Along with hair metal, nü-metal is often seen as a genre that didn’t age well. That sentiment may be partially true, but c’mon, there’s so many nü-metal albums that sound just as good today as they did when Limp Bizkit were rollin’ their way across MTV.

You’ll have to forgive us for skipping albums like Korn‘s Follow the Leader, DeftonesWhite Pony and Slipknot‘s self-titled. We all know those are S-tier nü-metal albums, so let’s dig a little deeper into metal’s most maligned subgenre.

If you’re gonna make music this wild, you’ve got to be one of the tightest bands on earth. Very few acts can do what Maximum the Hormone did on 2007’s Bu-ikikaesu — limitlessly mash together styles and make it sound easy. You’ve probably heard “Zetsubou Billy” and “What’s Up People?” if you’re a Death Note fan, but this entire album is packed with nü-metal genius that’s immune from getting stale. 

It took a meme to remind the world how phenomenal this band is. Unlike a lot of nü-metal acts that tried to sound out of their minds, Mudvayne was actually unique enough to pull it off. Take a bow, Ryan Martinie. Your bass playing is so phenomenal that it could only come from psilocybin-induced psychosis. Beyond Martinie’s bass, there’s a lot of really smart stuff on L.D. 50, from references to toxicology, life’s interconnectedness and a heroic dose of Terence McKenna.

If only Lynn Strait had lived, Snot would’ve been right up there with System of a Down and Incubus. Every dynamic on Get Some is so damn tasteful… the songs are so well-paced, from the big aggressive grooves to the funky slow parts. Snot even made traditional guitar solos work on Get Some. For a nü-metal album released in 1997, Get Some sounds incredibly fresh. 

Incubus used to be so fucking interesting! Sure, their radio rock stuff is excellent in its own right, but it’s on a totally different wavelength than S.C.I.E.N.C.E. Incubus’ sophomore album is off-the-charts weird. It jumps between rap metal, funk, trip hop, techno and just whacked-out nonsense. You can tell this was the exact album Incubus wanted to make at the time — it pulls no creative punches and sounds like it was a lot of fun to create.

In 2003, nü-metal was beginning to outstay its welcome on the radio. Remember, this was the year Korn put out Take a Look in the Mirror and Limp Bizkit released Results May Vary. Despite the creative decline of nü-metal’s biggest acts, the genre had plenty left to offer. Nothingface’s final album is by far their most sonically diverse and vicious. It was produced beautifully and was dead-on with its criticism of the War on Terror and the Catholic Church’s cover-up of child sexual abuse. Skeletons may be the heaviest, most slept-on nü-metal album of the 2000s. 

Wisconsin Death Trip is an album that deserves to be gushed over. Outside of Korn, no band did heavy dance beats like Static-X. “Push It,” “I’m With Stupid,” “Bled for Days”… this band on was on some shit when they made their debut album. Plus, Static-X couldn’t have been this ridiculous without Wayne Static’s voice. He strung together all the bizarre elements like a master quilter, allowing an often overly-serious genre to be unapologetically silly. 

Sevendust is pure quality within nü-metal. They didn’t fuck around when it came to stellar musicianship and unbridled power. Animosity has aged exceptionally well because it didn’t lean on any of nü-metal’s cliches or tropes. It’s just excellent songwriting with killer delivery and a complete lack of fear. Sevendust have never been the edgiest nü-metal band, but they’re certainly one of the smartest. They made a hauntingly beautiful Christmas song ffs. 

Sunk Loto had a stranglehold on Australia’s nü-metal scene for several years, making a familiar style of rap metal deep into the 1990s. The band really solidified their sound on 2003’s Between Birth and Death though, blending nü-metal with alt metal and cutting back on their hip-hop influence. The result was finely crafted cuts like “Everything Everyway” and “Starved.” Check out Sunk Loto if you’re unfamiliar. 

You can instantly hear why Ross Robinson wanted to work with these guys. Hailing from Los Angeles, Amen concocted a rare blend of nü-metal and punk rock for their 1999 self-titled album. Amen may have been too weird to live and too rare to die, because they never really got their due despite being around for 30 years now. Just listen to “Drive” and tell us they didn’t deserve mainstream radio play.

We’re gonna deviate from the rules of this list and give a spot to one of nü-metal’s giants, simply because this album is so fucking brilliant and creative. Yes, Toxicity is the System of a Down album, but god damn, real fans know about the power of System of a Down. Those tribal drum beats, creepy-crawly guitar parts, thudding bass lines and impossible-to-duplicate vocals… there’s absolutely nothing like this. Never a boring moment.

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