What is NU-METAL?
Nu metal is a sub-genre of heavy metal that emerged in the mid-1990s and gained mainstream popularity in the early 2000s. It is characterized by its heavy use of down-tuned guitars, hip-hop-inspired beats, and a crushing combination of screamed and clean vocals. The style of music was a reaction to the dominance of grunge and alternative rock in the mid-1990s and sought to infuse heavy metal with more diverse influences, including hip-hop, electronic music, and industrial.
Nu metal began as a regional scene in Southern California, with the band KORN being credited as the originator of the genre. The group’s aggressive self-titled debut album, released in 1994, was a breakthrough success, blending heavy, down-tuned guitar riffs, hip-hop beats, and introspective lyrics that connected with a disaffected youth audience. KORN‘s sound was raw, visceral, and dark, and it inspired a new wave of bands who followed in their footsteps.
Genre Defining Bands
One of the most significant bands to emerge from this wave was Jacksonville, Florida’s LIMP BIZKIT. Combining rap and metal, LIMP BIZKIT‘s debut album “Three Dollar Bill Y’all“, released in 1997, became a cultural phenomenon, and the band’s charismatic frontman Fred Durst became an icon of the movement. Their breakthrough album “Significant Other” released in 1999, became a massive commercial success, selling millions of copies worldwide.
Another significant band in the early days of the burgeoning genre was Sacramento, California’s DEFTONES, who’s music was more experimental and melodic than most of their contemporaries, infusing elements of shoegaze and dream-pop into their sound. Their debut album “Adrenaline” released in 1995, was a critical success and helped pave the way for their breakthrough album “Around the Fur” which arrived two years later.
By the late 1990s, this new genre had exploded in popularity, and bands like SYSTEM OF A DOWN, SLIPKNOT and PAPA ROACH were beginning to gain massive followings.
SYSTEM OF A DOWN‘s debut album “System of a Down“, which arrived in 1998, was a critical success, and the band’s unique blend of metal, punk, and Armenian folk music resonated with fans worldwide.
SLIPKNOT‘s self-titled debut album, released in 1999, was also a commercial success, and their high-energy live shows and unique visual aesthetic helped them stand out in a crowded field.
This new sound’s popularity continued to grow throughout the early 2000s, with bands like LINKIN PARK, DISTURBED and GODSMACK achieving massive commercial success. LINKIN PARK‘s debut album “Hybrid Theory“, which arrived in 2000, became the best-selling album of the year, and the band’s blend of rap, metal, and electronic music helped them appeal to a broad audience.
However, by the mid-2000s, it’s popularity had started to wane. Critics began to criticize the genre’s lack of originality, and fans started to move on to other styles of music. Some bands, like DEFTONES, evolved their sound and continued to release critically acclaimed albums, while others, like LIMP BIZKIT, struggled to stay relevant.
Today, the genre is still popular among fans, with many of its early pioneers still touring and releasing new music amidst a growing resurgence of the genre’s sound.
The Top 13 NU-METAL Bands Of All Time
Putting out a list of The Best Nu-Metal Bands isn’t the easiest task with the vast array of groups that fall within the style, however we have tried our best to put together a countdown of the top 13 bands who defined the genre. We have listed them from 13 to 1, highlighting their unique contributions to the genre and their enduring influence on heavy music.
13 – ADEMA
ADEMA was formed in 2000 by vocalist Mark Chavez, who just happens to be the half-brother of KORN lead vocalist, Jonathan Davis.
Their self-titled debut album was released in 2001 and featured the hit single “Giving In.”
ADEMA‘s music combined elements of metal with alternative rock and showcased their knack for writing catchy, melodic hooks. Despite numerous lineup changes over the years, ADEMA continues to tour and release new music.
12 – STATIC-X
STATIC-X was formed in 1994 by Wayne Static, and they quickly made a name for themselves with their energetic live shows and unique sound.
STATIC-X‘s blend of industrial metal and metal was a departure from the more traditional heavy metal bands of the time. Their breakthrough album, “Wisconsin Death Trip,” was released in 1999 and featured the hit singles “Push It” and “I’m With Stupid.”
