The Top Stories of 2011
2011 was a crazy frickin' year. And with it came plenty of good, bad, and ugly. As we do every year, we lost a number of great rockers (read about a few of the biggest names to pass away in our remembrance here). While such loss is inevitable and, in some way, expected, it nonetheless never fails to hit hard. But 2011 was also full of many completely unexpected and occasionally mind-blowing events. Below is our list of the biggest stories of the year.
1. Black Sabbath reunite
The rumors had been swirling for a while, but it seemed like every time things were looking good for a reunion of the original lineup of the original metal band, someone came in to dash the hopes of pretty much every headbanger on the planet. And then it happened: a press conference hosted by Henry Rollins and featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward, announcing not only a world tour together in 2012 but also that they have been working on a new album together! Never say die, indeed.
2. The West Memphis Three are freed
In the 18 years since the West Memphis Three—three men who, as metalhead teenagers, were convicted for the allegedly Satanic-ritual murder of three young children—were first arrested, their case has galvanized heavy-music fans the world over. Everyone from the aforementioned Henry Rollins and Metallica to Pearl Jam and Marilyn Manson—who spoke at the 2010 Revolver Golden Gods Awards on their behalf—had gotten behind their cause, but as appeal after appeal was denied despite mounting evidence of their innocence, that cause did not appear very hopeful. Then, this August, the seemingly impossible happened when the WM3 were finally released from prison. Justice, long overdue.
3. Judas Priest play on American Idol, embark on farewell tour
If a Sabbath reunion and WM3 release seemed unlikely going into 2011, then Judas Priest performing on TV's most popular show and pop music's biggest forum seemed like just about the closest thing to a sign of the apocalypse that we could imagine. Well, then maybe the end is, in fact, nigh in 2012, because Priest did take the Idol stage this year, rocking with finalist James Durbin in front of the some 30 million viewers who tuned in to see the season finale. Sadly, we know that the end is nigh for Priest themselves, who played the first leg of their farewell tour this year. But at least Rob Halford & Co. are going out with a bang.
4. Dave Mustaine plays Metallica songs onstage with Metallica
The double takes continued this year when Dave Mustaine took the stage with Metallica earlier this month to play five 'Tallica classics as part of that band's 30th anniversary. Dave jamming on Diamond Head along with all the other members of the Big 4 was one thing. This, a whole other level of jaw-dropping. Can't we all just get along? Why, yes, we can.
5. Metallica records album with Lou Reed
If Metallica's series of 30th-anniversary shows this December was one of the most badass things these tried-and-true metal badasses have ever done, then their collaborative album, Lulu, with art-rock kingpin Lou Reed ranks up there among the most head-scratchingly bizarre moves they've ever made. "I am the table." And we are dumbfounded.
6. Slipknot play first shows since Paul Gray's death
After the passing of founding bass player and major songwriter Paul Gray in 2010, it was unclear whether Slipknot would pack up the masks and jumpsuits and call it a day or if they would forge ahead. This summer the band--who were the subject of a Revolver special issue this year--returned to the stage and did it in triumphant fashion, paying respect to their fallen bandmate and to their own origins, while looking ahead to the future. Which includes highly anticipated shows in the U.S. next year.
7. Phil Anselmo performs Pantera songs onstage for first time in a decade
His surprise appearance at this September's Metal Masters Clinic 2 was a heavily guarded secret (which the Revolver staff may have been privy to, if not behind), but when Phil Anselmo stomped onto the stage and banged through absolutely rip-roaring renditions of Pantera's "A New Level" and "Fucking Hostile" backed by Kerry King, Scott Ian, David Ellefson, Frank Bello, Mike Portnoy, and Charlie Benante, it resounded around the metal world. And only made us mourn more deeply the senseless death of Dimebag Darrell and the fact that a Pantera reunion is utterly impossible. If you weren't there in September, kick yourself. Now.
8. Evanescence release first album in five years, debut at No. 1
One of the best-selling hard-rock acts of the last decade, Evanescence had all but fallen off the map when they returned with this year's self-titled album and the relevance of their gothy nu-metal-infused sound was very much in question. Consider that question definitively answered as the record debuted at No. 1 on the charts and the group hit the road to overwhelmingly sold-out shows--not to mention the fact that frontwoman Amy Lee was voted by Revolver readers to be the single Hottest Chick in Hard Rock. Amazing accomplishments all, for a band that clearly had been very much been missed.
