Three decades of nu-metal in 10 songs, from Korn to the Nova Twins – The National

Thirty years ago this week a song was released that would go on to kick start a new music genre in the US.

Neidermeyer’s Mind, now out of print and released as a demo-tape by fledgling US band Korn, brought a new element to metal music.

There are low-tuned guitars, heavy bass lines and a vocal style by singer Jonathan Davis that combines singing, rapping, metal growling and screaming.

With potent lyrics touching on mental health and alienation, the dark and fiercely vulnerable subject matter was a new element to the metal landscape, one that largely favoured visceral aggression over self-therapy.

The song went on to become the harbinger of a sound called nu-metal, and while it’s unclear who coined the name, it was undeniably one of the most popular genres at the turn of the century.

Here are 10 songs tracking its journey.

1. Blind by Korn (1994)

The lead single from Korn’s debut album, Blind is viewed as the first official track to kick off nu-metal.

With all the signature elements refined since that first scratchy demo-tape and the songwriting more pronounced and dynamic, Blind is powerful and utterly cathartic.

2. Wait and Bleed by Slipknot (1999)

The controversial group are a great distillation of nu-metal’s visual aesthetics.

The striking jumpsuits and trainers are tied to the genre’s hip-hop influences, while the dark and at times gory clown masks and visuals recall the likes of gloomy metal masters Black Sabbath and Slayer.

On the music front, Slipknot are totally their own.

Wait and Bleed epitomises nu-metal’s mix-and-match approach, taking elements from rock, metal and hip-hop through heavily distorted guitars and guttural vocals in the verse, contrasted with a clean and radio friendly chorus.

It’s as thrilling as it is chaotic, thus underscoring nu-metal’s exciting potential.

3. Break Stuff by Limp Bizkit (2000)

The year 2000 will go down as the one where nu-metal went from a proudly independent movement to a commercial juggernaut.

Leading the charge was Limp Bizkit with their caustic yet exuberant Break Stuff, which would go on to become one of the genre’s defining anthems.

The song’s success is down to the genre-bending the group does so effectively.

Musically led by inventive guitarist and riff-machine Wes Borland and with hip-hop turntablist DJ Lethal on the decks, the band conjure up a sonic fury matching the nihilism of the lyrics.

Then, of course, there is the front man, Fred Durst.

The baseball-cap-wearing singer would go on to epitomise the best and worst qualities of the genre during its heyday, in that he is full of brio, but ultimately has nothing to say.

4. Down with the Sickness by Disturbed (2000)

Where Limp Bizkit were often all about dialling up the energy, nu-metal brethren Disturbed have flair.

Signature hit Down with the Sickness launches with singer David Draiman’s guttural chant and the band’s riffs, the drama is then skilfully directed towards an anthemic chorus.

Topping the mainstream rock charts in the US, Down with the Sickness demonstrates how the genre can feature high-quality songwriting.

5. Butterfly by Crazy Town (2000)

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny just how ubiquitous this song was at the time.

While it did go on to render Crazy Town as a one-hit wonder, Butterfly is the nu-metal equivalent of a power ballad.

Hardcore fans cringed at how sappy it was, with some even denying that it was even nu-metal, but Butterfly ticks off all of the genre’s core elements, with hip-hop-inspired rapping and sampling, and tasteful rock guitar riffs and bass grooves.

Butterfly shows that the genre is equally adept at speaking about love, as it is about breaking things.

6. One Step Closer by Linkin Park (2000)

A big question and a sour point for fans and artists is, why did Linkin Park take off so immediately?

Was it a matter of timing and their boyband look, or was it down to the pristinely radio-friendly songs and the major record label backing them?

The answer is a bit of everything.

Amid the encroaching saturation of the scene, Linkin Park cherry-picked the best sonic elements of nu-metal and presented them in a non-threatening manner.

