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20. Emil Bulls
Angel Delivery Service
[Island; 2001]

There’s a reason people grow up embarrassed about their time as a nu-metal fan, this is embarrassing stuff. Nu-metal has an occasionally deserved reputation for being misogynistic. Petty men making petty songs about being denied by the women they mistreat. However, on a musical level

it can be quite honest. Nu-metal's misogyny is shrieked and wailed in adolescent temper tantrums barely disguised by melodic or poetic remove. Though this approach may not completely absolve songs like “Nookie” or “Down with the Sickness” of their crimes it does go a ways at justifying their existence (and enjoyment.) Hailing from Munich Germany,  Emil Bulls’ major label debut, Angel Delivery Service, is one of the most misogynist albums the genre has ever produced. Every one of its 13 tracks is dedicated at least in part to seething at some poor woman who invoked the wrath of lead singer  Christoph Van Freydorf, who goes by - I shit you not - “Christ” for short. When he implores a demon girl to “shake your ass for me” on “Smells Like Rock n Roll” or brags about giving a “queen” with “perky breasts” the cold shoulder on “Chickeria” you’ll be in awe at the obliviousness on display. Does “Christ” really not understand the common denominator here?

Like Weezer’s incel-opus Pinkerton before it, Angel Delivery Service runs cover for a maladjusted white man’s screed at a world of women that have the nerve to not want to fuck him concealed by a faux sensitivity and difficult to deny pop songwriting. But where Pinkerton had music theory chops and sky scraping guitar solos Angel Delivery Service has bounce riffs and turntables. A powerful triple guitar attack and firmly thwacked bass guitar backed up by a drum kit made of trash cans propel Angel Delivery Serivice’s most loathsome moments heavenward on irresistible breakdowns and choruses. When the aforementioned and intensely problematic “Smells Like Rock ‘n Roll” or “Chickeria” drop into primally satisfying bounce riffs, you’ll beg god above to forgive your rhythmically banging head. 

While Pinkerton’s sale was in its sincerity, Christoph van Freydorf takes the opposite tack. There’s so many funny nudges and nods to self awareness across Angel Delivery Service you have to wonder if Freydorf is just playing a character. At the end of the sickeningly sexist “Style School” he sings “You little creep, it's not good to be like me” A fourth wall poke at you the listener for partaking in such obvious filth, signing off with an irresistible wink: “Furthermore I’m just a singer in this band.” During anti-record company screed “Hi, It’s Me Christ” (that nickname again) he airs out “Drawing board suckers / German hip hop wimps / And company bastards” but makes sure to exempt his own record company (“Of course my label Island not included”) from the grievances. Pendulamate power ballad “Monogamy” has the near refreshing audacity to just declare the obvious; Christoph would like to fuck other people now. Over "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" level strings Christ declares “It's about time to face the facts, our relationship sucks [...] After six years of sex with you I'm blurred. Oh, even a beauty can bore.”

Compelling psychodrama “Resurrected” finds “Christ” finally fulfilling his nick-namesake, retreating to have a little chat with himself, a “dinner tonight” with his id, ego and superego. While there he does some soul searching and decides it’s time to become even worse. “I see myself giggling with this chick while me gets drunk with I.” The man is splitting himself into Freud's psychoanalytic theory and taking the opportunity to flirt with... himself. So, after a desperate Saturday night rave-up (“Tomorrow I’ll Be Back Home”) and the rock bottom hangover (“Wheels of Steel”) our anti-hero reaches his inevitable dark night of the soul with finale “Quiet Night.” A hollow core of rinky drum machines and acoustic guitar accompany Christoph twisting and turning in his sheets, stumbling towards an epiphany. “I’ve had enough now” Yes… “Tired of sex'' Go on “Tired of alcohol” Getting there “I’ve gotta get myself re-arranged” So close! As “Quiet Night” whirrs to a stop you might have convinced yourself that Christ was finally going to grow up and leave such childish things behind but...

Just when you think the curtain’s down, the stage is clear, the house lights are coming on— encore. The album’s true closer is nothing less than an 80s pop cover. And not just any old 80s pop cover but that unrequited love classic “Take On Me.” “Today isn’t my daye-eee to find you shying away,” chides Christ, “I’ll be coming for your love anyway.” You can practically hear him smirking to himself. How easy it must have been to get away with it all. 


