10 iconic metal bands with one bad album

Photos of Metallica, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit and Avenged Sevenfold performing live
(Image credit: Metallica: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc | Slipknot: Rob Monk/Metal Hammer Magazine/Future via Getty Images | Limp Bizkit: Brian Rasic/Getty Images | Avenged Sevenfold: Chiaki Nozu/WireImage)

Even the best of us can drop the ball every now and again – and the same principle applies to our favourite bands, as well. Sometimes, an artist that feels like one of the most reliable in the world can drop a turkey onto their adoring fans. These are just 10 times when that happened. From Metallica to Avenged Sevenfold, here are legendary metal bands who have only one misstep on an otherwise unblemished record.

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Metallica – St Anger (2003)

There’s a sect of Metallica fans that shit on anything the Four Horsemen have done since 1988, but almost every album our genre’s biggest band have released has at least some merit. The sole exception is St Anger, which – with its endless songs and infamously crap snare sound – is simply misguided from the ground up. While we understand this is a raw expression that the band needed to make after Jason Newsted’s exit and James Hetfield’s rehab, that doesn’t make it any more listenable.

Slipknot – All Hope Is Gone (2008)

While it’s true that the last few Slipknot albums have struggled to recapture the quality of the Iowa wildmen’s early days, there are always a few essential tracks on each of them. All Hope Is Gone, though, only has one must-hear entry in Psychosocial. The band’s final album as The Nine lacks both the power of their early albums and the ambition of their latter-day releases, making it far from worthy of bearing the Slipknot name.

Avenged Sevenfold – Hail To The King (2013)

Yes – Hail To The King got Avenged Sevenfold to number one in charts on both sides of the Atlantic and affirmed them as festival headliners. However, ask any fan what their favourite album by the California jocks is and they likely won’t name this one first. Although Avenged have always bowed before Metallica and Guns N’ Roses, that worship cost them their originality here. The good news is that they bounced back with the progressive scope of The Stage and Life Is But A Dream… afterwards.

Limp Bizkit – Results May Vary (2003)

Diehard purists will stamp their feet at us saying this, but Limp Bizkit have always delivered at least a couple of bangers per album in their pursuit of obnoxious rap metal nirvana. Well, almost always: 2003’s Results May Vary is an undisputed stinker of a thing. The band’s first (and, to date, only) album without quintessential guitarist Wes Borland, this is the sound of Fred Durst and co. scrambling for a purpose as nu metal slowly died in the early-to-mid-2000s. 

Killswitch Engage – Killswitch Engage (2009)

Killswitch Engage is, audibly, the product of a band on their last legs. It marked the final time fans heard Howard Jones fronting the metalcore pioneers and, instead of bowing out in a blaze of glory, it’s a truly bitter farewell. Killswitch sounded bored and far less frantic than usual, seemingly going through the motions. Were it not for the career-relaunching return of Jesse Leach in 2012 and Howard reinvigorating himself in Devil You Know/Light The Torch, Killswitch may have continued feeling this by-the-numbers.

Architects – The Here And Now (2011)

2009’s Hollow Crown was such a classic that Architects really struggled to follow up on it. The Here And Now deliberately tried to step away from the state-of-the-art technical metalcore that made its predecessor so beloved. Although the foray into post-hardcore was brave, it also made no sense for a band whose brand was on the rise. Architects swiftly course-corrected by releasing Daybreaker just 15 months later, and vocalist Sam Carter has since described The Here And Now as a “car crash”. 

Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus (2011)

No matter who is part of the band, death metal legends Morbid Angel always manage to give you something worthwhile on their albums. However, people were particularly excited when classic frontman David Vincent rejoined the lineup in 2004. Shame, then, that it took them seven years to release any music, and when they did it was this bizarre mix of monkey noises and crap industrial metal. Vincent left a few years later, after everyone hated this. Radikult? Radikrap, more like!

Celtic Frost – Cold Lake (1988)

Celtic Frost have got one of the most perfect back-catalogues in history. In fact, we’d even say that frontman Tom G. Warrior, who’s also led Triptykon and Hellhammer, has only ever released one album that isn’t essential. It’s this one. Cold Lake sees a band who’d previously inspired Norwegian black metal and carved extreme music into new, dazzling shapes sink into all-out glam territory. It remains a baffling decision and Celtic Frost didn’t truly bounce back until their 2000s reformation.

Sick Of It All – Life On The Ropes (2003)

Sick Of It All know how to make some top-notch hardcore. The New York legends established their sound early and stuck to it with, usually, thrilling results. The one time they did deviate from what works was on 2000’s Yours Truly, which was actually great. The problem came when they went straight back to their “classic” hardcore three years down the line and didn’t get it right immediately. They rediscovered their mojo afterwards, but Life On The Ropes is the only forgettable SOIA album.

The Haunted – Unseen (2011)

The Haunted are a brilliantly consistent thrash metal band… when they’re making thrash metal. They decided to venture from that sound for their seventh album, which then-vocalist Peter Dolving described as “danceable”, “groovy” and “arty farty” in an interview. Sadly, Unseen was proof that The Haunted aren’t very good at that kind of thing. Dolving left his post just one year after the release and, with prior singer Marco Aro reinstated, the band went back to making cracking thrash. 

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.