9. Anthrax release first album in eight years
It has been a tumultuous decade for the thrash legends, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and while their trials and tribulations did nearly take the band down, Anthrax endured and reasserted their place among metal's best with the critically acclaimed Worship Music, not to mention their ass-kicking sets at this year's Big 4 shows.
10. Avenged Sevenfold dominate the Revolver Golden Gods awards
Absolutely proving their supremacy among their generation of hard-rock and metal bands, and completing their inspiring rise-from-the-ashes story since the death of founding drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, Avenged Sevenfold claimed the 2011 Revolver Golden Gods as their own. They all but swept the fan-voted awards, including the biggest trophy of the night, for Album of the Year, and crushed with their closing set, which featured guest turns by GN'R's Duff McKagan and Pantera's Vinnie Paul. All hail the heirs apparent.
11. Disturbed go on indefinite hiatus
They are the only rock band to have four consecutive records debut at No. 1, other than Metallica and Dave Matthews Band, so when Disturbed announced, while headlining this summer's Mayhem Fest, that they would be going on "indefinite hiatus," fans were understandably shocked. But then, what better time to go out then when you're on top? Only time will tell if the bandmates are just taking a break or if they've broken up—but there's no arguing that these guys have earned a little rest.
12. Metal goes dubstep
It was this year's biggest trend in heavy music—the fusion of metal and the electronic-music style known as dubstep—and while, like any trend, it led to some less than stellar music, it also led to our controversial pick for 2011 Album of the Year, Korn's The Path of Totality. We at Revolver hate it when we see heavy music getting stagnant and conservative—music needs to evolve and cross-pollinate to stay vital—so we're excited that everyone from Five Finger Death Punch to Asking Alexandria to Periphery are experimenting with dubstep and exploring alternative definitions of "heavy." And it's cool knowing that the style's biggest producer, Skrillex, is a friend of hard rock and metal, having gotten his start fronting screamo band From First to Last and, this year, collaborated on the new Korn record. Let's see where this new hybrid takes us in 2012.
13. System of a Down play first shows together in five years
In late 2010, System of a Down, one of the last decade's most unique and innovative metal bands, announced that they would be reuniting to play shows after a five-year hiatus. When the first of those performances finally came to pass, in Canada this May, SOAD proved that they had not missed a beat. Welcome back. And make a new record. You know you want to.
14. Atreyu go on indefinite hiatus
In the 12 years since their formation, SoCal's Atreyu have morphed from metalcore pioneers to a more straight-up hard-rock outfit, and they've graced the cover of Revolver more than a few times along the way. So when, this year, the bandmates broke the news that they would be putting the band on ice, it was a bummer, no question. The consolation is that the members are not exactly sitting on their hand since the decision: Frontman Alex Varkatsaz has a new band in the works with Bleeding Through's Brendan Schieppati, called I Am War; drummer-vocalist Brandon Saller now fronts Hell or Highwater; and guitarist Travis Miguel has new project Fake Figures.
15. Ministry re-form
Ministry's breakup never seemed particularly set in stone. After all, their "final" album, 2007's The Last Sucker, was followed by not one record of covers and remixes but two—not to mention a 2009 live album. Still, it was hard for any fan of the seminal industrial-metal band not to be excited when main man Al Jourgensen announced in August that the group would not only be touring in 2012 but releasing a new, original studio album, fittingly called Relapse. Lead single, "99 Percenters," hits iTunes on December 23.
16. Life of Agony frontman Keith Caputo transitioning gender to female
It might just be the biggest "WTF" revelation in a year full of "WTF" moments: the news that Life of Agony vocalist Keith Caputo was becoming a woman, Mina. As with Priest's catalog after Halford came out of the closet, now we hear LOA's songs just a little differently.
..And finally, Revolver releases 100th issue.
Is it 2011's biggest story? No. But it might be for us here at Revolver. We've been told repeatedly over the years that rock is dead, metal is dead, the music industry is dead, print media are dead. So to make it to 100 issues—100 real, tangible, bathroom-ready printed issues—feels like a real accomplishment. And maybe even more importantly, it feels like a big, fat middle-finger to all the disbelievers, doubters, and haters who didn't think we would make it. Fuck you. And thank you to all our readers who have stuck with us, whether for all 100 issues, or only for this year's six. You rule. Happy holidays.