Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Guilty Pleasures (?): Nine "Nu-Metal" Albums I Own That Only Have A Little Bit Of Dust On Them

In the timeline of "metal" music and amongst all of the subsequent branches of subgenres that run parallel with it, Nu-Metal has become the Disco of it's age. Most traditionalists that never indulged are quick to turn their noses up at it, and many who did jump in looked back and cringed years later. There are all kinds of theories on the alchemy of genres and bands that assisted with it's spawning in the mid-90's, some going as far back as Aerosmith's 'Walk This Way' as the initial catalyst, others citing Anthrax's 'I'm The Man'. What most of those theorists fail to realize is that Nu-Metal is more than just the influx of a Hip Hop influence into the Groove Metal sound. In fact as I sat down to dish this out I realized that the lines are quite blurred when it comes to blue-printing the characteristics that identify this genre from the Alternative Metal sound that came after it and the more groove oriented thrash that was before.

Who gives an ass anyways right? Why the need to characterize things into genres like that anywho? Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' came out of nowhere overnight and buried Hair Metal faster than a rat in a Scorcese flick. The record companies scattered like a buckshot to the garages of Seattle and the West Coast and signed hundreds - if not thousands of bands that never stood a chance of being heard outside of their zip codes prior to Nevermind's release. The market was flooded with honest to goodness bands playing for the love of music, not for the fast lane life of booze, poon, pills and popularity. The guy working at your gas station could have been somebody's John Lennon. It was good ol' rock and roll, but because it hadn't been in the spotlight for damn near a decade it was labeled Grunge. It wasn't called Grunge in the 70's, with the likes of Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen up there just being honest with themselves and their audiences. I guess we just do it to segregate a group so they're easier to target. Whether we shower it with praise or piss, we do it with people, we do it with art, we do it with music. It's just a simpler way to make brash generalizations about something without giving forth the effort of finding it's individuality, and I'm guilty as hell of doing it too.

While the more groove orientated metal bands of the early 90's like Pantera, Prong and even Chaos-era Sepultura shared more with the honest to goodness music-first-everything-else-second values of "Grunge", their thrash-as-a-backseat hook-laden heaviness had a major impact on the up and commence of Nu - Metal. As did the emergence of bands like Biohazard and Rage Against The Machine, whose talent for meshing rap and heavy metal was still a very rare thing, thus making it wickedly fun, interesting and unabashedly awesome. Unfortunately most Nu-Metal bands also borrowed from the gimmicky fashion nonsense of Hair Metal, utilizing colored hair, rubber masks, piercings galore, and Hip Hop fashion as an added dose of theatricality and identity in their genre.

I have a soft spot for Nu-Metal, I was only 16 when it started to congeal itself into the heavy music scene so I was still foaming for anything accessible yet different in the metal genre.  I had a foundation in the likes of bands like Slayer, Anthrax, and Testament, but a strong passion for the brazen and emotive heaviness of groups like Pantera, Face-palm-era Napalm Death, and Fear Factory. I was drawn to the emerging of Nu-Metal's fresh sound of drop-tuned seven string guitars, and the schizophrenic and emotionally purging scats of some of the genre's better frontmen. I even identified with and enjoyed the naked and in your face lyrics - why dress up the idea of hating a girl you want to bang in symbolism and innuendo when you could just fucking say 'I love you slut', that felt real to me - and as a painfully shy and introverted 16 year-old shut-in it was also very identifiable.

I never went ape shit about the whole thing to the point where I found myself pawning the likes of Methods of Mayhem albums 5 years later or anything like that, so I was still pretty selective about what I was buying (though I did recently come across an Ultraspank CD that I have no recollection of ever listening to let alone purchasing). What I think gets lost on most people who blush and back peddle when you find their Limp Bizkit collection in the back of the closet behind their yearbooks is that every genre only has a handful of really good bands in it, and the rest is just this ocean of shit or legion of lemmings you're sometimes forced to wade through.  Black Metal, Death Metal, Thrash, Grindcore... To find a band like Discordance Axis you have to sometimes tolerate recockulousness like Prostitute Disfigurement and Throatplunger - not to mention the legions of clones that want to be the next Discordance Axis, like Noisear, Asterisk, and Vertigo Index. Manowar anyone?