19. Kittie
[Artemis; 1999]

Kittie were Bikini Kill by way of The Craft, a real life version of the Hex Girls from Scooby-Doo. They seemed to strike the nu-metal scene in 2000 with a sound so fresh and original all anyone could do was claim them to be the anti-Britney and move on. Spit is nu-metal’s rawest document, 100

proof passion poured to tape and delivered to your headphones.

It’s to producer GGGarth Richardson’s credit that he didn’t force tighter takes out of Kittie. Instead of the Protool’d to perfection sound that was becoming dominant in nu-metal at the turn of the century, Spit has a first take immediacy that will make you want to jump up and start your own band. The playing is loose and the recording raw in a way that summons originators like Adrenaline or Korn’s self titled except where those records were thrashing about to define nu-metal, Spit is the product of four girls trying (and succeeding) to reverse engineer what made those early nu-metal releases so special. In this sense Spit is the first 2nd wave nu-metal album. Where their forebears cited Faith No More and Ministry as influences, Kittie were fans of other nu-metal bands, eagerly embracing the enthusiastic amateurism of their predecessors while striking out on their own lyrically. 

While their compatriots had to grapple with the pain inside, Kittie had to contend with the pain outside. “What do you see in me? I can't go out at night. Answer me.” fumes Lander on “Raven.” The chorus, “Get away from me! Stay the fuck away from me!” could have come from any album on this list, yet here the raw physical threat, the danger of being a teenage girl in a world of lecherous men, is unmistakable. “Choke” is even more straightforward as Lander and guitarist Fallon Bowman team up to directly call out an aspiring pedophilic creep ("There's only one word that describes you and that's 'hypocrite'") Morgan Lander - an outspoken and prodigious leftist even then - takes a song like “Paperdoll,” which would be another tongue click at a shallow female in the hands of an all male group, and instead wields it as a pained statement of empathy as she watches another woman fall to patriarchal pressures. Lander wrote the lyrics to the bruisingly literal “Do You Think I’m A Whore?” when she was only in her late teen years, yet already felt it was necessary to attempt some kind of communication with those that forced the titular question into her brain.

Friendship is where Kittie finds their shelter. Their 2001 home movie, Spit in Your Eye, is a document of how close these four were on the road together; playing pranks and gushing over each other in private interviews. It looks like a blast, one of the least dramatic rock docs ever made. Even in Spit’s darkest moments, that binding passion keeps things from ever getting dour. This is victory. No creep could keep them down or discourage them from following their dreams. No matter how many condescending interviews they had to do or gross comments they endured or scoffs they got from their aggro male peers, Spit is living proof that Kittie will have the last say.


18. Mudvayne
L.D. 50
[Epic; 2000]

Every genre of metal that passed through the halls of nu was better for it. Consider prog, a deathly serious and pointlessly complex genre known for a fascination with fibonacci spirals, numeric code and boring albums. Now consider L.D. 50; Mudvayne’s nu-prog odyssey. While L.D. 50 certainly is 

a lot of those things at times, its nu-metal DNA allows the music to stay loose and keeps it from ever collapsing into monotony. You want number patterns? The riffs on “Nothing to Gein” alternate four and five bars. This was determined, not for music theory reasons, but because they add up to nine, which is a lunar number, and serial killer Ed “Gein” (get it?) performed his grave robbery at night. If this sounds like it wouldn’t make for a particularly good song, well… you’re just gonna have to hear it for yourself, words have finally failed me. 

Nu-metal’s reputation as (mostly) unsexy music is more than earned across L.D. 50. If any fucking is going on to L.D. 50, it is of the biological variety, single celled organisms consuming each other in the primordial stew. This is truly ugly music; a cacophony of disgusting howls and slimy moans issuing forth from Chad Gray. As his grunting and groaning emerges from the intro and into “Dig”‘s commencing cry, it is as if he’s birthing himself from his mother’s swollen egg sac. When Gray breaks into an unmistakably Maynard-croon it feels near parodic and never lasts, there’s another squeal or death rattle on its way.  

