Whatever Happened to the Breakout Rock + Metal Acts of 2003?
The year was 2003. You were likely catching the end of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, avoiding the box office bomb Gigli, watching the first season of The O.C. or the last season of Dawson's Creek or surfing through Apple's new iTunes music service. And luckily, 2003 brought you lots of great new music to check out on iTunes. In this feature, we revisit the breakout rock and metal acts of 2003, checking out what made it their breakout year and exploring where their respective careers went after.
It was the start of a long-running chart battle between Shinedown and Three Days Grace at Mainstream Rock radio and the arrival of one of rock's most powerful voices in Evanescence's Amy Lee. And, nu-metal started fading in favor of more straight ahead throwback bands such as Jet and The Darkness. It was also a year in which death metal and black metal produced two acts that would become some of their biggest names in The Black Dahlia Murder and Dimmu Borgir.
But who else popped in 2003? See which bands provided some well known rockers with their second acts. Find out which acts were one and surprisingly done. Revisit rock and metal's class of 2003 breakouts below.
What Happened With Billy Talent in 2003?
After toiling for a decade after forming in Ontario, Canadian rockers Billy Talent finally scored their breakthrough in 2003. The Try Honesty EP in 2001 laid the groundwork for what was to come, with that EP’s title track becoming the lead single when they issued their self-titled major label debut with Atlantic Records in 2003. The song made a dent on the Alternative Airplay chart, climbing to No. 24. Their debut effort also yielded “The Ex,” “River Below” and “Nothing To Lose,” all which garnered more traction in their native Canada.
Billy Talent, “Try Honesty”
What Happened With Billy Talent After?
What happened with their debut album turned out to be indicative of their career, as the band enjoyed way more success north of the border than in the U.S. They’ve released six studio albums as of 2023, the most recent being 2022’s Crisis of Faith.
They’ve amassed seven Juno Award wins (and 22 nominations), including the Best New Group of the Year in 2004 and Album of the Year in 2005 for Billy Talent II. Their biggest songs include “Turn Your Back,” “Devil in a Midnight Mass,” “Rusted From the Rain,” “Surprise Surprise,” “Stand Up and Run,” “Afraid of Heights,” “Reckless Paradise,” “I Beg to Differ” and “End of Me,” the latter of which was a collaboration with Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo.
The Black Dahlia Murder
What Happened With The Black Dahlia Murder in 2003?
After forming in 2001, The Black Dahlia Murder left their initial imprint on the melodic death metal scene with their 2003 breakout debut album Unhallowed. The set was a mix of new material and some re-recorded tracks such as “The Blackest Incarnation” and “Closed Casket Requiem” that appeared on their A Cold-Blooded Epitaph EP. The group shot a video for “Funeral Thirst” off the album, showcasing their brutal heaviness and the power of vocalist Trevor Strnad.
The Black Dahlia Murder, “Funeral Thirst”
What Happened With The Black Dahlia Murder After?
The debut album opened a lot of doors, with their sophomore set Miasma becoming their first charting album, hitting No. 118 on the Billboard 200. One of the more prolific acts in metal, the group amassed nine studio albums over the next two decades. 2011’s Ritual album was the highest charting, hitting No. 31 on the charts, just one spot higher than its 2013 successor Everblack.
The group’s most recent album, 2020’s Verminous, fell victim to the pandemic in terms of tour support. The band suffered a significant loss in 2022 with the death of vocalist Trevor Strnad. The band later played a tribute show in honor of Strnad, with Brian Eschbach moving over to sing and guitarist Ryan Knight returning to the group. That has led to more touring since.
What Happened With The Darkness in 2003?
2003 turned out to be a big “rock revival” year, with The Darkness being one of the bands putting the kickass riff-rocking straight-ahead rock groove of the ‘70s back in the limelight. Leaning into the bombast of the era, the band scored a hit with the radio and MTV favorite, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” that featured singer Justin Hawkins’ piercing falsetto in its finest form.
The band’s Permission to Land album was a surprising success, cracking the Billboard 200 at No. 36, yielding five singles and going on to achieve gold status in the U.S. while scoring four-times platinum sales in their native U.K.
The Darkness, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”
What Happened With The Darkness After?
