Words from a Waldman: Mikey Carvajal from Islander helps rank the Top Ten Nu-Metal Albums of All Time

Good morning, afternoon, evening, or night. Let’s start our day with some nu disclaimers, (100% subjective) opinions, regulations, and rules for this even nu-er article:

  • We only mention one album per artist: Every single band listed below has an album that you like better than the one that we chose, as our 100% subjective opinions are 100% wrong on infinite accounts. Sorry?
  • Rage Against The Machine, Slipknot, and your favorite band: Not on this 100% subjective list. However, your least favorite band is 100% on this list and we did it intentionally to troll you because you deserve it.
  • Mikey Carvajal from the band Islander is an extremely talented and passionate musician. I enjoyed creating this list with him and talking with him on the telephone. Shout out to Zach Yoshioka for his assistance on all-Islander and Arizona State University matters.
  • This list is a dLight (beer).

Enjoy:

  1. Chevelle – Wonder What’s Next (2002)
SW: Let’s start with #10: Chevelle’s major label debut

MC: My older brother and Islander bandmate Chris saw Chevelle play at The Powerhouse in Taylors, South Carolina. Chevelle opened for The Insiderz and Fold Zandura.

SW: Sounds like a loud show.

MC: Word. Chris bought the band’s self released demo CD at that show. In the most endearing way, it looked like the band created the artwork by itself.

SW: And special awards go to the two students who obviously had no help from their parents…

MC: Huh?

SW: Simpsons quote. (pauses) Sorry.

MC: Anyway, this proved that the band has been hustling and grinding from the start. Fun fact: the “Point #1” demo was on this CD.

SW: Not so fun fact: A lot of kids today don’t know what a CD is.

MC: Crazy. Different times. Speaking of which, remember desktop computers?

SW: (sigh) Yes. I’m 38 and my back hurts.

MC: I remember watching the music video for “The Red” on my desktop. It was one of the first times that I remember watching a band that I had heard that was up until that point without crazy production truly sound fully produced.

SW: That song was huge AND colorful. I remember when they played it on Conan. I also heard that Jim Carrey was a guest on that episode and sincerely loved Chevelle.

MC: That’s cool. My one gripe about Chevelle isn’t even about Chevelle.

SW: Chevelle. Do tell. Unwell. Spell.

MC: MTV banned the video for “Point #1” (the title track from the band’s prior album, which was produced by Steve Albini) and Christian stations did not. I guess them being on fire triggered some people.

SW: Nothing triggers anyone nowadays.

MC: Wonder what’s next.

  1. System Of A Down – Toxicity (2001)

SW: LA LOVES SOAD. LOVES. Caps lock. I loved SOAD from the moment I first heard the band’s self-titled album my senior year in high school on Long Island. But Toxicity made System Of A Down one of the biggest bands in the world. And it’s so damn good.

MC: This album influenced A LOT of my friends.

SW: Same.

MC: “Chop Suey!” is a crazy song and its music video was also crazy at the time. At that time, a lot of people hadn’t heard a band that performed all-over-the-place verses with a pretty chorus.

SW: And MTV embraced the band for it! Weird, but I’ll take it!

MC: I appreciate the fact that SOAD effectively tried something SOAD, and I’m thankful to ’em as well for doing so.

SW: I still haven’t seen System live, but when I saw Rage Against The Machine with Muse, Rise Against, Lauryn Hill, and many others at L.A. Rising in 2001, the crowd chanted louder for “Chop Suey!” (TRUTH; the actual song was playing on speakers between Muse and Rage’s set) than it did for most of the other bands that played that day. It was surreal. I need to see SOAD live.

MC: “Aerials” is a great closing track, and EVERYONE in my area that was capable of doing so played the lead vocal riff on the guitar. 2001 was a good year.

  1. Blindside – Silence (2002)

SW: Speaking of years, (and proving such with the #10 ranking here and with this album) 2002 was a great year for this genre and Blindside’s Silence is an underrated gem.

MC: This is one of the most underrated albums for all forms of music.