If L.D. 50 does have a central element preventing it from fully flying up its own ass it’s Ryan Martine’s unfettered zeal for playing bass. In L.D. 50s linear notes Martine thanks his parents for reminding him “that life is humorous and fun,” a succinct descriptor of his bass technique. Cover to cover Martine is a deverish of creative chord voicings, spindly runs and near parodic levels of slap. While the rest of the band charges forward, stone faced and rabid, Martine is slapping himself through the clouds. The runs on tracks like “Pharmaecopia” and “-1” trace circles, dip, dive and hover; granting levity to the gnashing and grinding within. It’s the kind of zest that makes a record as diabolical as L.D. 50 go down easy. At least, as easy as an album that goes this perversely hard possibly can.


17. Simon Says
Shut Your Breath
[Hollywood; 2001]

Following the success of debut albums like Hybrid Theory, Infest, The Sickness, and Godsmack record labels lost sight of the long game. No more development deals, break big right away or hit the bricks. 40 Below Summer, Boy Hits Car, Element Eighty, Flaw, Apartment 26, Ultraspank,

Stereomud all got dropped after promising debuts became less promising follow ups. Even relatively successful bands like TRUSTCompany saw themselves out on the street after their sophomore record went bust. And that was if you even got to make album two (Pressure 4-5, Professional Murder Music, Injected, Twisted Method, Relative Ash, Deadlights, Factory 81). Or, for that matter, if you got an album one (Dry Cell, Rumblefish). Sacramento, California four piece Simon Says’ story follows. Signed in 1998 for a cool couple million their 1999 debut Jump Start bricked thanks to confused marketing and a sound that lacked a firm “x” factor. But instead of attempting to summon the same pep for album two, something unique happened. Their sophomore album, 2001’s Shut Your Breath, is a commercial failure about how fucking infuriating it is to make a commercial failure.

Shut Your Breath is an album made by dedicated, impassioned strivers with can-do attitudes and eager spirits getting pressure washed off the side of the music industry like so much sea foam and bilge. Jump Start was a bouncy blast of optimistic energy, a band severing ties and looking to the future,  this is that same band returning from the future shipwrecked and wraithlike. “Hey you, I’ll make you an offer a million starving men could not refuse,” seethes Franks, “I’ll break down every fucking living cell in your body.” Guitar feedback greets “Tourniquet” like sleep deprived eyelids hoisting themselves open in front of a computer monitor. “Blister” summons up the heat needed to make a hit single but expends it burning with bitterness; “You’ll beg to be a part of it, you’ll cry when you can’t handle it” warns Franks, a lyric that could be Shut Your Breath’s inky heart. 

Not that this struggle has exhausted the band. On the contrary, failure has rarely sounded so mighty. Drummer Mike Johnson in particular is simply staggering, turning in precision hits and fills with a wallop worthy of Dave Grohl or John Stanier. These creative impulses are so contradicting - how can an album this burnt out and defeated be so violently alive - that Shut Your Breath should feel like a triumph, a miracle of perseverance, but it doesn’t. For all its accuracy, precision, pop instincts and power Shut Your Breath is a failure. A failure so total you can’t even stream it, you have to find the CD or track down a zip file. But it is good, fuck it is so good. “Tournaquet” features the album’s truest lyric: “Uninspired yet motivated, losing track of the days.” Here we are, locked up in this studio that we’re somehow paying for out of our advance and left for dead, out of ideas and well into the 11th hour, but we’re going to make the best album of our careers anyways because fuck you. The resonance it has to the modern age is palpable; this is the sound of the unpaid internship going nowhere, the dream gig working you to death for minimum wage, the degree paying for nothing except the salary of someone you’ll never meet. Shut Your Breath is the howl building in the back of the throats of everyone that did everything right and watched it all come out wrong. 


