Nu-metal appears to be on the receiving end of some long overdue love over recent years with the resurging genre receiving exposure due to great new(wish) albums from Slipknot, Coal Chamber, (həd) p.e. and the aforementioned Korn, new (nu) groups such as Keychain, Riksha, Varials, Backwordz, DVSR, Darke Complex, Stray From The Path, Sheevaa, A Dying Ultimatum, Ocean Grove, A Killer’s Confession and the all-conquering KING 810 bringing the nostalgia back and even established acts such as Bring Me The Horizon, Whitechapel and Of Mice And Men have been dipping their toes into nu-metal’s murky waters!
While some true abominations were released during the sub-genres heyday, the era actually gave metal a much needed kick up the caboose and left us with some truly classic albums. Love it or hate it, nu-metal was a global phenomenon and here’s Worship Metal’s 5 Reasons Why The Nu-Metal Era Should Be Celebrated:
5. It Was A Generational Thing!
Just like any genre/sub-genre, the reason nu-metal thrived was because a change was coming and the new (or nu) metal-heads of the world seized the opportunity to grab hold of something that was unique to them.
History tends to repeat itself and nu-metal was actually no different to the world conquering era’s of hard rock & heavy metal that preceded it. The ’70’s kids had Sabbath, Purple, Rainbow, Rush and KISS etc but these were soon seen as ageing dinosaurs by the 80’s kids who seized the opportunity to send NWOBHM and thrash to the top of the pile (the lucky bastards).
It didn’t stop there.
Once thrash had peaked, the ’90’s kids then embraced grunge – killing thrash stone dead in the process – and as the decade moved on nu-metal came along; becoming an unstoppable behemoth along the way.
Ironically, this cyclical pattern continued when the new millennium dawned and baggy-trousered overkill set in; an endless stream of ever-diminshing returns sending most nu-metal albums straight to the bargain bin.
The nu-metal generation may have seen their time come to an end but it’s no surprise that as those ‘kids’ hit their mid to late 30’s, nostalgia has seen a semi-resurgence for this much maligned genre because – as we all know – the nu metal era actually gave us some incredible albums.
Particularly, some exceptional debut albums….
4. Nu Metal’s Finest Debuts Are Stone Cold Classics
Korn – Korn (1994)
This groundbreaking monster needs no introduction and was an absolute revelation in 1994!
Nu-metal didn’t even exist when Korn unleashed their self-titled debut on the world and no one was ready for its onslaught of down-tuned riffs and Jonathan Davis’ beyond cathartic, open wound, scat-hollering.
A complete departure from 80’s hair metal, thrash and grunge, metal would take on a whole new shape after the initial shockwave of Korn subsided and nothing would be the same again.
If you say you haven’t lost your shit to “Blind” at least once we suspect that your pants are currently on fire.
Deftones – Adrenaline (1995)
Fitting in but never really belonging in the nu-metal world, Deftones were a unique proposition from the get-go.
In hindsight, led by Chino Moreno’s semi-unique breathy/aggressive vocals and Stephen Carpenter’s stripped-back riffs, Adrenaline swam a sea of nu-metal cliches but way before these cliches had become passé.
So, there’s a little hip-hop, a little quiet/loud song structure, a little scat-gibberish from Chino and more than a little immature untapped aggression but that’s fine, Deftones were at the forefront of this new (nu) movement after all.
“7 Words”, “Bored”, “Engine No.9”, “Root”….all are beloved by Deftones fans and have gone down as 90’s metal classics. And to think, this was just the start of the most impressive artistic evolution of any band from the era!
Slipknot – Slipknot (1999)
No one saw these 9 masked lunatics coming at the turn of the new millennium.
Just when the danger of metal looked to have gone forever, along came this anonymous Iowan nonet with the fear factor amplified and a set of tunes that instantly made them cult legends. “Wait and Bleed”, “Spit It Out”, “Surfacing”, the ‘hits’ just kept on coming and Slipknot’s shockwave was felt on a global scale.
Aggressive, belligerent, single-minded, confident and one of the greatest debut albums of all time.
System Of A Down – System Of A Down (1998)
Was there ever a band with more cheek, more nerve and more individuality than System of a Down?
Doubtful, as System were the physical embodiment of lightning in a bottle and while their self-titled debut didn’t make an initial worldwide impact (it would take sophomore effort Toxicity to elevate these nutters to megastar status) the immediacy and riotous nature of “Suite Pee”, “Sugar” and “Spiders” instantly adhered them to fans of alternative metal.
It takes something special to be truly unique and there really is no other band out there quite like System of a Down!
Could their forthcoming album (their first in over 12 years) be another game-changer? You wouldn’t bet against it!
