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Nu-Metal is essentially a mixture of several different genres (most notably Grunge, Hip-hop, Alternative Metal, Rap Rock and Groove Metal). It is characterized by downtuned guitars with liberal use of palm muting, vocals that range from screaming to rapping (often in the same song), stop-and-start driving bass with a "funky"/slapped quality, hip hop-influenced drumming, varying degrees of electronic manipulation and roughly equal prominence of all instrumentation. The lyrics usually focus on personal crises and painful experience. Its exact origins are generally agreed to start with the band Korn, whose surprise success in the mid-1990s caused a wave of bands to play a similar style and get massively popular with MTV audiences despite a lukewarm critical reception. Many of the early bands were from California, like Alternative Rock and Alternative Metal. The producer Ross Robinson is associated with it; he produced Korn's first album.
Its mainstream popularity lasted until the early-2000s, when Emo took its place. More recently, it seems to be better received outside of the United States, and in American underground music, rather than in mainstream popular music. Some bands, including Deftones, Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot, generally kept and expanded their style, and remained popular, while other bands, like Linkin Park, abandoned the genre completely, and others still broke up and sometimes formed new bands.
Its up to debate whether or not the genre is metal but in the grand scheme of things it's difficult to classify. The bands that were called nu-metal did not really sound like each other. For example compare Limp Bizkit to Coal Chamber. Many nu-metal bands never quite hit mainstream success despite what some metalheads say. To be blunt, most of the hate comes from a very vocal group of metalheads/purists. The hatred runs deep though, so it will take some time until someone can say they like the genre without getting hit with Internet Backdraft by the Hate Dom / Hate Dumb. In any case there are fans of nu-metal just like any other genre and the genre was viewed as a revival of sorts, creating a whole new group of metalheads. Your mileage will vary on this.
A full list of Nu-metal bands would prove controversial, because the term is considered to be derogatory to the point where even the bands themselves fight it (the term was first used in a Coal Chamber concert review in 1995). A fairly uncontroversial list would include the following:
- 20 Dead Flower Children
- 40 Below Summer
- Adema (2000-2003 era apparently)
- American Head Charge (they have industrial influences too)
- American Hi-Fi
- Coal Chamber
- Crazy Town
- Deftones (One of the most critically acclaimed bands in the genre, especially for the album White Pony. Also falls into Alternative Metal.)
- Demon Hunter (slowly converted to Metalcore)
- Disturbed (Since Believe they have started to move away from the genre.)
- Drowning Pool (Early material.)
- Ill Nino (they are also Alternative Metal, and they have elements of Latin music, too)
- Killswitch Engage
- Kittie (early material)
- Korn (Also falls into Alternative Metal, Funk Metal and Industrial Metal.)
- Limp Bizkit (Also falls into Alternative Metal, Funk Metal and Rap Metal.)
- Linkin Park (Though they've been trying hard to rid themselves of this label, as well as every other label but the one that produces their albums)
- Lostprophets (first album)
- Machine Head (Two albums.)
- Maximum the Hormone (Fully embrace the title, but ironically sound little like the stereotype.)
- Nonpoint (post-grunge in later albums)
- Papa Roach (Early material.)
- Powerman 5000
- Sevendust (mostly Alternative Metal; YMMV as to if they count)
- Slipknot (Also Alternative Metal)
- Soulfly (Early material. Later Groove Metal, then Thrash Metal.)
- Staind (Mostly early material, then went post-grunge)
Not to be confused with Nu Gundam.
Nu-Metal provides the following examples of tropes:
- Alternative Metal: Nu-metal started off as a subgenre of this, though grew in popularity to the point of it being counted as a separate genre. Several alt-metal bands, such as Faith No More, Primus and Tool (especially Tool), served as huge influences to Nu-metal.
- Angrish: Some Nu-metal singers can become so intensely enraged that they start losing coherence and spitting into the mic (bonus points if they sound out of breath by the end of it). Overlaps with Singing Simlish below (something Jonathan Davis has broken down into an art-form).
- Badass Long Hair: In contrast to the flowing mane of classic 80's metal bands, Nu-metal tends to take this trope in the form of thick dreadlocks. Corey Taylor's first mask even had these shooting from the crown of his head to compensate for the shortness of his natural hair.
- Careful with That Axe: Many nu-metal songs consist of wild, throat-cracking, usually pissed-off screaming.
- Dead Horse Genre / Deader Than Disco: Many previous Nu-metal bands have moved away from the genre. Generally perceived as being "dead" in the eyes of mainstream American media, although it has a level of popularity overseas, where there was never a prejudice toward the genre, and in the American underground music scene.
- Dead Unicorn Trope: Looking at the list of qualities that are and aren't nu-metal mean that a completely pure nu-metal band probably doesn't exist outside of parody, which makes nu-metal either the widest or most narrow genre of all time:
- "Nu-metal bands never have guitar solos, but some do" (This is actually only true of a handful of bands who just happen to be labeled nu-metal. Many famous nu-metal bands do feature guitar solos, abiet somewhat short ones. Even Limp Bizkit had a couple of brief guitar solos.)
