Top Ten Nu-Metal Bands
his list is more or less a follow-up to my recent Top Ten Mediocre Post-Grunge / Alternative Bands article, in which I made the case for ten unjustly maligned rock bands from the mid-90s, when I first started listening to popular music. The difference with this list, however, is that there is no nostalgia factor attached—in fact the very opposite, as nu-metal played a large part in the falling out I had with popular music towards the end of the 90s. However, retrospect (and a sparked interest in the second wave of nu-metal) has made me wiser, and while I would hardly put these bands on par with the top of my post-grunge list (and no singles up par with “Hey Jealousy” or “Name”), they’re still worthy bands, and undeserving of the out-and-out dismissal they’ve gotten from the critical consensus. So don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of shitty nu-metal bands out there—Seether, Disturbed and of course Limp Bizkit to name a few—but here are the ten worth saving.
10. Three Days Grace
These guys have a lot of the self-righteous “this song goes out to those people who didn’t want to be like everyone else” type thing going on, but they make up for it with an awesome streamlined guitar sound and some undeniable hooks. And as far as Break Shit anthems go, give me “I Hate Everything About You” over Freddie any day.
Nu-Metal Classic: “Just Like You”
Yeah, these guys kind of suck, but they deserve inclusion for having created the first truly great nu-metal power ballad in “The Reason”. Now I know you all hate this song now—I did too at first, after all, it’s Hoobastank—but I defy you not to sing along to the chorus when no one (including yourself) is paying attention. It’s impossible, and if you don’t know it now, you’ll know when you’re karaoke-ing this song at some nostalgic I Love the 00s party 10 years from now.
Nu-Metal Classic: “The Reason”
I’m actually fairly new to these guys, so all I’m basing this on is their ’04 single “Duality,” but what a great single—five times as brilliantly complex (and five more times as headbangable) as anything on modern rock radio right now. Lyrics still kinda weak (“I PUSH MY FINGERS INTO MY EYYYYYYYEEEEEES!!!!”) but what do you want? After all, it’s still nu-metal.
Nu-Metal Classic (for now): “Duality”
These guys might technically be more industrial than nu-metal, but they merit classification as nu-metal due to their participation in the infamous Family Values tour of the late 90s (featuring other genre stalwarts KoRn, Orgy and Limp Bizkit). Plus, the hook to their biggest hit is (when translated) “You. YOU HATE. YOU HATE ME.. Can you get any more nu-metal than that?
Nu-Metal Classic: “Du Hast”
The second band (see #4) to really make use of the Linkin Park template of electronic production flourishes to make their brand of nu-metal more distinctive. It’s nice to see Lostprophets getting this kind of airplay, hopefully more bands like them will follow.
Nu-Metal Classic: “Last Train Home”
5. The Deftones
Probably the only band on this list with anything resembling indie cred (hell, they even covered a Jawbox song once), these guys still aren’t quite my favorite nu-metallers, but they certainly had a nice batch of alternative metal singles in the late 90s. Their success even predates that of KoRn, getting them arguable godfather status. And damn, that video of theirs with the sharks was twice as awesome as Deep Blue Sea.
Nu-Metal Classic: “My Own Summer (Shove It)”
Or, as everyone likes to call them, the female Linkin Park. And they’re fairly right. Evanescence the LP formula to the letter—quiet, nifty electronic intro bursting into LOUD GUITARS followed by quiet verse and ANTHEMIC CHORUS and so forth. Except, of course, that they’ve got semi-goth superstar Amy Lee fronting the band. And she really is a star—quite possibly the most beloved (and deserving) metal chick since the days of Heart, if not ever. Her straight-from-the-diary lyrics and enchanting stage presence transform the boring angst of boy-metal into simply music with a grand sense of drama—their songs are just as much Andrew Lloyd Webber as Jonathan Davis. It’s refreshing.
Nu-Metal Classic: “Bring Me to Life”
The band that made nu-metal possible. If it wasn’t for KoRn and their infamous 65-day stay at #3 on TRL with “Got the Life,” none of it—for better or for worse—ever would’ve happened. And if there had to be a poster band for nu-metal, they could do far worse than KoRn—when they started out, they were a legitimately genre-bending, innovative, fantastic rock band. And let’s face it, post-grunge wasn’t getting any younger (ahem, Matchbox 20 and Third Eye Blind—not terrible but hardly encouraging for a new guard)—in some ways nu-metal was for the best. So let’s not hold too much against KoRn.
Nu-Metal Classic: “Got the Life”
2. System of a Down
“But wait, these guys aren’t nu-metal! They’re too good!” So the cries will inevitably go, which speaks more to the initial prejudice the public has against nu-metal than to System of a Down’s qualifications for the genre. System of a Down do in fact bear all the hallmarks of a nu-metal band, but they play with such passion, complexity and bizarreness that many consider the label of nu-metal to be beneath them. And while that’s ridiculous, it is true that they are that far ahead of the curve—in fact, they’ve replaced Rage Against the Machine in my heart as the best pseudo-topical, bizarre, fucking rocking band out there right now. Not bad.
Nu-Metal Classic: “Toxicity”
1. Linkin Park
For the first time in almost a decade, the most popular rock band in the country is also one of the best. These guys set the bar almost impossibly high for the rest of the genre in ’01, instantly making the old nu-metal guard—bands like KoRn and Limp Bizkit—totally irrelevant. Still-questionable lyrics aside, these guys continue to break ground for what you can do in a modern rock song—check out the restraint they show for the majority of “In The End,” making the despair that much more palpable, or how the constant conscious/subconscious interplay between MC Mike Shinoda and vocalist Chester Bennington ups the emotional intensity of “Somewhere I Belong”. And that production! Check it out in any of their songs—the haunting piano loop in “Numb,” the stunning (and “Toxic”-predating) string intro to “Faint,” the drum stutters in “Breaking the Habit”—Linkin Park keeps getting better. If this article inspires you to briefly re-evaluate nu-metal, be sure to start with these guys. Believe me, there’s a ton there to discover.
Nu-Metal Classic: “In the End”