While many things went right for the band’s debut album, they didn’t for their follow-up, One Way Ticket to Hell … and Back. Working with classic rock producer Roy Thomas Baker seemed like a perfect pairing, but the cost for the record ballooned and it’s now considered one of the most expensive albums in rock history. The record, though it did feature four singles, stumbled commercially, and singer Justin Hawkins exited the group to enter rehab two years later.
The band split, Hawkins went solo, the other members formed Stone Gods, but a few years later in 2011, the four original members reunited to start The Darkness’ second act.
Though never reaching the commercial heights of their debut, the group has consistently delivered solid rock outings, starting with 2012’s Hot Cakes and continuing through 2021’s outstanding Motorheart effort. They’ve also fine tuned the live show becoming one of the more entertaining live acts in rock today.
READ MORE: 10 Most Expensive Rock + Metal Albums
What Happened With DevilDriver in 2003?
It did not take long for Dez Fafara to move on after the collapse of Coal Chamber. With Coal Chamber freshly laid to rest, Fafara joined Evan Pitts, Jeff Kendrick, Jon Miller and John Boecklin in the original incarnation of DevilDriver, releasing their first self-titled set in the fall of 2003.
The band shot videos for “Nothing’s Wrong” and “I Could Care Less,” found placement for “Swinging the Dead” on the Freddy Vs. Jason soundtrack and saw the buzz build for their debut as it hit No. 17 on the Top Heatseekers chart.
DevilDriver, “Nothing’s Wrong?”
What Happened With DevilDriver After?
The group was mostly the model of consistency, releasing new albums every two years through their sixth studio album Winter Kills in 2013. Fafara has remained the lone constant in the band throughout their entire run, though bassist Jon Miller recently returned after leaving the group in 2011.
They’ve issued 10 studio albums in total, though recent years have seen them partake in more specialized recordings. 2018’s Outlaws Til the End, Vol. 1 was a country covers album, while Dealing With Demons, Vol. I and II have seen the group go create a more conceptual path of storytelling.
What Happened With Dimmu Borgir in 2003?
Big breaks don’t always happen overnight. In fact, it was album six that proved to be the big breakthrough for Dimmu Borgir. The symphonic black metal band saw the street cred they’d been building finally pay off with 2003’s Death Cult Armageddon
It became the band’s first album to chart in the U.S., hitting No. 170, bolstered by the songs “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” and “Vredesberg.” In many ways, this album set the band up for bigger success, breaking them to bigger audiences and earning them an invite to perform on Ozzfest.
Dimmu Borgir, “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse”
What Happened With Dimmu Borgir After?
Dimmu Borgir saw a considerable spike in interest after their Death Cult Armageddon album. Their next record, 2007 In Sorte Diaboli, debuted all the way up at No. 43 and 2010’s Abrahadabra gave them their top chart spot to date at No. 42.
Things would slow for the band though, as numerous delays would keep the band largely out of the public eye for nearly eight years before they returned with 2018’s Eonian.
What Happened With Electric Six in 2003?
The Detroit based outfit Electric Six formed in 1996, but it was seven years before they got around to releasing their debut album. Fire arrived in May 2003, armed with the incredibly catchy, bizarre and danceable lead single “Danger High Voltage” that featured a recognizable guest vocal. Though often crediting an auto mechanic named John S. O’Leary in interviews, it’s widely considered that it was Jack White of White Stripes fame who delivered the second voice on the song.
“Danger High Voltage” shot to No. 2 in the U.K., while opening the door for the follow-up singles “Gay Bar” and “Dance Commander.”
Electric Six, “Danger High Voltage”
What Happened With Electric Six After?
While the band had garnered positive reviews for their debut, they never quite became a commercial success. They’ve released 15 albums total, but after their second album Senor Smoke, they split with Warner, spending a long run with indie label Metropolis. Their most recent album was 2021’s Streets of Gold, released through Cleopatra.
What Happened With Evanescence in 2003?
Evanescence started with singer Amy Lee and guitarist Ben Moody in 1995, and the pair worked independently on a pair of EPs before garnering the attention of Wind-Up Records in the early 2000s. By 2003, the band issued their debut studio album, Fallen, led by the lead single “Bring Me to Life.” The song struggled a bit initially, but garnered traction at radio after its inclusion on the Daredevil soundtrack.