Frontman Wayne Static passed away in 2014, but his legacy continues to live on through STATIC-X‘s music as the band are still touring and releasing new material today.
11 – ILL NIÑO
ILL NIÑO was formed in 1998 in New Jersey and quickly gained a following with their blend of Latin rhythms, heavy guitars, and aggressive vocals. Their debut album, “Revolution Revolución,” was released in 2001 and featured the hit single “What Comes Around.”
ILL NIÑO‘s music has been described as “Latin-infused nu-metal,” and their unique sound has earned them a dedicated fanbase. The band still continues to tour and make new music.
10 – SPINESHANK
SPINESHANK was formed in 1996 in Los Angeles, California and quickly gained attention with their intense live shows and unique sound.
Their debut album, “Strictly Diesel,” was released in 1998 and featured the hit single “Synthetic.” SPINESHANK‘s second album “The Height of Callousness” was released on October 10, 2000.
Unlike their debut album, “The Height of Callousness” had a strong industrial metal influence. The band was featured as part of the roster for Ozzfest 2001, and toured with such artists as DISTURBED, HED PE, ORGY and MUDVAYNE in support of the album’s release.
SPINESHANK‘s music combined elements of nu-metal with industrial and electronic influences, and they were known for their high-energy performances.
9 – MUDVAYNE
MUDVAYNE hail from Peoria, Illinois and came together in 1996.
The band would quickly establish themselves as one of the most unique and innovative nu-metal bands in the scene, with their over-the-top performances and pulverizing grooves.
Their music combined elements of progressive metal, alternative rock, and funk, and showcased their technical prowess and musical creativity.
MUDVAYNE‘s breakthrough album, “L.D. 50,” was released in 2000 and featured the hit single “Dig“, which brought the band into the forefront as one of nu-metal’s driving forces.
After disbanding in 2010, MUDVAYNE would reunite in 2021 and continue to perform live, honoring their lasting legacy in the world of heavy music.
8 – SEVENDUST
SEVENDUST was formed in 1994 in Atlanta, Georgia and quickly gained a following with their blend of heavy riffs, melodic hooks, and powerful vocals.
Their self-titled debut album was released in 1997 and featured the hit single “Black.”
SEVENDUST‘s music combines elements of nu-metal with alternative rock and showcases their ability to write emotionally charged songs with a hard-hitting edge. The band continues to tour and release new music, and their dedicated fanbase continues to grow at an astounding rate.
7 – PAPA ROACH
PAPA ROACH came together in 1993 in Vacaville, California and quickly rose to fame with their breakthrough album, “Infest,” which arrived in 2000 and featured the hit singles “Last Resort” and “Broken Home.”
PAPA ROACH‘s music combines elements of nu-metal with punk rock and showcases their knack for writing catchy, anthemic songs that resonated with a wide audience.
The band continues to tour and release new music, and their influence on the nu-metal genre is undeniable.
6 – SYSTEM OF A DOWN
SYSTEM OF A DOWN came together in 1994 in Glendale, California and established themselves as one of the most innovative and politically charged nu-metal bands on the scene.
Their music threw together elements of thrash metal, punk rock, and Armenian folk music, and showcased their ability to write socially conscious songs with a unique musical approach.
SYSTEM OF A DOWN‘s breakthrough album, “Toxicity,” was released in 2001 and featured the hit singles “Chop Suey!” and “Toxicity” which still garner tremendous radio airplay.
The band still continue to play occasional one-off performances however a new album of original material hasn’t arrived since 2005’s “Hypnotize” LP.
5 – SLIPKNOT
SLIPKNOT formed in 1995 in Iowa and quickly became known for their intense live shows and signature masks.
The band’s music combined elements of nu-metal with death metal and showcased their ability to write heavy, aggressive songs with a theatrical flair.
SLIPKNOT‘s breakthrough album, “Slipknot,” was released in 1999 and featured the hit singles “Wait And Bleed” and “Spit It Out” which would be a sure sign of the carnage to come.
