The 10 Greatest Nu-Metal Albums
Yep, Slipknot's self-titled debut is somewhere on this list.
Ah, to be a teenager (or early 20-something) and in constant angst again. There's no time in life that is simultaneously more enjoyable and more utterly miserable. With such sentimental emotions often comes darker, more intense and heavier music.
That's where, for many of a certain generation, nu-metal came in.
The term "nu-metal" began as an insult, but it's since become an umbrella term to describe the collective wave of late-’90s and early-2000s bands that created a sound blending the worlds of alternative rock, heavy metal and hip-hop. This music was usually bass-heavy and dark, with demonic or demented vocals and distorted, down-tuned riffs. But let’s not kid ourselves and pretend that "nu-metal" is any type of perfect classification system. Some bands had darker images; some relied more on a fusion of hip-hop and heavy rock, some on traditional thrash metal. But most created art that comes from a place of personal anguish and, ultimately, the search for some kind of redemption.
If you're a millennial, the following might have been the perfect soundtrack to your high school and community college years. These are our picks for the all-time best nu-metal albums.
10. Static-X, Machine (2001)
This was the second release from the industrial metal band, which was based in L.A. at the time. Frontman Wayne Static (R.I.P.) and the band, which for this album featured Static on guitars/vocals, Tony Campos on bass, drummer Ken Jay and keyboardist Koichi Fukuda, filled Machine with grinding guitars and robotic, almost mechanical riffs. There are clear allusions to bands like Fear Factory or Ministry, but on this record Static-X found their identity. With fierce tracks like "Permanence,""This is Not," "Cold" and "In a Bag," the band delivers 40 minutes full-on evil disco music.
9. Coal Chamber, Coal Chamber (1997)
Coal Chamber were an up-and-coming darker metal band (sometimes referred to as spookycore in the early days), discovered by Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares, who helped get the band signed to Roadrunner Records. Their self-titled debut record is a diligent, dark and heavy slab that focuses on inner pain, as can be felt in the tortured vocals of Dez Fafara, later of Devildriver, who goes back and forth from anguished moans and screams to death metal grunts. The album does flow from start to finish, but its strongest half is the first, with classic Coal Chamber songs like "Loco," "Bradley," "Unspoiled" and "Big Truck."
8. Soulfly, Soulfly (1998)
Featuring Max Cavalera from Sepultura, who had just broken up, Soulfly took the roots of thrash and groove metal and gave them a tribal, spiritual twist with this album. It's harsh and full of rage, despair and grief; Cavalera was dealing with not only the breakup of his band but also the murder of his stepson. Produced by probably the producer when it came to nu-metal, Ross Robinson, the record featured many guest appearances, including DJ Lethal and Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit, Chino Moreno from Deftones and Dino Cazares and Burton C. Bell from Fear Factory. The first two tracks could have been Sepultura songs, but also be sure to check out "Bleed," probably the heaviest track you will ever hear Fred Durst and DJ Lethal perform on.
7. Machine Head, The Burning Red (1999)
Machine Head, nu-metal? Well, yes and no. The band formed from the ashes of Bay Area thrash metal band Vio-lence, and debut album Burn My Eyeseither from 1994 is more aggressive groove metal than anything else. The reason they are on this list is because, although many fans might consider this album the band’s weakest work, for their lone foray into nu-metal, it's pretty great. The heavy, riff-driven songs still sound like Machine Head, but the band also pulled influences from other late-’90s acts such as Korn and Rob Zombie. Be sure to check out their rendition of the Police classic "Message in a Bottle."
6. Limp Bizkit, Three Dollar Bill Y'all (1997)
This debut from the band many people love to hate came out and rocked the socks off of everyone — fans, critics and curious onlookers alike. It seemed like a gimmick at the time to have a metal band featuring a DJ and a singer/screamer/rapper, but Florida-based Limp Bizkit were among the first to pull it off, garnering heavy MTV rotation and constant airplay on rock radio nationwide. Because of their friendship with Korn, with whom they toured as an opening act, the band gained notoriety even before they were signed. This album gave the world a first impression of frontman Fred Durst and his bandmates: guitarist Wes Borland, drummer John Otto, bassist Sam Rivers and DJ Lethal. Fans were immediately blasted with rage, anger and music based in hurt. Imagine Metallica and Pantera mixed with Eminem and Lethal's former group, House of Pain. Standout tracks include "Counterfeit," "Stuck" and "Sour," but don’t overlook their heavy metal take on George Michael's "Faith."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.