SW: I saw an anniversary show for this record at the Fonda Theater in Hollywood a few years ago, and it solidified (state) that 100% subjective opinion in my brain. Also, I listened to this album SO much my senior year in college.

MC: I really love every song on Silence. Howard Benson knocked this album out of the park. 

SW: This century belongs to Benson.

MC: True, and he also did P.O.D.’s The Fundamental Elements of Southtown.

SW: More on that record later…

MC: But back to Benson, I believe P.O.D. provided him with his first gold and platinum albums.

SW: And P.O.D. was close WITH Blindside, but let’s talk more about Silence as an album, and Blindside’s wild live show (which was the opposite of that album title). I saw Blindside open for TRUSTCompany (not on this list but still awesome) when I was in college, and I know for a fact that the band was WAY more wild with its live performances when this album came out.

MC: YUP. Guitarist Simon Grenehed was well known for doing one handed cartwheels while playing guitar. Seriously.

SW: Insane AND athletic.

MC: Yeah, and he would pour cereal in his mouth right out of the box while doing so.

SW: Nutritious AND balanced.

MC: Speaking of balanced, the band truly evolved and honed its sound on Silence, which was Blindside’s major label debut. 

SW: Agreed. Blindside’s pre-Silence material was quite similar to Refused. 

MC: Yep. The tunes were much more in the “pure” post-hardcore category. Silence is just an incredible rock record with sprinkles of post-hardcore. I love that the band attempted to bring those elements into the mainstream.

SW: Same. I wish that more people loved this record as much as we do.

  1. Papa Roach – Infest (2001)

MC: A lot of people loved this album, that’s for sure.

SW: We’re going to infest. We’re getting in your head.

MC: Jacoby (then Coby) and I have become quite close over the years. Admittedly, I was exposed to their music much more on tours with Papa Roach than before.

SW: Papa Roach really commit live.

MC: Yup. Coby is intense live. Around the time of Infest, he would punch himself a lot with microphones. It was his signature at the time.

SW: Pretty bloody signature…

MC: Yeah, probably not the safest signature, haha.

SW: “Last Resort” has truly stood the test of time and may be as big now as it was in 2001. 

MC: Radio anthem.

SW: Yup.

MC: I’ve gotten to sing guest vocals with Papa Roach multiple times on that song. It’s unreal how the crowd responds to it.

SW: And Infest had another winning single with “Broken Home”…

MC: “Broken Home” was rad.

SW: To close out the P-Roach chapter, I just want to say on record that it is badass how hard the band hustled back in the day, and how hard the band still works today. Respect. 

  1. Linkin Park – Meteora (2003)

MC: The “Faint” video was super super cool.

SW: Great song too. Overall, Meteora was a more than solid sophomore album from the Linkin of Park. 

MC: Back to the video: I loved that the “Faint” video showcased a crowd going nuts while we were zoomed in on the band members’ backs. I also loved the white light.

SW: Blinded by the light. 

MC: Chester screamed like mad during the bridge for “Faint”. I think that the band’s whole unconventional and musically diverse vibe is what got them so big.

SW: I agree. I remember people saying that rap rock/nu-metal/whatever you want to call it was dead. LP proved the haters wrong and easily became one of the biggest bands of this century.

MC: Agreed.

SW: And I know a lot of people reading this may scoff that we didn’t include Hybrid Theory, but real talk: THIS ALBUM IS SONICALLY AND 100% SUBJECTIVELY BETTER. End caps lock.

MC: I remember when LP was opening for P.O.D. on the Kings or The Game tour. Shortly thereafter, P.O.D. and Linkin Park co-headlined an arena tour.

SW: Nuts.

MC: Literally watching the band go from clubs to arenas in a short amount of time was mind-blowing. So was “Numb”.

SW: What a great album closer…

MC: For sure. It was great how honest Chester was lyrically. He truly was capable of speaking his mind in a way that connected with millions of people. Like Jonathan Davis of Korn (more on that band later), Chester was willing and ready to wear his heart on his sleeve.

  1. P.O.D. – The Fundamental Elements Of Southtown (1999)

SW: This is the first album on this list that came out last century.  

MC: 1999. 