“Bring Me to Life,” which also featured a guest vocal from 12 Stones’ Paul McCoy, won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance, while the band was named Best New Artist at the ceremony. Fallen rose to No. 3 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart, with the songs “Going Under,” “My Immortal” and “Everybody’s Fool” also enjoyed rock radio airplay. The album has since gone on to be certified diamond by the RIAA for 10 million sold.
With newfound success, Lee and Moody recruited guitarist John LeCompt, drummer Rocky Gray, and bassist Will Boyd for the touring lineup, but tensions arose over the course of supporting the album with Moody exiting the band.
Evanescence, “Bring Me to Life”
What Happened With Evanescence After?
LeCompt, Gray and Boyd would record on the band’s follow-up, 2006’s The Open Door, but by 2007 all three had left the group leaving Lee as the lone tie to the Fallen era. Lineup changes have continued over the years, but Evanescence have remained one of rock’s top acts with Lee at the helm.
They’ve released five albums, with “Call Me When You’re Sober,” “What You Want” among their Top 10 singles at Mainstream Rock radio.
What Happened With Jet in 2003?
Aussie rockers Jet, led by brothers Nic and Chris Cester, were another band bringing back good ol’ straight ahead riff-heavy rock in 2003. After their four-track Dirty Sweet EP arrived early in the year, the band took off with their debut full-length Get Born, which featured the rip-off-the-knob jam “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” that got prominent TV play in Apple’s iPod commercials. The song won Best Rock Video at the MTV VMAs in 2004, was a Top 10 Alternative Airplay and Mainstream Rock hit and crossed over to No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The group followed with a string of hits off the record, including the raucous “Rollover DJ,” the ballad “Look What You’ve Done” and the brash “Cold Hard Bitch.” The album peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard 200 and has gone on to be platinum certified.
Jet, “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?”
What Happened With Jet After?
Despite an impressive start to their career, Jet didn’t really ever catch the fire that their debut album brought. 2006’s Shine On debuted well, hitting No. 16 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and yielded the singles “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” and the title track, but it didn’t connect at radio like its predecessor.
Their third album, Shaka Rock, was largely overlooked, delivering such gems as “She’s a Genius,” “Black Hearts (on Fire)” and “Seventeen,” but still managed to go platinum in their native Australia. By 2010, two of the members took a hiatus from the band and in 2012 they announced their split.
Jet announced their reunion in 2016, with plans to perform the following year. The band members have continued to balance other projects and their reunion so far has mostly consisted of occasional touring. The only new song to have turned up over that period is 2017’s “My Name Is Thunder,” recorded with Bloody Beetroots.
Johnny Marr + The Healers
What Happened With Johnny Marr and the Healers in 2003?
Following his ‘80s exit from The Smiths, Johnny Marr did a little bit of everything for a few years, briefly playing with The Pretenders and The The before forming the band Electronic with Bernard Sumner of New Order and doing session work. But, by 2000, it was time to re-enter the band world with Marr forming his new group Johnny Marr and the Healers with Oasis drummer Zak Starkey, Kula Shaker bassist Alonza Bevan and Cavewaves guitarist Lee Spencer.
In 2003, they issued their debut album, Boomslang. The album topped Billboard’s Heatseeker’s Album Chart and delivered such singles as “Down on the Corner,” “The Last Ride” and “Bangin’ On.” But it never really garnered significant traction at radio.
Johnny Marr + the Healers, “Down on the Corner”
What Happened With Johnny Marr and the Healers After?
A follow-up album was planned, but never came to fruition. Though the group never technically split, they remained inactive while Marr pursued other projects with Modest Mouse and the 7 Worlds Collide supergroup and still have not released a second record.
The Postal Service
What Happened With The Postal Service in 2003?
Taking a break from his newfound fame with Death Cab for Cutie, singer Ben Gibbard teamed with Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello to form The Postal Service, who broke out with their 2003 debut album, Give Up. The two members pulled in Rilo Kiley vocalist Jenny Lewis for multiple contributions to the record, which was more electronic and keyboard-centric music than Gibbard’s other band.
