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Nu Metal
Primary Stylistic Influences:
Secondary Stylistic Influences:

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 Disturbed, 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 (as a whole) 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.

Nu metal has regained some popularity over the years in many circles, especially outside American scenes. Its niche in the metal world has been largely taken over by a similar genre: Avant-Garde Metal.

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:

Not to be confused with Nu Gundam. And has nothing to do with the blue creatures from Chrono Trigger.

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 and Primus served as huge influences to Nu-metal.
  • Avant-Garde Metal: Nu metal is also considered an offshoot of this; in fact some of the early nu metal acts (such as Korn and Deftones began as avant-garde/experimental outfits. Also, in recent years, the few nu metal bands that have had continuous success have been reclassified as this.
  • 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).
  • Careful With That Axe: Many nu-metal songs consist of wild, throat-cracking, usually pissed-off screaming.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Very, very common, especially with the more aggressive acts.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Frequently coming into play, considering the common lyrical themes associated with the genre
  • Darker and Edgier The genre can be viewed as a darker and heavier late 90s replacement for Grunge in the mainstream.
  • Dead Horse Genre / Deader Than Disco: Many previous Nu-metal bands have moved away from the genre and into other styles such as Alternative Rock, Groove Metal, Electronic Music and Industrial Metal. 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. The death of nu metal could have been easily avoided, however, if it weren't for the music industry capitalizing on it and bands straying away from its original premise. Consequently, a few bands have learned from this and began rediscovering the genre's original concept, leading to some bands transitioning into experimental metal. It's starting to resurface a little in the form of revival acts (and various deathcore bands who proudly took influence from the genre before that; Suicide Silence and Emmure are some of the more obvious examples, and Whitechapel has also joined the party as of the self-titled), but those are still nowhere near as big as many of the acts in the genre got in their heyday, and aside from a few acts that simply got too big to disappear (Slipknot, Korn, and Linkin Park, primarily), most of the bands that still exist are playing to far smaller crowds in far smaller venues than they used to.
  • 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, and some rarely, if ever, use the slap technique" (The Gazette)
    • "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 (Slipknot, Soulfly) or a clean-sounding, boyish voice (Lostprophets)"
    • "Culturally, nu-metal lives on the gritty aggression of American machismo and yet some bands are influenced by foreign musical styles" (P.O.D., Ill Nino, Sepultura and Soulfly throw in Latino influences, while Dir en grey draw inspiration from traditional Japanese music)
  • 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 Helmetnote .
  • Follow the Leader: This is how the genre became as oversaturated with artists as it did; plenty of kids who wanted to start a band would see Korn, Disturbed, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, or some other act moving tons of units and filling large venues, and they'd decide that they wanted a piece of the pie as well and would proceed to copy a famous act, get snatched up by Roadrunner or Sony BMG in about a year, provide one or two charting hits, and then vanish as quickly as they came. This trope also came into effect whenever an established metal group was experiencing a low point in their career and needed to bump up the money they were making to stay afloat, which very frequently led to their going this route.
  • 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.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The genre is even much more popular in Latin America and East Asia than it was in the USA, most notably in Chile, where it was known as "Aggro-Metal" (From aggression, not agriculture); Japan, where it was partly responsible for bringing Visual Kei back in vogue; and the Philippines, where it influenced legions of indie OPM acts, and became a well respected and valid musical option among metalheads and rockers in general. Over there it didn't face much of the criticism it encountered in the USA, as most non-American Nu-Metal bands were independent acts that weren't profiting on a commercially viable fad, but rather exploring a new interesting sound that was the sound of a transitional generation and was worth paying attention to.
    • Although the fad and most of the bands faded into obscurity, it still has a considerable fanbase and some bands are still active. Outside the US, the genre is mostly free of the stigma that it once faced, and it is not rare to find music purists that give recognition to at least the most notable examples of the genre. Korn, Slipknot and Deftones are very popular in the countries mentioned above.
