So on the surface I can already feel some hate from the headline; but deep down I am willing to wager that many of you, whether you admit it or not publicly, have some love for at least a few nü-metal albums. I share this list simply for the fun of nostalgia and also in hopes of pulling in some new readers to our deeper corners of the metal world. So without further ado, here are the 10 nü-metal albums that I still listen to regularly.
Coal Chamber is a band I hold close to my heart. I've been following Dez for a long time prior to DevilDriver, and this was my high school sweetheart's favorite band. As becomes a pattern later down this list, I have picked a different album for this band than most. People remember "Loco" and "Big Truck" the most, so Coal Chamber becomes the obvious choice. However, I think that Chamber Music is the superior record. "Shock The Monkey" cover aside, this album is more consistent and significantly trims the fat of its predecessor. From the gothic string intro of "Mist," to the sudden transition to "Tragedy," to the infectious qualities of my personal favorite, "Tyler's Song," Chamber Music is just a good time.
Bad start still? To you I say "meh." Break The Cycle, like the next album on the list, helped to deliver light metal exposure therapy to a crowd that might have otherwise missed out. Spreading through the radiowaves like wildfire, hits like "It's Been A While" offered dreary, alternative anthems about heroin use while also drawing in listeners for deeper, heavier cuts like "Can't Believe." Aaron Lewis has a great voice, and his band once had a flair for writing music that was highly personal and rewarding on multiple levels. I spent a lot of time listening to this album on long drives and in my friend's basement room while writing music of our own.
Hisssssss! Get over it. These guys were probably always on a trajectory toward the pop music they are shilling these days. But that doesn't diminish the impact that Hybrid Theory had in the early 2000's. Yes, the songs were overplayed (especially "In The End"), but they were something that turned a lot of heads for good reason. Linkin Park, if on this album alone, found a perfect waypoint between metal and radio rock that could appeal to a massive crowd. I wish we could quantify how many non-metalheads were converted to the dark side with this album.
I always enjoy including this album in conversation, because it is one that I've frequently found rarely gets mentioned, but has quite the cult following. I would even to venture to call Gift the first "underground" album I really loved. People were aware of it, they toured and had some music videos, but I feel like Taproot never entered the mainstream music circuit until the next album, Welcome. In any case, Gift is a fantastic record. I spent many a band practice and battle of the bands imitating Stephen Richard's nasally delivery. I was really drawn to his ability to so rapidly shift between harsh and clean vocals. The riffs were very typical for the genre, but always infectious. I still sing the guitar line to "Again and Again" whenever it pops into my head, and "I" has been a mainstay of my metal playlists for many years.
I hear a massive sigh even as I write this a good month before it will post. Let me just say this, if Sepultura had never been a thing, I honestly don't think that there would be so much hate for Soulfly. I think that most of the haters just feel betrayed by Max for abandoning his thrash metal roots. But if you ask me, and I'm not winning many fans for this statement either, Sepultura was a second-rate thrash band. They mimicked the bands that inspired them without ever being on the same tier. It was only after Roots and then with the transition to this Soulfly debut that Max started to do something interesting. By pulling in world music influences and plenty of tribal imagery, Soulfy's early work gave us something that we hadn't heard before.
"DIG! Bury Me! Underneath...everything that I am!" That bass hook. Memes aside, I love this song; but there is much more to L.D. 50 than its most popular hit. I am partial to "Nothing to Gein," a well composed song musically, but with added layers of intrigue given its subect matter: serial killer Ed Gein. On a more general note, Mudvayne was one of the more technical groups of the nü-metal craze. They're no Dillinger Escape Plan or Deathspell Omega, but they played with time signatures, had arguably the most talented bass player in the genre, and knew how to make songs that were admirably proficient while also being extremely palatable.
Another atypical choice of album. Other articles like this I've seen floating around generally go for Toxicity, which is also a solid choice and actually one I owned prior to even hearing System Of A Down. However, I argue that the self-titled record has stronger riffs, heavier vocals, and more consistency than their breakout sophomore effort. Songs like "Soil," "Know," and "Sugar" are bursting with mosh-pitting hooks and catchy sing/scream-alongs. I am always struck by the expert fusion of serious subject matter, satirical writing, and humorous delivery. And whenever this album comes up with a new person, we always end up talking about our shared favorite moment: "why the f#$k did you take him away from us you motherf#$kers!"
Besides Slipknot's own Iowa, there is no other album that sounds like Slipknot. People will definitely fight me on that statement, but I stand by it. Slipknot delivered a completely new way to be heavy with this raw self-titled, major label debut; and they proved that you could do the whole rap-metal vocals without sounding like a complete poser. Corey's rage-filled deliveries along with the keg strikes and twisted riffs changed something within me from the moment my friend put this CD in my discman during a summer road trip. I credit that moment for this site even existing. This is why I think that metal bullies are completely counter to the metal movement. Yeah, Slipknot may not be "as metal" as Schammasch or Artificial Brain, and their new material may be lacking, but any of these bands could be someone's first step towards a massive new world of music.
I know that most people go with Follow The Leader or the self titled debut, but for me Issues is Korn's strongest and most consistent effort. Almost every track on this album is a hit, and I say that both figuratively and literally. Half of these songs had heavy radio play and were accompanied by big budget music videos. It's for good reason. Songs like "Somebody, Someone" and "Falling Away From Me" are both catchy and heavy in every sense of the word. It's impossible for me to not bang my head to this album.
This could be no other album; and honestly, it's probably one of my favorite albums of all time. I might have been a little more accurate to include Adrenaline or Around The Fur (also great albums) since they fit the label better, but I like the idea of including a record that helped a band transcend the trappings of a sound that they helped to create. White Pony still covers many of the hallmarks of nü-metal, but also dips into more experimental territory with electronics, post-metal influences, and a number of other interesting ideas. Furthermore, this is just an amazing record from front to back.