16. One Minute Silence
Buy Now...Saved Later
[V2; 2000]

From Das Kapital to Rage Against the Machine to American Psycho critiques of capitalism have maintained a special grip on our pop culture as their predictions and commentary only continues to grow in truth. Nu-metal, it must be admitted, participated in capitalist excess more than

any genre of rock or metal before it. In a hard right turn away from grunge’s integrity, posturing nu-metal bands threw themselves at their record companies; signing insane deals, ballooning album budgets to seven figures, fronting their own aggressive promotional campaigns, signing each other to vanity labels, happily corporations and collaborating with their marketing departments and appearing in television commercials all without a second thought. It was the beginning of rock’s post-sellout period where anything and everything goes. 

Released on April 10th, 2000– Buy Now…Saved Later tries to thread the same needle of political integrity and commercial success Rage Against the Machine was passing through but instead of Zach De La Rocha’s righteous indignation, singer Bryan “Yap” Berry is a nervous mess. Yap isn’t rapping as much as he is panicking on beat. This is political rock as post-punk legends Gang of Four imagined it; aware enough to understand politics is violence, informed enough to be horrified, yet comfortable enough so all you can muster is a slightly defocused gape at the horror of it all. These aren’t Rage Against the Machine songs— this is the inner monologue of the suit and tie yuppie listening to Rage Against the Machine on his morning commute. Lyrics flit by like headlines running up your phone screen (“A million dead,” “One small step means McDonalds in space” ) while casual aphorisms paper over the nightmare (“Another day another dollar,” “Same as yesterday,” ). “16 Stone Pig” opens with police brutality and racial profiling (“They say he struggled they say he fell, I say he found himself black in a pig cell”) before drowning it in banalities (“Never know what life's gonna throw at you,” “Based on a true story”) and rapid fire buzzwords (“Start it stop it fuck 'em drop it pass the popcorn shut the fuck up!”) until the whole thing unravels into nothing. A final cry of “for what it’s worth!” clicks the X and the window closes. 

Veering away from the post-Faith No More wackiness and gated drum sounds of Available in All Colors, One Minute Silence dive into millennial tensions on the sterling Buy Now…Saved Later, opting for an ultra-clean mix that gives each clean a chamber to ring in and every distorted chord a cone to shred. Guitar notes are preserved to the point you can hear the pick flicking against the strings. The bass guitar has a satisfying shine to it that renders it distinct from the muddy slapping their contemporaries were deploying while the drums effortlessly pop through the mix. It’s an auditory delight, so crispy and sharp you’ll want to invest in a better stereo just to get closer to the sound 

In the same way nu-metal’s capitalistic “anything to succeed” death drive feels predictive of modern day hustle culture, Buy Now…Saved Later resonates with our contemporary helplessness; the feeling of understanding things are broken and watching the solutions go ignored or actively worked against. Closing number, “Words,” sounds like something resolved, a fresh start. It opens with misty guitar washes that patiently cohere into Yap’s tentative  singing. “For words they fought and words they fell and words alone,” he contemplates. Then for the chorus he finds his fire again, yelling out “Here we are! Dawn of a new day! Fuck how it looks! Fuck yesterday!” But that optimism is shredded as soon as it arrives. “I’m not saying forget, that’s not what I’m saying,” pleads Yap. “Fuck freedom if I'm not alive to live it/I'll fight for it/I won't kill or die for it/This is a rich man's world/Let the rich man fight for it!” Finally, the uneasy denouement; even after acknowledging that words are all that compel men against each other Yap can’t quite pin himself down. The contradictions and differing ideas won’t resolve. So as Yap wails the album’s final refrain,  “I tried to see it your way!”, it sounds like a bayonet thrust into an enemy's chest over and over until it is done.


15. Spike 1000
Waste of Skin
[Columbia; 2000]

Bakersfield CA’s Spike 1000 formed in 1990 and released their major label debut album in 2001. That means, in the time it took them to get one album out they saw: Bill Clinton elected, friendly neighbors Korn signed, Clinton reelected, Korn go multi platinum AND Bill Clinton’s

impeachment just for their major label debut album to drop in the same quarter as 9/11. It was assumed by the music industry powers that be that 9/11 would destroy the American appetite for heavy music which is how Slipknot’s Pledge of Allegiance tour gets postponed, System of a Down banned, Fred Durst on TV singing “Wish You Were Here,“ and bands like Spike 1000 have their careers buried. 