Limp Bizkit – Three Dollar Bill Y’All (1997)
This could be divisive but Bizkit’s debut is more than merely solid, it’s the complete snapshot of what made nu-metal a phenomenon.
Three Dollar Bill Y’All‘s anger personified the nu-metal era way before Fred Durst and co. were all about nookie and cookie’s or some such nonsense. “Faith” is a blinding cover version – we’ve all lost our shit to this a million times at a club night – and Bizkit actually felt like the real deal on this still surprisingly aggressive debut.
With huge (you know, ‘phat’) hooks, the kind of rhythm section most bands would kill for and a relatively original sound, Limp Bizkit were fresh and fancy free….the mainstream bothering Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavoured Water was also a world away.
Haters will hate but in 1997, Three Dollar Bill Y’All was on everyone’s playlist (or in their walkman, it was a while ago, we can’t really remember).
3. Nu-Metal Bought The Entertainment Factor Back!
Coal Chamber’s irresistably primitive riffs and spooky-core aesthetics, Slipknot’s boiler suits and dead-crow sniffing exploits, Mudvayne’s make up and slap bass shenanigans, Wayne Static’s hair (R.I.P), Fred Durst’s trousers and David Draiman’s Ooh Wah Ahh Ahh Ahh noises….do we dare go on?
While most of these things are frankly laughable they were also damn entertaining, bringing a sense of the absurd back to metal and a level of theatricality originally envisaged by the respected likes of Alice Cooper, Arthur Brown and KISS.
While there is always room in metal for earnest, serious messages (be them political or otherwise) nu-metal reminded us that it was also fine to have fun at a metal gig and it was fine to dress like a fool and feel good doing it!
What’s wrong with that we ask?
2. Nu-Metal Was So Big It Even Prompted Classic Bands/Established Artists To Have A Dabble!
A genre is doing something right (or something wrong depending on how you look at it) when the established acts of the day pick up on the change in trends and come along for the ride.
Had you forgotten these surprising u-turns into nu-metal’s heavily populated cul-de-sac…..
Sepultura – Roots (1996)
The leap from some of the finest thrash albums in the genre’s history to Roots took many Sep fans by surprise but Roots was the album that fleetingly made them the biggest band on the planet!
Ditching thrash riffs in favour of slower tempos and Ross Robinson produced Korn-esque downtuning, Sepultura’s world music maelstrom remains a love it or hate it affair for Sepultura aficionados and the band – with or without Max Cavalera who departed after the release of Roots – would never sound this ‘nu-metal’ again.
Sepultura’s love affair with Korn even resulted in “Lookaway” featuring guest appearances from Korn vocalist Jonathan Davis and Korn drummer David Silveria (alongside Limp Bizkit turntablist DJ Lethal and Faith No More/Mr. Bungle vocalist Mike Patton).
Soulfly – Primitive (2000)
Max Cavalera continued down the nu-metal path – becoming somewhat of a figurehead for the genre in the process – as he roped every man and his nu-metal dog into appearing on his self-titled debut and this, marginally better, follow up.
Primitive’s guest list was extraordinary, with Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Grady Avenell (Will Haven), Chino Moreno (Deftones), Tom Araya (Slayer) and even Julian Lennon(!) lending their services but it was actually on the guest-free likes of “Back To The Primitive” & “Bring It”that Soulfly made their most indelible mark.
At this stage, the thrash metal Max Cavalera helped pioneer with Sepultura was certainly no longer a part of his repertoire and arguably he would never again return to the genre defining sounds of Beneath The Remains and Arise.
Fear Factory – Digmortal (2001)
1998’s Obsolete may have signalled a turn to the nu-metal dark side but it was on 2001’s Digimortal that these industrial metal trailblazers went full on ‘baggy’! Actually, that’s a little harsh as Fear Factory were still recognisable as the band that released the groundbreaking Demanufacture but their sound had been softened, simplified and was clearly an attempt to tap into the mainstream market.
The obligatory team-up with a rap mainstay was ever present on the risible “Back the Fuck Up” (featuring Cypress Hill’s B-Real) but “Linchpin” was the breakthrough hit that increased their popularity ten-fold.
Not in the same league as the pulverising Soul Of A New Machine and Demanufacture but not completely devoid of merit either.
Slayer – Diabolos In Musica (1998)
Thrash? Who needs it!
Even Slayer had a pop at nu-metal on the frankly farcical Diabolos In Musica. Quite simply the worst album in Slayer’s career, the lions share of the song writing fell to the normally reliable Jeff Hanneman and the world shuddered when they heard the likes of the lump-headed “Death’s Head” and the Korn-lite riffing of “Love To Hate”.
