We have finally made it to the final part of the list, the top 7 nu metal albums of all time. These albums are the absolute essentials, the ones every nu metal fan shouldn’t be without. Each band featured not only carved their own unique sound within the genre, but were all pioneers that helped bring this new wave of heavy music to the forefront. As a kid I spent countless hours playing these albums over and over again and still remember pretty much all the lyrics. You should know these albums and if you don’t, well, get the fuck on it and check them out.
Before we start the countdown, let’s do a quick recap on the rest of the list, starting with #25:
Without further ado, I present to you the TOP 7 NU METAL albums:
7. System Of A Down – System Of A Down
System Of A Down seemed like a gnarly gang of insane people when they first burst onto the scene with their self titled debut. From their strange appearance to their circus tinged take on heavy music, there was nothing like them. “Sugar”, their first single, grabbed my attention from the get go. The riff was heavy as fuck, the vocals were angry and strange, the lyrics made no sense but the band was something fresh, something entirely new. Some may argue that sophomore album Toxicity is the superior effort but I beg to differ. Toxicity is certainly the album that put the band on the map and while it is in no way a bad album, it is a bit overly polished and lacks the raw and young anger found on the self titled record. The band “cleaned up” on Toxicity, with Serj Tankian no longer painting his face or dressing in strange garments while Daron Malakian got weirder on purpose. Toxicity and the albums that followed were more light hearted and even poppy at times, whereas the self titled album brooded with a dark angst. While I have enjoyed all of their albums, each for different reasons, this is the one I recommend above all others. Watch the video for “Sugar” below.
6. Sevendust – Home
While most nu metal bands produced amazing debut records only to then falter with successive releases, Sevendust completely trumped their first album when they unleashed Home. Their self titled debut was a great album, with songs like “Black” and “Bitch” leading the charge but you could tell the band were still honing their craft and hadn’t found their true sound or identity. Home, aptly titled as such, is where they did just that. Sevendust truly came into their own on this record and introduced the sounds that would shape and mold their future albums, a sound I like to call the “Sevendust bounce”. This album was insanely heavy but the band were masters of weaving in melodic passages and creating memorable choruses led by vocalist Lajon Witherspoon. The album spawned two singles, “Denial” and “Waffle”, both of which were major successes. “Licking Cream” featured vocals from Skin of Skunk Anansie and stunning album closer “Bender” featured Chino Moreno of Deftones. I really can’t praise this album enough and it still holds up today. Check out “Denial” below.
5. Nothingface – Violence
Nothingface are definitely the most obscure of the top 7, having never made as much of an impact on the scene as the others in this list have but that doesn’t discredit the fact that Violence is a phenomenal fucking record. In fact when it was released in 2000 Hit Parader (for anyone that remembers that magazine) named it the #1 album of the year. Violence, self described by the band as the “soundtrack to the end of the world”, is a searing look into the violence within our lives, physical and emotional, against others and internally, against ourselves. Matt Holt’s vocals are scratchy and raw, like an aged smoker beaten down by life’s unfairness. The album constantly switches between singing and screaming but even during the melodic passages the band never enters the realm of light pop sensibilities, instead choosing to remain in the dark and weep. Every song on this album rips and there are so many interesting twists and sounds that it takes quite a few spins to let everything sink in. The band finally gained more popularity with follow-up Skeletons, but it was nowhere near as perfect as Violence. If the forthcoming albums on this list didn’t exist, this would be placed much higher. Listen to “Can’t Wait For Violence” below.
4. Slipknot – Slipknot
When I first saw this album in a Hot Topic listening station, I thought the cover was just a bunch of creepy clown. I didn’t realize that it was in fact the band itself, all nine members. When “Sic” came blasting over those headphones my jaw dropped to the floor. HOLY FUCK, THIS WAS THE HEAVIEST THING I’D EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE. Everything about it was amazing. The drums were lightning fast, the riffs were intense as hell and the vocals, my god, the sheer ferociousness and delivery of the vocals were beyond anything I’d heard before. It wasn’t long after that when “Wait And Bleed” took over radio and MTV and suddenly everyone had Slipknot fever. It completely blew my mind to think that there were nine members in the band but it totally worked for them. Slipknot have gone on to be one of the biggest metal acts of all time, recently releasing their fifth album .5: The Gray Chapter. But before the people behind the masks were revealed, before Stone Sour and whatever other side projects occurred, there was this album and part of its charm was the question of: who are these people? Are they even people at all? Initially they were known only by numbers instead of names and the mystery it brewed made this album all the more intriguing. Had Slipknot never donned the masks and jumpsuits I don’t think they would have made the impact they have. Reminisce with the video for “Wait And Bleed” below.
