzy Hale is an excellent front-woman for the band and carries enough energy to make the band stand out in a decade of mediocre rock music.
“The Strange Case of …” features some of the band’s greatest hits, boasting tracks like “Love Bites,” “I Miss The Misery,” “Here’s to Us” and “Break In.” Featuring a variety of vocal ranges from Hale, beautiful piano work and high energy performances from the band, the album feels closer to the sound of classic rock and roll then some albums released by major bands from the 1980s.
The album would have been an easy contender for top album of the year, but two other albums came out that unfortunately bumped the album down a few pegs. I’m excited to see what Halestorm has in store for the 2020s and fans of rock are sure to be pleased with what they see from the band in the future.
2. “Anesthetic” – Mark Morton (2019)
In an era of great guitar players creating killer solo albums, Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton threw his hat into the ring to create an album that stands out and surpasses the competition. Featuring a variety of singers accompanying the guitar legend, the album has a diverse sound full of great guitar playing and memorable songs.
“Sworn Apart,” “Save Defiance” and “Axis” all have unique sounds, giving the album a strange identity between the veil of hard rock and metal that deserves multiple listens. The ultimate track on the album, “Cross Off,” features the late Chester Bennington giving one of his best performances, giving off a metal core vibe that any rock fan can appreciate.
This album is one rock fans won’t want to miss. Featuring a variety of skilled musicians, some of the best guitar work of the decade and enough diversity to keep you listening, listeners are sure to find a favorite in these 42 minutes of hardcore rock and roll. This was an easy contender for the top album of the decade, but only one album could take the crown of the genre.
1. “Wasting Light” – Foo Fighters (2011)
Out of all the bands on this list, nobody knows how to make better rock music than the Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl. The rock legend has a special understanding and deep ties to the genre that is impossible to replicate, creating a sound that is impossible to duplicate and music that stands the test of time.
Recorded in Grohl’s garage, every track on “Wasting Light” is great. “Miss the Misery,” “Walk,” “I Should Have Known” and “Bridge Burning” all come from this album, showing the pure skill of the band and their ability to make each song sound unique while still having the Foo Fighter’s signature on each beat.
While I sometimes prefer singles from other Foo Fighters’ albums, the complete package that “Wasting Light” provides makes it not only one of the best albums of the decade, but one of the greatest albums of all time. This album came out at a time when everyone thought Nickleback had killed rock music, acting as a beacon for musicians to come back to the rock scene. Rock will never die as long as people who care about the genre are there to play, and with albums like this, their sure to stick around for a long time.