A beginner’s guide to groove metal in 5 albums

Groove metal albums

Metal is built on The Riff, but nowhere is it more important than in  groove metal. Taking thrash’s propulsive energy as its foundation, the scene emerged in the early 1990s and, thanks to the likes of Pantera, swiftly became one of the dominant sounds of the pre-nu metal era. Its neck-snapping, vertebrae-crunching glory began to diffuse throughout the rest of the scene, bleeding into bands as diverse as Fear Factory, System Of A Down and Meshuggah. Here are the five essential albums you need to get your groove on.

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Pantera – Cowboys From Hell (1990)

Vulgar Display Of Power was the album that put Pantera on the map, but its predecessor was the one that introduced them to the wider world. Dispensing with the last vestiges of their 80s incarnation, CFH was an unbridled attack on the senses. Diamond Darrell (as he was still known) summoned the kind of blinding riffage and frenetic soloing he had never hinted at before. Elsewhere, Phil Anselmo, whose fondness for New Orleans’ thrash metal band Exhorder was a clear influence, adopts an even greater range than he had on Power Metal, his debut with the band. The highlight is without a doubt the seven-minute-plus Cemetery Gates, but it’s pushed all the way by the title track and Primal Concrete Sledge. A new dawn for extreme, and extremely good, heavy metal.

Machine Head – Burn My Eyes (1994)

Pantera aside, no one defined groove metal with more singular intensity than Machine Head. Widely hailed as a classic upon its release, Burn My Eyes had all the necessary swagger and precision, but it also boasted absurd levels of none-more-punk energy, a very obvious debt to hardcore hip-hop and some of the biggest hooks metal had ever heard. You know what, we thought at the time, this lot might have a future…

Lamb Of God – Ashes Of The Wake (2004)

Ashes Of The Wake marked the point where Lamb Of God truly came into their own, perfecting the bones of their sound while delivering banger-after-banger-after-banger. It’s no coincidence that the record still features the band’s setlists even today, the first five tracks alone essential picks on any LoG greatest hits and guaranteed to turn any club, field or arena into a writhing mass of sweating, crashing bodies.

Devildriver – The Fury Of Our Maker’s Hand (2005)

Dubbed the ‘California Groove Machine’ by their diehard fans, Devildriver are part of the metal furniture at this point, but it was their neck-wrecking second album that first sealed the deal. Constructing their thunderous riffing assault around pummelling, pit-inciting grooves was a masterstroke: while many of their US peers chased the shiny metalcore dollar, Devildriver were skilfully updating something a lot fucking heavier.

Malevolence – Malicious Intent (2022)

For too long Malevolence had been the bullish underdogs, always promising to give UK metal a kick in the proverbials. Malicious Intent wasn’t just a winning manifesto but resulted in the Sheffield mob doing a victory lap around the stadium, merrily bouncing over the slumped, chastised forms of their doubters. Still heavier and meaner than a granite Bowser, the likes of Armageddon and Higher Place showed loftier poise and ambition without sacrificing an ounce of the band’s intractable zest.

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