“Stain Of Mind” may just about get away with it’s down-tuned shenanigans but this was not what Slayer (SLAYER for fucks sake) should have been putting their name to in 1998.
Shite? Pretty much!
Machine Head – The Burning Red (1999) & Supercharger (2001)
Ok, Supercharger is a big baggy bag of shite (except for “Bulldozer” which kicks ass) but Machine fuckin’ Head‘s first dalliance with nu-metal was on the often overlooked The Burning Red.
Part nu-metal, part groove metal and part thrash, Machine Head‘s 3rd album is home to some ferocious Head classics including the riff monster that was “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears”, the harrowing sexual abuse tale of “Five” (disturbingly, child abuse was a recurring theme of nu-metal) and the more classic sounding stomping grooves of “Exhale The Vile”.
Perhaps the rapping in “From This Day” was a little too much (although this track goes down great live now!) and the superfluous cover of “Message In A Bottle” (another nu-metal habit) was a step too far but overall The Burning Red stands up remarkably well!
Incidentally, Carthasis was a complete return to the sounds of the The Burning Red!
Surprised? Most of us were!
Bloodsimple – A Cruel World (2005)
A very late entry but Bloodsimple, featuring Vision of Disorder members Tim Williams and Mike Kennedy, picked up the mantle left by VOD on 2001’s From Bliss To Devastation, an album which had already attempted to blend hardcore sounds with nu-metal’s accessibility.
A Cruel World preceded to combine the popular genre’s of the day (namely metalcore, groove metal and nu-metal) and fashioned a hard-hitting set of anthems led by corrosive single “Straight Hate”.
Harsh and uncompromising, this was still a pretty standard 00’s alt metal record but at least it was delivered with 100% conviction.
Vanilla Ice – Hard To Swallow (1998) & Bi-Polar (2001)
What’s a rapper to do?
It’s hard to believe but even rap buffoon Vanilla Ice jumped on the nu-metal bandwagon, releasing Hard To Swallow (and it was) onto an unsuspecting public in 1998.
Admittedly, the V-man (that’s sure to have been one of his nicknames, right?) assembled a solid backbone to accompany him on his nu-metal adventure, roping in Ross Robinson on production duties, Casey Chaos (Amen) on occasional vocal duties, guitarist Sonny Mayo (Amen, Snot, Sevendust, Hed P.E.) and drummer Shannon Larkin (Amen, Ugly Kid Joe, Godsmack) to beef up his nu-metal credentials.
On the whole, Ice’s attempts at nu-metal posturing on Hard To Swallow were unpalatable and the seemingly endless recycling of lyrics from “Ice Ice Baby” was more than just a little trite but surprisingly, this wasn’t a complete and utter disaster….this is not an overall recommendation of course!
Oh, and listening to Bi-Polar was akin to being served a pile of steaming turd for dinner. Not something you’d ever envisage yourself tucking into!
1. There’s Some Lost Classics In Amongst The Also Rans
Let’s not forget the nu-metal albums that are also worthy of praise. Here’s a few examples of the best of the rest….
Incubus – S.C.I.E.N.C.E (1997)
They may have gone all soft and ‘mainstreamy’ (and who can blame them) as their career took flight but on ’97’s S.C.I.E.N.C.E, Incubus were still a band fusing all manner of dislocated styles into an exciting and textured melting pot of influences.
It’s easy to look back on nu metal and laugh at its absurdities but many bands of the era were experimenting wildly and with huge success.
Incubus were no exception and S.C.I.E.N.C.E remains a unique proposition.
Soil – Scars (2001)
This was the point where some full blooded traditional metal came back to the fore and while Soil were still part of the nu-metal era (whether they liked it or not), Scars was a much needed adrenalised shot to most metaller’s systems!
The massive hit “Scars” was obviously the MTV breakthrough but Soil had assembled a whole album of similar stompers, content to hammer down hard with catchy, classic sounding, heavy metal rather than jumping on the nu-metal bandwagon per se.
No rapping, no keyboards, no DJ’s, no over-sized trousers, just metal….and we all fuckin’ loved it!
Snot – Get Some (1997)
With the untimely passing of frontman Lynn Strait bringing Snot’s career to a premature end they did at least leave us with Get Some, a hardcore punk, funk and nu-metal fusion that would/should have made them superstars.
Incidentally, the tribute album Strait Up, dedicated to Lynn Strait is also worth checking out. Featuring the likes of Corey Taylor, Dez Fafara, Serj Tankian, Jonathan Davis and more, this nu metal super-team-up provides a fitting epitaph to a much missed frontman (and band).
Fuckin’ get some!