One Step Closer is a case in point. Play it loud and it’s a seriously heavy rocker, but it was late singer Chester Bennington‘s emotional and dynamic delivery that made it appeal to the masses.

In One Step Closer he displays the dynamism that would prove to be the template for future Linkin Park hits like In The End and Numb, with verses sung with the vulnerability of an Nsync record and a snarling chorus recalling the likes of Pantera and Metallica.

Is it all a bit too calculated? Perhaps, but fundamentally it’s just good songwriting and Linkin Park would go on to be the genre’s commercial leaders for years to come.

7. Youth of the Nation by POD (2001)

For a genre grounded in youth culture, it is surprising how most of nu-metal’s biggest tracks were often limited to expressions of internal rage and anguish.

POD (full name Payment on Death) shows it can provide a macro look at youth alienation as well as spinning a fine narrative.

Each verse touches on different tragic elements of American youth culture.

Gun violence is highlighted through the story of a teenager skating to school only to be shot by a classmate.

A 12-year-old girl named Suzie finds “love in all the wrong places” due to growing up in a broken home, while peer pressure and loneliness pushes another teen, “Johnny boy”, to take his own life.

The sober lyrics, augmented by a subdued musical backdrop and some forceful rapping by frontman Sonny Sandoval, challenged perceptions of what makes nu-metal.

8. Chop Suey! by System of a Down (2001)

While nu-metal’s commercial clout resulted in an avalanche of bands getting signed to major record labels, the genre’s appeal would begin to plateau with its lack of distinctive voices.

Enter System of a Down with their blistering break-out single.

It almost sounds derivative to ascribe their name to a genre, such is their dizzying approach in genre blending and panache for creating memorable melodies over schizoid instrumentation.

Chop Suey is both bonkers and brilliant.

A hip-hop song with a heavy metal heart and vice versa.

It sounds like a riot in a music store but displays the songwriting craftsmanship of seasoned hands and went on to launch the careers of one of rock’s most experimental bands.

9. Bring Me to Life by Evanescence (2003)

Evanescence is another group adding much-needed vibrancy to the increasingly turgid-sounding genre.

At the time, nu-metal was in permanent decline.

Former kings Limp Bizkit’s latest album Results May Vary tanked and Take a Look in the Mirror by originators Korn also disappointed.

At the same time a growing cavalry of garage rockers like The Strokes and White Stripes were on their way to taking over the rock world.

That said, Evanescence showed there was still some life yet in nu-metal with the dramatic Bring Me to Life, which pairs Amy Lee’s operatic vocals with tough staccato riffs and some inane rapping.

Despite scoring a global hit, the band sensed the winds of change and abandoned the genre with future releases.

10. Choose your Fighter by the Nova Twins (2022)

So is nu-metal dead? Well, not so fast.

The genre is making a revival, albeit in a different form and looks.

Where it originally took shape in urban US cities before spreading to Middle America, the nu-metal genre-defying spirit has been channelled by a new generation of artists who grew up on streaming and playlists.

The best of the bunch, which includes the US groups Code Orange and Orthodox, are the Nova Twins.

The UK duo are one of the most exciting rock bands today and have played at most of this year’s major rock festivals including Glastonbury in the UK and Japan’s Fuji Rock.

While their forebears took their cues from graffiti culture and punk, the Nova Twins (whose members Amy Love and Georgia South are both not yet 30) take their influences from social media, gaming and Y2K-era artists No Doubt, Pharrell Williams and Rage Against the Machine.

Choose Your Fighter is an exciting reminder of where nu-metal came from and where it could go.

Updated: October 20, 2023, 6:02 PM

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Marc Valldeperez

Soy el administrador de marcahora.xyz y también un redactor deportivo. Apasionado por el deporte y su historia. Fanático de todas las disciplinas, especialmente el fútbol, el boxeo y las MMA. Encargado de escribir previas de muchos deportes, como boxeo, fútbol, NBA, deportes de motor y otros.

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