The band have gone on to be one of the most sought after, live performance spectacles of the modern day and continue to bludgeon fans with an onslaught of pulverizing riffs, drums and vocals.
Despite numerous lineup changes, SLIPKNOT‘s influence on the nu-metal genre is undeniable.
4 – LIMP BIZKIT
LIMP BIZKIT came together in 1994 in Jacksonville, Florida and quickly rose to fame with their breakthrough second album, 1999’s “Significant Other“, which featured smash singles like “Nookie” and “Break Stuff.” The band’s music combined elements of nu-metal with rap and showcased their ability to write catchy, energetic songs that resonated with a wide audience.
LIMP BIZKIT‘s success continued to climb with their third album “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water“, which arrived in 2000 and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The LP featured the hit singles “Rollin‘” and “My Generation” which quickly became crowd anthems when fans would experience the group live.
The band’s frontman Fred Durst became a cultural icon with his signature red baseball cap and brash attitude, and LIMP BIZKIT would go on to become the face of the genre throughout the early 2000s.
While LIMP BIZKIT has faced criticism over the years for their lyrics and their association with the controversial Woodstock ’99 festival, their impact on the genre cannot be denied.
The band’s music has influenced countless bands in the nu-metal and rap rock genres, and their energetic live shows continue to draw large crowds around the world.
3 – LINKIN PARK
LINKIN PARK formed in 1996 and hail from in Agoura Hills, California. The band rapidly became one of the most commercially successful rock bands of all time.
Their music combined elements of metal with alternative rock and showcased their ability to write emotionally charged songs with a radio-friendly edge.
LINKIN PARK‘s breakthrough album, “Hybrid Theory,” was released in 2000 and features the hit singles “Crawling” and “In The End.” The band continued to evolve their sound over the years, incorporating elements of electronic music and hip-hop into their music.
The tragic death of lead vocalist Chester Bennington in 2017 was a devastating loss for the band and their fans, putting LINKIN PARK on indefinite hiatus.
2 – DEFTONES
DEFTONES arrived on the scene in 1988 and hail from Sacramento, California.
The band quickly gained attention with their unique blend of alternative rock, heavy metal, and dream pop. Their music showcased their ability to write songs that were both heavy and ethereal, and their innovative approach to songwriting has influenced countless bands in the nu-metal and alternative rock genres.
DEFTONES‘ breakthrough album, “White Pony,” was released in 2000 and featured the hit single “Change (In The House Of Flies)“, which would make the band a household name.
DEFTONES continue to tour and release new music, with their latest album “Ohms“, released in 2020, receiving critical acclaim and massive commercial success.
1 – KORN
KORN, who top our list, formed in 1993 in Bakersfield, California and are often credited with pioneering the nu-metal genre.
Their music combines elements of heavy metal, funk, and hip-hop, which showcases their ability to write emotionally charged songs with a hard-hitting edge.
KORN‘s breakthrough album, “Korn,” was released in 1994 and featured the hit singles “Blind” and “Shoots And Ladders“, establishing the collective as a crushing powerhouse within the burgeoning genre.
The band continues to tour and release new music, with their influence on the nu-metal genre being immeasurable.
While the genre has faced criticism over the years for its use of rapping, simplistic song structures, and angst-filled lyrics, its impact on the world of heavy music cannot be denied. These bands broke down barriers between genres and brought a fresh energy to the heavy music scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
These of course are not the only bands to come out of the genre, with notable mentions to groups such as DISTURBED and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, who surpassed the genre as a whole. Nu-metal unleashed a massive collective of heavy bands upon the world during it’s reign, many of whom continue to deliver crushing, new music.
Today, many of the bands on this list continue to tour and release new material, while others have disbanded or evolved their sound. Nu-metal may no longer be at the forefront of the heavy music scene, but its influence can be heard in the music of many contemporary bands.
In conclusion, the legacy is one of innovation, energy, and boundary-pushing. These 13 bands represent the best of what the genre had to offer, and their impact on the world of heavy music will be felt for years to come.