|(Pic : The Guardian)|
I've already done hair metal, so it's probably worth coming to another of the much-maligned heavy metal subgenres.
Firstly, it's hard to tell what nu-metal actually is/was. It emerged in the mid-1990s and early-00s with some general stylistic themes : "angsty" lyrics (which probably ended up influencing emo), use of instruments other than guitars and drums – particularly turntables – wider variety of vocal styles (even within the same song) and most bands usually have/had some sort of "gimmick" (masks, face paint, OTT hairstyles, uniforms etc.)
It was very much a fusion of different styles in the post-grunge fallout. However, it lacked the hard edge and authenticity of thrash metal and death metal, was probably too white male driven to be taken seriously as street/urban music and lacked the sincerity/DIY ethic of grunge. As a result it's become the unwanted stepchild of the metal scene.
Not wanting to look back with rose-tinted glasses but that's probably unfair. Most of it was utter dross, granted; I always called it "wrestling metal" because it always seemed to feature in wrestling promos. There will be no Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Puddle of Mudd, Staind etc. here. That's because they're all shite. I've never liked System of a Down either – though I won't lump them in with that lot.
Many of the bands were highly experimental and not afraid to try new things. It also acted as a gateway to some of the harder/"better"/classic stuff and it paved the way for things like the Gothenburg sound, djent (you can definitely hear nu-metal influence in Meshuggah) and modern progressive metal.
10. Anthrax & Public Enemy – Bring The Noise
Two of the most maligned genres of music – metal and hip hop – collide. Probably the leading candidate for "first nu-metal" song (I don't think Walk this Way counts), though groups like Faith no More, Cypress Hill and Rage Against The Machine also have a claim to it. It works....too well....and although it was probably done as a laugh you can see why it inspired all the bands that came later.
9. Raging Speedhorn – Thumper
There were very few nu-metal bands from this side of the Atlantic, it was mainly an American thing; though some Welsh bands did become big names in the (somewhat related) metalcore scene. This one seemed to get constant airplay back in the day.
8. Kabbage Boy – Girlfriend
This one probably doesn't belong here as it's from the game Brütal Legend, but it's a perfect send-up of nu-metal tropes – though Ben Folds also deserves a mention for Rockin' the Suburbs. It takes a stab a the plethora of crap post-grunge bands like Nickelback and Creed, though this also sounds like a piss take of Incubus and Linkin Park. So bad it's good.
7. Rage Against The Machine – Sleep Now In The Fire
I'll admit that I've never really liked RATM, but I respect them – particularly Tom Morello, who's one of the more influential guitarists of the last 30 years or so. There's something ironic about being lectured in anti-capitalism by a band signed to a Sony-affiliated label, but I suppose that's the only way they could get their message out, and it's probably a better tactic than living out of a van or in a commune like Crass.
6. Fear Factory – Linchpin
Fear Factory : the band that puts the "heavy" in heavy metal. This one sounds more industrial-inspired than hip hop and show a willingness to experiment with some vocal programming – which almost doesn't work, but somehow does. CAT GIVE ME A PAAAAW! CAT GIVE ME A PAAAAW! NO, YOU CAT!
5. Mudvayne – Dig
If Sesame Street parodied a metal band, it would probably look and sound like (the old) Mudvayne.
I can't understand a word of it, but it's pretty intense (with a cameo by the Seinfeld jingle thing) and, like all good metal, makes you want to punch a bear in the face. It actually takes great technical skill to pull this off but, yeah, it's no surprise they ditched the face paint eventually.
4. Sepultura – Roots Bloody Roots
The Roots album incorporated elements from traditional Brazilian folk music, but split fans with many considering it a "sell-out", and other shailing it as one of the best albums of the 1990s. This has an almost hypnotic groove and riff to it. Sepultura dropped off a cliff when Max and Igor Cavalera left, but I don't know if it's great or sad to see them playing tiny venues nowadays – something that seems to have happened to a lot of nu-metal bands.
3. Deftones – Be Quiet & Drive (Far Away)
Deftones are one of the few bands to actually come out of this with any serious critical acclaim – probably because they never 100% fit the nu-metal label in the first place and are normally lumped in with it because they appeared at the same time. They're so head and shoulders above most of the bands here this could easily have been a list of 10 Deftones songs. Definite shoegaze vibe with this one, but it doesn't lose the metalness. Pretty decent acoustic version too.
2. Korn – Blind
Before they turned the whiny angst up to 11 and achieved more success, Korn used to be a decent band. Blind defined what nu-metal would eventually sound like.
1. Slipknot – Duality
What's the quickest and smelliest way to demolish a house? You can either dump a massive load of elephant shit on it, or put on a Slipknot concert.
It's always a chuckle when people cite Slipknot as the most extreme example of metal ever. I don't know how they got that label. There's stuff out there that sounds like a jet engine in a slaughterhouse and lyrics that would warrant a visit from the police and psychiatrists.
As the years have gone one my respect has grown for Slipknot as musicians; yes, I actually just said that. The masks are a bit silly, granted, but trying to get any sort of coherent sound from a band with nine members (three of those playing percussive instruments) is incredibly hard. Somehow Slipknot seem to get better at it. Although he's no longer in the band, Joey Jordison's also one of the best drummers of all time.