- "All nu-metal bands rap, but some don't" (Korn, most obviously)
- And even Korn made some use of rapping, as on the rap battle with Fred Durst "All in the Family" and guest vocals from Nas and Ice Cube
- "Every nu-metal band whines about something, but not all of them" (Deftones)
- "Nu-metal bassists play slap technique, some play other styles"
- "Some nu-metal bands play electronica (Linkin Park) while others have a more industrial-bend" (early Disturbed)
- "Nu-metal vocalists either have a low, scratchy grunt or a clean-sounding, boyish voice"
- "A nu-metal vocalist can either be manically high energy (Dave Williams) or brooding and reserved (Benjamin Burnley)"
- "Culturally, nu-metal lives on the gritty aggression of American machismo and yet some bands have a Latino influence" (P.O.D., Ill Nino, Soulfly)
- Ensemble Darkhorse: Deftones get far more respect than other Nu-metal bands, possibly due to their experimental nature.
- Lesser known band Adema is considered by many to be one of the most enduring and underrated talents in the last ten years for some on a count of their difficulties mantaining their lead singers, changing styles, and for being put in situations where their break up seemed certain, but never comes about as they are passionate for their fans.
- Slipknot are starting to retroactively get this treatment. Even Terrorizer magazine, traditionally a magazine targeted at metalhead purists, has been getting in on the act, giving not one but two of their members cover slots and labelling their second album Iowa a bona-fide classic. You can imagine how the magazine's traditional fanbase reacted to this.
- Ill Nino gets massive respect from the metal community, despite being labeled as a nu-metal band by some. Hell, pretty much all the songs on their second album could have been done by Linkin Park if the voice was different. Then again, all their albums have a new sound, so it's debatable that they have moved away from the nu-metal label.
- Soulfly also get this treatment sometimes, particularly for their much heavier later material which verges on Thrash Metal.
- Epileptic Flashing Lights: Nu-metal music videos tend to take place in dark rooms (probably a dangerous-looking factory or Abandoned Warehouse) with this sort of lighting. May have been inspired by the video to Unsung by Helmet.
- Gateway Music: Are you a metalhead in his or her early-mid 20s? Deny all you want, but chances are good it's because of the bands listed above.
- Harsh Vocals: The genre is filled with throaty pseudo-growls.
- Heavy Metal: Although a lot of metalheads claim otherwise. It's probably not something you should bring up if you don't want to risk a Flame War.
- Internet Backdraft: Talking about these bands on metal music forums .
- Hell, mention it anywhere on the internet. Anywhere at all.
- It's Popular, Now It Sucks: Perception of the genre from Metalheads.
- Lampshade Hangings/Parodies
- Allow Henry Rollins in his infinite wisdom to explain all
- "Girl All The Bad Guys Want" by Bowling for Soup has the narrator lamenting his inability to get the rocker chick who's into Nu-metal. The video parodies "It's Been A While" by Staind and "Break Stuff" by Limp Bizkit and three Slipknot look-alikes show up near the end to beat up the lead singer who's dressed as Fred Durst.
- The 40 Greatest Nu-Metal Songs Of All Time (pages 1 and 2) seems to address several Nu-metal clichés.
- Lyrical Dissonance: The lyrics are generally angsty, and the music itself generally tries to create an aura of toughness; Your Mileage May Vary as to whether it succeeds at this, or even attempts it.
- Madness Mantra: A trope popular with the genre, though not always used effectively. Singers will often repeat phrases in a Perishing Alt Rock Voice while getting louder and angrier, sounding as if they're becoming progressively unhinged. Frequently (and derisively) referred to as the "watch out man 'cuz I'm CRAZY!!" part.
- Malevolent Masked Men: Certain bands, such as Slipknot, use this trope.
- The Man Behind the Man: Pure Nu-metal bands rarely/never found lasting success, while the most acclaimed acts of the era generally were or were closer to Alt-metal. Today, as most of the Nu-metal bands change their sound, the more successful of them (at least, those that didn't go Post-Grunge) are either becoming more experimental or have moved into the classic sound of the the genres that inspired Nu-metal (early alternative, grunge, trad metal, groove, etc.), proving that the Nu-metal traits were expendable while the sound of Alt-metal was key. Thus, it wasn't Nu-metal that ruled rock music in the late '90s/early '00s, but Alt-metal in disguise.
- Alternatively, it's also possible that the most successful of the Nu-metal acts (or at least the ones who survived the genre's crash) had to be "redeemed" from the Nu-metal tag with the Alt-metal tag as an easy escape. Truly, a pure Alt-metal band might have likely been less successful (with how strange they would have sounded). It's also possible that any Nu-metal band, given the time to evolve, will eventually become Alt-metal (with some doing it ahead of the others).
- Mugging the Monster: A fairly common thematic element, usually invoked at the song's bridge ("Break Stuff" by Limp Bizkit and "Down With The Sickness" by Disturbed are examples of this).
