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Carajo is alive with a passion for rebellion. Each of its 12 tracks is a fist of triumph punched high in the air. Opener “Resistiendo con ideas” goes “Shouted love in the form of a
song! Invent our place and express ourselves!” Another, from the anthemic “Sacate la Mierda”: “The economy stole our lives [...] And how hard it is to keep hope when food is not enough.” The rare nu-metal power trio; Marcelo "Corvata" Corvalán sings with the intensity of a militia member passing out rifles on the front line while punctuating tracks with his joyful shouts and whoops. Guitarist Hernán "Tery" Langer puts on a masterclass of nu-metal riffs (peep “Conquistador”) and drummer Andrés "Andy" Vilanova keeps things bouncy. The result is righteously heavy. In its final seconds “Sacate la Mierda” deploys a brutal downward key-change because, goddammit, A# was just not going hard enough.
Spend enough time listening to nu-metal, talking about nu-metal, thinking about nu-metal, reading about nu-metal and/or following me on Twitter you start to
forget something: nu-metal sucks. Then one day you tell a coworker how much you enjoyed the new Limp Bizkit album and they laugh before realizing; “Oh, you’re serious…” So when Tallah released their debut Matriphagy in 2020 they were releasing a proudly nu-metal album into a scene that loathed the very idea. Yet, Matriphagy is so powerful, so overwhelming, that it simply cannot be denied. And when that wall came down more followed. As metalheads around the world thrilled to “Overconfidence,” scrunched their faces in approval at the disgusting riffage of “No One Should Read This”, and had their jaws dropped by Justin Bonitz’s stunning vocal performance throughout they started wondering; “Did I have this genre wrong all along?” Yes. Yes they did. And we have Tallah to thank for showing so many the light.
After a decade with groove metal legends Sepultura singer Max Cavalera was suddenly unemployed, quitting his own band over managerial disputes. His debut album as
Soulfly functions as both finger to his old band-mates and a look to the future, one as bright and open as the album cover. Across 70 unwieldy minutes Cavalera succeeds at his stated goal to “find a better way,” coupling his distinctive tribal styling with a triumphant freedom displacing Sepultura’s intense lumber. Much of Soulfly chatters with jungle ambiance and distant drums but where on Roots they menaced here they invite, like the rare drum circle that doesn’t suck. Soulfly could have been a bitter slog, instead it overflows with gratitude. For Max’s buddies in Limp Bizkit, Deftones and Fear Factory pitching in and for the opportunity at a fresh start.
Subject to Change
For all their anti-pop posturing Slipknot had some incredible pop instincts. The sturm-und-drang of “Wait and Bleed,” “My Plague,” and “Left Behind” may have packed the mosh pit
but their million dollar choruses are what sold plastic. Cleveland Ohio’s Sw1tched must have noticed this when plotting their debut Subject to Change. Re-imagining Iowa as produced by Mutt Lange instead of Ross Robinson, Sw1tched excised the 7+ minute excursions and freaky-deaky SFX to make room for fat hooks and bone rattling bounce riffs. Songs like “Inside” and “Walk Away,” have massive choruses and waste no time getting there. Slipknot had three drummers? Sw1tched have one and when they compliment him with a single conga on “Spread” it’ll break your neck.
13 Ways to Bleed On Stage
[Flip Records; 2000]
“Leave me alone '' is one of nu-metal’s all time touchstones. The desire or demand to have another exit their own immediate surroundings has powered entire careers. But
if other nu-metal bands just wanted to be left alone then Cold made music for people who got their wish and are surprised nobody came back to get them. Scooter Ward, one of the few post-grunge frontmen to find an interesting approach to the yarl, sings like a man with his head in his lap, hoping in equal measure nobody bothers him and someone asks what’s wrong. Songs like “End of the World'' and “Sick of Man'' owe as much to Massive Attack as they do Ministry while “Just Got Wicked” and “Send In the Clowns'' remind that this band can rage as good as they mope.
35. Dry Kill Logic
The Darker Side of Nonsense
Following the smash success of Slipknot’s debut (and, to a regrettably greater extent, Nickelback’s) Roadrunner Records, flush with cash and influence, snapped up some truly
excellent nu-metal bands, one of whom, Dry Kill Logic, found a fresh spin on the drop tuned metal attack that was big at the time by twining it with a little wink. From opening track “Nightmare” carving its chorus into a tree for you (“Me + You = Nightmare, I say”) to prototypical weepy acoustic finale “Goodnight” resolving immediately to “Seb,” (sole lyric: "Seb get the fuck up, the fuck out) that sense of humor is what keeps an album of such divorced guy energies (“I can see he’s a better man than me / What you want what you need” goes one furious and really quite pragmatic lyric) from ever getting too bogged down. Helped along by a massive drum mix that showcases tick tom tom drums and a battering kick, The Darker Side of Nonsense goes harder and heavier than the vast number of bands in its very crowded lane. Sure, other nu-metal albums had their songs about the pain, the anger, the hurt, the hating but did any of them have the genius to interpolate a Spice Girls song while doing it?