Columbia Records certainly wasn’t going to try and break new heavy acts and thus, after a decade chasing their moment, Spike 1000 gets wasted by a much bigger one. But that debut album, Waste of Skin, is not to be missed. Created by an already road tested band, it has the confidence of a greatest hits and the urgency of a debut. A completely filler-free collection of anthems for the alive and pissed, Waste of Skin twists 60s blues rock and 90s riot grrrl around a bass sound stringy and dead as a fish struggling to free itself from a hook. Singer Shannon Harris wields her voice like a battle axe; cleaving the skulls of shitfaced manwhores in two with ease. Never succumbing to unhinged screaming, Harris instead traffics in cool confidence only raising her voice to make her point like she’s keeping her cool for your sake not hers, espousing the type of feminism that erupts from having to deal with shitty men far more than you read about them. When she declares on “Manwhore,” “Let me tell you you’re fighting me for no good reason,” it distills so much solidarity down to a handful of stern words. 

Strength is the operative word here. Spike 1000 sounds tough as nails from “Measure Me”’s nu-metal throwdown to “Take Me Over”s roaring power ballad. Only on finale “Prime” does the guard slip. A song about trying to impress bored A&Rs at label showcases (“I don’t wanna be as you hex me, she sits judging me”) the band falls away for the chorus; “Here- is my prime” delivered in a gasp, ten years of striving all to beg for a shot on a stage. Then the meekness falls away and it becomes a roar; “Here- Is my prime.” In that second you can hear Shannon Harris shed the moment and become the movement. The 90s, nu-metal, Columbia Records, first week sales; none of it exists or matters. This is her prime for all of history to discover. 


14. Snot
Get Some
[Geffen; 1997]

Formed in 1995, Santa Barbra five piece Snot were harder, faster, funkier, funnier and simply better than the rest. Their debut album - 1997’s Get Some - was to be the start of a grand career. Instead it would prove a triumphant finale. Like Ric Flair putting on Jim Carrey’s Mask, lead singer

Lynn Strait is a madcap microphone menace, rarely singing and instead roaring with a phlegmatic intensity so thick you can feel it hitting your ears. No power ballads here, this is pedal to the nu-metal; expertly splitting the difference between hardcore punk and Coal Chambered nu. The wildly funny “Deadfall” is literally a plot recap of the 1993 movie of the same name (Chorus: “Who sent ya? Sam-fuckin-Peckinpa!) “Mr. Brett” is a rapid fire duet with Lunachick’s Theo Kogan, telling off some punk-rock lifer with the kind of intensity they could presumably never summon, a fun counterbalance to “I Jus Lie”s gross sendup of scumbag Southern California living.

Strait may drink and fuck like he’s 19 but the consequences of his late 20’s self are never far from his mind. On “The Box”, he considers the years between his childhood dreams and his current attempt to “grab the brass ring” titular “Box” referring to the solitary confinement of prison where Strait draws parallels between a prisoner anticipating the electric chairs and the sum total of his own death march. “There got to be something else / The blame I place on myself,” he hollers, “Behind tired eyes / The demon's stir.” It’s a moment of tragic resonance, a man destined for his own accidental automotive electric chair writing about what it may mean to die so abrupt.

While Strait’s enormous personality simply has to crowd the frame, Snot wouldn’t have worked without Jamie Miller, whose style feels something like a great jazz drummer given an unlimited supply of meth for a permanent gig on a cargo ship out to sea. His ride cymbal triplets on “Tecato” or the limbs akimbo smashing of “Snot” are the engine to this out of control good time, anchoring a rock solid band behind a singer with his foot firmly to the floor.

Lynn Strait was in tragically good company when he died in a car accident in 1998 at the age of 29 but unlike his other 90s musical martyrs he left nothing behind that suggested this end was inevitable. Instead the music Strait graced us with is so unbelievably, vividly alive that there’s no way to grieve when it’s on. Strait wouldn't have wanted it that way either, he’d want you to live it up for him. Snot were one tiny flash in a pan but they were one of the spiciest flashes around. They wanted heaven, hell, and the handbasket— Get Some is Snot curling its fingers around all three before fate snatched it away.