 Nu-Metal was a pit stop for me on the way to the niche of the more extreme ventures of sound I have found myself nuzzled in for the last decade or so. There are aspects of it that I enjoyed then that I look for in my music today - such as the multi-facets of a non-monosyllabic vocalist and the occasional sonic experimentation of noises as riffs. Not to mention the exploration of other emotions in the spectrum of the dark side of the human experience besides just anger and hate. I think there are a whole lot of elitists out there who aren't too honest with themselves or the people they look down on when it comes to flashing back to the latter half of the nineties and what they may or may not have indulged in at the time. So below is a little overview of some of the albums that were spat forth when Nu-Metal was the thick of it that I still come back to every now and then and still get my bud plumping - since I told you I never really went ape shit about the whole thing, I never delved too deep into the underworld of the genre to see what it had to offer, so most of them are the heavy hitters you'd expect. Now that I'm considering it I don't think I'd go so far as to call any of the following records guilty pleasures, as I openly believe they are each respectable in their own right and have no qualms about their appropriateness in anybody's collection. But it's probably not a conversation I'm going to start on the floor at next months Napalm Death / Exhumed show.

Korn - Korn

Korn - Life Is Peachy

Korn is kind of tricky because they did their best work outside of the scene, meaning they kind of started the whole ball rolling. So while so many other bands were so impressed with Korn's sound, it still took them years to get their shit together and put something out that sounded exactly like them. In the meantime Korn had plenty of time to bask in the glow of being an insanely original concept in the metal world. So how can you consider them part of a movement that hadn't started yet? Because they unwittingly started it? To file these two albums as part of the same Nu-Metal scene that spawned the likes of Nonpoint and Powerman 5000 is flat out fucking wrong. Because there was no scene. They weren't riding any waves, they were making them. They were the quake that sent the Tsunami waters crashing into and flooding the land. People forget that unfortunately.

Close your eyes (actually wait till you're done reading this) and imagine a parallel universe where Korn never got popular. A world where 'A.D.I.D.A.S.' never caught on and Follow The Leader was never recorded. Where all we had were these two albums from this band and we never heard from them again. Living in that world would be aggravating, the wonder, the longing to know what just one more album from them would have ended up sounding like. Acid Bath's amazing blackened swamp blues/thrash never caught on, probably never would have, they left us two phenomenal albums and then disassembled, never to play together again. It fuckin' pisses me off, but those two albums - When The Kite String Pops and Pagan Terrorist Tactics - and the paradigm of what could have been, and what my imagination conceives it would have been, makes the aura of that band all the more great. That's what Korn should have been, and if that's what they had been nobody would have a problem with them. Horrible clones wouldn't have come oozing out of the musical woodwork in their wake watering down the genre until it was insipid and intolerable. They wouldn't have become cliche' fucking clowns of themselves in ridiculous attempts to stay both original and relevant. They simply would have been an insanely amazing stamp in the timeline of heavy music, having come and gone and left their respected mark.

On the album inserts they appeared as dirty, dreadlocked, abused meth-heads. Their music was dry and loose, so low you could hear the bass strings rattle and snare drum vibrate. The vocals were completely bent, ferocious, guttural one moment and then innocently quivering the next. Ranting, raving, crying and yelling about abusing yourself and being abused, drug paranoia, isolation, all between the occasional fit of incoherent schizophrenic gibberish. It was dark, and demented. I was 16 years old when I bought 'Korn', and I remember the off-putting feeling after having listened to the album in it's entirety for the first time in my room that night. From the first cymbal ride to the moment you hear the door hinge squeak at the end of 'Daddy',  no record had ever made me feel that uncomfortable before, it seemed absolutely genuine in it's delivery - and I listened to it again. I'd never heard anything like it.

