Nu metal

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This article is about the music genre. For the nickel-iron alloy, see Mu-metal.

Nu metal (also known as new metal, neo-metal, nü-metal,[1] or aggro-metal[2][3]) is a fusion genre of heavy metal that combines elements of metal music[2][4][5] with that of many genres including hip hop, industrial, hardcore punk and grunge.[2][6][7] It is classified as part of alternative metal.[2][8]


Alternative metal, funk metal, rap metal, grunge and industrial metal bands of the 1980s and 1990s including Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane's Addiction, Tool, Primus, Rage Against the Machine, Helmet, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails and Ministry have been identified as laying groundwork for the development of nu metal, such as combining aggressive riffs with pop structures and drawing influence from a variety of genres within and outside of heavy metal music.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

Groove metal and thrash metal bands of the same era such as Pantera, Sepultura, Metallica[5] and Anthrax have also been cited as influential to nu metal.[2][15][18][19] Anthrax pioneered the rap metal sound by fusing hip hop with metal on their EP I'm the Man.[20]


Deftones' early work was substantially influenced by metal and rap, and featured many different vocal styles like screaming, rapping and singing.

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Slipknot's nu metal style is an aggressive style that combines influences from death metal, thrash metal, hardcore punk and rap music.

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Bands associated with nu metal have derived influence from a variety of diverse styles, including electronic music, funk, glam metal, gothic rock, hardcore punk, hip hop, new wave music, industrial metal, jazz, post-punk, symphonic rock and synthpop.[2][4][6][21][22] Nu metal also derives influences from multiple sub-genres of heavy metal including rap metal, funk metal, alternative metal and thrash metal.[2][4][6]

Nu metal music is largely syncopated and based on guitar riffs.[1] Mid-song bridges and a general lack of guitar solos contrasts it with other genres that are part of heavy metal,[1] in which guitar solos play a major role. Another contrast with other metal genres is its emphasis on rhythm, rather than complexity or mood, tending towards groove metal in rhythm.[4] Nu metal bassists and drummers often draw influence from funk and hip hop break beats, respectively, helping add to the rhythmic nature of the genre.[23][24] Similarities with many heavy metal sub-genres include its use of common time, distorted guitars, power chords and note structures primarily revolving around Dorian, Aeolian or Phrygian modes.[1]

Nu metal band Slipknot, who are known for their use of costumes and masks, performing in Buenos Aires in 2005

Many nu metal bands use seven-string guitars (which are sometimes downtuned[25] to increase heaviness) over traditional six-string guitars.[6] This results in bass guitarists using five-string and six string instruments.[6] DJs are also sometimes used for additional rhythmic instrumentation such as music sampling, turntable scratching and electronic backgrounds.[6]

Nu metal is also sometimes noted for participation of women in the genre in contrast to some other metal genres,[26] including bands such as Coal Chamber,[27] Otep[28] and the all-female band Kittie.[29]

Nu metal vocal styles range between singing, rapping, screaming and death growling, sometimes using multiple of these styles within one song. The lyrics of many nu metal bands focus on pain and personal alienation, similar to that of grunge,[30] rather than the themes of other metal subgenres.[6][22] Nu metal uses the traditional pop structure of verses, choruses and bridges, contrasting it with other metal genres such as thrash and death metal.[31]

Trevor Baker of The Guardian wrote "Bands such as Linkin Park, Korn and even the much reviled Limp Bizkit also, incidentally, did far more to break down the artificial barriers between "urban music" and rock than any of their more critically acceptable counterparts. Their concerts also drew huge numbers of women, which is much more than you could say for any old-metal band."[32] Nu metal fashion can include baggy shirts, sports jerseys and jackets, basketball singlets and shorts, hoodies, cargo pants, sweatpants, dreadlocks, spiky hair, crew cuts, body piercings, tattoos, long hair, jumpsuits and sweatsuits.[33][34][35][36]


Early development (early-mid 1990s)[edit]

The origins of the term are often attributed to the work of producer Ross Robinson, sometimes called "The Godfather of Nu Metal".[9] Many of the first nu metal bands came from California,[37] like Korn, which pioneered the nu metal sound with the release of their demo album in 1993,[38] and Deftones. Other influential bands are Staind from Massachusetts, Limp Bizkit from Florida,[8] and Slipknot from Iowa. The aggressive riffs of Korn, the rapping of Limp Bizkit, and the acoustic ballads of Staind created the sonic template for nu metal.[8]

In 1994, Korn's debut single "Blind"'s music video received airplay on MTV, exposing nu metal to a wider audience in a time when grunge dominated. Nu metal continued to achieve recognition through MTV and Ozzy Osbourne's 1995 introduction of Ozzfest, which led the media to talk of a resurgence of heavy metal.[39] Ozzfest was integral to launching the careers of several nu metal bands, including Limp Bizkit in 1998.[40] The band only had experienced moderate fame, as their debut album peaked at number 72 on the Billboard 200.[41]

Deftones in 2007

Mainstream popularity (late 1990s and early 2000s)[edit]

Korn helped break nu metal into the mainstream.
Korn's Freak on a Leash from their Follow the Leader album brought nu metal into mainstream success.