SW: As a cool stat, albums 5-1 on this list were all released during the 20th century. But back to the 21st century, I saw Islander open for P.O.D. in November 2018. 

MC: In P.O.D.’s home city: San Diego!

SW: Here in the Southtown!

MC: I first saw P.O.D. twenty years ago at Magnolia Street Club in South Carolina with Guano Apes

SW: You were so young!

MC: I was. My brother Chris (mentioned above in #10) was getting tired of watching me play with my wresting action figures and said, “Dude, you’re thirteen. You NEED to go to a show.”

SW: My Bar Mitzvah theme was WWF Wrestling. I stand by said motif, but I wish that I had an older brother. 

MC: Haha. 

SW: How was the show?

MC: CRAZY. The crowd was insane. Lots of stage diving with the crowd was literally climbing all over the stage the entire show.

SW: Some people misdiagnose the word “crazy”. You didn’t. 

MC: Definitely not. That was the night that I fell in love with music. I also got to meet P.O.D. boys that night. 

SW: Meeting people that you admire can go MANY different ways.

MC: P.O.D. was super cool in 1999, and the band is still super cool in 2019. “Southtown” is still a banger live.

SW: Great video.

MC: It was a dead on portrayal of what I saw live that night. I’m honored to say that I’ve performed “Southtown” with P.O.D. multiple times. Also, the song “Outkast” deserves more love. 

SW: You’ve played that song with P.O.D., right?

MC: Yes.

SW: Respect.

  1. DeftonesAround The Fur (1997)

MC: Around. The. Fur. 

SW: My Own Summer (Shove It). By the way, this entire article can be a disclaimer on the entity known as Deftones.  

MC: Like me, I know that the band hates the term nu-metal. However, without Deftones so many artists and bands that I love wouldn’t exist.

SW: I think that Deftones is the Radiohead of its community. The band constantly evolves AND grows with its fans. That’s VERY VERY hard to do.

MC: I sometimes see music as colors. “Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)” is baby blue. I hope that makes sense to some people.

SW: The band would probably hate this too, but I could call “Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)” EMO. Seriously. I think Far (unintentionally name dropped in the song title) or Sunny Day Real Estate (listen to “In Circles” right now) could’ve written it. But those bands didn’t. Deftones did. 

MC: It’s so cool how heavy that track got and how chill it got. Some of their songs sound like if Sade were in a rock band.

SW: Keep talking and pull over. (pauses; no laughter) Sorry. 

MC: I remember seeing Deftones on MTV with Incubus (mentioned next) and Adam Sandler. They performed the song acoustically.

SW: Put on your yarmulke. 

MC: It was gorgeous. 

SW: Put on your yarmulke part two: Head up. 

MC: I love that song. When I was in my first local band, I would listen to that song before every show to get pumped up, haha. I was sixteen. 

SW: (inaudible screaming)

  1. IncubusMake Yourself (1999)

MC: This is another band that (depending upon who you are talking to) has a strong dislike for the genre of nu-metal. 

SW: And hardcore fans may say that S.C.I.E.N.C.E. belongs on this list instead, but they should just make themselves. 

MC: I’m attracted to bands that came out of nu-metal during that time but constantly found ways to push the envelope and leave behind genres all together.

SW: Speaking of S.C.I.E.N.C.E., the song “Nebula” is great; I used to put it on cassette mixes in the late-90s. Back to Make Yourself: It opens with the best Incubus song ever. 

SW: Privilege. (pauses) I know that this is entry #3, but “Privilege” is my favorite song by all of the bands listed here. 

MC: “Pardon Me” was my intro to Incubus and it was a solid one.

SW: First. Single. 

MC: I think that Brandon Boyd (vocalist/percussionist) wrote “Pardon Me” about an experience he once had in a waiting room while reading about spontaneous combustion. 

SW: Random for a “hit”. 

MC: Haha, yeah.

SW: I saw Deftones open for Incubus in 2015. The crowd went OFF to “Pardon Me”. I also saw Incubus open for 311 in 2000 on the Make Yourself tour. The crowd went OFF again.