Even 'Life Is Peachy', which sounds more like a bunch of B-sides that didn't make the cut on the band's debut than an actual body of work in and of itself, still has a dark genuineness to it that when compared to the rest of the band's later discography was often duplicated but never replicated. Get rid of 'Low Rider', 'Wicked', and arguably maybe even 'K@#0%!' (despite that fantastic riff) and you have another original and dizzying trip into the dark funk of drug induced dementia.

But it unfortunately didn't end there, and we all know how it turned out after that. On later album inserts they would appear in their eyeliner and sponsored Puma get ups, tough guy posturing for the camera, maybe an occasional Calvin Klein ad. Kilts, MTV Cribs, specially designed microphones, rap star cameos, porn star wives, finding Jesus, dub step...oy veh.  I listen to a lot of really off-the-wall heavy shit, and I still think that 'Korn' is both sonically and thematically one of THE heaviest records out there. These guys did something real that hadn't been done before (a co-worker of mine at the time who claimed to once live near Bakersfield and once smoked a tampon in front of me told me that Coal Chamber actually pioneered the sound first, but that claim still remains unrequited to this day), and at the time I'd have bet my secret stash of Victoria Secret catalogues that it would have never caught on the way it had, let alone ripple through the metal community the way it did and influence damn near the entire genre - it was just too different for people to grasp and way too inaccessible. But while I HATE the fact they broke out and it all went down the way it did, I do admire the populous that flocked to it the way they did. I was happy to see that there were more fucked up kids out there like me foaming at the mouth for something to push the boundaries at the time.

Deftones - Around The Fur

I almost wasn't going to put this on here because truthfully I don't throw this on all that often these days. In my opinion Deftones are one of the most exciting bands out there and they just keep getting better with each release. It's awesome to see a band change their sound so gradually and so gracefully, so much so that they've shed damn near all of the stigma that most people place on the roots of where their sound came from. But in a yang to the ying that is Korn, Deftones' later catalogue makes their early work sound all the more mediocre to me. Maybe mediocre is a horrible word to use, because you can't deny the unique sound this band has had since day fuckin' one, and 'Around The Fur' still holds water today. The crooning, the lyrics, that meat-cutter riffing with a staggering organic beat - nobody else really sounds or sounded like them.

I wore this CD out when it was released. I dug 'Adrenaline' when it came out, but the lack of bottom end in the production at the time (I ain't like that anymore) left so much to be desired for me. I probably may not have even bothered picking up 'Around The Fur' when it came out if it wasn't for me absolutely loving the sound and more unhinged direction they were heading in on the track 'Teething', which appeared on the Crow 2 soundtrack damn near a year and a half before 'Around The Fur' was released. Needless to say the album didn't disappoint.

With a penchant for pummeling the listener before soaring with them through the open air, a sonic trait they continue to hone in on and masterfully improve with each new release, Deftones always make you wonder what's going to come next. From the pensive release of 'My Own Summer', to the dirty dark summer-in-a-basement sounds of 'Mascara', to the uninhibited open road ahead of 'Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)' to the bouncy fuck-you-upness of 'Head Up' - 'Around The Fur' runs the gamut and feels vibrantly chromatic in it's experience. Even the hidden track 'Damen' is arguably the best thing on the album, and yet buried in the aftermath making it such a pain in the ass to get to. Yeah, this record was an arrow splitting the arrow of things to come.

I didn't put any of their other albums on the list because I really don't feel like they have any other links to the Nu-Metal genre, not even sure this record should be tied in with it, but since it is so close to 'Adrenaline's rant/rap fueled poop storm of dissonant So Cal punk/funk metal I figured maybe most would look at it that way - not that it's a red 'A' on a band's history or anything like that, I just appreciate a shedding of the skin when it happens successfully. 'White Pony' was enough of a departure from their peers for me to realize that what they've been doing since then is a genre that's yet to be stamped. Evolution done right.

