20. American Head Charge – The War Of Art (2001)
One of the very best albums to ever come out of nu metal and still to this day one of the finest metal albums of the 21st Century. Unapologetically nasty, rhythmically ferocious and genuinely groundbreaking, The War Of Art is a bona fide masterpiece. Heavy, arty, catchy and filthy, there’s not a single itch that this album doesn’t scratch. Sure, there’s a lot of Mike Patton’s influence on here, but The War Of Art ranks among the best albums produced by Rick Rubin. Don’t doubt it. Just blast it out loud.
19. Limp Bizkit - Three Dollar Bill, Y'all (1997)
It’s not got Chocolate Starfish’s silly swagger or singles, but Three Dollar Bill, Y’all$ makes up for that in sheer fucking venom. Pollution and Leech are the angriest, filthiest ditties Bizkit ever recorded, setting the scene for their Ross Robinson-produced debut. The cover of George Michael’s Faith is goofy, yeah, but it still rocks. Over the album’s duration Sepultura’s Roots is evoked through Otto’s drumming, Borland’s fretwork is at its most unhinged and Lethal’s scratching is, er, lethal.
And Durst, man. Before he eventually became the caricature the press painted him as, Durst was a heartbroken, angry young man – just listen to Stalemate. On Indigo Flow and Pollution, you’ve got material actually reminiscent of rapping; he rides Stuck’s lounge/Korn combo as easily as something like My Way would come later. Three Dollar Bill, Y’all$ serves as Durst’s finest vocal showing and, come to think of it, Limp Bizkit’s apex. Before the bullshit, before the overexposure, before everyone pretended to hate them, Limp Bizkit were a brilliant nu metal band churning out raw, primitive music that kicked arse.
18. Papa Roach - Infest (2000)
“Cut my life into pieces, this is my last resort,” hollered human jack-in-the-box Jacoby ‘Coby Dick’ Roach on Papa Roach’s immortal breakthrough single Last Resort. They’ll have those two words carved onto their collective tombstone, but there was more to their second album than that one epic dancefloor filler: Dead Cell blazed with righteous anger, Broken Home was Jacoby’s attempt to process his troubled childhood and Binge (“All I need is a bottle/I don’t need no friends”) was a classic nu metal pity party. And a shout out to guitarist Jerry Horton, one of the great unsung nu metal six-stringers.
17. Sepultura - Roots (1996)
In what would be the swansong of their iconic lineup, the Brazilians delivered one of metal’s most revolutionary albums. Fusing the sound they’d established on predecessor Chaos A.D. with the rhythms, percussion and Latin flavour of their homeland, plus a nod to the burgeoning nu metal scene, Roots exemplified the true, pioneering spirit of 90s metal. Any metalhead immune to the visceral thrill of Attitude and Roots Bloody Roots may be in need of a doctor's appointment.
16. Korn - Untouchables (2002)
Korn have estimated Untouchables cost over $3 million to make. It sounds like money well spent, with the crunch of Brian ‘Head’ Welch and James ‘Munky’ Shaffer’s guitars as savage as they have ever sounded, and Fieldy’s bass low enough to shake the floor of the ocean. But that would be nothing without the songs themselves. Hollow Life was the first time the gothic noir that they now employ so well was heard, Alone I Break was unthinkably close to ballad territory for Korn, and yet it worked, and, of course, the mountainous groove of Here To Stay is one of the most loved moments in the band's career.
15. Disturbed - The Sickness (2000)
Oo-wa-hahaha! Whether through rock club DJ, music TV or stupid meme, most metal fans have heard Disturbed's Down With The Sickness. It was the ultimate 2000s nu metal anthem, boasting a giant hook, a massive um, disturbing breakdown and a whole lot of swearing. Then there were its similarly catchy cousins, singles Stupify and Voices, both reflecting the kind of Hot Topic angst that saturated the scene.
Simple as they seemed on the surface, these songs hooked in a generation of fans who were new to heavy music, and excited to identify with a subculture that spoke to them. And let’s not forget the impact of David Draiman – that double chin piercing was cool at the time, and his voice was just as distinctive.
14. Mudvayne - L.D. 50 (2000)
Let’s face it. L.D. 50’s basically on here because of Dig. The deranged nu metal smash hit filled dance-floors and boasted a memorable video with an aliens- on-acid vibe. But the rest of the album was interesting in its own way, with hardcore and jazz influences popping up alongside Chad Gray’s fearsome outbursts and the on-trend, downtuned guitars. It was co-produced by Garth ‘GGGarth’ Richardson and the band, and executive produced by none other than Slipknot’s Clown, which could go some way to explain its manic energy. Rather than jumping on a bandwagon, the freaky, face-painted Illinois crew were riding their own.
13. Korn - Life Is Peachy (1996)
The much-anticipated follow up to one of metal’s greatest debuts, Life Is Peachy delivers for the most part. A far more experimental and occasionally wacky record than its predecessor, it does feature moments of genuine brilliance: No Place To Hide, the cover of Ice Cube’s Wicked featuring Chino Moreno of Deftones, the unsettling Mr. Rogers and the manic Chi. But they’re all topped by the savage Good God, which can lay a claim to being the best song Korn have ever written. It’s just the silly bits in the album – a cover of War’s Low Rider, the pointless drifting of Porno Creep and the expletive riddled Kunt! – that lets it down overall.
12. Slipknot - Iowa (2001)
Comfortably the heaviest album that has ever topped the UK album chart, Iowa is a genuine one-off. Released in an era when it seemed the best way for a band to achieve commercial success in a nu metal dominated world was to make themselves seem poppier, cuddlier, cartoonish and maybe chuck an 80’s cover in there as well, Slipknot became the ugliest band on the planet.
Iowa is an astonishing piece of work, as bleak, seething, furious and hate-soaked as metal has ever sounded in the mainstream. It’s no coincidence that in the album’s aftermath there was a direct rise in the amount of extreme metal that began to flourish within the scene – something that's hard to imagine happening without the blast-beats and death metal riffs of this record ushering it in. If that alone is Iowa’s legacy then it’s a pretty awesome one.
11. Limp Bizkit - Significant Other (1999)
Fred Durst was the brat-prince of nu metal, and this was his crowning glory. Taking Three Dollar Bill, Y’all’s abrasive racket and mollycoddling/expanding it (delete as appropriate to your bitterness), Bizkit transformed into a juggernaut. The Durstisms came thick and fast, our red-capped hero saying “yeah!” and “bab-eh!” instead of rapping, enlisting Method Man to take care of that on N 2 Gether Now.
The ‘Realised that I’m worth more than that’ in No Sex is essentially Stacy’s Mom by Fountains Of Wayne, but 10 times better. Don’t Go Off Wandering’s got gorgeous strings courtesy of Borland’s brother Scott and the nasty, full-frontal riffing of I’m Broke is an unused gem from Three Dollar Bill, Y’all. The hits still rule – even a guy in a Darkthrone hoodie knows Break Stuff – and the Jonathan Davis/Scott Weiland guest spots on Nobody Like You have aged gloriously. This was the late 90s in 15 songs.