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The Rock Nation Expert Panel - The Top 10 Albums of 2003...in retrospect.

by Lunchbox

We've put together 15 Rock Radio experts from across the country to form our Rock Nation Expert Panel. These select few will be tasked with putting together their rankings for various polls and concepts, all for your entertainment.

Recently we asked the Experts to look back 10 years ago, to the year 2003, to find the best albums of that year. IN HINDSIGHT. Not the albums that sold the most, or had the most hits at the time, but ones that still mean something as we wrap up 2013. Here’s what they had to say: 

First, here are some albums who didn’t make the list, but their stock risen since 2003 -

Coheed & Cambria - In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3

This wasn’t the debut album for Coheed, but it was their breakout effort. The single “Blood Red Summer” used MTV’s last gasp of the music video generation to propel themselves into a summer hit in 2004. The band has since become one of the biggest current prog-rock or alternative bands in the world. They have since released 5 more studio albums, a comic book series, a novel, and toured around the world. This album helped to launch them and is still regarded as the essential Coheed & Cambria release.

Lamb of God - As the Palaces Burn

Prior to LOG’s As the Palaces Burn album, they were pretty much the darlings of the under-ground metal scene. But when they dropped this album, they started to distance themselves from their contemporaries, and set the stage for what was to come. Since 2003, Randy Blythe and the boys have become one of the biggest metal bands in the world, creating retroactive demand for the album.

Now, PRIME examples of what this list is all about, these albums may have topped lists in 2003, but today, they don’t mean as much-

Metallica - St. Anger 

In 2003, St. Anger generated a ton of excitement, had even old school Metallica fans thinking that this might be a return to glory. But as high as the expectations got, it just ultimately led to more disappointment. Yes Metallica sold a lot of copies of St. Anger, yes they won a Grammy, yes they can still sell out an entire festival on their name alone. But since 2003, more and more people have stepped up to admit this was a bad album. Seriously, they had lyrics like “I feel my earth shake, like an earthquake” and the classic line “Keep searching, keep on searching. This search goes on, this search goes on Frantic tick tick tick tick tick tick tock. Frantic tick tick tick tick tick tick tock. Frantic tick tick tick tick tick tick tock. Frantic tick tick tick tick tick tick tock.” Worst of all, since St. Anger came out, Metallica seemed to find a way to make it seem “not as bad” by releasing “Lulu”.

Evanescence - Fallen

Look at how big Evanescence Fallen was in 2003...they sold a million copies that year, they were nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammy’s, and they even won a Grammy for “Bring Me To Life”. BUT...where have they gone? Evanescence has only released 2 albums since; The Open Door in 2006 and their self-titled release in 2011. Their second album did go to #1 and also went double platinum, but for as big as the band was set up to become, they couldn't cash in. The door has not been shut on the band, but they’re starting to become a band you have to remind people of.

Radiohead - Hail To The Thief

At the end of 2003, Radiohead found themselves on the top of A LOT of end-of-the-year lists. They were the alt-rock band that everyone said they liked, but most people couldn’t name more than 3 Radiohead songs (try it) if they were asked. Honestly, a lot of the plugs the album was getting was based on subject matter more than execution. Hail To The Thief was the most aggressive anti-George Bush album until the Rock Against Bush compilation albums were released the following year. Even Thom York has stated that the album was rushed, and that they wish they had another crack at it. Does this make it a bad album or a mistake? No, not at all. This was incredibly powerful for 2003, but in retrospect, it doesn’t hold up in 2013.  

Now, onto the actual list-

10 - Blink 182 - Blink 182

Blink 182’s self-titled release in 2003 will probably go down as their masterpiece. The release contained singles like “Feeling This” and “I Miss You” which were both a noticeable evolution from their punk-infused past hits. The band had taken a few years off before putting this album together, and in that time they became fathers, started side projects, and matured in their personal lives. All of that came through in this release, which has to be one of the first albums that would be recommended in a Blink 182 For Dummies book.

9 - Avenged Sevenfold - Waking the Fallen

I think we can all agree that Avenged Sevenfold is one of the biggest rock bands in the world in 2013. But seriously, who was aware of A7X in 2003 when Waking the Fallen was released? The west coast crew had a strong regional following, but hadn’t crossed the threshold into national awareness. You won’t find this album on any major end-of-the-year lists for 2003, but since Avenged Sevenfold stated their climb to dominance, fans have started looking into their previous releases. The more people discover Waking the Fallen, the stronger the response becomes. It may end up being one of their best releases of their career when all is said and done.  

8 - The Black Keys - Thickfreakness

Just like Avenged Sevenfold’s Waking the Fallen was known only to west coast metal fans, Thickfreakness wasn’t known to many outside of the independent rock world. When the guys really busted on the scene in 2010, Thickfreakness had already been set up to be the album people doubled-back to grab. One of the moments that helped set them up, came in 2008 when the pilot episode for a show called Sons of Anarchy used the single “Hard Row”. The Black Keys have a tremendous back-catalog, along with their two mainstream successes (Brothers and El Camino) Thickfreakness and Rubber Factory are must-owns for Black Keys fans.  

