The year is 2000—insert Conan O’Brien caterwauling “In the year 2000” right here. The Billboard charts were being dominated by the likes of Destiny’s Child, *NSYNC, Britney Spears, OutKast, and Eminem. Patchwork jeans and velour tracksuits were hot (no joke!), along with Von Dutch trucker hats, FUBU, Rocawear, and more. Into this strange world arrived a little-known band from Northern California, who was ready to drop a Nu Metal bomb on the musical landscape on Tuesday, April 25th, 2000.
Believe it or not, Infest was Papa Roach’s sophomore full-length release, following 1997’s Old Friends from Young Years, and few could have predicted that the 11-song collection would hit at just the right moment, nudging aside some of the Pop Rock glitterati to catapult the band to the top of the charts. Much of this commercial success came thanks to the carefully selected singles—“Broken Home,” “Between Angels and Insects,” and “Dead Cell”—though there’s no denying that the initial incendiary explosion came from lead-off single and smash hit, “Last Resort.”
Of course, the band—then composed of Vocalist Jacoby Shaddix, Guitarist Jerry Horton, Bassist Tobin Esperance, and Drummer Dave Buckner—had formed nearly a decade earlier, in 1993 in Vacaville, and had already delivered their debut, self-released disc. With no backing from a major label, they toured and grew their following, but it wouldn’t be until Infest arrived in 2000 that their career skyrocketed. Produced by Jay Baumgarder (Seether, Drowning Pool), the album was chock-full of the band’s signature blend of Rap and Hard Rock and placed them squarely into a burgeoning new sub-genre called Nu Metal.
Infest opened with the titular track, a bold offering that created a Rap-Rock overture, of sorts, that provided listeners with an introduction to everything that they were about to experience, and gave a name to the master of ceremonies, Mr. Coby Dick. As the album started to gain steam, the infectious Punk attitude of “Last Resort” introduced the serious subjects of suicide and self-harm into its fist-pumping infectiousness. The earworm was made to become quickly embedded into all of our minds and beneath our skin, so much so that even after the passage of two decades, who does not know the introductory line “Cut my life into pieces, this is my last resort”?
It was this use of defiant attitude and catchiness, coupled with the serious nature of Papa Roach’s lyrical content, that allowed the band to nestle into the hearts of so many music lovers. The relatability of raw tracks such as the intensely personal “Broken Home” allowed a legion of listeners the catharsis necessary to overcome their personal struggles. Pairing this with blistering sucker punches such as the high energy “Dead Cell” certainly did not hurt the quartet’s appeal as they continued to amalgamate Rock, Rap, and Metal.
Staying on brand, the more languid rocker “Between Angels and Insects” allowed Shaddix and co. to continue to delve deep into serious matters—in this instance, the obsession with material wealth. A lament for materialism, it set the stage perfectly for the tight pacing of “Blood Brothers,” a look at seeing your pals through corruption, abuse, and the worst that life has to offer. Allowing themselves to paint an even bleaker picture, the band presented “Revenge,” where Shaddix’s slick lines belie a story of domestic abuse with a serious plot twist.
Freestyle scratching works its way into the backstabbing tale of “Snakes,” and then Infest’s sound profile does a backflip. To mix it up and show Papa Roach’s diversity, particularly the abilities of Frontman Shaddix, they dropped the Rap/Rock approach for the frustrated routine of “Never Enough,” and then continued this into “Binge,” a look at alcoholism’s effects on those around the addict. Meanwhile, the album’s incendiary conclusion, “Thrown Away,” returned to their Rap-Rock approach and melted some grungy moments into the mix, before fading into the hidden track “Tightrope.” Entirely different from everything that came before, “Tightrope” combines a surfy/reggae-dusted vibe with a serious look at the circus of life, all while providing a foreshadowing of the band’s eclectic future.
Of course, at the time of its recording, the members of Papa Roach could not have known that this second lease on life would become a triple-platinum selling album that would catapult them into the mainstream. Going on to sell over three million copies in the U.S. alone, Infest was the 20th highest-selling album of 2000 in The States, and sold seven million copies worldwide. It would earn the quartet a Grammy nomination in the Best New Artist category in 2001, and certainly paved the way for the albums that immediately followed, particularly 2002’s gold Lovehatetragedy along with 2004’s platinum Getting Away with Murder.
Still going strong after all these years, and having sold in excess of 20 million records worldwide, the genre pioneers in Papa Roach have used the success of Infest as a stepping stone, one that has seen the Californians delivering eight additional studio gems over the past two decades—most recently, Who Do You Trust? in January 2019. Accomplished musicians who have built a phenomenal name for themselves and continue to top the charts and sell-out arenas across the globe, Papa Roach might have began as an intrusion of cockroaches, but they have managed to defy the odds and claim a space for themselves at the top—placing them much closer to the angels than the insects.