3. Coal Chamber – Coal Chamber
Korn may have unintentionally invented the genre, but Coal Chamber was the band that helped create the whole “mall goth” look. They had odd hair colors, lots of piercings and wore tons of black and looked like what my parents called ‘freaks’. They also created a nu metal cliche of their own, the so-called “crazy” theme of looking and acting like mental patients complete with tilting their heads and producing creepy smiles during performances and photos. The album is bleak in its attack, with virtually no commercial appeal and instead caters only to the lost misfits of society. “Loco” kicks off the album as an abrasive opener that became a staple of their live set and the momentum never stops until the album ends. “Oddity”, “Unspoiled” and “I” are all downtuned gems while “First”, perhaps the closest thing to a ballad on the album, is a welcome change of pace midway through. You won’t find catchy sing song choruses here, you won’t find radio friendly tunes, you won’t find mother approved lyrics or anything remotely inviting. Here there is only darkness and despair, here young misery commiserates. Watch the video for “Loco” below.
2. Deftones – Around The Fur
Deftones are my absolute favorite band in the world and I hate to call them a nu metal band because, when looking at their entire catalog collectively, they aren’t, but you can’t ignore the fact that this is the genre they originated from. Around The Fur is also my favorite Deftones album, probably because it was the first album by the band I listened to back in sixth grade and therefor I have a strong connection to it. Deftones have always been a band that, while critics and fans alike may label them to one genre, exist entirely on their own and stretch far beyond the confines of any box or niche. On their debut Adrenaline the Deftones were very much a young band and I honestly was never a huge fan of that offering, but Around The Fur is about as perfect as an album can get. Vocalist Chino Moreno is a true poet, both lyrically and vocally, as his voice hauntingly slithers through the songs like a snake on the hunt only to then seize its prey with a venomous bite. “My Own Summer” is the perfect introduction to the album, showcasing both the softer and heavy elements the band can accomplish. “Mascara” is interesting in its tone and delivery, “Around The Fur” is instantly memorable with its opening drum beat, “Be Quiet And Drive” is melodic rock at its absolute finest and closer “MX” is devastatingly crushing in its musical onslaught and lyrical themes. There is not one bad thing I can say about this record and if you’ve never heard it you are fucking up big time. Listen to “My Own Summer” below.
1. Korn – Korn
You saw this coming. As much as I love Deftones this had to be #1. This is the album that started it all. At the time of its release there was nothing like it, nothing. The musical world had never heard such aggression before, there weren’t vocalists like Jonathan Davis that literally fell apart on stage as they angrily vented their pent up issues. Everything about this album is iconic, from the ominous cover art, to the overall sound and tone, and the now classic opening track “Blind”. As if foreshadowing the entire nu metal movement Jonathan Davis yells “Are you ready?” before “Blind” explodes into full force. “Ball Tongue” features indistinguishable, almost scat like vocalizations, “Need To” seethes with a hatred so deep it leaves the listener with goosebumps and “Faget” is like the anthem for anyone and everyone that was ever bullied or tormented growing up. Jonathan Davis was the voice of thousands, he was the kid that got picked last to play sports, he was the oddball, the freak and the sounds the band made were the perfect accompaniment to his anger fueled lashings. Twenty years later there is still nothing that sounds like this album. Even the band themselves cannot capture the energy found on this record, though they’ve tried numerous times with albums like Take A Look In The Mirror and Korn III: Remember Who You Are. Watch the video for “Blind” by clicking below.
And there you have it, my picks for the Top 25 nu metal albums of all time. Do you agree? Hit up the comments below and let me know your thoughts.