System Of A Down - System Of A Down

System Of A Down - Toxicity

By 1998, Nu-Metal - comprised mostly of it's generically titled subgenres 'Rap Metal' and 'Alternative Metal' (eye rolling and apologies for the ridiculousness of the genre profiling here) was charging forward full steam ahead as a whole goddamn scene in itself. And per se, I was ready for something new, different, and a tad more off-the-wall / boundary leaning. System Of A Down's self-titled debut couldn't have come out at a better time. This was some exciting shit. It was like somebody mainlined spaz juice into an ADD riddled Rage Against The Machine with the shock collars over-charged and malfunctioning. Don't agree with that comparison? Both spatter forth intelligent and researched testimonies about the atrocities of current global policies and the conspired wars and big business profiteering that comes in the end result of human suffering. Both deliver these in palpably pissed off sermons behind music that is wildly successful in both it's function as the messenger as well as it's undeniable ability to make you want to fucking move. And both transcended what were established modern traditionalist ideas in the often near-sighted genre of heavy metal in which their sound is based. Even their names, bra - Rage Against The Machine? System Of A Down? Damn the man...

I'm not even sure if SOAD can be filed away as an offspring of Nu-Metal or not, but the scene's momentum at the time more than likely was a huge catalyst to their popularity. Their debut was a wickedly clever and infectious hail storm of bouncy thrash-tastic rhythms and heavy-as-a-really-heavy thing riffs on top of a subtle classical Armenian musical influence. Lead vocalist Serj Tankian sounded crazier than a shit-house rat, singing, screaming, grunting, whining - and he looked the part too. And the performances on both 'System Of A Down' and 'Toxicity' are razor sharp, with just enough slop here and there to make it truly feel organic, a testament to the talent of each individual in the group. Only recently did I put the pieces together and realize that these guys were an obvious step for me in the direction of bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Car Bomb, and Botch.

Every song has it's own character in these first two records. It's unfortunate how mainstream media beat the song 'Chop Suey' to absolute death and then defiled it's corpse over and over again. Cause it's a great song, and is arguably the best track to really showcase everything this band does so well, probably the exact reason it happened I guess. I need to go back and give the albums that came after these two another listen, unfortunately for me, from what I've heard there's just too much of that whiney little shit-stick guitarists voice up in the mix on all of the melodic parts, it tends to get like nails on a chalkboard pretty quickly, but maybe that's just me. And live that guy is as annoying as anal leakage, too much 'look at me I'm crazy!!!' posturing - but I suppose there's just too much of that in all of heavy metal and it's off-shoots.

I also think that by the third and fourth album, 'Hypnotize' and 'Mesmerize' (or is it just one double album released separately at different times?) their formula started to become somewhat predictable(though admit I never gave them much of a shot when they were released).... Which isn't always a bad thing, wasn't I the one wishing Korn would have just kept pumping shit out like their first album? I don't have a problem with that though, if you've got something so cleverly original, and you're by leaps and bounds the best at doing what it is you do, so much so that nobody else could even gets close enough to rip you off somewhat obviously (I personally don't know of any groups off the top of my head that blatantly sound similar to SOAD) - then keep on truckin' you crazy Armenian bastards...

Slipknot - Iowa

When Slipknot made their major label debut I didn't stand a chance of turning my nose up at them, even with those ridiculously gimmicky costumes. They were like this stitched together PCP addled Frankenhooker of so much of the music that had helped mold me in my formative teen years. The speed of Slayer, Sepultura's percussive rhythms, the brazen and against the grain 'Fuck You' attitude and groove of Pantera, Fear Factory's (played-out) soaring good cop to bad cop singing, all down-tuned to the key of Korn, with their emotionally writhing stigma to boot as well as their penchant for turning random guitar squeals into twisted riffs. You'd think that in theory that sound wouldn't work, that it would turn out like a big budget superhero movie where the studio tries to cram 6 villains with 6 different storylines into a 2 hour stretch, not the case. Slipknot flaunted a speed and danger that was noticeably absent from other fresh faces in the genre. The debut was a cathartic purging of visceral angst, but the occasional rapping and too occasional record scratching only served as slightly misplaced cartoonish reminders to maybe not take this band too seriously. By 1999 those characteristics in metal music were already way played-the-fuck-out.

