Nu Metal was a musical trend that only lasted a few years in the grand scheme of things but managed to produce some great bands that managed to transcend the label. Korn, Deftones, Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit managed to be on the forefront and most popular bands of the era but the widespread meshing of music managed to produce some surprising combinations of music and metal. This list includes many of these names, however; while not entirely definitive, this is the list of my favorite albums from the era.
5. Limp Bizkit: Significant Other
While their debut earned some recognition due to it’s spirited cover of George Michael’s “Faith”, it wasn’t until Significant Other that the Florida NuMetal squad managed to make an impact on the scene. The confluence of hip hop beats and rapping with the heavy of metal managed to combine into one of the biggest and catchiest songs of the era “Nookie”. The album actually manages to have some great songs on it (it spawned 4 top 20 singles) mixed with some short skit tracks that are commonly associated with rap albums. Songs like “Break Stuff”, “I’m Broke”, “Re-arranged” and the Scott Weiland and Jonathan Davis Guesting Track “Nobody Like You” are all great songs and show a versatility that touches outside of the hip-hop/metal mixture the band was known for.
Ultimately Limp Bizkit became a victim of their own success and imploded shortly after the Nu Metal craze burned out. They did manage to release a few albums after their last successful effort 2000’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water but have never managed to get back to a top heap status. The band does still occasionally tour and legions of ex-jocks still pump to “Break Stuff” while waiting for the band to release their long awaited Stampede of the Disco Elephants album.
4. Mudvayne: Lost and Found
Mudvayne remained an enigma throughout their short (9 years) yet productive career. They burst on the scene as the nickname monikered painted Nu Metal act and evolved in a short time to one of the most progressive metal acts out there. I can think of few bands that could mix together the intensity of Pantera with the highly methodical writing of Tool to come out with a cohesive and catchy sound. Each member was highly skilled at their craft and brought new elements that were lacking in metal. I’m a big fan of Ryan Martinie and Matt McDonough as they held down the bottom and added complexities of timing and funk of slap bass into the metal mix.
Lost and Found is the first album I ever remember being so excited about that I pre-ordered. While Mudvayne had two great albums that preceded, 2000’s debut L.D. 50 and 2002’s The End of All Things to Come, but with 2005’s Lost and Found they finally found a sound that was more representative of their collective efforts. From the jump the album is heavy with the opening track “Determined” followed by “Pushing Through”. The third song and first major single “Happy?” Is heavy yet catchy with lyrics that speak to anyone who has ever had a bad relationship. The bands complex song writing can be heard in songs like IMN, Rain. Sun. Gone. And Choices. The album has the commecial appeal of more radio friendly songs such as the aforementioned “Happy?”, as well as “Forget to Remember”, “Fall Into Sleep” and “Pulling the String”. Lost and Found stands as a testament to how missed this four piece is on the metal scene since their hiatus as well as remains one of my favorite albums to listen to from the era.
3. Static-X: Wisconsin Death Trip
Nu Metal managed to combine a number of seemingly opposing genres of music with metal, but Disco? Wayne and crew managed to meld the industrial metal of Ministry, NIN and Fear Factory with a pop orientated dance music to created their self proclaimed “Evil Disco”. Static-X was the first band that I had ever met in person and as such they hold a pretty special place for me. I met the band prior to them becoming huge on MTV and in the Nu Metal scene. At the time the guys were all jovial and friendly and were just enjoying themselves. Wayne was highly intelligent if not a little quiet. Tony and Ken were two of the funniest nicest guys you could ever meet and I have a fond night of hanging out and laughing with them. That being said, I can be a little biased with my love for Static-X’s music, however; their debut album Wisconsin Death Trip was an amazing first step for a band that would evolve and become heavier as time went by. Members changed as well as the sound but the groundwork set in their debut album would still come through in their sound throughout the bands lifetime.
The mix of metal guitars, hooky riffs, and funky pop orientated rhythms managed to give you two things that bring together metal heads and girls, heavy music to mosh to and groovy beats to shake your ass to. The band managed to put together a cohesive sound with two musical movements that always seemed at odds with one another.
The album’s biggest songs come on the front side of the album with “Push It”, “I’m With Stupid” and “Love Dump” being three of the first four songs on the album. I am a big fan of some of the album’s deeper cuts. The hypnotic “Stem”, the dance hop of “Sweat of the Bud” and the album’s two trance-inducing final tracks “The Trance is the Motion” and “December” close out the album on a mellow yet satisfying end as it fades into white noise.
I never got to hang out with the band again but I bought every album they ever put out and saw them live every time they were in town. Some of my best memories are Static-X shows and while I still listen to the albums regularly, I have done so with a heavy heart since Wayne Static’s death. Their music still endures in this day and age and did not date itself with sound or content and that is one of the things that makes a great band.