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In 1997, nu metal was beginning to rise in popularity when Korn released their single, "A.D.I.D.A.S." off their album Life is Peachy. Life is Peachy peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 200[41] while the song A.D.I.D.A.S peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles.[42]

1998 is generally recognized as the year nu metal broke into the mainstream, with Korn's third album, Follow the Leader, which peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200[41] and became a multi-platinum hit, and paved the way for other nu metal bands.[32] By this point most nu metal bands were playing a combination of heavy metal, hip hop, industrial, grunge and hardcore punk.[2] Established artists such as Sepultura,[43][44] Slayer,[45] Vanilla Ice,[44][46] Primus,[47][48] Ice Cube [49][50] Fear Factory[44] and Machine Head[51] released albums that drew from the style. In Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, Ian Christie wrote that the genre demonstrated that "pancultural metal could pay off".[52] Korn's Issues album also peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200[41] and the band had Billboard Hot 100 singles such as Falling Away From Me.[42] By the late 1990s and early 2000s, many nu metal bands including Korn appeared constantly on MTV's Total Request Live.[53][54]

Deftones, an alternative metal band from California, released their album Around the Fur, which peaked at #29 on The Billboard 200, remaining there for seventeen weeks and sold 43,000 copies in its first week of release.[55][56] Around the Fur as well as the band's Adrenaline album both were certified gold in the summer of 1999.The album was RIAA certified gold on July 7, 1999 in recognition of 500,000 units sold.[57] The nu metal band Coal Chamber's self-titled debut peaked at #10 on The Billboard 200[58] and the band's single covering Peter Gabriel titled Shock the Monkey from their album Chamber Music peaked #26 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[59] Their self-titled debut has been certified Gold by the RIAA, with an excess of 500,000 copies in the United States.[60]

The nu metal/alternative metal band Godsmack also broke into the mainstream success of nu metal with their 1998 self-titled album, especially their number 1 hit single, Whatever, which peaked at number 1 on many charts including the Modern Rock Tracks chart as well as peaking number 2 on the Top 40 Mainstream chart and number 4 on the Top 40 Tracks. The album also peaked at number 9 on the Billboard 200. Worldwide the album sold more than 2.5 million units.

Powerman 5000, a nu metal/industrial metal band became very popular in 1999 with their album Tonight the Stars Revolt!, which went platinum in the United States.[61]

Orgy also became extremely popular in 1999 and 2000 with albums like Candyass, which became was certified platinum by the RIAA[62] and the band had Billboard Hot 100 singles such as Blue Monday and Opticon, which both peaked at number 56 on the Billboard Hot 100.[63]

In May 1999, nu metal musician Kid Rock had sales for his Devil Without a Cause album taking off with the third single "Bawitdaba" and by April 1999, where Devil Without a Cause had achieved a gold disc.[64] The following month, Devil Without a Cause, as he predicted, went platinum.[64]

In 1999, Slipknot, a nu metal band from Iowa, emerged with an extremely heavy sound, releasing their debut album, which has gone on to sell over 2 million copies in the United States alone,[65] with Rick Anderson of AllMusic writing "You thought Limp Bizkit was hard? They're the Osmonds. These guys are something else entirely."[66] Limp Bizkit's second album Significant Other, released in 1999, reached number 1 on the Billboard 200, selling 643,874 copies in its first week of release.[67] In its second week, the album sold 335,000 copies.[67]

Limp Bizkit in 2009

Sevendust, a nu metal band from Atlanta, Georgia, released their second album Home in 1999 and it peaked at #19 on The Billboard 200 in September and remained there for fourteen weeks and #16 on the Top Internet Albums chart.[68][69] Home was certified gold on May 18, 2000 through the Recording Industry Association of America.[70] Their song from the album titled Denial peaked at #14 on the Mainstream Rock chart.[71]