In 2001 the band released it's sophomore major label release simply (and awesomely) titled 'Iowa', and this fucker ripped. The aforementioned played-out qualities were dialed down severely, their DJ now playing more the role of a noise man. Slipknot took all of the other characteristics of the debut and doubled down, layered them - bigger, louder, thicker, more pissed off. The fast songs occasionally push past Death Metal levels and flirt with blast beats, admirable traits to inject into your music for a mainstream band on their second album flirting with serious success. I think that may be one of the reasons I dig 'Iowa' as much as I do, there are only a handful of groups I can think of who actually made an effort to be heavier while they were basking in the lime light, 'Iowa' was an example of this.

True, some of the lyrics can be eye-rollingly sophomoric, especially with the use of profanity as syllabic filler, but on some level - if you're willing - you can get past it by simply assuming it's a another representation of getting frustration across even in the frustration of not finding the right words. And they are still wearing those fucking costumes. But this record is passionate, and it feels passionate. Maybe it's just one of those albums that came along at just the right time for me.

'Iowa' was released after Nu-Metal had already had it's hey-day, so maybe it's not fair to put it on this list. It really is an excellent straight-up metal album. It's unfortunate that so many of the traditionalist Slayer and Vulgar-Display-of-Power strokes were so quick to shun these guys when they came out and never gave this record a chance. I mean, I know the costumes don't make it any easier, but I'll put myself out there and say that as far as straight up between-the-lines heavy metal/thrash albums go, I'd put this sucker in the late middle to end of the same list that starts with Sepultura's 'Arise', Pantera's 'Far Beyond Driven' and half of Slayer's discography. It's a beast. Except for 'I Am Hated' - that song fucking sucks, doesn't belong, it's a B-side and it weighs the album down.

The whole album is an amalgam of constant tension-to-release, and the intro, '515' does a great job of setting that tone. Sometimes it's so small you don't notice that it happened, there are about 5 or 6 purges throughout 'Disasterpiece', sometimes it's god-size, like the entire track 'Skin Ticket' or 'Gently'. Slipknot have always been amazing at the burn in some of those slower, more pensive and seemingly directionless pieces. Listening to the record from front to back is like being balled up in a giant closing fist, exhuming every last ounce of energy and strength to keep it from crushing you - until 'Metabolic' winds to a close and the hand opens...and you lay there exhausted - the title track 'Iowa' is your post-coital strychnine-laced cigarette celebrating your survival. The album itself, from start to finish, is a purging and within it are separate purges of synapses you never even realized had the ammunition to still fire.

'Iowa' is a fierce, passionate, and strangely primitive feeling record, a credit I give to the additional percussive elements they infuse. It's not tribal in the traditional sense of that word in metal, as when describing a really shitty Max Cavalera side project, but it's tribal by it's original definition, as in that there is a solidarity there. Except for a few flaws, and a major one being 'I Am Hated ' (that song fucking sucks, doesn't belong, it's a B-side and it weighs the album down), this is damn near a perfect metal record for me. The songs, the vibe, the title of the record, the way the band actually got more extreme as they were getting more popular, the infusion of taboo genres in mainstream metal like Death and Grind, even the awesomely simple and cryptic cover of a goat utilized as the album's artwork. 'Iowa' to this day is a force to be reckoned with. Everything this band did after this just And those stupid fucking costumes....

