Styles & Forms | Nu Metal | Rock

As the genre’s name so boldly implies, timing and image were both of critical importance to the realm of nu metal. In pure musical terms there was little to unite the scene’s leading exponents, save for the radical detuning of their instruments and a desire to distance themselves from such old-school hard rock favourites as Iron Maiden and Metallica.

From the rap-flavoured pop rock of Limp Bizkit to the hate-driven, theatrical metal of Slipknot, the nu metal crowd was indeed a disparate gathering. Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, for example, were both established names before the critics began lumping them in with an ever-widening array of musical misfits.

Although Faith No More will forever be irked by the suggestion, the San Franciscan quintet’s provocative, chaotically eccentric brand of funk metal helped to define the roots of nu metal during the mid-1980s. Later that decade, the grunge of Nirvana also helped to tear down lyrical, philosophical and visual barriers, paving the way for a far darker, nihilistic and stripped-down approach.

The Setting Of Nu Metal Standards

Among the first act to crystallize the nu metal sound were Korn, a five-piece from Bakersfield in California. Railing against the suffocation of smalltown USA, Korn were lead by vocalist and former undertaker Jonathan Davis. The group’s compellingly miserable self-titled debut album surfaced in 1994, overseen by Ross Robinson, the producer whose name quickly became a watermark of approval from within the nu metal circle. Davis’ violent lyrics addressed such previously taboo subjects as childhood bullying and even sexual abuse, connecting with many confused souls in the process.

Korn was a slowburner, though it eventually sold two million copies, and two years later the band confirmed their star quality with Life Is Peachy. Three more studio albums and seven years later, Korn have set standards of consistency and longevity that other nu metal acts can only dream of. However, their chief rivals are Slipknot and Limp Bizkit.

Hailing from Des Moines, Iowa, the nine members of Slipknot also used the repressions of their own collective youth as highly effective subject matter for songs like ‘Wait And Bleed’, ‘Spit It Out’ and ‘People = Shit’. Fusing jagged, grinding riffs with barbaric percussion, plus samples and keyboards, Slipknot became overnight heroes after signing to Roadrunner Records in 1999 for their platinum-selling second album, Slipknot (their first album, 1997’s Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat, was self-financed). The group’s refusal to be photographed without their trademark scary masks and boiler suits polarized opinions on levels of musicianship and validity, though to most it only heightened their mystique.

Proof of Slipknot’s mushrooming popularity arrived in 2001 when their third album, Iowa, entered the Billboard chart at No. 3. However, with the group currently busying themselves in a variety of side-projects like The Murderdolls, Stone Sour and DJ Starscream – and even stating: ‘We’ve [got] one more album in us, then we’ll call it a day’ – question...

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Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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