In 1999, the nu metal band Staind's album Dysfunction had popular singles such as Mudshovel, which reached number 14 on the Modern Rock Charts[72] and number 10 on the Mainstream Rock charts the album has been certified 2 times platinum by the RIAA by selling 2 million copies in the United States alone.[72] Kittie's debut album Spit debut was certified gold.[73] In 2000, Limp Bizkit's follow-up album Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, set a record for highest week-one sales of a rock album with over one million copies sold in the U.S. in its first week of release, with 400,000 of those sales coming on its first day, making it the fastest-selling rock album ever, breaking the world record held for seven years by Pearl Jam's Vs.[74] That same year, Papa Roach's major label debut Infest, and Disturbed's The Sickness became platinum hits.[75] The nu metal band Soulfly's Primitive album from 2000 sold over 226,569 copies in the early 2000s.[76]

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the nu metal band Incubus[77][78][79][80][81] became very mainstream and had several singles peaking on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles Chart.[82] The band has several multi-platinum albums such as S.C.I.E.N.C.E., Make Yourself and Morning View.[83]

In 2000, the nu metal band P.O.D.'s album The Fundamental Elements of Southtown went platinum[84] and was the 143rd best-selling album of 2000.[85] Late in 2000, Linkin Park released their debut album Hybrid Theory, which remains both the best-selling debut album by any artist in the 21st century, and the best-selling nu metal album of all time.[86] The album was also the best-selling album in all genres in 2001, offsetting sales by prominent pop acts like Backstreet Boys and N'Sync,[87] earning the band a Grammy Award for their second single "Crawling",[88] with the fourth single, "In the End", released late in 2001, becoming one of the most recognized songs in the first decade of the 21st century.[89][90] During the same year, the band Mudvayne's debut L.D. 50 peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart and No. 85 on the Billboard 200.[91] CMJ called the Mudvayne album "A vivid cross section of nu-metal styles." [92] In 2000, Snot's Strait Up album peaked at number 56 on the Billboard 200.[93] In 2001 Staind's third album Break The Cycle debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 with first week sales of 716,003 copies.[94] The rap rock band Crazy Town also broke into the mainstream success of nu metal with their 1999 album The Gift of Game, especially their number 1 hit single, Butterfly, which peaked at number 1 on many charts including the Billboard Hot 100 during March 2001, remaining on the Hot 100 for 23 weeks.[95][96] It also peaked at number 1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and the Hot Dance Singles chart as well as peaking number 6 on the Rhythmic Top 40, number 2 on the Top 40 Mainstream chart and number 4 on the Top 40 Tracks chart.[97] Their album The Gift of Game peaked at number 9 on the Billboard 200.[97] Worldwide the album sold more than 2.5 million units,[98] with more than 1.5 million in the US alone.[99] In 2000, Cypress Hill's Skull & Bones album peaked at number 5 on the Billboard 200[100] and went platinum.[101]

Linkin Park broke into the mainstream in 2000, becoming even more successful than N'Sync and Backstreet Boys.

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That same year, Slipknot released their second album Iowa, which peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 200,[102] going on to sell over a million copies in the United States,[103] critic John Mulvey proclaimed the album as the "absolute triumph of nu metal".[104] Also that year was Saliva's Every Six Seconds, which was also a commercial success, debuting at no. 1 on the Top Heatseekers chart. Its lead single Click Click Boom debuted at no. 15 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. In 2001, the band P.O.D.'s Satellite album went triple platinum[105] and peaked at #6 on the Billboard 200 chart.[106] The band Drowning Pool released a nu metal album[107] titled Sinner, which Bodies peaked at #6 on the Mainstream Rock chart.[108] It went platinum after six weeks of its release and its song "Bodies" became some of the most frequently played videos on MTV for new bands.[109] The nu metal band Alien Ant Farm's album Anthology peaked at no. 1 on the Top Heatseekers chart[110] and no. 11 on the Billboard 200.[111] The album has been certified Platinum in the United States for sales of over 1,000,000 units.[112] Static-X, a nu metal band, managed to have their 1999 album Wisconsin Death Trip go platinum in August 2001.[113] Their Machine album from 2001 also peaked at number 11 on the Billboard 200.[114] Also in 2001, the nu metal/post-grunge band Hoobastank released their major label debut album Hoobastank, which was also a commercial success, peaking at #1 in the Top Heatseekers chart. It released two smash hit singles "Running Away" and "Crawling in the Dark", which debued at #2 and #8 in the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, respectively.

