Photo Credit: Metal Hammer

Since the creation of heavy metal, there have been tons and tons of subgenres. Helping people get into countless new bands. Although, there is one genre that seems to be the most divisive or shunned in the metal community. A genre that a lot of metalheads want to ignore or sweep under the rug. Considered a "black sheep" in heavy metal history. And that is the genre known as Nu Metal. A genre that took the origins of heavy metal acts like Metallica and Pantera, while incorporating other genres like rap, funk, industrial and grunge. Incorporating seven and eight string guitars and vocalists who could rap, growl, scream and sing. With the 2000's being the peak of its success, with countless multiple platinum albums by acts like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park.

Korn performing live / Photo Credit Mick Hutson - Redferns

So what makes this genre considered a "dark time" for metal? A time that metalheads shun or turn a blind eye or turn their back on. What makes us want to forget Nu Metal? Today, I will dive into the genre and look into the rise of the genre, the backlash the metal world has with the genre, and the resurgence of the genre in a new form. I will also try to remember my teenage years that loved these kind of bands as I ask the question: Why The Hate?: Nu Metal.

Some cite the inspiration for Nu Metal at the origins of the classic collaboration between Aerosmith and Run D.M.C. with their collaborative cover of "Walk This Way". I think it truly started with the well-known and influential collaboration with Public Enemy and Anthrax on the song "Bring The Noize". With the trademark chuggy and heavy metal guitars, turntables and rapping, it was almost the blueprint that would inspire countless bands to recreate that sound and start a new spin on the traditional heavy metal. Another act was the work of Mike Patton's two most well known bands Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, creating complex and diverse musical arrangements while also infusing other genres like punk, alternative, hard rock, metal and rap. With Faith No More being the more influential of the two.

Many critics and music historians seem to cite one band as the innovators and the kings of Nu Metal, Korn. With their seven string guitars and gritty, gnarly sounding guitar tone, their song "Blind" would launch countless musicians to pick up a seven-string guitar and learn palm-muting and open strings to create a chuggy, drop-D tuning guitar sound. The band's self-titled album would debut at number 72 on the Billboard 200 and would bring attention to Korn's new aggressive fusion of Nu Metal. The rising genre would even influence legendary thrash act Sepultura with the band's 1996 album Roots, which featured Korn's lead singer Jonathan Davis and Mike Patton on the track "Lookaway". Korn's success would skyrocket with the release of the band's third album Follow The Leader in 1998. That album would go five times platinum, as of 2002, and would be a cornerstone of the genre. Cementing Korn as the originators of the sound. Although, a red-capped fronted band would rise beneath them. Creating a more rap-heavy infusion of the genre, while also drawing more ire from the metal community.

Florida's Limp Bizkit would release their debut album Three Dollar Bill, Y'all in 1997. Lead by the popular lead single of the band's cover of George Michael's "Faith", the album would take the aggression and heaviness from Korn's debut album, but incorporate more heavy screaming and a lot more rapping from the band's front man Fred Durst. The band would also gain a high power name on the turntables with DJ Lethal, who was in the rap group House of Pain as their DJ. Following the popularity of that single and rising album sales, the band would team up with Korn and tour. Dubbed The Family Values Tour, it featured Korn, Limp Bizkit, Ice Cube, Incubus, Orgy and Rammstein. Following the success of their debut, Limp Bizkit would strike platinum with their second album Significant Other. Featuring guest appearances by Davis, along with Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, Method Man, Les Claypool and VJ Matt Pinfield. The album spawned many popular singles like "Break Stuff", "Nookie", "Re-Arranged" and "N 2 Gether Now". The album would go seven times platinum and would be the band's highest charting and most successful record. Cementing the band's legacy and impact of the genre.

Though these two bands were selling thousands of millions of albums, record labels would begin to rush to try to sign the next Korn or Limp Bizkit. Many other bands would rise following in the wake of these acts. Bands like Staind, P.O.D, Coal Chamber, Papa Roach and even Slipknot were signed to see if the record labels could strike gold with their own version of those record selling behemoths. Bands would thrive and have opening slots on the rising Ozzfest tour that started in the 2000's, along with the Tattoo The Earth tour. Helping expose more of these bands to new audiences or fans of the heavy hitters and beginning to boost albums sales and making household names of some of the acts.

But, like when you try to chase trends, you flood the water and oversaturate the genre. Many bands began to blur together, songs started to sound too cookie-cutter or predictable, and even legendary bands like Metallica, began to chase the trend to cash in on the success of the genre with their Load/Reload album combo, which many fans of the band blame Nu Metal for the album's direction. Fans also criticized the genres reliance on rap, which wasn't what metal was. Modern radio also flooded the radio with the same Nu Metal songs over and over again. Very few bands would survive the fall of Nu Metal. Linkin Park would be the best example of a Nu Metal band that would take the success of their Nu Metal roots and steer it into the pop direction. Which caused the band great success, with their debut album, Hybrid Theory, going diamond status and selling over twelve million copies as of 2020. Mudvayne would stand out with their take on Nu Metal in what I called "Progressive Nu Metal". Songs like "Severed" off their debut album L.D. 50 pushed the progressive sound into their take on Nu Metal. Adding complex time signature and tempo changes, breaking the mold and pushing them into their own camp, along with their unique and outlandish look.