Sepultura – Nation (2001)
Derrick Green‘s second Sepultura outing arrived in 2001 and may have been home to thrash, hardcore punk and that tribal sound that became synonymous with this legendary band but it was also a nu-metal album of considerable power.
From fiery bursts of brutal thrash (the short, sharp shock of “Revolt”) to experiments in thundering tribal grooves (“Uma Kura”) and arms-aloft nu-metal anthems such as “Sepulnation”, this collection of political diatribes seemed to fall into the nu-metal quagmire when it should have been revered for its experimental nature and quality songwriting.
We recommend you revisit this neglected early 00’s masterclass forthwith!
Ill Niño – Revolution Revolución (2002)
Currently celebrating Revolution Revolución‘s 15 year anniversary, Ill Niño have just toured the UK and played this monster debut in its entirety.
Taking the world music aesthetic of Sepultura’s Chaos AD and Roots to its next logical conclusion (with guitarist Marc Rizo eventually, and ironically joining up with Max Cavalera’s Soulfly), this six-man wrecking crew led by founding member Dave Chavarri (M.O.D, Pro-Pain, Gothic Slam, Lääz Rockit) unleashed a barrage of latin-tinged nu-metal anthems on this, their debut album.
Spineshank – The Height Of Callousness (2000)
Fear Factory clone accusations (an ironic concept) were rife but Spineshank marked out their own niche with their sophomore effort, The Height Of Callousness.
Huge hooks and no end of MTV-baiting, catchy as hell, quasi-industrial backed nu metal lent Spineshank a more commercialised yet no less powerful industrial metal sheen.
And it worked.
“Synthetic” and “New Disease” were ‘hits’ and for a while there, Fear Factory and Static X had some serious competition!
Downer – Downer (2001)
Despite arriving during rap-metal’s heyday, Downer were an entirely different proposition. A real obscurity amongst nu-metal era releases, the only release by L.A.’s Downer is an alternative metal anomaly that seems to have been utterly lost to the annals of time.
There’s a cold, dry sound to Downer that actually works in their favour. The unique vocals of J. Scott (whose delivery mixes a strangely robotic monotonous tone with a devious sense of melody) and the inventive staccato nu-metal riffing (you won’t find too many solos here) appear workmanlike on the surface but slyly work their way under your skin.
“Weed Eater” packed a vocal hook big enough to reel in a walrus and the incessant pace of “Last Time” was an in-your-face moment of malevolent melody overflowing with barely restrained menace.
Sevendust – Home (1999)
You’d be hard pressed to find a collection of crunchier riffs than those found on Sevendust’s sophomore effort from 1999.
Roping in the likes of China Moreno (Deftones) on “Bender” (a word that means something else in the UK but we won’t go into it!) helped Sevendust’s cause but they didn’t need ‘guests’ to make an impression; the staccato riff nirvana of “Home” and the infectious grooves of “Rumblefish” did enough by themselves.
The fact that frontman Lajon Witherspoon could croon and roar with the best of them was also a major factor in Sevendust’s early success, resulting in Home eventually being certified Gold.
Incidentally, Sevendust’s self-titled debut from 1997 is equally as infectious and to celebrate its 20th anniversary(!), Sevendust are playing it in full on tour this June!
Chimaira – Pass Out Of Existence (2001)
Before they became kings of the new wave of american heavy metal, Chimaira’s full length debut marked them out as one of nu-metal’s most ferocious acts (even if the band loathed to be described as such).
Admittedly, Chimaira’s bizarre melding of death metal, groove metal and nu-metal’s penchant for electronic noises marked them out as an anomaly from the start, the likes of “Dead Inside” still appealed them to the nu-metal fan who was looking for something a little heavier!
Has that made you appreciate the nu-metal era a little more? No? Perhaps you had to be there (and be a certain age)!
Not forgetting (deep breath): American Head Charge – The War Of Art / Chevelle – Wonder What’s Next / Deftones – Around The Fur / Disturbed – The Sickness / Drowning Pool – Sinner / Dry Kill Logic – The Art Of Nonsense / Hed (PE) – (həd)pe / Hed (PE) – Broke / Kittie – Spit / Korn – Life Is Peachy / Korn – Follow The Leader / Limp Bizkit – Significant Other / Linea 77 – Ket.ch.up Sui.ci.de / Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory / Mudvayne – L.D.50 / Nonpoint – Development / Nothingface – Violence / One Minute Silence – Buy Now… Saved Later / Otep – Sevas Tra / Papa Roach – Infest / P.O.D – Satellite / Sevendust – Sevendust / Spineshank – Strictly Diesel / Staind – Break The Cycle / Static X – Wisconsin Death Trip / Taproot – Gift.