At The Gates - Slaughter Of The Soul
The influence At The Gates' mighty fourth album can be heard in a vast amount of metal from the last 20 years, not least the entire post-Killswitch metalcore movement in the US. A flawless masterpiece that hammered home how distinctive the Swedes’ sound was, and how brutally effective it could be. Massive tunes, terrifying levels of aggression and precision… it’s an all-time classic.
Deftones - Adrenaline
One of the great debuts of the 90s. Nu-metal wasn’t a thing until Korn and Deftones arrived on the scene and changed everything. Whilst both bands were responsible for shifting metal’s aesthetics, Korn dealt purely in nihilism, pain and brutality. Whereas Deftones on Adrenaline showcased influences from gangster rap to skate punk. Songs like Bored and 7 Words became anthems of youthful alienation for a whole new group of kids, who were bored of grunge and wanted their own sound. They soon got it.
Down - NOLA
If Sabbath, Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd decided to hot box their rehearsal room and record the results it’d probably sound something like Louisiana supergroup Down’s debut record. Along with the sludgy, pot-hailing Hail The Leaf and epic closer Bury Me In Smoke, the likes of the languid, blissed-out Jail and the crushing Eyes Of The South combine to make NOLA a stoner classic. RIYL: Smoking sticky buds out of a Pabst Blue Ribbon can.
Faith No More - King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime
An often underrated classic, King For A Day... is easily the most schizophonic album Faith No More ever produced. Musically it was cleaved right down the middle, alternating between ice cold cooler-than-cool lounge funk and frighteningly ugly jackhammer thrash-punk.
Although the band were perceived to have lost a crucial component in the departure of guitarst Jim Martin – the ‘metal-or-nothing’ bespectacled monster who anchored FNM in the rock arena – Mr Bungle’s Trey Spruance makes the existing heavy bits in FNM’s sound 10 times heavier, and the cheesy bits, uh, cheesier.
Evidence is beautiful liquid soul, while Just A Man is anthemic funk-pumped cabaret, but the flip side to this set-piece whimsy is demonic, neurotic whirlwinds such as Ugly In The Morning – Patton flipping painlessly between soft soul-boy crooning and gibbering, demented, frenzied ecstasy.
Fear Factory - Demanufacture
On their second album, Fear Factory refined and sanded down the rougher elements of their sound. The results were simply groundbreaking. There isn’t a wasted moment on this virtually flawless LP; from the kick drum extravaganza Self Bias Resistor to the contorting synth-infused New Breed – the band compress their steely sound into burning molten rock. But the best song plaudits go to the devastating metal classic Replica for its effortless balance of melody and dissonance. The nodes aligned perfectly on Demanufacture, leaving an indelible mark on the decade and remaining to this day one of the most forward-thinking metal albums ever created.
Life Of Agony - Ugly
Helmed by streetwise hardcore kid Mina Caputo – then going by the name Keith – Life Of Agony channelled their inner pain on their second album, and there was a lot of it.
Dark, grungy melodies swirled around angsty lyrics about a person desperate to find their own path without giving into conformity. This downbeat, outsider alt-metal would become the New York quartet’s hallmark.
Meshuggah - Destroy Erase Improve
Years ahead of its time and still proving a fertile hunting ground for countless bands to borrow and rip-off ideas from, Destroy Erase Improve saw Mehsuggah take the ideas explored on the previous year’s None EP and engineer a futuristic, innovative metallic form that changed metal forever. Mindbogglingly brilliant.
Monster Magnet - Dopes To Infinity
Someone needed to blast a hole through this wall of mumbling self-pity and sexless whining, preferably using a giant raygun full of drugs, nudity and mind-bending space rock anthems. So, who you gonna call?
Acid-spiked riffs and Dave Wyndorf’s mind-melting worldview combined on MM’s nuclear-powered trip through the cosmos. Trans-dimensional stoner metal.
Paradise Lost - Draconian Times
Draconian Times was Paradise Lost’s own Black album: a slab of majestic contemporary metal that met the mainstream on its own terms. Here, the band streamlined their sound without losing their identity, just as Metallica had done half a decade earlier. Enchantment and The Last Time stripped away the murk to reveal a sparkling melodic heart, Elusive Care gave full flight to the old school goth leanings that had always been lurking in the shadows, while Once Solemn veered towards punk territory in its rampant forward motion. For a moment, it looked like Draconian Times was going to elevate Paradise Lost in metal’s superstar bracket. Ultimately it didn’t, but more than two decades on it remains one of the great albums of the 1990s.
White Zombie - Astro-Creep: 2000
Rob Zombie’s crazed B-movie vision came to stadium-sized fruition on his band’s final album. A helluva of a way to bow out.
An album that was heavier on the industrial influences than their previous work, it was at the same time catchier and more instantaneous than they had ever been.
But the most startling thing was just how good, how crisp, shiny and enormous White Zombie now sounded – like experiencing them in Technicolor for the first time. The credit for that goes to Pantera producer Terry Date in a major way, who employed the same tactics as he did on their Vulgar Display Of Power album to make the band pop and crack in all the right places.