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The most underrated albums by 20 major metal bands

Machine Head – The Burning Red (1999)

It’s become the most controversial period of Machine Head (opens in new tab)’s career, and it still divides fans to this day. Some would rather throw these songs in the bin along with the orange jump suits and bleach-blond spikes of the time, whereas there are others that can’t deny their love of the hip-hop bounce and groove of Desire To Fire and From This Day. We certainly err toward the latter camp, especially when you consider that the two aforementioned songs are the only moments on the album that could be described as rap metal. Nothing Left, The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears and the incredibly personal Five are much more traditional Machine Head efforts. We can’t defend that cover of Message In A Bottle though.

Korn – Issues (1999)

When Issues (opens in new tab) was released in 1999, Korn were bona fide superstars – it hit No.1 on the Billboard 200 the week it was released, keeping Dr Dre (opens in new tab) and Celine Dion off the top spot and selling well over half a million copies in six days. The album itself saw Korn return to the darker themes that they eschewed in the main on previous album Follow The Leader (opens in new tab), while keeping in the shiny, massive production sound that made that record such a hit. The result is, for the most part,  great: Beg For Me, Make Me Bad and Somebody Someone are all as good as anything Korn have ever done, and Falling Away From Me is one of their very best anthems.

Gojira – Terra Incognito (2001)

Gojira's debut album sounds a million miles away from where they are now, but Terra Incognita has actually aged incredibly well. It showcases a band wearing their influences very clearly on their sleeve: Death (opens in new tab), Morbid Angel (opens in new tab) and early Sepultura (opens in new tab). Highlights are the odd rhythmic time signatures in the second half of Love, which gives way to some pure death metal (opens in new tab) riffing, and the crushing Lizard Skin which slows down to a slow grind before singeing the listeners with some brutal blasting. They’d comfortably top it, but this record is still a great start.

Rammstein – Reise, Reise (2004)

Rammstein (opens in new tab) could have easily just made Mutter (opens in new tab) Two but, to our merriment, decided against it. Reise, Reise expands the band’s sound beyond the confines of industrial metal; Ohne Dich and Amour are lovelorn ballads, the latter boasting a ripping guitar solo; Amerika is catchy as they come and the evil, darker-than-Dementors-at-bedtime Mein Teil documents cannibal Armin Meiwes’ disgusting exploits. Wouldn’t hear the Scorpions (opens in new tab) writing about that, eh?

Fear Factory – Archetype (2004)

Fear Factory (opens in new tab)’s Dino Cazares-less years have been roundly overlooked since Burton C Bell (opens in new tab) reunited with his friend, but while Transgression was patchy at best, its predecessor was a muscular assault filled with some of the industrial metal (opens in new tab) band’s biggest and most belligerent moments. If you’re not stirred by the towering title track or Cyberwaste’s incendiary assault you may need to get your ears rewired.

Judas Priest – Turbo (1986)

Turbo (opens in new tab) was supposed to be Judas Priest (opens in new tab)’s Eliminator (opens in new tab) moment. They added an electronic influence to their sound, and even smoothed out their image to try to appeal to a more mainstream audience. It didnt work. 

Long-time fans were alienated by the more modern approach, while the wider world remained indifferent, so the band quickly reverted to type. However, Turbo does include some of the strongest songs Priest wrote in the 80s, and the musical approach still sounds surprisingly fresh. The shame is not in the attempt at something different, but that it was abandoned so readily.

AC/DC - Flick Of The Switch (1983)

Flick Of The Switch was the first AC/DC (opens in new tab) album to get pounced on by the critics. “The Australian mega-bar-band AC/DC has now made the same album nine times, surely a record even in heavy-metal circles,” sniped Rolling Stone magazine. And on the surface, it continued the steady post-Back In Black (opens in new tab) decline instigated with its immediate predecessor, For Those About To Rock (opens in new tab).

But that‘s looking at all wrong. Flick Of The Switch is the sound of AD/DC stripping away everything that producer Mutt Lange had imposed on them: echo, reverb. gang choruses. The result is down and dirty and back to their roots. It might not have been their best album, but it was far from their worst. That would come two years later, with Fly On The Wall.

Mötley Crüe – Mötley Crüe (1994)

Replacing Vince Neil with the deeper-voiced John Corabi, Motley Crue (opens in new tab) underwent a radical post- grunge reinvention – even dropping their umlauts. Bob Rocks thick, rumbling production gave a new lease of life to the guitar sound, and the band used the opportunity to stretch out. 

So while Power To The Music and Hooligan’s Holiday satiated the die-hards, Misunderstood had a lavish orchestral arrangement, and Poison Apples was plastered with honky-tonk piano. Unfortunately the band’s fans failed to appreciate the new, more mature Motley, but the album has stood the test of time.

Trivium – The Crusade (2006)

With the weight of an expectant metal world on their young shoulders, The Crusade seemed doomed to fail before Trivium (opens in new tab) hit the studio. While its predecessor offered a clinical amalgamation of metallic styles, the follow-up instead separates these elements into a mixed bag of stadium rock anthems, strident thrash, ballads and histrionic guitar duels, with its diversity both its main strength and biggest pitfall. Courageous but flawed.

Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus

The extreme metal St Anger, or dare we say Lulu, the return of David Vincent to the head of death metal’s premiere band for the first time in 17 years contained hulking slabs of vintage Morbid Angel (opens in new tab). However, it was the techno and industrial-afflicted Radikult, Too Extreme and Destructos Vs The World/Attack that had die hards, including Adolf Hitler no less (opens in new tab), crying out in disgust. Whether, like Hammer, you think the album is a brave, blistering work from the death metal pioneers or a clanger of monstrous proportions, it’s a unique experience that’s well worth another try.

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