Grunge may have ruled the airwaves in the early 90s, but halfway through the decade, new regional scenes and subgenres are grabbing the spotlight. Nu metal might have finally taken the throne for the rest of the decade, but in 1995 it was all up for grabs; Gothenburg was poised to revolutionize death metal with the advent of melodeath, while elsewhere on the continent Germany’s Blind Guardian helped wave the flag for power metal.
Industrial metal spread with headline releases from Fear Factory, White Zombie and Rammstein, while the stoner’s throne was about to be liberated by a departing Kyuss. With so much to go, consider these 20 albums your guide to the best of 1995.
Chained Alice – Chained Alice
The collective demons of Alice In Chains threatened to overwhelm them by the time they released their self-titled third album, and they knew it. If the dark majesty of Dirt was absent here, the hollow-cheeked darkness and the sense of authoritarian fatalism that characterized Chained Alice was just as compulsive in his sinister way.
The group itself was not unaware of its own situation, since the dark and aptly named irony Grind proven: “You better not plan my funeral until my body dies,” sang guitarist Jerry Cantrell, applauding those who would bury them. However, the sun came out from time to time, as on the ballad with southern hues The sky is on your sideadding emotion to what would effectively be Layne Staley’s swan song.
At the Gates – Soul Slaughter
The influence of At The Gates’ powerful fourth album can be heard in much of the metal of the past 20 years, most notably throughout the post-Killswitch metalcore movement in the United States. A flawless masterpiece that hammered home just how distinctive the Swedes sound and how brutally effective it could be. Massive tunes, terrifying levels of aggression and precision…it’s an all-time classic.
Blind Guardian – Imaginations from the Other Side
Imaginations on the other side created its own abstruse, metaphysical concept about a boy glimpsing other dimensions, cementing these German veterans (who formed in 1984 as Lucifer’s Heritage) as more creative and cerebral than the average headbanging fare. Don’t get me wrong, the likes of Scenario for my requiem Where Born in a mourning hall are as vicious and frantic as any power metal, but there are ingenious melodic ideas that resonate throughout, like sparks from a Catherine Wheel.
Cathedral – The Bizarre Carnival
Cathedral really took off with their third record. Their worship of the Sabbath was more apparent than ever in the abyssal riffs and rumbling grooves of their sound, but by then the band had found a sweet spot for Hammer Horror imagery that gave them a flavor distinct from a lot of their doom peers.
Blurring the lines between stoner and doom, the galloping rhythm of vampire sun and Hopkins (wizarding general) fit better with bands like Kyuss than Paradise Lost or My Dying Bride, while Garry Jennings’ lead guitars could be happily adopted by any ’70s guitar god.
Clutch – Clutch
Clutch were never a stoner rock band in the strictest sense of the word, but their self-titled second album offered a singularly Clutch-ian approach to the same rudimentary musical ideas. The irresistible grooves of Great news and 7 Jam were as stoner-friendly as it gets, and perennial live favorites space grass doesn’t really require an explanation. Jesus, as they say, on the dashboard.
Death – Symbolic
Since Death’s first album Gore Bloody Scream eight years earlier, Chuck Schuldiner and the rotating line-up of musicians he used to bring his vision to life had shown that death metal could evolve into something new.
Symbolic was a maze of technicality and cerebral lyrical meanderings, displaying unsurpassed musicality while remaining incredibly accessible. A quarter of a century after its release, and two decades after Schuldiner’s tragically untimely demise, Symbolic remains the pinnacle of the entire death metal genre.
Deftones – Adrenaline
One of the great beginnings of the 90s. Nu metal wasn’t a “thing” until Korn and Deftones came on the scene and changed everything. While both bands were responsible for the evolution of metal aesthetics, Korn dealt only with nihilism, pain and brutality. Deftones, on Adrenaline, featured influences ranging from gangster rap to skate punk. songs like Bored and 7 words became anthems of youthful alienation for a whole new group of kids, who were bored with grunge and wanted their own sound. They understood it quickly.
Stockings – NOLA
If Sabbath, Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd decided to box up their rehearsal room and record the results, it would probably sound like something like Louisiana supergroup Down’s debut album. In addition to porridge and hail hello leaf and epic closer Bury me in the smokethe tastes of languid, blissful Jail and crushing eyes of the south combine to make NOLA a stoner classic. RIYL: Smoking sticky buds in a Pabst Blue Ribbon can.
Faith No More – King for a day, fool for a lifetime
An often underestimated classic, King for a day… is by far the most schizophonic album ever produced by Faith No More. Musically, it was split right in the middle, alternating between cooler-than-cool icy lounge funk and creepily ugly jackhammer thrash-punk.
New guitarist Trey Spruance makes existing heavy tracks in the FNM sound 10 times heavier and weirder tracks weirder. Evidence is beautiful liquid soul, while just a man is an anthem funk cabaret, but the flip side of this set fantasy is demonic and neurotic whirlwinds such as Ugly in the morning – Patton oscillating painlessly between sweet soul-boy singing and demented, frenetic ecstasy.
Fear Factory – Defabrication
On their second album, Fear Factory honed and refined the rawest elements of their sound. The results were nothing short of revolutionary. There’s not a moment wasted on this virtually flawless LP; bass drum extravaganza Self-bias Resistance to synth-infused contortions new breed – the group compresses its steely sound into hot molten rock.
But the song’s best applause goes to the devastating metal classic Replica for its effortless balance between melody and dissonance. The nodes perfectly aligned on Manufacturingleaving an indelible mark on the decade and remaining to this day one of the most avant-garde metal albums ever created.