13. Korn
Life is Peachy
[Immortal; 1996]

In 1996 when Korn and Ross Robinson reunited at the Indigo Ranch to begin work on what would become Life is Peachy there was a positive energy in the air. No more determined amateurs, by 1996 Korn’s debut was speeding towards gold, contemporaries like Deftones and Coal Chamber had put

out their debut albums, and dozens more of what would soon be known as nu-metal bands were getting snapped up by major labels in a sudden post-Cobain era. Korn were at the head of a massive breaking wave, and decided to use that opportunity to get nice and weird with it. 

What makes Life is Peachy Korn’s strongest full length isn’t simply its consistency, clarity of sequencing, and straight up viciousness; it’s about how fun it is. Before the rest of their career on wax would be consumed by ‘the pain’ and/or ‘the hating,’ Life is Peachy finds the Bakersfield boys in a pretty damn good mood. Opening with 49 seconds of wordless scatting, goofing on War’s “Lowrider,” inviting Chino Moreno to cover “Wicked.” Even when it doesn’t totally work (“K@#*%!”) it helps to balance the album’s more straightforward bangers. Which, by the way, are really really great.

“Good God” features one of Jonathan Davis’ best vocal performances, with a right up to the microphone intensity that sounds like he’s crawling through the speaker to scream in your face. When “Swallow” breaks down to an irresistible “Fuck yes” then again for a quick “whoo,” it's thrilling, a Live Jonathan Davis Reaction to such impossibly heavy music. “A.D.I.D.A.S.” overcomes its decrepit subject matter through some shockingly developed pop-instincts, its compact 02:34 runtime and slick MTV breakthrough music video anticipating more straightforward pop nu-metal groups to come. 

Across Life is Peachy, the dead-serious collides with the utterly goofy. On “Mr Rodgers”, the band takes the phenomenally unpopular position that the titular children’s entertainer is, in fact, a “dumb old man.” But when the choruses cry “My childhood is gone!” it’s sincerely sad. Grim closer “Kill You” appears to be succeeding the similarly lengthy childhood trauma opus “Daddy” from their debut before it drops a spectacularly silly middle-eight: “With a knife up your ass, laying dead / So I pop some more caps in your ass / Now your son is not so fun.” If you wanted to write a MadTV parody of Korn’s music you wouldn’t have to change a word. 

Home videos from the era showcase the band’s pre-fame-hangover good vibes; guzzling beers and riding each other’s energy up at Indigo Ranch. It’s almost painfully nostalgic in retrospect, five Bakersfield losers who had just caught the world’s ear milling about on a California summer's day, standing between the uncertainty of their debut and the A-list pressures of massive fame to come, basking inside a brief beaming moment. All of their dreams were coming true, nothing to do but swig some Coors light and make the best music of their lives. 


12. Nothingface
[TVT; 2003]

Ilya Kamilsky’s poem We Lived Happily During the War concludes; 

“In the street of money in the city of money in the country of money, our great country of money, we (forgive us) lived happily during the war.” 

Released at the beginning of the Iraq War, Nothingface’s Skeletons is about trying and failing to live a happy life in the street of money in the city of money, in the great country of money, during the war. Skeletons is politics colliding with the personal; when the awareness of how the world works starts to break down your ability to function within it, all soundtracked by a vengeful nu-metal firestorm

“Machinations' ' sets the stakes, a protagonist in a mental hospital waiting to be robotized for the dark government. “Let’s start a new nightmare” whispers Holt between guitars that stab like cuts in an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. “A patsy is useful, a window with a view.” Trapped in a place where you “read Catcher in the Rye one hundred and ten fucking times” before being “brainwashed and programmed.” Where on previous album Violence Matt Holt was in perfect concerto with the rest of Nothingface in their pursuit of vengeance, here they turn on him, digging around his brain with jump scare guitar stabs, middle-eights of tinkling cabaret bells and a gentle threat; “Be patient we’ll be calling you.” 

