Of all the album anniversaries you wouldn’t expect us to be celebrating, the 15th anniversary of Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory is probably up there with the least likely (it turns 15 on October 24).
Nu-metal is long gone, and while exceptionally baggy clothes, rap-rock and ridiculously emotive lyrics may have seemed cool when we were all pretending to be depressed as a teen, it’s something we’d rather not revisit.
Although, thinking about it, there are some hidden gems among the pool of awfulness that is early-00s rock music.
From inventive debuts by bands that went on to be awful, to surprisingly innovate returns from acts who managed not to be swallowed up by the endless ocean of Rage Against The Machine clones, here are 13 nu-metal albums you needn’t hide from your collection when you have friends over.
Be sure to check out our playlist at the bottom of this page, featuring a couple of choice tracks from each.
Limp Bizkit – Three Dollar Bill, Y’all
Before that Mission: Impossible theme introduced us to a sweary band of baseball cap wearing, face painted loons rapping about Ben Stiller and how many times they could say the F-word in one song, Limp Bizkit were actually a pretty lo-fi rap-rock outfit giving it real oomph.
Yes, there’s that George Michael cover (resurrected years later for some unknown rea$on), but try listening to ‘Pollution’ without leaping around the room thumping everyone in the face.
Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory
Nu-metal seems to be known for the emergence of live vinyl DJs within a band, despite not many bands actually doing it. Linkin Park were one of the few, and probably the best, at mixing electronic and hip-hop samples in among the emotional rock mix.
Things reached their logical conclusion with the laughably bad collab with Jay Z, but debut Hybrid Theory retains a whole load of mash-up innovation.
Papa Roach – Infest
Jacoby Shaddix is probably better known for fronting Scarred, the MTV show which details the gruesome injuries of the poor sods who fall off skateboards. But before the tattoo’d one was laughing at horrific wounds, he and his band Papa Roach were putting out albums like Infest.
Everyone remembers the banal profanity of ‘Last Resort’, but tracks like ‘Between Angels And Insects’ weighed in with genuinely piercing commentary on consumerist culture.
System of a Down – Toxicity
System of a Down were always a bit too madcap to be considered nu-metal; their shrieking vocals and Armenian folk-influences perhaps a bit too forward thinking for the genre’s otherwise commercial beige.
Their first two albums are the best, though second effort Toxicity is the most hard hitting, touching on everything from the justice system to the war on drugs to pogo sticks (‘Bounce’).
KoЯn – KoЯn
KoЯn recently tried to add credibility to the burgeoning dubstep scene by proving it’s not unlike metal, and teaming up with some leading producers and erasing their own legitimacy in the process.
Long before that, they were releasing debuts like this, released just months after the death of Kurt Cobain and feeling like a total reinvention and changing of the guard for guitar music.
Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine
RATM bassist Tim Commerford recently apologised for influencing Limp Bizkit, but the similarities between Durst and co’s lurid rap-metal and the politically charged motivation behind the LA four-piece couldn’t be less obvious.
We’re still trying to figure out just how Tom Morello gets those sounds out of his guitar, and while the infamously explicit refrain of ‘Killing In The Name’ has become diluted since that Christmas No. 1, there’s nine more tracks on here that’ll get you flying your Red Star flag with pride.
Slipknot – Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)
Slipknot purists regard Vol. 3 as one of the Iowan rockers’ inferior works, but any album on which the sound of a baseball bat against a beer barrel makes a percussive centerpiece (‘Duality’) gets a big tick in our book.
If anything, this is the ‘knot taking a mellow turn after the trashing nu-metal of their first two LPs, and is all the heavier for it, with outstanding production adding a brilliantly warm edge to every crunching riff.
Helmet – Meantime
Hailed by many as one of the records that began it all for nu-metal (see also anything by Faith No More), Helmet may appear more of a grunge band on first listen.
But as firmly entrenched in the American rock scene of 1992 as this album was, it’s easy to hear the tropes of nu-metal forming throughout the record: as with the sludgy riffs of ‘Unsung’ or the gravel voiced delivery of ‘In The Meantime’.
Deftones – Around The Fur
Deftones seem to be a rare example of a band who went through nu-metal and came out the other side basically unscathed: a visitor finding one of their records in your collection isn’t going to cut off all communication with you. It may have something to do with the little external influences that helped shape each of their albums.
Around The Fur, their best, features subtle nods to dream-pop legends like Cocteau Twins and The Cure (both of which the Sacramento band would go on to cover) hidden among the riffs.
Disturbed – The Sickness
One of the more ‘out there’ examples of nu-metal, Disturbed’s brand of rock came to the fore as part of the soundtrack to Jet Li’s The One (as close to a nu-metal movie as you could ever get) and remained lodged in the consciousness of angsty teens for years to come.
Monkey noises, throat singing and vocals that seem to cartwheel over themselves all feature among some surprisingly poppy choruses.
Incubus – S.C.I.E.N.C.E
Incubus always treaded closer to out and out alt. rock than nu-metal, and it’s no surprise that their best is S.C.I.E.N.C.E., which features more meandering jams that crushing metal riffs.
For those fancying something a bit more mellow.
Coal Chamber – Coal Chamber
Coal Chamber’s music can at times sound deliberately awkward; a lot of the tracks on this 1997 debut seem to start with the same dissonant twanging one would usually associate with a Sonic Youth record.
But it all gets going after a while, and we’re treated to the best LP from one of the most underrated bands of the genre.
Taproot – Gift
Taproot can often be so heavy it feels like you’re being bludgeoned to death by some kind of blunt object. In the best of ways of course.
‘Again & Again’ starts with some kind of drum machine glitch, while the soft start of ‘I’ leads your false pretenses into a wind tunnel filled with guitars. Brilliant stuff.
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