In 2002, critics began claiming that nu metal's mainstream popularity was declining,[115][116] citing the fact that Korn's long awaited fifth album Untouchables, and Papa Roach's third album Lovehatetragedy, did not sell as well as their previous releases, and nu metal bands were played less frequently on radio stations and MTV began focusing on pop punk, metalcore and emo.[117]

However, nu metal ended up having its popularity saved. Korn's Untouchables album peaked at number 2 on the Billboard 200[41] which lost to Eminem's album The Eminem Show.[118][119][120] It had singles such as Here to Stay, which peaked at number 72 on the Billboard Hot 100.[42] The album also managed to become platinum one month after its release, which happened on July 11, 2002.[121] Korn's song Here to Stay also won a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance.[122] Papa Roach's song She Loves Me Not, from their Lovehatetragedy album peaked at number 76 on the Billboard Hot 100.[123] Taproot's album Welcome peaked at no. 17 on the Billboard 200[124] and had a hit called Poem, which peaked at no. 5 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[125] The nu metal/alternative metal band Trapt also broke into mainstream success with their 2002 self-titled debut album, which debuted at #42 in the Top Heatseekers chart, and released a hit single Headstrong, which peaked at #1 in the US Hot Mainstream Rock Charts. Another nu metal band, Trust Company also broke into mainstream success the same year with their debut album The Lonely Position of Neutral, which peaked at no. 11 in the Billboard 200, and produced a hit single Downfall, which peaked at no. 6 in both the US Mainstream Rock Tracks and US Modern Rock Tracks charts.[126] Evanescence's debut album Fallen, was also released on March 2003. Many critics noted the nu metal sound of the album,[127][128] whose Grammy Award-winning lead single "Bring Me to Life"[129][130] was compared favorably to Linkin Park's style. During 2003, Korn's song Did My Time was a hit, peaking at number 38 on the Billboard Hot 100.[42] By the end of 2003, Linkin Park's Meteora and Evanescence's Fallen ranked third and fourth respectively in the best-selling albums of 2003,[131] and would go on to sell nearly 35 million copies between them as of 2012.[132][133] Both bands released high-charting singles throughout 2003 to mid-2004.[90][134] Also in 2003, Korn and Limp Bizkit released their new albums Take a Look in the Mirror and Results May Vary, both of which sold considerably less than their previous efforts. Korn went on to admit Take a Look in the Mirror was rushed, while readers of Guitar World magazine named Limp Bizkit, along with the post-grunge band Creed "worst band of 2003".[135] In 2005, Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory received a diamond certification by the RIAA for shipment of ten million copies. Jane's Addiction returned in 2003 with their album Strays, which contained nu metal.[136] The album peaked at number 4 on the Billboard 200[137] and their song Just Because peaked at number 72 on the Billboard Hot 100.[138] In 2007 the German band Nevada Tan became a massive success in Europe and have developed a fallowing around the world. Their first single Revolution entered the German charts at #15, the debut album Niemand hört dich peaked at #8 in the German album charts and went gold in Russia.

Decline in popularity (mid 2000s)[edit]

By the mid-2000s, metalcore (a fusion of extreme metal and hardcore punk) was what the New Wave of American Heavy Metal scene had as the most popular sub-genre in metal of the time, in both the mainstream and within metal audiences.[139] Despite the massive success of Linkin Park and Evanescence nu metal had declined in popularity. Regarding his band's decline in popularity, Fred Durst said "Here's the deal: say in 2000, there were 35 million people who connected to this band. Twelve years later, lots of those people have moved on. We were a moment in time and it's over."[140]

Many nu metal bands experimented with other genres and sounds. While P.O.D retained several of their nu metal traits, they had overall moved on to a more alternative metal style, with their subsequent releases having eliminated rapping in almost all of their songs. Linkin Park's third studio album Minutes to Midnight, released in 2007, was noted for its complete departure from the band's signature nu metal sound.[141] Other nu metal bands such as Disturbed,[142] Mudvayne,[143][144] Drowning Pool,[107] and Slipknot[145] moved onto a more standard heavy metal sound, while others, such as Staind and Papa Roach went for lighter sounds, such as post-grunge and hard rock.[146][147] However, Korn were still experiencing popularity for a very few more years, where they had many popular hits such Coming Undone" and "Twisted Transistor, which both peaked on the Billboard Hot 100.[42]

2010s and possible revival[edit]

