Welcome to 1993: a year when the world of music was in flux. Grunge swept all before it, turning Nirvana and Pearl Jam into superstars, and opening the doors for the likes of Soundgarden to follow them. Metal may have been blindsided by this enormous sea change, but it was far from KO’d: game-changing albums from Entombed and Darkthrone showed the underground was healthier than ever, while Type O Negative and Tool showed that the genre was still capable of taking on all-comers. Here are the albums that soundtracked the year.
Anthrax - Sound Of White Noise
It was a radically different Anthrax that emerged on Sound Of White Noise, with a new singer in John Bush and a new sound influenced by grunge. The result was a darkly powerful album, and the band’s biggest US hit.
While Bush was a great metal singer, his gritty voice was also perfectly suited to material in an alternative rock vein. Lead single Only was described by James Hetfield as “a perfect song”. Black Lodge and This Is Not An Exit had the heavy aura of Alice In Chains, while the frantic Hy Pro Glo was a throwback to early thrash. An atypical Anthrax album, it was arguably their greatest victory.
Carcass - Heartwork
The gore-fixated gods of grind streamlined their sound on their penultimate 90s record. The result was the finest British extreme metal album of the decade.
It was also arguably the point where melodic death metal became a cohesive idea, and Heartwork still sounds fantastic all these years later.
Every song has at least one unforgettable hook, genius riffs come thick and fast and Colin Richardson’s production was an authentic game-changer. Melodeath may have been defined by the Swedes, but it was Carcass that made its definitive statement.
Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream
By the time of Siamese Dream, Billy Corgan was both writing the songs and playing all the instruments except the drums, with his perfectionist tendencies finding his bandmates – particularly guitarist James Iha and bassist D’Arcy Wretzky – relegated to the role of ‘the help’.
Not fitting the grunge, metal or indie brackets, Corgan instead magpied from every genre to make an album to appeal to all tribes. The result was that Siamese Dream came on like a grunge Queen, with all the fearlessness and foolishness that suggests.
Their records sold by the bucketload, and for a while they were one of the most-talked about bands around.
Darkthrone - Under A Funeral Moon
The Norwegian troupe’s third album was dank, distorted and gloriously antisocial.
Fenriz has since stated that the band were aiming to create "a pure black metal album", it seems they succeeded in turning the genre on its head and resetting the template.
Hailed by fans and connoisseurs as black metal's "ultimate manifesto", this was the genre taken back to the garage – or the cave.
Eyehategod - Take As Needed For Pain
Much more than just Phil Anselmo’s drug buddies, Eyehategod were the masters of fucked-up dirge metal.
Permanently up to their necks in chaos – not just the aforementioned drug problems, but also plenty of brushes with the law – Eyehategod took the slow tempos and dark shadows of Sabbath into the darkest territory imaginable.
Take in high doses or not at all.
Entombed - Wolverine Blues
Scandinavian death metal trailblazers Entombed nailed a distinctive sound with their first two fantastic records, but it was with 1993’s Wolverine Blues that they really decided to throw caution to the wind.
Wolverine Blues divided (and still divides) fans with its rock‘n’roll traits. Don’t let that deter you from its devilish brilliance though. From start to finish, this record is a bloody-knuckled bruiser.
You only need to listen to songs like the hellish nightmare Demon or the oozing scab Hollowman to realise that they haven’t lightened up in the mood department either. This is the one that started death‘n’roll, and over 20 years on, it is still yet to be bettered.
Sepultura - Chaos A.D.
In 93, Sepultura were ready, willing and certainly able to make the leap from cult status to being major players on the metal scene. With Chaos A.D., The Seps ditched the primeval thrashing for deep grooves and world music flourishes.
Suddenly, greatness beckoned and Chaos A.D. was their ground-breaker. Hard hitting, powerful, challenging, confrontational, this was Sepultura on a new level.
Tool - Undertow
A continuation of what came on predecessor Opiate – but with a sicker, darker and more menacing tone – Tool’s debut full-length album saw the band begin the process of pulling away from the rest of the scene around them.
They received plenty of attention for the catchy, growling groove of Sober, but it’s the likes of Bottom (featuring a contribution from Henry Rollins) and Flood that show the direction that Tool were moving into.
Technically precise with more patience and musical subtlety, while still delving deep into the more perverse aspect of the human psyche, Undertow is a hell of a statement from a band growing in confidence.
Type O Negative - Bloody Kisses
Led by the strapping dark lord Peter Steele, Type O Negative rose from the ashes of chest-thumping thrashers Carnivore and went on to create some of the most emotionally tortured goth-metal of the decade.
Bloody Kisses is their magnum opus. Steele ramped up the dark-hued goth-metal grandeur – if Dracula had a favourite metal band, Type O were definitely it.
Kisses was a more committed, elegant gothic doom masterwork than others in their back catalogue. Gargantuan hits Christian Woman and Black No. 1 perfectly showcased the band’s evolving songcraft, mordant wit and deviant sexuality, helping the album become Roadrunner’s first US Platinum release.
Pearl Jam - Vs.
Success blind-sided Pearl Jam. As the title indicated, Vs. was the sound of band of who wanted to kick against fame. They dialled down the grand emoting. The album clanked and rattled to life with opener Go, and Blood was a blast of petulant fury that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Nirvana album.
Yet they couldn’t quite throw the baby out with the bath water. Rearviewmirror and the plaintive Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town gave lie to the notion that Pearl Jam were anything other than an arena rock band, and a classy one at that.