In the late 1990's metal started its resurgence. By 2001, there were so many bands, in so many sub-genres that there were dozens of good metal albums. Many of the 2001 albums that were barely on my radar would have been easy top 10's during the 1990's.
The funny thing is that because of my taste and preference for certain musicians we see a lot of related bands in the below top 10. As such it is no surprise that the top 10 consists of 5 Power Metal albums.
10. Angra - Rebirth
This is a little too "flowery" for my normal taste, but the symphonic and keyboard elements are muted enough to provide accent rather that distraction. As such this album stands out enough from the crowd to surpass other good albums from 2001 to take the number 10 spot. Angra hails from Brazil, and this is my favorite of all their albums, and the most commercially successful.
9. Primal Fear - Nuclear Fire
Primal Fear is three for three in making the top 10. Nuclear Fire is slightly more evolved than their first two albums, but there is room for improvement, as will be seen on later albums. But as far as Germanic Power Metal, these guys do it well, but there are two bands that do it better, one of those is….
8. Gamma Ray - No World Order
This is the last great Gamma Ray album and a step back from their greatness in the 1990's. Still, this is a great album. This album has all the qualities of a classic metal record, but it may be a bit too classic. Maybe Hansen tried to return to more of a Helloween sound from the "Keeper" days, but this is just a bit less polished than Powerplant or Land of the Free.
7. Into Eternity - Dead or Dreaming
I guess you would describe Into Eternity as Canada's most progressive melodic death metal band. Vocal shift from clean to harsh and the music can sound technical progressive to thrash. Really you need to be on your toes here as there are many different styles and sounds. Sometimes this approach does not work, but here it comes off very well. I think I liked this record more when it first came out, but it is still a top choice for 2001.
6. Children of Bodom - Follow the Reaper
Again, a variety of styles are present here. There are a lot of keyboards and some terrific guitar work from Alexi Laiho. The song Hate Me! is one of my favorites. I wish it existed when I was an angry teenager. Now I have to settle for it as an angry quadragenarian.
5. Ensiferum - Ensiferum
This band calls themselves "heroic folk metal". I always thought if that really as a Viking Metal type genre. Labels aside, I just really like this album. They use a good mix of harsh and clean vocals. Very cool intros and very ethnic sounds complete the album. Good stuff.
4. Edguy - Mandrake
More German Power Metal. One of the things I like about Edguy, is they do not take themselves too seriously. Mandrake is possibly my favorite Edguy album. This also could be their heaviest album as I cannot recall any annoying whinny ballads.
3. Iron Savior - Dark Assault
This is such a great album, that three seems like an under-rate, but 2001 was a phenomenal year. For some reason, Iron Savior is underappreciated by most metal fans. I really do not know why Gamma Ray is treated differently, to me Iron Savior is better (at least Iron Savior's best moments are).
2. ARK - Burn the Sun
If any other year, this would probably be number one. I think this album is pretty well respected in underground circles and covers many different sub-genres from power to progressive to even more bizarre styles. I really like the guitar player here (Tore Ostby). It is a shame he has been relatively inactive since this record came out, as unfortunately, ARK only recorded two records.
1. Opeth - Blackwater Park
Best. Album. Ever. Well, not quite, but top 5 all time easily. I have written an entire blog entry dedicated to this album, and I like it more now that I did then. Really, this is the perfect album. At times it rages, brutal and heavy and is followed by long acoustic passages. Some parts sound like traditional metal, and other parts are very progressive, and I don't mean Dream Theater progressive, I mean Van der Graaf Generator progressive. Brilliant album, just brilliant.