The group scored a hit with their lead single “Such Great Heights,” which found its way into multiple ads for M&M’s, UPS and Kaiser Permanente as well as later being tied as a theme to ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. The album also yielded the singles “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” and “We Will Become Silhouettes” en route to peaking at No. 45 on the Billboard 200 album chart and later receiving platinum certification.
The Postal Service, “Such Great Heights”
What Happened with The Postal Service After?
Despite talk of a second album in 2007, another record never did arrive. Death Cab for Cutie’s continued success in the 2000s occupied a lot of Gibbard’s time and by 2012 Gibbard posted that there were “no plans” for a follow-up release.
The group split for a period of time, but by 2020 there was talk of the band reuniting. Eventually the live album Everything Will Change was issued. In 2023, the group joined up with Gibbard’s other band, Death Cab for Cutie, for a joint tour that would allow them to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Give Up album.
What Happened With Revis in 2003?
It was a promising start for Carbondale, Illinois rockers Revis, who emerged from the college town inking a deal with Epic for their debut full-length album, Places for Breathing. The album topped Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and eventually peaked at No. 115 on the Billboard album chart, largely based on the quick-climbing lead single “Caught in the Rain.” The song topped out at No. 8 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.
The album also yielded the second single, “Seven,” that peaked at No. 29 on the Mainstream Rock chart. Their inaugural album saw them open for Pearl Jam, Oleander and Evanescence, while also appearing on the 2003 Nintendo Fusion Tour.
Revis, “Caught in the Rain”
What Happened With Revis After?
A number of factors led to a shaky future after the band’s debut album. A record label merger found the band dropped from their major label deal, having to seek new management. Two of the band members branched out with another project, and while they started to work on their sophomore set, the band ended up splitting before it was ever completed.
By 2010, reunion rumors started to surface. Initially deciding to work on a new EP and a full-length record, eventually the two projects formed what was expected to become their sophomore set Do We Have to Beg? in 2010. The record was met with delays and proposed touring ended up getting canceled. Though the song “Save Our Souls” did surface, the album was never released due to issues with their record label and disputes within the band.
What Happened With Shinedown in 2003?
Finding himself in need of a new vehicle, Brent Smith formed Shinedown in 2001 after the dissolution of his former band Dreve. Pulling in guitarist Jasin Todd, bassist Brad Stewart and drummer Barry Kerch, they recorded their debut album, Leave a Whisper, for release in 2003.
The album enjoyed a solid start, thanks to the lead single “Fly From the Inside” that rose to No. 5 on the Mainstream Rock Chart. Their follow-up, “45,” did even better, topping out at No. 3. And their cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man,” which had become a live show favorite, was added as a deluxe edition bonus track, eventually reaching No. 5 at Mainstream Rock Radio. Finishing out a successful debut album cycle, they dropped “Burning Bright” which topped all previous singles in hitting No. 2. Over the course of their debut album, the band opened for Van Halen, Seether and 3 Doors Down.
What Happened With Shinedown After?
Shinedown have gone on to become one of the most successful rock radio bands of the last two decades. After their sophomore set, the band split with Todd and Stewart, welcoming Zach Myers and Eric Bass into the group. Their additions came as the band generated the biggest album of their career, 2008’s The Sound of Madness, that yielded six big singles, including “Devour,” “Second Chance,” the title track and “The Crow & the Butterfly.”
The band has issued seven studio albums, the most recent being 2022’s Planet Zero, and at press time had a record 18 No. 1 songs on the Mainstream Rock Chart.
Three Days Grace
What Happened With Three Days Grace in 2003?
Three Days Grace formed in 1992, initially going under the name Groundswell, and it was just over a decade before they caught the ear of a major label, changed their name and released their self-titled debut album.
One of their demos that helped them land their deal ended up being the lead single, as Adam Gontier’s angst-ridden voice carried the soured relationship anthem, “I Hate Everything About You.” The song rose to No. 4 Mainstream Rock and No. 2 for Alternative Airplay, giving them a foot in the door at rock radio, one they would take full advantage of. The follow-up single, “Just Like You,” became their first Mainstream Rock chart-topper and “Home” concluded a successful debut album run peaking at No. 2.
Though the album only hit No. 69 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart, it has since gone on to be certified double platinum in the U.S.
Three Days Grace, “I Hate Everything About You”
What Happened With Three Days Grace After?