Nothingface - Pacifier

In his sixth year of college my brother DJ'd  a late night Heavy Metal radio show for the campus station in the duodenum of Illinois. That little gig exposed us to some really cool shit at the time through promotional CD's and of course the stock that was already there at the station, mind you this was long before digital tracks and not too long before the internet really took off. This is how I came across Nothingface, and probably the only reason I ever came across them at all.

It was still pretty early in the Nu-Metal game, all things considered - I had the first two Korn albums and Deftones' 'Adrenaline' and that was pretty much it from that scene. When I came upon Nothingface's 'Pacifier' it was the absolute beginning of the crest of the wave of the Nu-Metal horde that had been well on the way for the last year or so. In the few weeks to months after 'Pacifier' was officially released debut albums from Coal Chamber, Limp Bizkit, Snot and a very rappy Incubus all hit the shelves along with Deftones' 'Around The Fur'. Big business was starting to pay attention. I think that because of the lack of personal over-saturation at the time, Nothingface sounded really fresh and exciting to me, and to be honest, if they hadn't gotten to me then I'd probably have never given it a chance after that influx of the first tier of the budding genre.

I can't stand here and tell you that the album is ground breaking, because it's not, but the heavy influence of both the Nu-Metal genre and the more groove-oriented metal of the early to mid-nineties is portrayed pretty well here. The Korn envy plays a bit strong, with everything from the cover of the album, the lyrics, about half of the vocal performance, this video, and most of the riffs. But there is a brazenness to it as well, a more testosterone fueled light-on-the-Far Beyond Driven quality if you will. For me personally, and this feels spot on - always has - Nothingface sounds like early Slipknot if early Slipknot only had four guys - and by that I mean a vocalist, a guitarist, a bassist and one drummer. It's basic and stripped down with very little studio magic, but the sound and delivery is uncannily similar. The production on 'Pacifier' by todays standards is dated, and probably pretty far from top-notch back in 1997 - but I'll tell you what, I threw this record on for the first time in quite some time the other day and it still got my fists all pent up into little balls.

Vocalist Matt Holt has a pretty identifiable voice and when he's all riled up it comes across pretty effortlessly, which you can take as either good or bad, but for me that lack of palpable strain sometimes feels damn near like phoning it in believe it or not. I feel like even when the vessels in his eyes should be popping and the veins in his neck protruding it just sounds like he can't get past the green into the red, or at least never tries. But never-the-less there are some emotional moments (at least for an 18 year old) on 'Pacifier' that you never really hear coming on first listen, that are still engrained in me to provoke an appropriate reaction all these years later - the last minute and ten seconds of 'Lipsdick' is still one of the most punch-yourself-in-the-face-over-and-over-again moments in all of the genre.

Is it better than Slipknot's 'Vol. 3' or even something like Korn's 'Issues'? I can't sit here and tell you that you'll think it is, so then why is 'Pacifier' on my list and those albums not? I'll be honest, there is a lot of nostalgia to this record for me, I used to listen to it a whole bunch when it came out and I was flying the flag for these bros pretty aggressively upon it's release. Maybe I still come back to it because nobody else that I knew of at the time was listening to it, so it never got overhyped or overplayed when the genre was it's most saturated. Or maybe it just felt honest, like they got it out just ahead of the herd enough to come across as a genuine effort in making a genuine album.

 Their next two records, 'An Audio Guide To Everyday Atrocity' and 'Violence' are basically the same blueprint and sound, but I never enjoyed them as much as I did 'Pacifier'. Probably because by then Slipknot had hit the scene and gave me that fix with a bit more to it.  Though I will admit that their final album 'Skeletons' is arguably the best thing they've done if you're coming into it cold. Well written with good production, and some of the most dynamic stuff they put on record, but with twice as much melody than previous efforts it's closer to the likes of Staind than any of their original influences (maybe a bit of a stretch there but you get the point).