  • Harsh Vocals: The genre is filled with throaty pseudo-growls.note 
  • 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.
    • The main argument against it is that the riffing styles and song structures bear very little similarity to actual metal and that the roots of the genre were more in alternative rock and grunge and carried very little connection to the metal scene, and that shouted vocals and downtuned guitars do not automatically equal metal; as far as they're concerned, it was called "metal" only because of clueless marketing departments and music journalists who had very little familiarity with the metal genre and were calling it "metal" because it fit in with their preconceived notions of what the genre was based on cultural stereotypes and very limited exposure.
    • On the other hand, three of Nu Metal's biggest influences (Alternative Metal, Groove Metal and Industrial Metal) are unquestionably metal, it's just that some of the more metal elements get kind of blurred in with the other less metal influences (like hip-hop and electronica). But even then, due to the wide range in bands, some of which barely resemble each other, its pretty much impossible to judge the true nature of the genre as a whole. Some bands that are labeled Nu Metal are clearly metal bands (Like Slipknot, Disturbed, or System of a Down) and they barely resemble the sound of bands like Linkin Park or Evanescence. It would probably be a much better idea to discuss a Nu Metal band's 'metalness' on a case by case basis
  • Internet Backdraft: Talking about these bands on metal music forums.
    • Hell, mention it anywhere on the internet. Anywhere at all. Try it..
  • It's Popular, Now It Sucks: Perception of the genre from Metalheads. It's very slowly dying down, but it might be too early to tell.
    • It's the Same, so It Sucks: Another common perception, owing to the lack of actual experimentation in the genre (though this has died down in recent years)
  • Lampshade Hangings/Parodies
    "She likes the Godsmack and I like Agent Orange,
    Her CD-changer's full of singers that are mad at their dad."
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The lyrics are generally angsty, and the music itself generally tries to create an aura of toughness.
  • 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 before finally exploding. Frequently (and derisively) referred to as the "watch out man 'cuz I'm CRAZY!!" part.
    Adam Rafalovich: Jonathan Davis, he had this interesting way of kind like whispering[...] he would bring his voice down really, really low[...] making you think he's in a mental institution. That you're seeing inside of his own head when he would offer these really whispery little discussions, and then to actually explode would take those songs to a whole other emotional level.
    Metal Evolution, Episode 8, "Nu-Metal". This scene is played beside "Blind's distinctive bridge."
  • 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, or probably, if they're crazy enough, experimental metal (with some doing it ahead of the others).
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Most bands are a 6 or a 7, with the softer ones and post-grunge crossover acts going into 4-5 and some of the harder ones going into an 8. Bands that go up to 9 (e.g. Ill Nino note , Deftones, Nonpoint, Skindred), 10 (e.g. Celldweller, SikTh, Maximum The Hormone, Slipknot, DevilDriver) or 11 (e.g. Dir en grey, The Gazette, Enmure) are not unheard of, though.
  • Mohs Scale of Lyrical Hardness: Most bands range from a 7 to 9, with some examples going down to at least a 2. The most profane and explicit bands can go up to 10 or 11, but this is very rare, though bands such as Slipknot and The Gazette have written songs that would easily make it to those levels.
  • 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.note 
  • 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 Dez 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 Dez 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. Dez stated that he created DevilDriver because he was disappointed on the direction his band was taking. That being said, their self-titled debut still fell within the perimeters of nu-metal, although it did have hints of the groove/melodeath fusion that would later become their signature; once Evan Pitts (who wrote the vast majority of the album) left, they made a Genre Shift to their current sound.
    • More than a few of the musicians from bands who heavily influenced the genre have slammed it as well, particularly Page Hamilton, Maynard James Keenan, Trent Reznor, and Mike Patton.
  • 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.
  • One-Hit Wonder: One of the most commonly mocked things about the genre was the sheer amount of bands who would get snatched up by a label and release one charting hit (two if they were very lucky) before falling off the map. Many of these hits were 80s pop covers.
  • Piss Take Rap: Many, many, MANY vocalists. Though it's safe to say that some of them can rap surprisingly well.
  • 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, Hard Rock and, occasionally, Post-Grunge, Gothic Metal and Emo (the last thanks to a combination of the Hate Dumb's stereotypical views on the Visual Kei trend and vitriolic attitudes towards anything that can be seen as "overtly emotional" and "damaging to the real image of metal") 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 Dead By April, Incubus, Puddle of Mudd or Trapt being called Nu-metal).