Who knew that two of the biggest rock radio bands would launch in the same year, but Three Days Grace and Shinedown have gone back and forth for the most Mainstream Rock No. 1 singles over the course of their respective careers. Three Days Grace sit at 17 chart-toppers at press time, including such standouts as “Animal I Have Become,” “Never Too Late,” “Break,” “Chalk Outline,” “Painkiller,” “The Mountain” and “So-Called Life.”
They’ve also released seven albums, with 2022’s Explosions being the latest record. One-X, Life Starts Now and Transit of Venus all debuted inside the Top 10.
The group did undergo a significant lineup change, with singer Adam Gontier exiting the band during promotion of their Transit of Venus album, but bassist Brad Walst’s brother Matt has come over from My Darkest Days and the string of successful singles and records has continued.
What Happened With Velvet Revolver in 2003?
Though their debut album wouldn’t arrive until a year later, the buzz was already heavy on Velvet Revolver in 2003. The group’s origins date back to a fateful 2002 benefit concert for Motley Crue drummer Randy Castillo, with Buckcherry’s Josh Todd and Keith Nelson and Cypress Hill’s B-Real joining Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum of Guns N' Roses fame. Eventually, the GN’R trio decided to continue working together, pulling in McKagan’s Loaded co-hort Dave Kushner and starting to audition singers. When Stone Temple Pilots disbanded in 2003, that freed up Scott Weiland to join and they first arrived later that year with the song “Set Me Free.”
“Set Me Free” was set aside for the Hulk movie soundtrack, while the band recorded a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Money” for another 2003 film, The Italian Job. So before a full album was even complete, two prime song placements had them as one of the most anticipated new bands of the coming year.
Velvet Revolver, “Set Me Free”
What Happened With Velvet Revolver After?
As stated, the band’s 2004 debut album Contraband followed and immediately shot to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart. A muscular new song “Slither” commanded the airwaves, and the group generated another hit with the rock ballad “Fall to Pieces.” “Dirty Little Thing” rounded out the first album run.
A second album followed in 2007, though Libertad didn’t meet the same commercial heights as its predecessor. The album did hit No. 5 on the Billboard 200, but none of the singles — “She Builds Quick Machines,” “The Last Fight,” “Get Out the Door” — sparked at radio like the songs from the first record.
During touring for the second album, Weiland entered rehab and was later arrested for crashing his car while under influence. The cancellation of an Australian tour raised tensions further, and by 2008 Weiland announced to a crowd onstage that it would be their last tour.
Upon his exit in 2008, Weiland returned to Stone Temple Pilots. There was talk for several years of Velvet Revolver auditioning new singers, but they never found a replacement. The group reunited for a one-off benefit show in 2012, but nothing happened beyond that.
Weiland died in 2015 while out on a solo tour. Slash and Duff returned to Guns N’ Roses, and Sorum has continued both as a musician with multiple projects and getting into producing.
What Happened With Zwan in 2003?
In the aftermath of Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan chose Zwan as his new musical vehicle. The group reunited him with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and included A Perfect Circle’s Paz Lenchantin, Slint’s David Pajo and Chavez’s Matt Sweeney.
The band released their Mary Star of the Sea debut album in 2003 and scored an alt-rock radio hit with “Honestly” hitting No. 7 on the Billboard Alternative Airplay chart that year. A second single, “Lyric,” failed to chart. The album debuted at No. 3 in the U.S.
What Happened With Zwan After?
It was one and done for Zwan, with Corgan breaking up the band after the conclusion of their album support. It was an extremely brief run with the album release coming in January and the band splitting up by September of the same year.
This came after the band had canceled a summer tour. While appearing on Chicago’s WGN, Corgan commented, “I really enjoyed my experience with Zwan, but at the end of the day, without that sense of deeper family loyalty, it just becomes like anything else.”
Corgan elaborated years later on the split, telling the Chicago Tribune, "The music wasn't the big problem, it was more their attitude... Sex acts between band members in public. People carrying drugs across borders. Pajo sleeping with the producer's girlfriend while we were making the record.”
Corgan would go on to issue The FutureEmbrace solo album in 2005 before deciding to reclaim the Smashing Pumpkins moniker for future recordings.