Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit. Image By: Tim Mosenfelder/ImageDirect
With Nu-Metal seeing a resurgence in popularity, we thought it was about time that we had a look back at some of the biggest and best tracks from the genre. We've included all the staples - the likes of Korn, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit etc, plus a few others which perhaps don't come to mind quite as readily after 20-odd years.
Limp Bizkit - Break Stuff
The fourth and final single from the Significant Other album cycle, Break Stuff is essentially the holy grail for Nu-Metal. Not only does it embody the ‘devil may care’ attitude of the genre, it has both Fred Durst AND Korn’s Jonathan Davis screaming in each other's faces at one moment during the official video. No track - released before or after - has managed to capture the feeling and energy of well, a shitty day, and the need to break stuff that comes with it. Having a shitty day? Make yourself a drink, sit down, press play on this weapon of a jam and watch it get better before your ears.
Slipknot - Wait And Bleed
Dropping in 1999, Wait And Bleed was the gateway drug that lured many an innocent metal fan into the depths of nu-metal. While fairly tame compared to some of their work that would come after (suck it, purists), Wait And Bleed felt pure-fucking-evil at the time. The masks, the lower-than-hell tuning...No doubt we all remember the first time this came on during MTV’s Head Bangers Ball at 1 in the morning...no doubt we all collectively shat ourselves. Now, the track is a quaint reminder of a happier time, a time when we thought Slipknot members were indeed the spawn of Satan. Ahh...Take me back.
Korn - Blind
Judging by their dreadlocks, their band name, and the whole bagpipe thing, it’s clear Korn never really gave a fuck. Blind is from a time when they gave even less of a fuck than that. Released in 1995, Blind read the room perfectly - this was the same year as Jagged Little Pill, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and What’s The Story Morning Glory - society was experiencing some socio-economic changes and looked for music that reflected that. So, while at the time you may have thought this song was more so suited for that kid in your class who wore trench coats and always set fire to things, you were wrong - Blind was, in fact, a perfect analogy for western society in 1995. Yeah...let that sink in.
Sepultura - Roots Bloody Roots
You’d be hard-pressed to compile an argument that suggests Roots wasn’t one of the most formative, seminal and important songs to have come out from the Nu-metal genesis. The music video began with a poem about ‘suffering’, so if you were an angsty, out of place kid back in 1996, you’d now found your home; your people. The music was savage but compared to Wait And Bleed, or Blind, there was a quality to the production that made Roots insanely accessible.
Linkin Park - One Step Closer
With the passing of Chester Bennington, One Step Closer has taken on a whole new meaning that probably went way over our heads back in 2000 when it first dropped with Hybrid Theory. Its message of internal struggle was palmed off as yet another angst anthem of the era, but now it seems to have been an early warning sign. The track has aged wonderfully, like a fine whiskey, which goes down with a little extra burn now considering what would happen some 18 years later.
Mudvayne - Dig
Much like Slipknot, Mudvayne were scary as hell when they came out. Revisiting Dig for this article did make me chuckle at what I once thought was ‘scary as hell’. Now all that comes to mind is how much time these dudes would spend in make-up before their video shoots. Dig is as close to pure chaos as a song can come. It’s schizophrenic with voices and sounds coming out of all directions. If you can listen to Dig and not cringe at the awkward phase you were clearly going through when it was released, I applaud you, you’re a bigger person than I.
Spineshank - New Disease
Spineshank actually reached dizzying heights of success, I mean, how could you not when one of your tracks get featured on the Freddy Vs. Jason soundtrack? Alas, it wasn’t New Disease that was featured but had it been, the band might have had some serious staying power. New Disease largely went under the radar and is, therefore, a hugely underrated jam and the band's opus.
Slipknot's Corey Taylor, Clown, & Mick Thomson. Photo by Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images.
Powerman 5000 - When Worlds Collide
God. What were we thinking? Looking back on Powerman 5000 and When Worlds Collide, it’s clear the band were more or less the Metro Station of the Nu-Metal movement. The band brought bucket loads of Industrial Metal to the movement, strapping the bleached, spiked hairdos to it. But hey, it was a simpler time - we know not what we did back then.
Orgy - Blue Monday
Much like Powerman 5000, Orgy would bring HUGE industrial elements to their sound. But, as above, there’s plenty of bleached, spiked up hair and eyebrow piercings so Nu-metal is definitely confirmed. Their brooding darkness made a New Order cover a no-brainer for this band. The video clip at least is far more entertaining than the original.
Vanilla Ice - Scars
The fact that Scars actually happened is a great example that the universe is a strange, strange place. 10 years after breaking the damn zeitgeist with Ice Ice Baby, Vanilla Ice tried his hand at Nu-Metal. The project is surely a result of getting bored sitting around counting his ‘fuck you Ice Ice Baby’ cash. Let’s keep in mind this was a whole album - Hard To Swallow, which is about as ironic as album names get. In his own words, anything less than the best is a felony so Vanilla Ice probably should have done some hard time for this. Instead, he started remodelling kitchens. Stick to the kitchen hustle, Van Winkle.
P.O.D. - Alive
Ah, Blue Crush. Despite spawning from the depths of the Nu-Metal movement, Alive would become a posi-core anthem for the masses. An objectively great jam, Alive was a heavy hitter off 2001’s Satellite and seems to have only gotten truer with time. While it’s hard to listen to it now and not picture gnarly shore breaks and beautiful people surfing them, it’s so goddamn positive and won’t fail to put a bit of a spring in your step.