Mudvayne - L.D.50

Korn already had 4 albums out by the time Mudvayne's debut full length was released, so the shit was getting thick by then, and the sound of the genre was beginning to evolve (in a really shitty way). That being said, Mudvayne's first single "Dig" still turned my head pretty hard. With a driving heaviness and creative riffs, not to mention an occasional flirtation with funk buried deep within the tantrums of unpredictable time changes and ugly melody, Mudvayne found themselves a cozy little niche somewhere between the likes of Korn's downtuned groove and Slipknot's toying with speed influence.

But alas, these jerks went the route of gimmicky make-up and costumes along with ridiculous stage names to help get noticed. Which works if you're going to play that angle up in your music I suppose, like GWAR, but doesn't if it's an obvious ploy to separate yourselves from the pack without the confidence of just your music to do it. Still however, the songs were good enough to get me to listen, and still tune in from time to time as I really think Mudvayne had a thing going on here kind of all there own within the genre to a lesser degree. Singer Chad Grey's voice really didn't turn on and off the way most vocalists in the genre would switch good cop to bad cop in their singing then screaming dynamic. His voice kind of fluctuated from screaming to screaming melodically occasionally idling down to a grainy kind of singing but the change in style was barely noticeable until the whole thing was over. And the music accentuated that ability fantastically.

L.D.50's songs twist through the gauntlet showcasing a technicality within the musicianship that I hadn't heard from other bands emerging in the scene. Could this be, Progressive Nu-Metal?! The 1-2-3-4-5-6 punch of the first half of this album - from 'Dig' to 'Nothing To Gein' (dissolving the intro and interlude into the attack) - is unrivaled by any of their peers' efforts including the albums on this list except for 'Iowa' (I'd argue 'Korn''s 'Faget' as a fracture in the fault). In fact I've probably listened to the first half of this album more in recent years than any of the records that I own within the genre. L.D.50 kicks balls like an unhinged Asian woman flailing in a feeding frenzy. And it's in touch with it's pulpy side as well, occasionally breaking the song in half to press the warm moist innards of a dark ballad against the skin that always loses itself back to the primal nature of it's being before it unfurls completely, a common trait amongst the bands on this list but Mudvayne seem more successful than most in adding a layer of ferocity to the ferocious parts.

My big complaint is that the album is too long. At almost 70 minutes it wares you down if you're invested in it the way you should be, and if you're not then you're just not getting it. By the time I reach the final third of the album I've pretty much tuned out because it's all starting to sound the same (says the guy who owns the entire Nasum discography). I think they could've chopped those last 5 or 6 songs off of the end and put out a real nail to the lobe if they wanted to. Fine tuned those last less memorable tracks and put out a whole 'nother album. Even when I start the record half-way through to give the latter end it's due properly those songs just don't stick to the ribs.

Though I don't dig it as much, I enjoy Mudvayne's second album 'The End Of All Things To Come' as well. They made a conscious effort to do something different and it actually kind of worked for them a little bit. Though it does sound a bit more conventional and dare I say accessible, it's sonically unique in it's guitar tones and definitely stands out of the crowd. Later efforts were a bit more mediocre from my brief perusing. The singer joined a band with the guitarist and bassist of Nothingface and Pantera skins-man Vinnie Paul called Hellyeah. Sounds like it should tear right through the skin and be amazing doesn't it? It's not. Steaming pile of shit.

Staind - Dysfunction

I've never really considered these guys part of the Nu-Metal scene. There was that surge of rock that happened just after it's pinnacle that was really inspired by the "Grunge" and Alternative Rock of the mid-90's. Creed trying to sound like Pearl Jam. Staind trying to sound like Alice In Chains. Puddle Of Mudd trying to sound like the rest. I guess there were some traits that were similar between those really blurred lines that I never really deciphered of what made Nu-Metal what it was, but for the most part it felt more like a moving of what passed for Modern Hard Rock those days up to the forefront of the airwaves. Staind was "discovered" by Fred Durst, and on the Limp Bizkit front man's label at the time Dysfunction was put out, he also appeared on the live version of the song that broke them into the mainstream and even more-so the Adult Contemporary stations. They also toured on THE quintessential tour for bands within the Nu-Metal genre, playing alongside Korn, Limp Bizkit, DMX and Filter. And they also did this cover.... So I guess just to not leave anyone out and cover my own bases I'll add them to the list because I can see where stones may be thrown, and I'm in the blur again.