[Sony Music; 2004]
America owned nu-metal. In fact, we owned nu-metal to such a degree that we robbed ourselves of albums like MaNga whose every second boasts the fact that it’s created by a
Turkish band. Replete with arabesque strings and lush Persian scales, MaNga takes the rapping/singing/turntables formula and drops it into an Ankara recording studio. A nu-metal band well outside the American music scene that nonetheless commands hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, MaNga is an excellent hybrid of styles that never shows the seams holding them together. As racing strings, turntables, tremolo guitars and rap cadences rush together in perfect harmony on “Bir Kadın Çizeceksin” you might forget about Bakersfield, California all together.
33. Missile Girl Scoot
[Toshiba EMI Ltd; 2001]
Far enough down the nu-metal iceberg you eventually start finding bands so obscure that they're not even on websites with twenty download buttons and enough sketchy
coding that your own browser has to ask if you’re sure about this. Take Missile Girl Scoot. Unless you own a Japanese Spotify subscription you don’t know and can’t know about them. Forget Spotify, most of their music isn’t even on YouTube. They're simply not around. Far from the kind of avant garde that makes a band obscure, Missile Girl Scoot created nu-power-pop rapcore so bright and bubbly it demands to be shared. Wanderland, their magnum opus, dips and dives between “Get Back”s fuzzed out nu-garage, “Don’t Rely On Me”s playful taunting, “Everytime It Rains” anime end credits balladry, and “Thick Forest”s haunted, minimal wander. It shouldn’t work all on one album but it does, enough so that you’d swear this is a greatest hits. Rapper U-Ri has a Salt-N-Pepa esque playfulness to her flow while singer Junn’s high keening melodies possess an ineffable cotton candy sweetness. Wanderland is never anything less than delightful and you won’t rest till it has delighted everyone you know.
32. Limp Bizkit
Three Dollar Bill, Y’all
[Flip Records; 1997]
Before they’d become the poster boys for record label excess Limp Bizkit were lean, mean and hungry as hell. Fred Durst, a hustler to the bone, had his band performing in
parking lots, paying radio stations to play "Counterfeit" (with a disclaimer of course, no payola here), and recording an irresistibly disrespectful cover of an 80s pop classic (“Faith”) that would, naturally, become their breakout hit. While never some Rakim level MC, Durst remains an underrated rapper whose enthusiasm and love of the game takes him places the conventionally skilled would never go. The flows and layered cadences of “Stuck” won’t be leaving your brain anytime soon while he attacks opener “Pollution” with a ravenously infectious energy. Meanwhile, guitarist Wes Borland has a ball finding clever ways of deconstructing the fretboard of a 7-string guitar. “Counterfeit”s big bounce riff is little more than a-tonal clunks and some touch harmonics while skilled flowing taps lace “Sour” and “Stalemate” with dense thickets of clean melody. Together, Durst and Borland strike a perfect yin-yang balance if said yin-yang is tattooed on a drunk Florida Man’s left bicep. When it was time to hit the road in support of Three Dollar Bill, Y’all the prospect of schlepping from one half empty club to another wasn’t very appealing to Freddy D. Instead he launched Ladies Night In Cambodia. Why is it “Ladies Night?” Chicks get in for free. The tour was a smash. “Faith” made MTV and soon Three Dollar Bill Y’all would be platinum. Clever guy, that Fred Durst.
31. 40 Below Summer
Invitation to the Dance
[London-Sire Records Inc; 2001]
After a half decade of straight jackets, face paint, masks and murder fantasies the market was starting to turn on nu-metal’s wild n’ crazy side. Linkin Park and Papa Roach were
both going multi-platinum singing about ordinary pressures and pain wearing outfits that could have come from any mall in America while Korn and Slipknot were forced to adapt or die. By this token 40 Below Summer were practically a throwback, singer Max Illidge's sputters and howls would have been at home anywhere in ‘95, but the songwriting was unmistakably of its time. Along with bands like Disturbed and Drowning Pool; 40 Below Summer were wedding pre-millennium nu-metal antics with modern rock radio ready production but 40 Below’s careful craft that set them apart. Their debut album, Invitation to the Dance, is all clever songwriting as tense middle-eights resolve to huge choruses, breakdowns veer into thrash, and “Falling Down,” which connects disparate sections into a side breaking anthem. Less reliant on big bounce riffs, songs like “Rope” and “Electric Smile” have layered choruses that give way to wild fits of shrieking. The tension between chaos and control is cultivated, over and over, until “Drown”s titanic swoon brings it all to a head. “Stop this life” Illige mutters, “I cannot stop this life” sounding for all the world like a man unsure what’s going to take him out first; the band or the bottle.
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