Evanescence in 2011

Despite the lesser radio play and popularity, some nu metal bands still gain critical and commercial success. Korn's 9th studio album Korn III: Remember Who You Are, sold 63,000 copies during its first week in the US, landing at number two on the Billboard 200.[148] As of December 6, 2011, the album has sold 185,000 units in the U.S.[149] and received positive reviews. In 2011, Limp Bizkit's long awaited sixth studio album Gold Cobra, was a commercial success, sold 65,000 copies during its first week in the United States and peaking at number 16 on the Billboard 200 and the album has received mostly positive reviews.[150][151] Also in 2011, Staind's self-titled album debuted at number 5 on the Billboard 200, with first sales week of 47,000 copies, making the fifth consecutive top-five album for the band.[152]

Evanescence's self-titled album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 and other U.S charts and sold over 127.000 copies in the first week, and 284,000 copies to date. It also charted high globally and has received certifications in U.K, Canada and Australia as of 2012.[citation needed] On 2 December 2011, Korn released The Path of Totality selling 55,000 copies in its first week. Many cited this album as a new direction for nu metal, with the band taking influence from electronic music, most notably dubstep. Artists collaborating on the album included Skrillex, 12th Planet, Feed Me and Excision. The album received mostly positive reviews, winning a Golden Gods award for best album.[153] This has led to some talk within the media of a possible nu metal revival.[154][155]

Nu metal-influenced bands such as Emmure,[156][157] Suicide Silence[158][159] and Issues[160][161] gained popularity in the '10s. Other bands such as Dangerkids, From Ashes to New, and Of Mice & Men are dwelling within this genre as well. My Ticket Home released Strangers Only on September 3, 2013, which developed an Nu Metal sound away from their previous Hardcore sound. The band Issues released their self title album February 18, 2014, Of Mice & Men released Restoring Force January 27, 2014, these two album have sold dramatically well since its release date. Nu Metal bands Korn released their new album The Paradigm Shift October 8, 2013, Linkin Park released The Hunting Party on June 13, 2014 which made a all around Rock sound from there last two previous albums, Limp Bizkit is set to release their anticipated album Stampede of the Disco Elephants in the second quarter of 2014. Nu metal band Slipknot, will release an upcoming album, the first in six years. Their first single The Negative One which has been released on August 1, 2014, which contains Nu Metal traits. Slipknot will release their fifth album called .5: The Gray Chapter on October 21, 2014.


Nu metal is often controversial amongst fans of other metal genres, and the genres detractors have labeled nu metal derogatory terms such as "mallcore", "whinecore", "grunge for the zeros", "mtv metal" and "sports-rock".[162] Gregory Heaney of AllMusic has described the genre as "one of metal's more unfortunate pushes into the mainstream."[163] Jonathan Davis, the frontman of the pioneering nu metal band Korn, was in an interview and said

Some bands considered influential to nu metal have tried to distance themselves from the genre. Regarding his band's influence on nu metal, Faith No More and Mr. Bungle singer Mike Patton said "I feel no responsibility for that, it's their mothers' fault, not mine."[165] While Helmet frontman Page Hamilton has stated "It's frustrating that people write [us] off because we're affiliated with or credited with or discredited with creating nu-metal and rap metal or whatever the fuck it is, which we sound nothing like."[166] In response to reports that Fred Durst, lead singer of nu metal band Limp Bizkit is a big fan of his band, Tool's lead singer Maynard James Keenan said "If the lunch-lady in high school hits on you, you appreciate the compliment, but you’re not really gonna start dating the lunch-lady, are ya?"[167] Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails has also criticized the genre, saying in an interview with Kerrang! magazine

As the band had abandoned the nu metal sound often featured on their early work, Deftones' frontman Chino Moreno began to criticize the genre, especially Korn's 2003 release Take a Look in the Mirror saying "As Korn go on, it's the same things — bad childhoods and mean moms. It gets too old after a while. How old is Jonathan? Thirty? How long has it been since he lived with his parents?"[169] Korn's frontman Jonathan Davis responded to it in an interview saying

"Obviously, Chino hasn't listened to the words on the rest of my albums because they're nothing about my parents or my childhood. He's bitter and pissed off. I haven't talked to him because that's some straight fucked up shit that he said. When we first came out it was cool and we were homies. Then as we came up they became bitter because we were getting more attention or some shit. It's retarded how it got like that."[169]

Moreno also has criticized Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit.[170]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • McIver, Joel (2002). Nu-metal: The Next Generation of Rock & Punk. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-9209-6. 
  • Porter, Dick (2003). Rapcore: The Nu-Metal Rap Fusion. Plexus Publishing. 
  • Udo, Tommy (2002). Brave Nu World. Sanctuary Publishing. ISBN 1-86074-415-X. 

External links[edit]