Dysfunction was a great album. A very drab yet emotional balancing act between a permeating sadness and a bitter volatility at said sadness that actually felt fresh and genuine upon the record's release. This one touched a nerve for me, and the aforementioned pendulum of emotion made the record feel like more than just another venture into the superficiality of being pissed off, it kind of cut deeper than that in it's song structure and delivery. Being the first of it's kind in a new emergence of an old sound and evolving down a different linear path than it's ancestors in the mid to late 90's made it all the more enjoyable - I mean, er - all the more absorbable in it's sulk.

The softer side of this group was the highlight, and - if comparing them to the likes of the rest of the bands on this list - it was also a characteristic that didn't feel forced or unfortunately alien in it's palette. These guys sounded like they were genuinely stuck in the fucking muck, and it was great. The resurgence of traits of a sound that had burnt out from the populous over a decade ago was great to hear stretched over a sharper, more jagged edge. This album hinted at the budding of a band inspired by one of the greatest albums to come washing ashore in the flood of the 90's Grunge Rock tsunami: Alice In Chains' 'Dirt'. Unfortunately as is par for the course, the legions of lemmings playing melodic hard-sap-rock spread through the industry like an oil spill in a river, and the oversaturation became unbearable and embarrassing in just a few short years.

I actually bought two copies of Dysfunction when it was released in 1999, one for myself and one to borrow out to people because they "had to hear it" (I hadn't figured out how to burn CD's yet). People seem to misunderstand that the band's second major label release (The album before Dysfunction called 'Torment' was never distributed to a wider market and leaned a whole lot more to the heavier aspect of their sound) 'Break The Cycle' was actually written and 'in the can' when the band got huuuuuge from the release of the track 'Outside', which appeared as a previously never-heard song performed live as a duet with Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst on the Family Values CD. So contrary to what most may think, the popularity and success that came after 'Outside' infected radio play had no effect on that second record, which can be heard from the retention of their abrasiveness in some of the songs, a characteristic that was glaringly absent in a majority of later releases that contained shit that was written just to get on the radio and make money, but we'll talk about that another time.

The involvement of Fred Durst with Staind was the passing of the baton of unoriginal cringe-worthy garbage. Not necessarily in Staind (yet), but in the spotlight of what the people who listen to the radio, and more importantly the same people that had been following what the bands on The Family Values Tour were doing, would listen to next. 'Outside' is no better than the hidden track 'Excess Baggage' - which appears at the end of Dysfunction, but the casual music fans who need to be spoon fed the songs they like hadn't found it yet - it needed to be wrapped up and given to them by a familiar face. Gratuitous self-marketing at it's finest. 'Outside' only set the stage for the unfortunately stellar 'It's Been A While', which became the last shovel-load of dirt on the coffin of the Staind I really enjoyed and identified with. While it is indeed a great song, thus fortifying the band's destiny as a soon-to-be stadium act, it germinated in it's popularity from Modern Rock Stations to The Lite FM, and lost all of it's power in the ridiculousness of just how much that song was played everywhere. I'm just thankful we got Dysfunction before the demons started living in mansions and driving Ferraris.


1 comment:

  1. I can't believe you put Staind on here. I never liked them, even when you guys were listening to them on repeat. I just played 26 seconds of that clip and that dude's voice just makes me angry.
    Otherwise, good list. Hard to believe that Slipknot's Iowa is considered NuMetal, but it is. That's one of the heavier albums that I've ever really liked a lot. I just wish those douchebags didn't have to paint their faces like a bunch of a-holes.
    I still love the first Korn album, but I never got into any of their other albums and I never got into System of a Down, but everything that I heard I always liked.