The Top 11 Obscure Nu-Metal Albums Ever Made
As we predicted years ago, the Nu-Metal Revival Apocalypse is in full swing! Limp Bizkit are selling out large clubs (and people are no longer ashamed to say they went to the show… and enjoyed it). Revolver’s “Ten Nu-Metal Albums You Need to Own” list made some waves a few weeks ago, although it was a completely predictable list of (mostly) sucky bands and their (mostly) sucky albums (I much prefer Axl’s own list of ten essential nu-metal albums, which hits the nail on the head). Even third-tier nu-metal bands like Alien Ant Farm are generating renewed interest in today’s nostalgic climate.
Here’s the thing, though: not ALL nu-metal sucked. Oh, sure, the big bands’ biggest albums that everyone knows are mostly avoidable. But once you dig down to the FOURTH tier there’s an entire armada of D-rate nu-metal bands that perfected the craft, particularly later on in nu-metal’s life cycle. The years 2000 through 2005 were incredible fruitful for bands that never quite broke through — and, in some cases, that you may have never even heard of — because these bands had the benefit of hindsight to take what their forebears did and improve upon the formula!
Because if you’re gonna jock that pair of JNCOs you should really know your shit beyond the entry-level stuff everyone loves, behold: the top eleven obscure nu-metal albums.
11. Audiovent – Dirty Sexy Nights in Paris (2002)
Audiovent were best known for boasting the younger brothers of Incubus singer Brandon Boyd and guitarist Mike Einziger in their ranks, but their sole release had some real mega-jams on it courtesy of the super-sleek, big-guitar mixing job of Chris Lord-Alge. The weird part was that the band didn’t look the part at all — part California hippie, part proto-Brooklyn indie rocker — and maybe that dissonance just didn’t connect with audiences. Or maybe the album, as a whole, just wasn’t that good… but lead single “The Energy” and follow-up “Looking Down” were bangers and a half and make this album worthy of inclusion here.
10. Pressure 4-5 – Burning the Process (2001)
“These Hands,” MTV single “Beat the World” and “Melt Me Down” might be the greatest opening 1-2-3 punch of any album on this list. Unfortunately the band suffered from Audiovent Syndrome (see above) and couldn’t match the intensity throughout, but man, Pressure 4-5 really stumbled on something unique on this one. I remember seeing the video for “Beat the World” on MTV the day the World Trade Center fell, in a stoned, confused, sad haze, and making fun of how the singer’s robot-like voice was a perfect microcosm for all the bad trends in heavy music at the time. In retrospect Adam Rich’s timbre is actually quite unique — I’ll take a million of this guy over one Chester Bennington any day of the week. Bassist Lyle McKeany wrote a fascinating editorial last year about life in a struggling major label band and the impossible economics therein, while Rich is reportedly now Vice Principal at a high school!
9. Stereomud – Perfect Self (2001)
Like a lot of nu-metal bands from the trend’s tail-end, the Stereomud experiment didn’t last long, but it was a good idea in theory: team up a bunch of NY hardcore vets with Stuck Mojo bassist Corey Lowery and charismatic, clear-throated, pretty boy frontman Erik Rogers, and take advantage of their collective expertise by writing songs that fit the trends of the moment. It worked, with mixed results: “Pain” and “Steppin’ Away” are two of the best songs of the entire nu-metal era, but the rest of the album is mostly full of duds. “Breathing,” from the band’s swansong second album, came close. If nothing else, Perfect Self is worthy of inclusion on this list because of the amount of buttpain this band inspired in old Life of Agony fans pissed that Joey Z. “sold out.”
8. Alston – Voodoo for Fun and Profit (2005)
It might be unfair to call Alston nu-metal — “alt metal” might be more like it — but there were definitely some stylistic similarities and they were shooting for the same target audience of disenfranchised Primer 55 fans. Hear Kobie Jackson’s voice and you’ll be hooked instantly, and yes, the whole album is good. I would be delighted to learn that this guy is still making music in some capacity, even if he’s only playing to a handful of would-be poets at coffee house acoustic open mics.