Papa Roach - Last Resort
This song is fucking perfection and I will physically fight anyone who says otherwise. All these years later, the song is still talismanic for the community. Last Resort is for us what Let It Be was for our parents. Fight me about it.
Coal Chamber. Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns.
Crazytown - Butterfly
Butterfly was a huge moment when it first dropped. Crazytown would dominate charts the world over and the song would become a household name. But it was just about all we’d need from the band, to be honest, and they never really matched the hype again. As it would turn out, that had a lot to do with the fact vocalist Shifty Shellshock (yes, that’s the name he CHOSE) becoming more interested in hard drugs than writing more hits. But hey, we’ll always have Butterfly.
Evanescence - Bring Me To Life
Now, this was a huge moment. The combination of stunning female vocals and male rap with distorted guitars. My palms are getting sweaty just thinking about how big this song was when it first dropped. Strangely enough, it would be the last time the band attempted the duelling vocals. Here comes the cold water - the rap part was never actually meant to be in the song. Amy Lee would come out years later explaining it was merely a ruse to make the song more radio attractive, and the band weren’t stoked on it at all. That is perhaps more brutal than finding out Santa isn’t real AND The Red Wedding from Game Of Thrones combined. The male vocal would come from an uncredited Paul McCoy, who plays in the band 12 Stones. They released their fifth album last year so despite the bum rap from Lee, Paul is doing just fine, you guys.
Static X - I'm With Stupid
If Nu-Metal was a competition to see who could have the most spiked up hair, Static X would be the undisputed champs thanks to vocalist Wayne Static. On account of Wayne’s untimely passing on 2014, it’s hard to not try and pick Static-X apart for any sort of warning sign, similar to One Step Closer. I’m With Stupid makes it very clear Wayne was an intense and strange guy with a talent that was at least a few years ahead of others in the Nu-Metal game back in 1999.
Coal Chamber - Loco
Released in 1997, Loco by Coal Chamber was, by name and nature, totally batshit crazy. Let’s not forget this was a time when Missy Elliot, Bone Thugs and B.I.G dominated the charts, and P Diddy was called Puff Daddy. The fact that this song made its way into the top 100 charts (Granted, at #80) is downright impressive. Coal Chamber did a lot of the heavy lifting for bands such as Static X and Slipknot, so even if weren’t your thing, a healthy amount of respect is due.
Incubus - Pardon Me
Having already dropped S.C.I.E.N.C.E and Fungus Amongus, Incubus already had a huge following by the time they dropped Pardon Me. The single was buried deep down the bottom of 1999’s Make Yourself but was unearthed to become one of the biggest singles off the album, which also featured the generation-defining ballad Drive. A tale of self-doubt and self-deprecation, with a firm anti-social message, Pardon Me was the perfect storm for Nu-Metal. On top of that, it’s a head-trip this was written when Brandon Boyd was only 23 - fun fact, the same age Coolio references in Gangsta’s Paradise. So, I guess if you haven’t written a culturally shaping hit by 23, tough luck. Sigh.
Disturbed - Down With The Sickness
It’s hard to know exactly what it was that made this song. Was it the "Ooh-wah-ah-ah-ah" or was it the fact it was synced to the infamous footage of pro-skater Mike Vallely beating up a bunch of people? I suppose it’s neither here nor there as the track penetrated the zeitgeist and hasn’t buggered off since we first caught it in 2000. Put simply, it’s the herpes of Nu-Metal.
Mudvayne. Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage.
Drowning Pool - Bodies
It’s safe to say that ‘repetition’ was thrown around a lot during the war room talks when Drowning Pool were piecing together Bodies. The song has like, 5 different lyrics to it and most of those 5 lyrics is the word ‘Bodies’. But 2001 was a simpler time. The band probably wished they put a bit more detail into the lyrics given that they were misinterpreted by a listener, who used them as motivation to actually shoot a congresswoman. The band immediately issued a statement explaining the song isn’t about murder, but about the comradery, fans feel in the moshpit. The US Government clearly didn’t get the memo, and used the song as part of their sonic torture at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps in 2003, allegedly blasting the song for 10 DAYS STRAIGHT.
Soulfly - Jumpdafuckup
Jump Da Fuck Up is all sorts of motivating and inspiring. The kind of song you listen to if you’re lifting or perhaps for an alarm clock. The track features Corey Taylor laying down some solid bars for a guest verse that’s basically straight up rap. Needless to say, the dude can spit. The ‘What the fuck I’m a Mack Truck’ is as strange as it was during its 2000 release, but as with most of the tracks from this world, don’t start pulling at threads; This is jam is pure attitude and energy.
Deftones - Back To School
White Pony is largely viewed as one of the greatest albums of all time and tracks like Back To School are reasons why. The track was an undisputed fan favourite, but it was a different story entirely for the band. Back To School was only featured on the White Pony re-release which the band weren’t exactly stoked on, to the point where Chino labelled it “a mistake” which hurts to know, considering this song got us through many of our formative and largely horrible high school years. That said, after all these years the thing still rips.
Chop Suey! - System Of Down
I often think about how we’re going to explain this one to our children. How on earth did such a raving, ranting and flamboyant song become so talismanic? Despite the fact so few of us actually knew the lyrics, Chop Suey! would go on to transcend nu-metal, penetrating into the mainstream. Not even the horrible cover from Avril Lavigne could take the wind out of Chop Suey!’s sails. The track is actually about death and suicide (Chop suey-cide, geddit?) and actually charted at #14 on the ARIA charts upon release, a section normally reserved. The track was a heavy hitter of Toxicity which as a complete record, would go on to be one of the most important pieces of content in the counterculture dialogue.
- Mike Hohnen