7 - Jet - Get Born

What a debut. Singles like “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”, “Cold Hard Bitch”, “Look What You’ve Done”, “Rollover DJ”, and “Get Me Outta Here” pushed this album to over 3 million in sales. Unfortunately, the band broke up less than 10 years after the release of Get Born, but the strength of this this album carries into 2013. Their singles continue to get massive radio airplay, STILL sell digital singles, and the sound they helped establish in 2003, flourishes today. Jet may have benefited from a right-place-right-time scenario, but they crushed it, even under those circumstances.  

6 - Deftones - Deftones

Look, they’re the freakin’ Deftones. When their self-titled album hit in 2003, it reached #2 on the Billboard album sales chart, yet it wasn’t able to jump into platinum sales territory. The sales issues may stem from the band’s constant experimentation; they were coming off a platinum selling album (White Pony) which featured a more mainstream alternative sound. The self-titled release returned the band to their alt-metal roots.

5 - Godsmack - Faceless

So many great songs. Four singles that still find life on rock radio, and in concert playlists today; “Straight Out of Line”, “Serenity”, “I Stand Alone”, and “Re-Align”. There are a lot of bands that can find success with one album, there are a smaller number that can achieve success with two...but once a band drops their third consecutive successful album, they’ve entered a new dimension. This happens to be Godsmack’s third album, and the one where the solidified themselves as one of the biggest bands of the 00s.  

4 - Muse - Absolution

“Hey American, we’re Muse!” Europe was well aware of the alt rock trio by the time 2003’s Absolution rolled out, but this was the first Muse album to chart with US crowds. The album enjoyed tremendous response from critics, and also found sales success. Mostly driven by the band’s first American rock radio hits “Time is Running Out” and “Hysteria”. Those two songs still enjoy regular airplay as the band has established themselves as one of the top 5 alt rock bands in the world. It may not have been highly regarded at the end of 2003, but by 2013, it’s almost a must-own for alternative rock fans.   

3 - Three Days Grace - Three Days Grace

In the ten years since Three Days Grace busted onto the scene, they have enjoyed the highest of highs, while enduring the lowest of lows. As 2003 closed, 3DG sat as a nice up-and-comer in the rock community, but in the years to come, they would distance themselves from other bands. They eventually knocked out 10 songs that reached #1 in the US over their 4 albums. But, by 2013, the demons of primary song-writer, and lead singer, Adam Gontier forced a separation from the band. 3DG continued to tour over 2013 with fill-in singer Matt Walst (My Darkest Days), who is actually the brother of founding 3DG bassist Brad Walst. The future is wide-open for Three Days Grace, and it’s all possible because of this debut album.  

2 - Linkin Park - Meteora

Laying out the resume for this album makes you start to wonder why it’s not #1. Let’s check this out: 16 millions copies sold, 5 songs that went #1, a Grammy nomination, a spot on Billboards Top 200 albums of the Decade (2000-2009, all formats), and most impressively, the album is the most successful album in the history of the Alternative Rock Radio Airplay. The only possible reason for this album not topping the list, is that the band hasn’t achieved what would be expected of a band who dropped that album. Since 2003, the band has become more experimental, pushing away a lot of the fans they created through 2003. Not that they have fallen off, the band is still one of the most in demand groups in the world. They still sell mountains of music. But the level of domination they were positioned for never materialized.  

1 (tie) - Shinedown - Leave a Whisper

Really, roll it back in your mind to June of 2003. Did you have any idea who Shinedown was? Could you name the lead singer? By the end of the year, you probably had a pretty good idea of who the band was. By the time they kicked off the summer leg of their 2013 tour schedule, chances are most rock fans were aware of who Brent Smith was. Mostly because they have become the most consistently successful rock band of the last decade. Their first 17 singles all reached top 5 status on the Rock Radio Airplay chart, they’ve had multiple albums go platinum (including Leave a Whisper), and they’ve become one of the biggest headlining rock bands in the US. Just like a lot of the other bands on the list, there has been turmoil and member changes since 2003, but unlike most of the other bands with roster issues, Shinedown is poised to continue their level of quality into the next decade.  

1 (tie) - The White Stripe - Elephant

They came, they saw, they conquered. Continuing to build on the success of White Blood Cells, The White Stripes dropped Elephant as their fourth studio album in 2003. At that point, the underground and the mainstream collided. Jack and Meg White had become indie-rock darlings since the late 90s, but by the time Elephant started to gain radio airplay, the nation was ready for it. The first single “Seven Nation Army” screamed to the top of the Radio Airplay chart, and became their definitive song. That ONE SONG is strong enough to place them on this list; it’s become so big that it has replaced Gary Glitter as the sports-stadium anthem worldwide. It also replaced Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” as the-song-you-hear-everyone-play-in-guitar-stores. The next decade were owned by The White Stripes; their albums Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump both reached top 3 status, and their sound ushered in a whole new crop of artists to the public conscience (Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, The Killers, Cage The Elephant) that wouldn’t have been given a chance if not for The White Stripes. Meg and Jack have since gone their separate ways; with the spotlight of success ultimately becoming too bright for Meg, Jack has gone on to his own solo career. The impact of Elephant on the world of rock is undeniable, and Elephant was the biggest key to unlocking that.