A summary of a lot of the responses i saw when asked if Nu Metal was metal

Looking back at that time, I do agree with many fans that the scene did become oversaturated and blurred together. Some bands had a hard time standing out from the crowd. Unless you did something different with your look (Slipknot, Mudvayne and Mushroomhead for example) or created a song that could get you to transition into pop radio (Staind's "It's Been Awhile", Linkin Park "In The End" and P.O.D.'s "Alive" come to mind). Sadly, many bands of that time did not survive and suffered with low album sales, being dropped from their label, or broke up. With many fans citing the Woodstock 99 concert and Limp Bizkit's set as the peak and start of the downturn of the genre. By 2003, bands were not selling as many records as they used to. Even the likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit were not selling multi-platinum albums as quickly or fruitfully as they once did. With many fans and critics stating the sound hasn't changed and wanted something different, or many fans growing out of their "Nu Metal Phase". Stating that it was the same schtick over again and not pushing the genre in any new direction, becoming stagnant. Also, rising genres like indie rock & garage rock, as well as the up and coming scene of emo were gaining popularity and were the new "thing" of the time. Pushing Nu Metal to become the old guard and the cliche sound of frat boys and douchebags. Also at that time, metal was beginning to form the New Wave of American Heavy Metal as it would later be called. Focusing on metalcore with acts like Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Shadows Fall and Lamb of God.

Reflecting on how far we have come musically in metal, I do have fond memories of Nu Metal. It was a lot of the music I listened to in middle school. I also thank Nu Metal for helping me get into heavier music. As a teenager, I liked Nu Metal through middle school. I blared the crap out of Follow The Leader and Hybrid Theory. But, like other fans of the genre and what some people face as they get older, I grew out of the phase. By the time I was a freshman in high school, I wanted heavier, angrier music. I didn't want to hear about how cool I am in my lyrics or trying to get girls with my sick rhymes. I wanted thoughtful, more provocative and challenging (some would say controversial) lyrics that Nu Metal wasn't delivering on. I did discover it by listening to Cannibal Corpse, Dying Fetus, Mayhem and the entire extreme metal scene. I know I wasn't the only person who went through this transition. I think to many people Nu Metal was a gateway genre to heavier music and THAT IS OK metal gatekeepers. We all had a Pandora's Box moment of finding a band that introduces them to their favorite bands or genres, and to some people, Nu Metal was that. Yes, it wasn't the original gateway bands like KISS or Metallica or Slayer, but beggars can't be choosers.

There is even a resurgence of Nu Metal in the last five to ten years, but not in the traditional way you think. Bands like Tallah would take Nu Metal to a new hostile and avant-garde variation. Bring Me The Horizon would infuse elements of Nu Metal into their version of metalcore, being dubbed Nu Metalcore. Other bands like Motionless in White, Stray From The Path, Slaughter To Prevail and Poppy would take elements of down-tuned guitars and groove to inject it into their versions of metal to breath new life into the genre for the modern era. Legendary Nu Metal acts have also reunited and come back to feed our nostalgia. Most famously with Limp Bizkit with their 2021 album Still Sucks, the band's first new album in ten years. With many festival appearances and the band sounding just as good as they did at their peak.

Photo Credit: Damburst.com

At the end of the day, Nu Metal does receive A LOT of hate from the metal community, but I think it is unfairly just:

Was it "not your dad's metal"? No.

Was it different? Yes.

Did you not get it and just stuck to your classic records? Yes you did (and don't lie).

I know there were some bands and songs that don't hold up or are very cringe due to today's culture, and I would agree with you on that, but I know when some of those songs come on the radio or shuffle on Spotify, you or myself are singing every single word at the top of our lungs. I am proud that I like Nu Metal, because I became a metalhead BECAUSE of Nu Metal. So I owe my love of heavy and extreme metal to Nu Metal. I know the metal gatekeepers will correct me and tell me I'm wrong and I don't know what I'm talking about (I know I will get AT LEAST one in the comments), but like metal as a whole, it's your opinion on a band or genre. We all had to start somewhere with metal and getting into metal, and to many, these bands were that. And who knows what genre will get the Nu Metal hatred five or ten years from now. Deathcore was receiving the same backlash and visceral disgust when it first came out in the late 2000's, and all I could think was "give it time metalheads" and sure as hell, bands like Suicide Silence, Lorna Shore and Slaughter To Prevail made people like it and now people love the genre. Change is different, and for many people of die-hard genres and bands, they won't like change and we will get this "Nu Metal Misunderstanding" with every new genre or band that comes into popularity. The important take away from this whole piece (and my rambling) is that Nu Metal does not deserve the hate it receives.

Do you think Nu Metal deserves the hate? Let me know if you agree or disagree with me and why? You can also let us know what topic/genre/band we should cover in this series next. I'm Justin, Your Friendly Neighborhood Metal, for another edition of Why The Hate?

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