Disclaimer: There will be no System of a Down or Slipknot on this list. I’ve long considered both bands to have far more in common with extreme and alternative metal as they do with the nu-metal movement; and, anyway, everyone already knows Iowa and Toxicity are great records, let this be an opportunity to discover some perhaps new and as yet unknown pleasures.
10. Blood Simple, A Cruel World, 2005
I was really struggling to fill the number ten slot, when a bit of research reminded me of the existence of A Cruel World. I hadn’t even considered featuring Blood Simple here, at the outset, as I had long since associated them with metalcore, due to their inclusion of vocalist Tim Williams and guitarist Mike Kennedy, from Vision of Disorder. Listening back to this however, I can well and truly say that this is nu metal – overly aggressive and insanely destructive nu metal; but nu metal none the less. Honestly, this album might contain the best collection of nu metal riffs no body ever bothered to listen to, but there’s no reason why you should miss out any longer.
Single: ‘Straight Hate’
Underrated Gem: ‘What If I Lost It’
9. Limp Bizkit, Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, 2001
Chocolate Starfish is often seen as the token nu-metal release, and the one which best symbolises the excess of superficiality that would ultimately be the genre’s downfall. However, while the band’s previous records may have a claim to being more ‘artistic’ and ‘cutting-edge’ releases, there’s simply no f**king with Chocolate Starfish when it comes to fun and consistency. There simply isn’t a weak track to be found on the album’s first half – from ‘Hot Dog’ through ‘Livin’ It Up’ – and, although the latter section might not hold up as well, it really doesn’t matter by that point. The sheer joy and, over the top obnoxiousness, of this album is simply undeniable and its strongest moments represent nu metal at its most commercially and consistently lethal.
Single: ‘Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)’
Underrated Gem: ‘Full Nelson’
8. Machine Head, The Burning Red, 1999
The Burning Red is rightfully considered a lesser effort when compared to Machine Head’s other offerings but, when considered in terms of nu-metal, it’s damn near a masterpiece. Fans of the band might have been put off by its foray into rap and other alternative influences, but Robb Flynn and co. do here what they do best; and that’s riff. Just because those riffs happen to be more bouncy than they are fast, doesn’t mean they’re any less potent, and there’s some absolutely crushing numbers littered throughout, going to show that the band still had their eye on the metal prize.
Single: ‘From This Day’
Underrated Gem: ‘Exhale The Vile’
7. Drowning Pool, Desensitized, 2004
Most people know Drowning Pool for action movie staple ‘Bodies’, and little else. However, the band’s second album is an absolute tour de force of nu-tinged hard rock. Imagine The Burning Red in full on party mode, and you’ve got a fairly good idea of what this record sounds like if you haven’t heard it already. Again, consistency is the name of the game, and there isn’t a single track on Desensitized which won’t have getting well and truly down with the sickness. Fans of Machine Head, Pantera and even Alice In Chains would do well to check this one out.
Read our interview with frontman Jasen Moreno here.
Single: ‘Step Up’
Underrated Gem: ‘Bringing Me Down’
6. Mudvayne, The End of all Things to Come, 2002
Although Mudvayne have long been considered a poor man’s Slipknot, yet they’ve arguably released as many good records as that band have, and remain an outstanding and underrated act in and of themselves. Like Slipknot, Mudvayne often pushed the limits of what it meant to be a nu metal band – having at least as much, and often more, in common with bands like Tool and Static X as they did any of the movement’s staples. The End of All Things to Come represents the band at their most inventive and accomplished and is recommended to nu- and ‘trve’ metal fans in equal measure.
Single: ‘World So Cold’
Underrated Gem: ‘Trapped in the Wake of a Dream’
5. Sevendust, Black Out The Sun, 2013
Sevendust’s earlier releases were brimming with potential, but it took them the better part of two decades to finally come up with a record as consistent and formidable as Black Out The Sun. Given the later period in which it was released, the band had the benefit of folding in a bunch of newer influences, not to mention an absolutely colossal production job, but Black Out The Sun remains a nu metal record at heart, with both soulful singer Lajon Witherspoon and lead guitarist Clint Lowery giving the best performances of their career.
Underrated Gem: ‘Dark AM’
4. Korn, Untouchables, 2002
I’ve already made the argument that Untouchables is the best Korn album elsewhere, but it’s worth reiterating that the record is both the band’s most consistent and arguably heaviest release. It’s also fairly accessible – perfectly bridging the gap between the Bakersfield quintet’s earlier more-aggressive material and their latter experiments with more readily-palatable arrangements. As I’ve said before, there simply isn’t a weak track on here, and though Untouchables isn’t the most important or definitive of Korn’s albums, it’s a tough argument to deny that it’s one of their best.
Single: ‘Here to Stay’
Underrated Gem: ‘Bottled Up Inside’
3. Skindred, The Union Black, 2011
Born from the ashes of the dismantled Dub War, Skindred practice a brand of nu-metal which heavily incorporates aspects of reggae and industrial music into their sound. The Welsh act have a solid back catalogue, but it’s Union Black which undeniably represents the band at the pinnacle of their powers. The record is a deceptively complex and, at times, confronting release, but it’s also one which will have you banging your head and ‘jumpingdafuckup’ the whole way through.
Underrated Gem: ‘Doom Riff’
2. Soulfly, Primitive, 2000
Sepultura’s magnum opus, Roots (1996), is often (wrongfully) accused of selling out the band’s thrash metal identity in favour of a then-trendy, nu-metal sound. However, there’s no denying that iconic frontman Max Cavalera dived headfirst into the genre with his new (or should that be “nu”?) project, Soulfly. The self-titled band’s debut (1998) was already a formidable release, which took the genre to new, almost intimidatingly heavy heights, but Primitive is a whole different beast, which makes that record look like a cowering peccary by comparison. Cavalera and Soulfly have since made a return to the thrash metal aesthetic, but Primitive – which features guest appearances from Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, the Deftones’ Chino Moreno, Slayer’s Tom Araya and even Sean Lennon – remains the pinnacle of the band’s nu-metal period.
Single: ‘Back to the Primitive’
Underrated Gem: ‘Flyhigh’
1. Deftones, Adrenaline, 1995
The first Korn record is often the album which is given credit for ‘inventing’ nu metal. Yet it really doesn’t have all that much in common with the genre as it came to be recognised. All the hallmarks of nu metal – rapping, turntables, overly bouncy riffage, ‘good-cop / bad-cop’ vocals – all of it, can be found on, and arguably derives from Adrenaline. There are certainly better Deftones records out there; not least being the two that immediately followed. While Around the Fur, at least, retained a fairly substantial tie to nu- and alternative metal through its riffing, Adrenaline is the only Deftones release which truly fits the bill as a ‘nu-metal’ outing. It’s as if they simultaneously invented and perfected the genre all in one go and, as such, washed their hands of it and moved on to greater things.
Underrated Gem: ‘Birthmark’