Over the past few years, nu-metal has been making one hell of a fascinating comeback. It isn’t that far of a stretch to call the subgenre the most polarizing genre of metal; many elitists have been of the mindset that nu-metal is a stain on the genre’s history.
But that shit is silly talk, for nu-metal actually brought with it a plethora of unique approaches to heavy music. When you look at the bands that represent nu-metal – while there are some sonic similarities between them – there are far more differences. No one nu-metal band is all that alike.
And in that array of variety came many classic metal records. So of course – we’ve tackled the best death metal and thrash metal albums of all time – and now we are covering the 15 best nu-metal albums of all time.
Slipknot – Slipknot
While Iowa is an amazing album, Slipknot’s self-titled debut is much more of an ugly, fascinating beast. It’s probably fair to say that, among their contemporaries, the band’s debut LP cemented them as one of the heaviest nu-metal bands in the game. Blending everything from death to thrash and noise, Slipknot unleashed an experience brimming with unrelenting sonic madness that still stands to this day as one of metal’s most gnarly-sounding albums.
Hybrid Theory – Linkin Park
According to Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, Linkin Park are the band that pushed nu-metal into the mainstream. Come 2000, the band released Hybrid Theory, and quite frankly, the world of music changed big time. Blending rap electronics, metal, and rock – Linkin Park essentially took everything beloved in the music world and combined it all together to create one of the most captivating records to ever exist.
World’s End Fruit Basket – Ikd-sj
In 2009, the Japanese nu-metal band Ikd-sj released a record titled World’s End Fruit Basket, and it’s bizarre how little attention that album has gotten. Throughout the record’s runtime, Ikd-sj presents a mesmerizing array of technical nu-metal instrumentation that embraces other music genres (such as funk). Also, in terms of songwriting composition, World’s End Fruit Basket is an intriguing work that features odd (although interesting) approaches to tempo, time signature shifts, and atmospheric mood.
Around the Fur – Deftones
Though Deftones will forever be recognized as one of the greatest bands to come from the genre, they have made tremendous shifts to create more atmospheric, avant-garde metal over the years. With that in mind, Around the Fur stands as the most powerful work of nu-metal they’ve created. The band’s shoegaze-dream quality is present on this record, but there’s also so much aggressive force throughout this album. Among the band’s discography, Around the Fur represents the sort of alchemical blend of raw heaviness and surreal atmosphere that has become tremendously popular throughout metal’s evolution.
Strangers Only – My Ticket Home
There wasn’t much happening in nu-metal in the 2010s, but My Ticket Home made a compelling argument for re-examining the genre with Strangers Only. Front to back, the album never slows down, “Spit Not Chewed” calling to mind Adrenaline-era Deftones with flourishes of Tom Morello-esque guitar trickery. It’s like a highlight reel of everything fun about nu-metal, reinterpreted by very hungry musicians out to write one of the genre’s best works.
Korn – Korn
Of course, Korn’s debut studio LP has to be on the list – it is the record to establish nu-metal. At the time the album was released, there had never been a sound like what Korn was providing; alongside the record sounding like a mutated brand of metal – something so foreign to heavy metal, death, and thrash – the band also brought a chaotic sense of songwriting into the work. Considering when this record came out, it stood as a technically unique, even bizarre experience – and today, it’s important to acknowledge how much of an impact it had on metal history.
Significant Other – Limp Bizkit
Back in the day, Limp Bizkit did something pretty genius – they took two of the most popular forms of music and made them into one. When it comes to rap metal, Durst and the crew were the best around back in the ’90s. Among their releases, Significant Other captures the essence of ’90s attitude and the type of music that fans were clamoring for. Significant Other is an impressive feat of metal meets rap; through their songwriting and performances, Limp Bizkit crafted a record that capitalizes on the strengths of both genres.
LD 50 – Mudvayne
Mudvayne saw the heights possible in both nu-metal and heavy metal generally speaking with LD 50. The group puts an emphasis on bass which takes center stage in songs like the single “Dig,” giving them a far different edge than their peers. “Death Blooms” straight up doesn’t sound like anything else but still manages to be ultra-catchy. A true acid trip through the capabilities of heaviness.
Spit – Kittie
The debut album from Kittie is an explosive kick of nu-metal aggression, as well as one of the most overlooked records to come from the genre. Spit packs a whole lot of heat – from crushing instrumental performances, hard-hitting lyrics, and killer vocal performances, Kittie made one hell of a heavy record. There are also some minor touches of grunge there and then, which brings an added layer of mood to the overall work. Kittie has always been an impressive band, and while it’s cool to see them making a comeback, it’s important to honor the awesome music they’ve already given us.
Wisconsin Death Trip – Static-X
Wisconsin Death Trip isn’t just a nu-metal staple, it’s also an industrial metal staple. Not only is the band’s 1999 studio album debut a collection of exhilarating as-hell metal, but it’s also a record that worked its way into pop culture. Specifically, the band’s single “Push It” has made an appearance in several video games (like Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes and Brutal Legend). When it comes to nu-metal bands from the late ’90s and early aughts carrying the torch for industrial metal, Static-X was the best around.
The Fundamental Elements of Southtown – P.O.D.
What separates P.O.D. from the rest of nu-metal is vocalist Sonny Sandoval’s range both as a rapper and singer. The Fundamental Elements of Southtown have both on equal display, where he’s able to really tell vivid narratives. “Southtown” is a stand out of bounce and catchiness, while they manage to make U2 work in the context of nü with a “Bullet the Blue Sky” cover far better than it has any right to be.
Bu-ikikaesu – Maximum The Hormone
Among the bands featured in this list, Maximum The Hormone is the most technically interesting (hands down). Their music is incredibly mathy and chaotic, but then there is the down-driven tempo and chugging that is present in acts like Korn. On top of that, you also have some awesome touches of non-metal genres coming into play. When it comes to the technical innovations of Maximum The Hormone, their album Bu-ikkaesu best captures their genius (it also features two songs audiences may recognize for having appeared in the Death Note anime).
The Death Card – Sworn In
Merging My Chemical Romance-style emo, nu-metal raps, and metalcore’s heaviest riffs, Sworn In wrote one of the most lowkey important records of the 2010s. The band pushed how far heaviness can go in metalcore and nu-metal, creating some of the most memorable heavy music of their era.
Roots – Sepultura
While Sepultura is not a band that may immediately come to mind when folks think about nu-metal, Roots is a whole different story. Within their blend of thrash and death metal, Sepultura wove in industrial-esuqe qualities that bands like Slipknot were using in their material; there’s also a flow to the music that comes across like a Korn song to be honest. Along with the band including sonic elements associated with the music of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples, Roots makes for one of the most creatively unique and technically astounding works to come from nu-metal.
OSC-DIS – The Mad Capsule Markets
Mad Capsule Markets are a criminally forgotten nu-metal band of the early 2000s, and their opus OSC-DIS makes their discography worth a relisten. Your intro to the Japanese band is likely from “Pulse’s” appearance on the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 soundtrack, which is a pretty good sampling of what they can do. The record legitimately sounds like it was born out of some fucked up radio that’s tuning into rogue frequencies, serving up punk rhythms and hip-hop vocal stylings with equal measure.