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Scroll back up and look at the salad of genres that influenced Nu-metal.
- Never Live It Down: The few Nu-metal bands that survived the fall of the genre are still being called this, except in a small few cases (see Rescued From the Scrappy Heap below).
- In fact, this trope is so strong, that when Daz Fafara of Coal Chamber went on to start the band DevilDriver, the band instantly became the new target for metalheads, which for the most part was not based on their music, but on Daz Fafara's past. This has often resulted in the band getting labeled as metalcore (see Spiritual Successor below), despite having little connection to the genre, being Groove Metal with a few elements of Melodic Death Metal.
- No True Scotsman: It's a pretty safe bet that if a nu metal band receives any kind of critical recognition, the critic in question will immediately point out three or four highly tenuous reasons as to why the band in question isn't really part of the genre. See Ensemble Darkhorse above.
- Piss-Take Rap: Occasionally.
- Public Medium Ignorance: Explaining which bands are and aren't Nu-metal can be frustrating to genre fanatics. Most people lump Alternative Metal, Funk Metal, Rap Metal, Industrial Metal and Hard Rock (and occasionally Post-Grunge, Gothic Metal and Emo) under the genre (in many ways, Nu-metal has become the catch-all term for modern pop-metal and hard rock). Whether it's because the genre is ill-defined or just contradicts its own characteristics, this may be one of the reasons why the tag is so controversial (see Dead Unicorn Trope above). In other words, many of the bands listed on this page probably aren't Nu-metal on a conventional level, but with how often they get tossed onto the pile, they may as well be (don't be offended if you see Incubus, Orgy or Trapt being called Nu-metal).
- Rescued From the Scrappy Heap: A few bands, particularly Deftones and Slipknot are well-respected by critics, some of which argue that they were never a part of the genre to begin with. In other countries, where the prejudice never existed, bands are proud to claim they were influenced by Korn, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot and other Nu-metal bands.
- Sanity Slippage Song: Very common.
- The Scrappy: The genre itself is considered this to heavy metal by the Hate Dom / Hate Dumb, though in recent times it's become less hated than other genres.
- Seinfeld Is Unfunny: Songs and bands important to Nu-metal will probably never receive much respect after how their concepts were driven into the ground. Outside the U.S. however, they are much more respected.
- Singing Simlish: Jonathan Davis popularized scat-singing in Nu-metal, which David Draiman took to its natural evolution (Ooh-wa-ah-ah-ah!).
- Spiritual Successor: Metalcore, at least in terms of it being The Scrappy of the metal world. Metalcore is more respected than Nu-metal was, however - it is almost universally agreed to at least be metal.
- Deathcore seems to be even more of a spiritual successor to Nu-metal. It's even more hated than metalcore (though most metalheads still agree it's metal), and is starting to become as hated as Nu-metal.
- Squick: Squick is a popular subject of Nu-metal. Singing about cuts, bleeding, and illnesses is standard. The overuse of "under my skin" is easy to spot.
- Three Chords and the Truth: Syncopated, rhythmically-driven power chord riffs are common.
- Trope Codifier: Limp Bizkit.
- Trope Maker: Korn.
- What Could Have Been: If it weren't for Nu-metal's genre salad being perceived as a marketable formula, Alternative metal and metal as a whole could've seen the kind of pan-cultural experimentalism only enjoyed by Prog becoming a cultural phenomenon (Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly at a major level). Sadly, most metal purists are scared for life at the idea of even touching Nu-metal's wackiness (and by extension, Alt-metal's wackiness). When Nu-metal fell, it nearly took Alt-metal down with it.
"Why didn't Nu-metal sound like this?"
—Metal Hammer Magazine on Pain by Dub War.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: Several band names, including (but not limited to) Korn (which spells its name with a backwards "R"), Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park.
- Your Mileage May Vary: Many metalheads actually like some nu-metal bands such as Slipknot , mostly because it got them into heavier forms of metal but its a difficult subject to talk about around metalheads since many others dont.
- Nu-Metal hatred became so extreme among the metal community that if an otherwise respectable metal band had even the slightest hint of a nu-metal influence on a new album, they were rampantly flamed and/or accused of "selling out." Supposedly, most of these fans never considered the possibility that the band may simply LIKE some nu-metal bands and use them as influences because, well, they simply like the music (rather than because they want to sell out or appeal to the mainstream).
Some classic Nu-metal tunes:
- Korn: Blind
- Linkin Park: Crawling
- Limp Bizkit: Counterfeit
- Slipknot: Wait And Bleed
- Deftones: Back To School (Mini Maggit)
- Drowning Pool: Bodies
- Papa Roach: Last Resort
- Saliva: Click Click Boom
- P.O.D.: Youth Of The Nation
- This is probably rooted in Nu-metal's connection with American tough guy culture; flashing lights, industrial imagery and schizophrenic camera editing have their place in the kind of movie trailers and wrestling events which Nu-metal often provided the soundtrack for
- There are a few who use cookie monster-style death grunts/screams, most notably Slipknot.