7. Boy Hits Car – Boy Hits Car (2001)
What a weird fucking album, and what a weird fucking band! Unlike a lot of the other bands on this list who wrote their best albums when they dropped the nu-metal pretense and just wrote honest pop metal songs, Boy Hits Car kept it dirty and raw, and maybe that’s why this album works so well — this band was the real thing. Psuedo-major label Wind-Up seemingly just left them to their own devices, and the results were explosive. Best of all, Boy Hits Car had no allusions about being artsy or experimental: they zoned in on one very specific sound that was uniquely theirs and just WENT WITH IT. Every song on this album sounds exactly the same, and it’s glorious; no one has touched this style since.
6. Nonpoint – Recoil (2004)
Everything Nonpoint released before Recoil was trend-following drivel and everything since has been pandering crap, but man, they really nailed it on their 2004 album! Led by ex-guitarist Andrew Goldman’s monstrous riffs and Elias Soriano’s uncharacteristically nuanced vocals, the album never relents, full of winners all the way through. First single “The Truth” and album-opening banger “The Same” lead the charge, and even the heavy-handed, Latin-flavored, borderline dunderheaded “Rabia” and the moody cover of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” delight. Maybe producer Jason Bieler (Saigon Kick) deserves some credit here?
5. Taproot – Blue-Sky Research (2005)
Whatever fanboys Taproot still have will probably point to Gift (or Upon Us) as their best album, but the fact is that this band was completely derivative until they released Blue-Sky Research in 2005 and allowed the one thing they really had going for them — Stephen Richards’ voice — to shine to its fullest potential. On BSR Taproot pretty much entirely stopped being a nu-metal band and just wrote great rock songs instead, and it turned out this approach was much better suited to their strengths. The songs are memorable, the arrangements are tight, and the many layers of Richards harmonizing with himself are absolutely mesmerizing.
4. Tantric – Tantric (2001)
Calling Tantric nu-metal may be a dicey proposition, but considering their lead singer was certifiably and scientifically chosen as the #1 Yarler of All Time and that their music gunned for the same radio and tour package bandwidth as all the nu-metal peers, let’s give them a mulligan. I know the yarling can be tough to stomach, but if you can see past Hugo Ferreira’s deep-throated frog voice you’ll see a really talented band (actually 3/4th of Days of the New) led by guitarist Todd Whitener’s surprisingly nimble fingers and innovative style, and his Jerry Cantrell harmonies to Layne Staley’s voice. Most importantly, the songs are all there: hooks for miles all the way through this album.
3. The Apex Theory – Topsy Turvy (2002)
The Apex Theory were heralded as the “poor man’s System of a Down” at the time because of their shared Armenian heritage and the latter’s newfound mega-star success. But maybe System of a Down should’ve been called “a poor man’s Apex Theory”? Admittedly, Apex Theory never had the “story” SOAD did — the zany frontman, the whackadoo lyrics, the political motivation — but their deft musicianship was right on par with System, maybe even better (dat guitar work!), and they definitely grooved harder than System did.
2. Depswa – Two Angels and a Dream (2003)
I found out about Depswa from the free Ozzfest 2003 CD sampler, became an instant fan and I’ve been hooked ever since. The devil is in the details: those riffs are WAY more complex than they seem on the surface, vocalist Jeremy Penick’s high-pitched croon stood out from the pack, and the album rips all the way through, highs and lows, full of dynamic. Producer Howard Benson’s trademark 100-track “wall of guitar” sound made it all pop.
1. Stuck Mojo – Declaration of a Headhunter (2000)
Internet Metal Nerds who used to wear Adidas track pants to school love to jock Snappin’ Necks and Pigwalk as the best Stuck Mojo albums, or, at the very least, the most influential, and they’re probably not wrong about the latter (SM were WAY ahead of their time). But the truth is the band didn’t really hit their stride until 2000’s Declaration of a Headhunter when guitarist Rich Ward took over most of the writing duties and started singing a lot more too. Once again Stuck Mojo were way ahead of their peers here, mixing rapped verses with clean-sung choruses long before “good cop / bad cop” vocals were even a glimmer in Killswitch Engage’s eyes, harmonizing rhythm guitars before everyone else started ripping off At the Gates and introducing a melodic, alt-metal, more song-focused element a solid four years before peers (followers?) like Deftones and Sevendust started going that direction. Declaration of a Headhunter might also be SM’s heaviest album, and it’s absolutely their hookiest.