Funk metal is one of those styles of music that rarely gets mentioned within the community these days. Obviously that’s no surprise; we haven’t seen a significant band of this subgenre come out in over ten years, plus the sound in itself is pretty dated. With that said, funk metal couldn’t be avoided in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Many of these bands experienced mainstream success and even a number of thrash metal juggernauts adopted the sound in small doses (Death Angel, Suicidal Tendencies, etc.). Due to the historical significance of this style, we’ll take some time to revisit some of the funkiest of the funk metal classics.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Uplift Mofo Party Plan
It would be a crime to have a funk metal list without mentioning these guys. “The Uplift Mofo Party Plan” not only represented a stylistic shift away from the band’s previous albums, but it helped to lay the very foundation for the funk metal sub-genre. By incorporating a metallic tone as well as elements of speed metal into his reservoir of skills, guitarist Hillel Slovak helped to bring a new dimension to the Chili Pepper sound. If you combine this with both a persistent drum rhythm and Flea’s signature slap-style then the result is clear; a damn crunchy, funky album. Not a bad start.
Recommended listen: Fight Like a Brave
Faith No More – The Real Thing
While RHCP may have established the blueprint for funk metal, Faith No More’s “The Real Thing” took the style and experimented with it in every way possible. Unlike their predecessors, Faith No More didn’t just add the occasional metal riff into their funk-based songs. They were a clear-cut metal band to begin with! Based on this foundation “The Real Thing” also showcased elements of symphonic rock as well as many songs containing a more progressive formula to their composition. Equally important are the diverse vocal stylings Mike Patton and highly underrated back-beat of bassist Billy Gould. In conclusion, “The Real Thing” was the real thing.
Recommended listen: Falling to Pieces
Primus – Sailing the Seas of Cheese
Fun-loving bassist? Check! Former guitarist of legendary death metal band? Check! Creators of the original “South Park” theme song? Check! Clearly this is a band with an impressive resume, yet the only thing to top the aforementioned accomplishments and/or characteristics would be, without a doubt, the band’s second album, “Sailing the Seas of Cheese”. Combining the slap happy stylings of Les Claypool and the intricate riff work of Larry LaLonde, Primus really created something unique with this effort. Each and every song manages to contain a sense of playfulness while also demonstrating enough musical substance to keep the average metal lover satisfied. Any track from this album could easily be a single.
Recommended listen: Tommy the Cat
Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine
While R.H.C.P.’s funk metal sound represented a new stylistic direction for rock music, Rage Against the Machine’s debut represented a new stylistic direction within the funk metal sound itself. Part of this change was due to Zack de la Rocha’s vocals. Unlike previous funk metal vocalists, de la Rocha’s style combined hip-hop rapping, fry screaming, and even a touch of soft-spoken vocals. His deliver wasn’t just energetic, it was fucking aggressive. The truly inventive guitar work of Tom Morello really helped to define the band’s sound as well. His palate of techniques, including the use of a thick tone, odd tapping patterns, and guitar effects, propelled R.A.T.M. into new territory and showed the mainstream world of music that the guitar wasn’t just limited to power chords. In fact, it didn’t always have to sound like a guitar. Easily one of the best albums of the 1990’s.
Recommended listen: Bullet in the Head
5. Incubus – S.C.I.E.N.C.E.
It was somewhat late to the scene, yet one cannot deny that this album is worthy of recognition. While Incubus’ debut “Fungus Amongus” was a solid effort, it was also fairly underwhelming and, dare I say, derivative (some of the tracks sound like they were performed by a R.H.C.P. cover band). Well needless to say, by the time S.C.I.E.N.C.E. was released these fallacies were a thing of the past. Still holding onto the funk, Incubus incorporated new elements such as a heavy dose of rapped vocals and crunchy grooves, likely influenced by the then developing nu metal scene. More importantly, they added a melodic overtone to the choruses of many of these songs, which served as a brilliant touch to the overall formula.
Recommended listen: New Skin