While the decade produced a number of unsung gems, the 1990s were also a time of dogshit albums that were spray painted gold. Here are the most overrated records of the era.
Body Count – Body Count
A band more renown for courting controversy than killer riffs, Ice-T’s notorious crossover thrash band will forever hold a special place in the pop-culture lexicon for their stark, anti-police brutality track “Cop Killer.” Although it took no small amount of bravery to speak cold, hard truth to power, the sad fact of the matter is that while the lyrics on Body Count’s eponymous album articulate an acute pain and social awareness unlike any rock music up to that point, the music is boring as hell.
Stone Temple Pilots – Core
Clone bands are not always a bad thing. For instance, The Rolling Stones’ entire brand was built on the back of The Beatles, classic soul, and whatever else they thought they could replicate for a quick buck. The Stones rule, and their absence of originality only adds to their mystique. Several decades later, Stone Temple Pilots took a similar approach to carbon-copying the hits of the moment with their debut studio album, Core. Runaway success as it was, these twelve vapid tracks were all performed better by someone else at roughly the same time. Are they Nirvana? Are they Pearl Jam? Nah, they are a few ding-dongs from Sand Diego who had to change their name from Mighty Joe Young when they realized there was a famous blues artist with the same moniker and so they landed on an arbitrary brand of motor oil. Yawn.
Emperor – Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk
Black metal would not exist as we know it today without the Norwegian horde Emperor and their cohorts in the Black Circle. Although their roots came from death metal band Thou Shalt Suffer, these heathen youths changed the course of extreme music forever with their Wrath Of The Tyrant demo, their self-titled EP, and legendary In The Nightside Eclipse debut full-length. Having crafted and instantly perfected their own brand of devastating, majestic songsmanship, it should have been obvious that there was nowhere for Emperor to go but down. Rife with pedestrian riffs and over polished, corny keyboards that sit way too high up in the mix, the tracks on Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk are more reminiscent to the works of your average Marilyn Manson clone of the time than the masters of symphonic black metal that they were three years before.
Metallica – Metallica
Let’s get real here for a second: Heavy metal was never supposed to be Top-40 music. Already the biggest metal band in the world after a string of genre defining, nearly perfect albums, Metallica sold their soul to the pop-culture gods when they hired Bob Rock to produce their eponymous fifth full-length, colloquially called “The Black Album.” Already famous for his work with Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, and assorted glossy hair garbage of a similar ilk, Bob Rock did what he was hired to do and got Metallica to simplify and condense their songs to MTV-ready nuggets. Gone are the epic narratives and complex structures, replaced by whining ditties about how hard it is to play in a multi-million dollar touring band and the horrors of bedtime. Yes, I am being unnecessarily harsh and there are some undeniably catchy moments, but this right here is the line in the sand from which Metallica crossed and never came back.
Anthrax – Persistence Of Time
I’m gonna commit further heresy here by admitting that not only do I prefer John Bush-era Anthrax to the Joey Belladonna classics, John Bush-era Anthrax is the only era of Anthrax that I like at all. Maybe I just hate fun, but I always thought that the band was too goofy for their own good. Persistence Of Time isn’t what I’d call a bad record exactly, as some of the heavier moments hint at their future artistic triumphs with Bush at the mic, but there is still too much wacky bullshit going on for my liking. For the life of me, I’ll never understand how Anthrax got lumped into the Big Four of Thrash with certified titans Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer. Whatever…
Entombed – Wolverine Blues
Be it the relentless brutality of their Nihilist days or the studied punishment of Left Hand Path and Clandestine, Sweden’s favorite sons Entombed are responsible for some of the most powerful and important death metal of all time. Great as their track record was, the band threw the world of extreme music a curve ball in 1993 with Wolverine Blues, a hard rockin’ party record complete with pillaged AC/DC riffs and harmonicas. Sure, L.G. Petrov is still grunting along with the best of them, but death metal was supposed to be a refuge from bullshit dick-swingers like Jackyl. Anyway, people love this record and a bunch of you are probably mad at me and I don’t care.
Korn – Life Is Peachy
Here’s a fun story. For my fourteenth birthday, I went to the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania to see Biohazard open for House Of Pain. As per usual, a practically unknown band touring on the strength of a demo opened the show that evening. Enter Korn, a gaggle of random weirdos who the crowd didn’t know or care about. I guess they were fine, but the only thing that left an impression with me was the audience reaction to their singer wearing a kilt (remember, this was 1994 and as charming as my hometown is, I wouldn’t call it progressive). Fast forward six months and Korn are the biggest band in the world. For what it’s worth, I dug that first record pretty hard and still feel like it’s an outsider’s testament to the power of irresponsibly low tuning. Not to begrudge anyone their success, but their insipid follow-up albums bored me to tears while galvanizing the legion of dorks who would ruin music for several years to follow.
Sublime – 40oz. To Freedom
Having heard their single “Date Rape,” I passively decided to watch these guys for a couple of minutes during their set at the first Warped Tour. Limp, uninspired white reggae ensued, and I walked away after ten minutes. Anyway, when homebody died a few months later and every jerkoff football player at my high school bought hemp necklaces and sang Sublime’s praises, I delighted in telling them that not only had I seen their new favorite band, but that they were terrible and I walked away.
Dream Theater – Images And Words
Some credit where credit is due: My first exposure to Napalm Death came from James LaBrie wearing a Utopia Banished shirt in the video for “Pull Me Under.” Now, I’m not gonna run my mouth all that hard against Dream Theater. When Images And Words came out in 1992, it provided a soft gateway for my 11 year old brain to process complex song structures. However, once I heard King Crimson my days of looking up to Dream Theater instantly came to an end. In my head, Images And Words is still music for 11 year olds.
White Zombie – Astro Creep 2000
The existence of legendary New York metal gods White Zombie reads like a Greek tragedy. Caustic to the extreme, the band’s first few years were defined by a brand of unapologetically antagonistic art rock and an unparalleled work ethic. Their sound slowly developed from Flipper-inspired noise dirges to a unique brand of expertly rendered, exploitation film themed groove metal of a caliber the world had never seen at that point. Although their first major label outing, La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One, initially fell on deaf ears, White Zombie came to widespread acclaim on the heels of a positive reaction from MTV’s arbiters of good taste, Beavis & Butthead. All was well, but then they went and decided to ape Nine Inch Nails on Astro Creep 2000, achieving superstardom while alienating core fans in the process. In short order, Rob Zombie ghosted the band for a solo career and continues to shovel garbage to the masses up to this very day.