MC: Like Deftones do on (the previously mentioned) “Around The Fur,” many tracks on Make Yourself go from heavy riffs to beautiful melodies.  

SW: And every music video from this album was artful. 

MC: In “Pardon Me” Brandon stuck his tongue out and I remember thinking he was gonna eventually bite it off on accident live. 

SW: Did you enjoy any other songs on Make Yourself?

MC: “Stellar” and “The Warmth”. 

SW: HOT. You can’t go wrong with any song on this record. 

  1. Limp BizkitSignificant Other (1999)

SW: Limp Bizkit is the most hated band on this (and nearly every) list. So polarizing. And so unwarranted. LB is mad fun and Significant Other is mad amazing. Period.

MC: Fred Durst was a fashion icon for many in the late-90s and early-00s. Everybody and their mother wanted the red Yankees cap (to put on backwards). Everybody. 

SW: NEW YORK!

MC: I was a little kid at the time and didn’t know what nookie meant. I just knew the song rocked. Even though Significant Other (or the album before it, “Three Dollar Bill, Y’all $”) wasn’t the first record to merge hip hop and rock together, it definitely combined it into global consciousness. 

SW: Indeed. There was a time where LB was one of the biggest bands in the world. 

MC: Certainly larger than life rap-core, or whatever you want to call it. 

SW: Any other songs speak to you besides “Nookie”? I never thought I’d ask that question in that way to anyone. 

MC: “Break Stuff”. People still love that song. Even on our recent tour with Hyro The Hero, he performed a small part of this song every night. 

SW: This song broke Woodstock ‘99 too, but I digress. Give me something to break!

MC: Did you hear our recent collaboration with Eric Vanlerberghe of I Prevail?

SW: (nods) “My Friends”. 

MC: There was one scene in the music video that was influenced by the video for “Break Stuff”. It was the part where we were all switching off instruments.

SW: It’s cool that you had a feature from him. Significant Other was chock full of features from artists like the late Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, Pauly Shore of Son In Law, and Jonathan Davis of Korn

MC: More on him now. 

  1. KornKorn (1994)

SW: No debate here.

MC: None.

SW: Divine.

SW: Admittedly, I didn’t “get” this album when it first came out, but it was a grower (not a shower).

MC: The band opened the album with the words “Are you ready?” and that question can be interpreted in SO many ways.

SW: (Eyesight to the) Blind.

MC: “Are you ready?” could have been a question for the world in regards TO the genre of nu-metal, haha.

SW: WOAH. Deep.

MC: Are you ready?

SW: Clearly not. On a somber note, I went to high school with Justin Petit (who directly inspired the track “Justin” from the megahit third album Follow The Leader, which came out just four years later). THAT was when I became a super-fan of the band, but it was more for who I thought the members were as people (and the incredible songs were just a bonus). I’ll explain: Justin met Korn through the “Make A Wish Foundation” or a similar company, and he had colon cancer. I didn’t know Justin that well, but we were in a music theory class together. I know for a fact that said meeting enriched his life more than words can express. The band was SO cool to him. In addition, Korn wrote “Justin” after Justin and the band met, and I heard that it was the first song written FOR Follow The Leader. Justin later sadly passed away. So fucking tragic. He was very young. Anyway, I don’t know the boys in Korn, but I KNOW that they’re stand-up dudes. Thank you, Korn.

MC: TOTALLY. 

SW: On a lighter note, didn’t Islander play with Korn on its anniversary tour for Korn?

MC: Yes. I got to see firsthand how that record impacted people. Regardless of how you feel about nu-metal, this album truly speaks for itself. Grimy. Emotional. Real.

SW: Ross. Robinson.

MC: The riff in “Lies” is so sick and you should listen to it right now.

SW: Truth.

MC: In closing, the band will always remain relevant and influential.

SW: Truth part two.

MC: Word.

This got very emotional at the end (kind of like Korn’s “Daddy”), but it was 100% warranted. Thank you to the ten bands listed above and thank you again to Mikey Carvajal for killing it in each and every way. Here is a playlist featuring one song from each band listed:

Shoots and ladders.