Metal’s doors were kicked off in 1997, and suddenly everyone was invited to the party. While Metallica towered above everyone else, at least commercially, with the Reload album, and the likes of Emperor and Electric Wizard flew the flag for the underground, elsewhere it was very much a case of ‘anything goes’, from the Foo Fighters’ polished arena-grunge to The Prodigy’s revolutionary rave-rock mash-up to the stentorian, German-language industrial blitzkrieg of Rammstein. There really wasn’t another year like it, as these killer albums prove.
Coal Chamber – Coal Chamber
With their churning, primal debut album Coal Chamber captured the nu-metal zeitgeist almost perfectly. The thick, grinding riffage was an ideal foil to Dez Fafara’s sometimes whispered, sometimes shrieked psycho-dramas, and ensured that with the likes of the hypnotic Sway and scorching trump card Loco they cornered the market in heavy music for spooky kids.
Children Of Bodom - Something Wild
Children Of Bodom mainman Alexi Laiho once claimed that his band’s mixing of death metal and more traditional metal sounds from bands like Scorpions was the route COB opted for because everyone else was “trying to sound like Dimmu Borgir”. Their debut album set out their stall, pitching flourishing power metal against brutal death and then wrapping it up in a blanket of symphonic keyboards. It might have looked like a disaster on paper, but on Something Wild, COB proved it could work.
Dimmu Borgir – Enthrone Darkness Triumphant
Having made a bold leap to Nuclear Blast for their third album, Dimmu Borgir became black metal’s commercial standard bearers. Thanks to ambitious songwriting, a grand but gritty production and an air of muscular bravado, Enthrone Darkness Triumphant delivered on that promise. From the throat-rending aggression of Mourning Palace to the grim drama of A Succubus In Rapture, this was expression of artistic individuality and ambition hammered out with disdain for critical consequences. Glory beckoned.
Deftones - Around The Fur
An album that turned Deftones into the hottest band on the planet (certainly in the UK), Around The Fur is more thoughtful and features greater depth than Adrenaline.
But they were still as heavy as any metal band around, as heard on the breakneck lotion or hearing Chino Moreno trading vocal lines with Max Cavalera on Headup.
Crucially though, Around The Fur features at least two of the times most anthemic songs in Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away) and the awesome My Own Summer (Shove It), which are still staples in their live set today.
Electric Wizard - Come My Fanatics…
The misanthropic Dorset doom-mongers journeyed into metal’s darkest places on their second record. The music was fully enveloped in an impenetrable acrid haze – more so than just about any other record that dare tag itself as ‘stoner’.
The likes of fuzz-drenched opener Return Trip and the disorientating Doom-Mantia are the sound of your sanity drifting out of the window. Drugs may have been involved – and they were bad ones.
Emperor – Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk
Emperor’s second album was the point at which black metal discovered its ambition.
Following the ground-breaking majesty of In The Nightside Eclipse, Emperor’s second full album smashed the opposition with its intensely elaborate and literate re-imagining of black metal’s atmospheric principles and sublime intricacy.
After this point, where Emperor led, everyone else followed.
Faith No More – Album Of The Year
With new guitarist Jon Hudson in place, Faith No More went for a surprisingly precise and tight approach on the last record before they split. Perhaps they’d lost interest in those quirky moments that had endeared them to so many, but the band could still cook up a storm, as proved by Ashes To Ashes and Naked In Front Of The Computer.
Foo Fighters – The Colour And The Shape
Although the Foo Fighters’ debut had promised much, few people anticipated the powerful step up that Dave Grohl made with this follow- up. Even though he hired William Goldsmith to play drums, Grohl ousted him as soon as recording began. Gil Norton was brought in for his work with The Pixies, but the record was much tougher- sounding than them – slick, even.
Sounding like it was built with arenas in mind, it ushered in the post-grunge age with Grohl now a fully formed songwriter, and the heavily melodic groove of songs like Everlong and My Hero sat comfortably alongside the furious Monkey Wrench and the brooding Walking After You.
Hammerfall – Glory To The Brave
More than any other band, Hammerfall deserve credit for kick-starting the power metal explosion of the mid-to-late 90s. When this, their debut, emerged in 1997, it seemed like a stirring reclamation on old school metal values, albeit with a melodic streak a mile wide. Many bands have improved on the Swedes’ formula, but this blueprint still stands up as a feast of power and fury.
HIM – Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666
Born in the heat of goth metal’s late 90s ascendancy, HIM went on to dominate the 00s scene. This debut is where the impact was made, Ville Valo bringing a new and already highly distinctive voice to the scene, while his open-hearted pop sensibility was neatly offset by the band’s heaviest metal guitarwork.