In 1995, O.J. Simpson was found not guilty. Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" was the biggest song of the year. Die Hard with a Vengeance ruled the box office. The San Francisco 49ers won the Super Bowl. Rapper Eazy-E died. And a slew of heavy bands released badass albums — including the 15 below.
By the time their third record came around, Alice In Chains were bona fide superstars following the monumental success of 1992's Dirt and, more widely, the explosion of grunge in the mainstream. Their eponymous 1995 effort rode a similarly dark, sludgy wave as its predecessor, exploring with raw honesty such topics as depression, addiction and death — all of which became more haunting in retrospect as the record would prove to be the band's last with the late Layne Staley.
They may not have set out to change the course of heavy music, but Swedish melodeath masters At the Gates did exactly that with Slaughter of the Soul, an album that both helped put Gothenburg on the map and set the template for American metalcore. From singer Tomas Lindberg's emphatic "Go!" in the title track to the gently chaotic outro of closer "The Flames of the End," each song is expertly constructed and placed perfectly amid the storm.
The time period around Death's Symbolic was one fraught with lineup changes and disputes with Roadrunner, the band's record company at the time. Despite the turmoil, the album is an absolute death-metal classic, showcasing the scrupulous attention to detail that defined mastermind Chuck Schuldiner's virtuosity while still sounding immense, frenzied and even intellectual between each absolutely nasty riff and growl.
As far as debuts go, it's pretty tough to beat Deftones and the palpable, combustible rage on their outstanding first outing, Adrenaline. Sure, it's easy to pick on the youthful lack of finesse and dated nu-metal-ness they'd eventually polish away, but that's part of the charm of early cuts like "Bored" and "One Weak," and it makes listening back now both enjoyable and fascinating when taken in the context of the band's stunning evolution since.
Frankly, there's not a whole lot of variation to be found amid Deicide's yanked-from-Hell approach to blunt-force death metal, and we'd be liars to pretend any different of Once Upon the Cross. However, some of group's efforts hit just a bit harder than others, and their contribution to the extreme-metal scene of 1995 is a particularly vicious — and sacrilegious — nail straight through the palm.
That Stockholm buzzsaw guitar has possibly never sounded buzzsaw-ier than on Dismember's Massive Killing Capacity, an album stacked with nasty bone-rending rippers, none catchier than the immortal "Casket Garden." Indeed, this death-metal opus may be solely responsible for the rise of modern-day genre leaders Gatecreeper, who abide by the guiding principle: What would Dismember do?
Supergroups are rarely actually super, so when rumors circulated in the early Nineties that Pantera's Philip Anselmo, Corrosion of Conformity's Pepper Keenan, Crowbar's Kirk Windstein and Eyehategod's Jimmy Bower had joined forces for an all-star Southern sludge collective, there was reason to be skeptical. Yet, Down's 1995 debut, NOLA, didn't just live up to fans' highest hopes, it bested them, managing to be more than the sum of its parts and define a distinctive identity for its players' group efforts.
For their landmark second studio LP, Fear Factory settled into their classic-era lineup and delivered a conceptual classic that paints a struggle between man and machine-controlled government. Impossibly heavy and effortlessly hooky, industrial-metal anthems like "Replica" and the title track were almost universally loved by critics and fans alike, cementing the album's legacy as Fear Factory's best release to date and inspiring a generation of headbanging rivetheads.
Rife with languid post-grunge haze, shoegazing listlessness, and enough feedback to drown out a jet engine, Hum's third record captured the alt-rock dark horses at their most gorgeously depressed. It's no wonder the Illinois noisemakers have inspired so many other bands — from Deftones, who handpicked them for their Dia de los Deftones festival in 2019, to Killswitch Engage, who have been known to soundcheck with their riffs.
German industrialists KMFDM were already eight albums in by the time '95 rolled around and they dropped Nihil, an ambitious dystopian effort full of chugging riffage, alternately distorted and soulful vocals, and dancefloor-driving mechanized beats. The LP is packed with great cuts, but its calling card will always be lead single "Juke Joint Jezebel," the band's most popular single to date.
Meshuggah truly became Meshuggah with this paradigm-shifting second album, a masterpiece of the time-signature-torturing brand of crunchy math-metal that would eventually get the unfortunate name of "djent." The piercing alarm sound that opens "Future Breed Machine" says it all: This was a wake-up call to all other metal bands to step up their game.
Though a somewhat controversial entry in the Morbid Angel catalog due to its industrial undertones, Domination is a shining example of what can happen for a band when they slow down a little, lean hard into the pocket, and let the groove flow. Anyone who listens to "Where the Slime Live" and doesn't headbang to what is surely one of the nastiest procession of riffs ever is missing out on life, and anyone who argues this record isn't one of Morbid Angel's best? As the great Mariah Carey once said: We don't know her.
Though their greatest success was yet to come, the world met Rammstein through their explosive debut Herzeleid. From murder novel–inspired radio hits like "Du Reicht So Gut" to the indulgent, David Lynch–approved slow burn of "Rammstein" — the first of many self-referential songs — the LP was an instant classic that set forth a template for Neue Deutsche Härte and assured the pyromaniacs' lasting and looming presence for decades to come.
Across two albums and 121-plus minutes, Billy Corgan's epic magnum opus spans the full breadth of his songwriting, from corrosive, nihilistic cuts like "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" and "Zero" to beautiful, orchestral singalongs such as "Tonight, Tonight" and "1979." The smash concept double-LP may not exactly be "The Wall for Generation X," as Corgan hyped it at the time, but it comes mighty close.
Complete with the mouthful of a subtitle Songs of Love, Destruction and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head, White Zombie's fourth and final album sent off the funky disco-metal munsters at the peak of their powers — more human than human, as the LP's unforgettable single goes. Astro-Creep also launched frontman Rob into a highly success solo career, but for many fans, his music never got better than on this Nineties classic.