The idea of a band coming out strong on their debut and then failing to follow it up with a record of equal quality is so common that it has its own name: the sophomore slump. In nu-metal — a genre stacked with memorable, hard-to-live-up-to first albums, from trailblazers like Korn, Linkin Park and Slipknot — the concept strikes a particularly resonant chord.
With that in mind, we asked our readers to pick what they think are the best second albums in all of nu-metal history, and results encompassed both records with more rage and albums with more range. The top five vote-getters are ranked accordingly below.
On their 1998 self-titled debut, the Armenian-American crew came out the gate with an unrivaled sound that was equal parts kooky, crushing and also a little bit draining. Not only were its flaws patched over on Toxicity, but the band just leveled up their game in every regard. Their political screeds became more focused and scathing, Serj Tankian's operatic voice was pushed to its glorious limits on tear-jerking spectacles like "Aerials" and "Chop Suey!," and there were plenty of grindy blasts that maintained SOAD's position as the fastest band in nu-metal.
Korn basically invented nu-metal on their 1994 debut, and while it was a smash success, they didn't quite recognize their creation's full commercial potential until later in the decade. Their second album, 1996's Life is Peachy, is in many ways creepier, more mangled and even less accessible than their debut, beginning with a head-spinning shot of deranged scatting and punctuated by psychotic expletive-prone explosions like "Chi" and "K@#0%!" It's arguably Korn's least polished product, and for that reason, it holds a special place in the twisted hearts of their fans.
Before Deftones drifted beyond their nu-metal roots in pursuit of 'gazier, gothier pastures on White Pony and beyond, the Sacramento auteurs made Around the Fur, gifting the genre they sprung from with one of its best-ever offerings. The 1997 opus took the loud/soft, sing/screech dynamics of their scrappy debut into a new dimension, introducing bleary dream-pop vocal maneuvers and hypnotic guitar swells that were crafted with the heady precision of an art-rock band, but delivered with the hot-blooded fury of a venomous metal group.
When most bands emerge with a debut as unexpectedly popular as Slipknot's 1999 self-titled, they — admittedly or not — try to make the next one appeal to an even broader swath of listeners. Slipknot aren't most bands. The Nine were primed to become metal's next radio sensation — and they'd get there — but first they made Iowa, an uncompromisingly brutal, decidedly uncommercial torrent of chaos that was way heavier than their first record, and spawned from an environment of drugs, depression and violence that nearly took the life out of them. It's the most beastly nu-metal album ever, and yes, the best second album in the genre's canon.