In 2003, you still had to work to stay informed, doomscrolling wasn’t a thing nor the social media platforms that made it so horribly possible, yet singer Matt Holt sounds like he’s been locked up in a basement swiping through whatever miserable memes and tweets would have been coming out of the early Iraq War anyway. Whether raging at corporate rock radio (“I Wish I Was a Communist”) record label politics (“Big Fun at the Gallows”) or a runaway military industrial complex (“Ether”) you have to acknowledge he’s making some points while also wishing he’d log off for his sanity’s sake too. Singing like a demon and writing like the only man on earth that can see them, Holt infuses nu-metal angst with real work fury.  “Here Comes the Butchers” is, literally, righteously vengeful against a catholic church that exists to protect a global cabal of pedophiles. “Who do you control? You can't control your own priests,” roars Holt while the band whips up a thunderstorm of nu-metal passion around him. “Can’t fool the world again! The book is fucking dead.” These moments of fury burn hot enough to singe, but when Holt does his damndest to set his weapons down it might just move you to tears. On “Patricide”, Holt uses nu-metal’s common lingua francas of pain and hate to interrogate his own depression. (“Anger holds my hands, keeps me in seclusion, a prison”) while “Scission” finds solace inside an underground mass grave of catacombs recognizing it’s “not far to go.” When “Incarnadine” suddenly becomes an acoustic ballad, thinking about the effort it must have taken for Holt to sing pretty is so heavy it cracks your heart in two. 

Skeletons is a GW Bush-era album that doesn’t have the smarm or self-congratulatory airs of other distinctly Bush-era releases like American Idiot or the Rock Against Bush compilation. Instead it sounds both weary and fucking infuriated that it has to exist at all. Songs like “Beneath” and “Ether” are as vividly catchy as anything that was actually on the radio at the time but they're too misanthropic, too nu-metal, to be played on any terrestrial radio station. And Nothingface knew it. So as Skeletons hurdles to a close on “All Cut Up” Holt screams at us, TVT Records, his band, and America; “Are you satisfied!?” Three times then bang. Finished. 


11. Orgy
[Elementree; 1998]

There comes a moment during the intake of certain synthetics when you stop asking yourself if you’re feeling it and start really feeling it. As the world arounds you sharpens into sheets of snowy static you manage one last sober thought; “Oh shit there it is.”  That surreal feeling is

what the very beginning of Orgy’s 1999 psychopanopticon masterwork Candyass sounds like. The industrial wallop of “Social Enemies” is the bumpers on your brain falling down and the bowling ball that is your mind ricocheting out of the lane.  

Candyass delivers on the promise that was Korn’s 1998 disco demolishing “Got the Life,” vacuuming as many chic euro styles as one band possibly can (New Order, Gary Neumann, The Human League, David Bowie) and running it through a nu-metal filter to produce something that still sounds utterly unique. Where other nu-metal albums would be content to riff, this whooshes. “Dissection” features the album’s clearest bounce riff, but even then it’s  blown out and surrounded by the kind of electronic drums that could only come from a kit made of octagonal pads. “Social Enemies,” one of nu-metal’s all time great album openers, is a post-apocalyptic cover band trying to put Nine Inch Nails songs back together for a zombie rave. “Stitches” both anticipates electroclash and witch-house while stridently rocking harder than both.
Frontman Jay Gordon has a mastery of language and an utter disdain for those that would hear it. Already 30, he’s old enough to be over the party scene while suddenly famous enough to be catching his second wind. Where his peers moaned about being stars in the dope show, Gordon seemed to actually enjoy it. “Hold back your virtues,” he tempts, “You’re fearless in motion.” Gordon’s optimal way to walk off the buzz is with friends (“Walking with the deadbeats down the street”) while strange chemicals make their last stand (“I’m infinite”/“I want everything”) “Blue Monday” cleverly flips a line from New Order’s 12-inch classic (“How does it feel to treat me like you do?”) into an angst-fried chorus that pivots the song from sleek professionalism to goth throwdown. 

Inevitably, there’s the morning after. Closer “Dizzy” taunts, throwing drum machines around the room while mocking you for being “just another pretty face in a room full of whores.” After Candyass’ bountiful pleasures have exhausted themselves “Dizzy” is the feeling of waking up with a head full of ache and that strange suspicion you crossed a few lines last night you cannot uncross: “You’ve made a mess of everything you’re a mess a fucking mess.” 

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