2. Deftones: Around the Fur
The Deftones were one of the bands considered one of the founders of the Nu Metal movement and, even though they have long since shed their Nu Metal classification by continuing to evolve, they still managed to produce one of the best albums in the movement. 1997’s Around the Fur is one of the most solid sounding albums they produced in the 1990’s. This album had the atmospherics that would be utilized more on 2000’s White Pony coupled with the metal intensity that they had showcased on their debut album Adrenaline.
The sound is more focused and production better on Around the Fur than their debut and the album really shows how their progression was going to continue beyond the confines of the genre. While it is impossible to figure out what singer Chino Moreno is singing about you cant help but love the anthemic choruses that litter the album. From the opening track “My Own Summer (Shove It)” anybody who had listened to the first album knew that they were going to be going down a rabbit hole to something altogether different yet familiar enough to not drive fans away.
The riffs are tight and move the song, the rhythm section is solid, and the choruses are anthemic and catchy. The band manages to meld so many different sounds and dynamics into the albums tracks that it is almost unfair to listen to any album released at the same time with similar expectations in experience. This album is great to put on if you want to rage or if you want to chill and relax. Heavy songs like the “My Own Summer”, “Rickets”, “Lotion”, “Headup”, and “MX” keep the blood flowing enough to satisfy the metal fan while down tempo and slightly chill tracks like “Lhabia”, “Mascara”, “Around the Fur”, and “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” keep a groove and funkiness that you can sit back and tune out to.
The Deftones have put out some pretty incendiary albums so far in their career, White Pony and Koi no Yokan for instance, however; the mixture of laid back tunes and heavy burners that make up Around the Fur will always make it stand out in my mind as an ultimately listenable album that set the Deftones apart from the heavily hip-hop inspired Nu Metal that followed.
1. Linkin Park: Hybrid Theory
When it comes to quintessential Nu Metal albums Linkin Park’s debut album is considered the top of the list for almost anyone who was a fan of the genre. The group managed to combine all of the elements of hip hop, groove, metal and pop and successfully manage to produce albums that were poppy enough for the mainstream yet metal enough for the longhairs.
Carefully calculated raps from Mike Shinoda juxtaposed against the emotional and painful lyrics and scream-singing of Chester Bennington became the forefront of the mix. Catchy riffs layered on hip hop beats with the addition of tasteful atmospherics and dj scratching were all held together with a solid rock and roll foundation. The combination of all these elements managed to strike multiple platinum success for the band as fans packed stadiums and bought everything they produced.
Linkin Park is also another band that managed to transcend the genre and ultimately shed the label of Nu Metal to produce more widespread musical albums and it is a testament to the band that after two massively successful albums with one style of music they were willing to take a right turn on their third album and manage to keep a lot of die hard fans. While the death of Chester Bennington may have put the bands activity on indefinite hiatus, the band’s catalog to date is more than enough to satiate the want for Linking Park.
The album was a hit factory for the band as almost every song on the album stood a chance at being a successful single only four songs were release as singles for the album. While “One Step Closer” became a staple on hard rock rotation it wasn’t until the success of “Crawling” and “In the End” that the band really took off. I don’t know anyone my age that doesn’t know pretty much every word to “In the End” and I hear the occasional failed attempt of the song at karaoke, however; the song became so popular that it almost became a victim of its own success.
The overplaying of certain tracks aside, the album is packed with great material. The non-single tracks pack a lot of punch with tracks like “Papercut”, “With You”, “Points of Authority”, “Place for My Head”, and “Forgotten” moving the album forward and keeping the listener engaged with emotional lyrics and easily to remember raps to get stuck in your head. Even the non-lyrical track of “Cure for the Itch” manages to showcase Mr. Hahn’s skills as a dj with a fun and every evolving track that goes from samples and scratches to a solid catchy melodic track. The album closer “Pushing Me Away” is one of my favorites and a fitting end to an amazing debut album.
Hybrid Theory was so good that it was questionable that the band would be able to follow up with a decent album. To beat the sophomore curse Linkin Park bought themselves some time by releasing an equally amazing remix album Reanimantion while writing their follow up. This proved to be a winning strategy as Metora came out and was just as catchy and prolific as Hybrid Theory was.
For all their changes in style and substance, Linkin Park managed to keep an emotionality with their content that endeared fans to the band and their albums. Hybrid Theory came out at the right time and had the right mix of elements to be a massive album. There was a whole generation of people in their teens or late teens going through emotional changes and heartbreaks that were going to gravitate toward the introspective and emotional lyrics of Shinoda and Bennington. The emotional gravity of Hybrid Theory is what, in my mind, puts this album as the #1 Nu Metal album on this list and dare I say all time.
Your favorite Nu Metal album not make the list? State your case below! Comments are always welcome.