Nü metal is a sound that anyone can recognize. By merging two genres, hip-hop and metal, that were worlds apart in style and attitude, nü metal both repulsed and reenergized an audience still caught in a grunge daze. From its ’90s beginnings to its mainstream explosion in the 2000s, nü metal redefined a whole new era of heavy music. The genre’s golden age has since given way to a new crop of artists who are using its foundations to create their own sound. From Poppy’s wicked, industrialized cover of Kittie’s 1999 stomper “Spit” to electro-punk duo Wargasm recruiting Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst for “Bang Ya Head,” the genre is taking on new shapes.
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5. System of a Down
System of a Down proved that nü metal wasn’t restricted to a particular style. Their self-titled debut album in 1998 introduced their mind-blowing style — then their follow-up, 2001’s Toxicity, fastened their approach. That record’s spastic lead single, “Chop Suey!,” earned countless covers and tons of radio play, showing that heavy music could get theatrical without going glam.
Though Slipknot released their brutal self-titled debut album in 1999, right on the cusp of the 21st century, the band heralded nü metal into the future. The genre pioneers dispensed face-spitting rippers (“People = Shit”) and radio-friendly cuts (“Wait and Bleed”) with pleasure, influencing countless bands along the way. By merging industrial influences and a love for hip-hop with neck-snapping riffs, Slipknot revealed how truly menacing the genre could be.
Since their formation in 1988, Deftones didn’t give much credence to genre. They still offered a lot to nü metal, though, particularly with 1995’s Adrenaline and 1997’s Around The Fur. Both albums demonstrated technical riffs, dark vocals, and a hip-hop bent. Rather than follow that blueprint, though, Deftones transcended those roots in favor of a wider, more imaginative genre spectrum. The experimentalism paid off, as 2000’s White Pony became their landmark record, highlighting their own form of alternative metal with lush atmospherics.
2. Linkin Park
Linkin Park’s fusion of hip-hop, metal, and electronica launched them into the stratosphere. Their 2000 debut record, Hybrid Theory, would go on to become one of the biggest rock blockbusters of the 21st century, finding a balance between heavy music and hip-hop that made them global stars. Though the band never officially disbanded following the death of their beloved vocalist Chester Bennington, founding member Mike Shinoda has said that they have no plans for new music. Regardless, they’ve certainly left behind a tremendous legacy.
Korn’s twisted self-titled debut, which turns 30 next year, started a revolution. Jonathan Davis’ ferocious delivery, overtop industrial instrumentals with hip-hop beats, pioneered a sound like no other. Nearly three decades and 14 studio albums later, their dark vision has endured. “We’re always going to persevere,” Jonathan Davis told AP in 2022 as part of an oral history. “To be this many albums deep is a huge feat.”