    • This, in turn, is the most likely reason why the genre was tagged as metal in the first place despite its very thin ties to the rest of the metal genre, as it fit in nicely with established cultural stereotypes of what metal supposedly was.
  • 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. A few bands have been saved by leaving the nu metal scene and shifting to more technical music styles
  • Sanity Slippage Song: Very common.
  • 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.
  • Sensory Abuse: It's everywhere in the genre; instruments drowned in a sea of effects, to the typically deranged singing, to the seizure-inducing visuals used in many nu metal videos and lives, and so on.
  • Singing Simlish: Jonathan Davis popularized scat-singing in Nu-metal, which David Draiman took to its natural evolution (Ooh-wa-ah-ah-ah!).
  • Song Association: Many nu metal bands owe their popularity to being associated with certain TV shows/video games/movies in which their songs have appeared.
  • Spiritual Successor: Metalcore, at least in terms of it being The Scrappy of the metal world. However, metalcore is more respected than Nu-metal was - 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, largely for the same reasons that nu-metal was hated (bands worming their way onto otherwise solid bills, obnoxious ubiquity of them in local metal scenes, frequent reliance on obnoxious gimmicks, exceedingly juvenile lyrical content, tendency for once-respected acts to go in this direction in the interest of sales, fans primarily consisting of annoying and immature wiggers). Quite a few deathcore bands have even been acknowledging nu-metal acts as influences.
    • Dubstep has become even more of a spiritual successor to nu metal than any other heavy music genre. Critics have expressed disdain over it for being an apparent disgrace to music due to its frequent use of extremely formulaic compositions, exceedingly simplistic and obnoxious sound, and over-reliance on sheer volume, as well as the near-ubiquity of dubstep songs in various forms of media and the tendency of competing artists to copy each others' styles. As of The New Tens, the genre is perceived as being about nothing but super-filthy basslines, extreme loudness and repetitive wobble riffs, and it's only starting to get worse.
    • Experimental metal is also considered as a spiritual successor; at least this is what nu metal was supposed to have been (Genre-Busting metal). If only it weren't horribly exploited by the industry as a marketable musical formula, it could have developed into this and opened up many creative opportunities for metal artists. Possibly justified by the fact that many well-respected nu metal bands have gotten more experimental as they matured, which can be chalked up to their no longer having to please industry heads or the Ozzfest second stage crowd; when they're not fighting for the allowance dollar, there's a lot more room to do what they actually want to do.
  • Squick: Squick is a popular subject of Nu-metal. Singing about cuts, bleeding, and illnesses is standard. The overuse of "under my skin" (and variants thereof) is easy to spot.
  • Stylistic Suck: Some nu metal bands deliberately cash in on being hated by metalheads by putting out material that seemingly serve no purpose other than pissing off listeners. Common signs of this trope in the genre include unintelligibly screaming/singing vocalists, strong tendencies towards Three Chords and the Truth, excessive use of electronics and/or other forms of Sensory Abuse (dubstep, industrial and noise sounds are popular choices for electronic sounds), immature and/or nonsensical lyric writing, and so on)
  • Suddenly Shouting: A commonplace practice, mainly due to the fusion of softer vocals with vicious screams.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Syncopated, rhythmically-driven power chord riffs are common. A few bands (most notably Deftones) use Meshuggah-influenced riffs consisting of only two or three notes. Lead guitar work isn't too complicated either - most solos are just high-pitched droning notes drenched in effects. Bass and drum work, however, avert this trope for the most part, as bass solos and heavily syncopated drum beats are fairly common.
  • Trope Codifier: Limp Bizkit or Slipknot
  • Trope Maker: Korn, even though they deny it.
  • Ur Example: Deftones and Rage Against the Machine
  • Visual Kei: The Japanese Visual scene is pretty much populated by nu metal bands, though said bands have also begun moving away from the genre and into more metallic styles.note 
  • Wangst: Most of the attempts by bands to write personal or emotional lyrics turned out like this.
  • 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 Progressive Metal 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, Prog metal and Avant-garde along 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.

Some classic Nu-metal tunes:
Funk MetalMusic/Heavy Metal    
Funk MetalHeavy MetalAvant-Garde Metal
Funk MetalAlternative RockBaroque Pop
Alternative MetalMusic TropesArena Rock
Stone Temple PilotsMusic Of The 1990sDeftones

alternative title(s): Nu-Metal; Mallcore
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