The 1990s was metal’s most exciting decade. And as those epic 10 years came to a close, there was still plenty of gas left in the tank. Here are 20 landmark albums from 1999
AFI - Black Sails In The Sunset
No-Cal punks AFI telegraphed their shift into gothier territories with 1998’s A Fire Inside EP and its cover of The Cure’s crepuscular classic The Hanging Gardens. But it was with their fourth album that Davey Havok and co truly embraced the dark side. Black Sails In The Sunset didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – it was still loaded with pit-friendly anthems and gang vocals aplenty – but Exsanguination and the tremendous The Last Kiss edged towards the shadows. AFI’s great transformation was underway.
Botch – We Are The Romans
A band and an album whose legend that continues to grow with every passing year. Tacoma’s Botch were nothing more than a cult underground band even at their peak, and they split up three years after this, their second and final studio album, but We Are The Romans has gone on to become a touchstone for forward thinking metal and hardcore bands. They Introduced the odd time signatures, bizarre noise-rock breakdowns and an unhinged vocal performance from Dave Verellen. Nothing else has come close to it since.View Deal
The Dillinger Escape Plan - Calculating Infinity
When Napalm Death released the album Scum in 1987 many of the music press declared that, in terms of extremity, music had reached its peak. And it was a widely held view until, on September 28th 1999, The Dillinger Escape Plan rewrote the rules once more with Calculating Infinity.
Mathcore was the sound of metal being twisted into startling new shapes, and few did it better than DEP on their debut album. Playing within the same scene that gave the world other such progressive, metallic hardcore luminaries as Converge, Botch and Poison The Well, the band increased the sonic extremities of the music even further, merging warp speed, jazz-tinged, scattershot riffs and broken electronic beats into a hardcore template.
Even today Calculating Infinity sounds truly thrilling and utterly unlike anything else, from the opening two and a half minute breakneck, visceral thrill of Sugar Coated Sour to the title track’s brooding, seething but restricted instrumental.
Emperor - IX Equilibrium
A transitional album, IX’s stormfronts of prog and death never stopped it being a work of imperious grandeur in its own right
Previous to this record, Sweden’s Emperor were the kind of band reserved for people who never got laid or men who had bald spots and hair halfway down their back.
Strange, then, that 20 years later IX Equilibrium is viewed by those in the know as being An Important Event. Which, distilled, means this: Without Emperor there would probably be no Opeth and dark metal would likely still be daft.
This album was the first marker that extreme was evolving.
HIM - Razorblade Romance
HIM’s third album represented a very subtle reinvention of the Finns’ sound. Their earlier doom influences were now dramatically played down, and woven in with metallised threads of dark pop and glam. Ville was already known for his deep vocals and melancholic songs about lost love, but his new lyrics were even more personal than before, at times reading like an open diary. He experimented with his vocals and gave the songs a greater vulnerability, and coaxed the album into sounding more like their live shows than their debut. Perfecting their trademark Love Metal sound, Razorblade Romance would swiftly earn near classic status among fans and critics alike.
In Flames – Colony
Colony is an undisputed fireball of an album. It’s a melo-death masterpiece with a consistently fast pace, never letting up over its forty minutes, but able to add so much to that thrashing backbone. While Scorn and Embody The Invisible are no-nonsense genre jams, Ordinary Story juxtaposes intense growls with clean guitar-work and the title track hints at the grooving bounce that would later fuel Clayman. It really doesn’t get better than this.
Incubus – Make Yourself
Dismissed as pretty-boy bantamweights by nu metal’s knucklehead army, Incubus offered something more unashamedly spiritual and romantic than a man-baby in a red cap bawling about doing it all for the nookie. Their third album shared the same DNA as many of their peers - chiefly Faith No More – but the Californians refused to lock themselves into one single sound, throwing fleet-footed funk and sunset ballads into the mix. Make Yourself was a hit at the time, but its stature has only grown over the years.
Korn – Issues
After redefining what heavy music was during the first half of the 90’s, Korn had become genuine rock stars, with all the excess and trappings that go with it, after Follow The Leader’s incredible success.
It was a tough spot for a band that had gained notoriety through such savage music and such bleak catharsis to now be sharing spots on charts and magazine covers with Britney Spears and The Backstreet Boys.
Notoriously divisive and lukewarmly received by the their fanbase at the time, Issues still proved that Korn could still bring the downtuned, tormented, black-hearted hits among their rising celebrity.
Limp Bizkit - Significant Other
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.
Metallica - S&M
Metallica went where no metal band had gone before and teamed up with a symphony orchestra for their take on Last Night Of The Proms with anger issues. An inspired collaboration which leant even more ‘sturm und drang’ drama to their most epic and enthralling songs.
The Outlaw Torn, Sad But True and Bleeding Me sound phenomenal here, and new song No Leaf Clover is an absolute beast. Those privileged to see this recorded, or to witness the subsequent performances in Berlin, New York or Las Vegas, will ever forget it.
It's also a great album to prove the point that anyone who claims that Metallica have nothing worth listening to post-'Black' album is a fucking idiot. In fact, the band’s fearless risk-taking and sense of adventure post-1991 arguably makes their ‘second act’ all the more more interesting – albeit their quality control nose-dived significantly.