Everybody’s favorite genre to have opinions about, nü metal shortly peaked as an object of global obsession. Not unlike the finale of Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer, the scene got ravaged by the collective madness of its own stans. Which fairly contributed to the creation of negative biases toward nü metal we’ve grown to accept until recently.
However, far from all beliefs voiced by real metal vikings, “musical excellence” Karens and bigot-y bystanders of normcore were grounded in objective reality, as now made obvious by movements such as trap metal and nü metalcore. Keep reading if you agree that drop-tuned riffs, hip-hop groove and streetwear are integral to challenging the status quo.
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Who Are The Girls? To get an idea, start with their video for “Taxi,” where Nova Twins flip the narrative of Men In Black and beat the white-man-in-black at his own power game. While in full cyberpunk glam. Essentially, that’s the same power move they’re making in their music by dissecting Fear Factory-esque mechanical groove and hooky riffs echoing early Static-X. Pairing retro influences with empowering lyrics, passionate screams and bittersweet rapping, the duo expand the creative element of industrial-leaning nü metal and open a new dimension of representation and relatability in the heavy scene.
Tetrarch’s powerful drumming, emotional screams, Korn-echoing vocal hooks, arena-worthy choruses and excessive turntable scratching (and so much more) remind us of what makes nü metal so cool. Yes, nü metal might’ve never been seen as cool, but with Tetrarch in the picture, it is now. Because being a “Freak” is cool. And being loud voices of the misunderstood, underrepresented and the unheard was, is, and always will be the damn coolest.
Nü-metal vocalists can’t rap? Let us introduce you to Eddie Wellz. You’re welcome. Though of all the critical points about nü-metal vocals and lyrics, the one about grown men sounding “whiny, emo and angsty” aged the absolute worst. That’s one of the reasons why Adam Ramey’s singing sounds so special to everyone who connected with Chester Bennington’s vocals and lyrics. Making nostalgic nods to Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit while updating the influences to the trap-metal generation, Dropout Kings keep the spirit of early nü metal and rap metal alive with the aim to become someone’s gateway to “the first wave.” All while being a six-piece gang, by the way. And it sure sounds so.
To anyone who said nü metal had no potential or capacity for development: hello, riffy greetings from the future. Japan’s Paledusk were already having a promising run with atmospheric, djent-y progressive metalcore with the likes of Polaris and Invent Animate. But it wasn’t until their HAPPY TALK EP that the band came into their very own by down tuning technical groovy riffs and glitching them out of this world. The nü-metal-rooted, deathcore-leaning low-register modus operandi is counterbalanced with cutesy hyperpop sounds and expanded with bright solos, screamed rapping, panicky whispering and hooky singalongs. Also, if Paledusk’s unpretentiously cool style makes them look like streetwear models, it’s because they are.
“Let’s party, baby!” Guitars are burning, the ax is swinging, the blood is splashing and the patriarchy, as well as classist stereotypes, are crumbling under an eclectic blend of punk/riot grrrl attitude, hardcore energy, grunge pessimism and murky nü-metal groove. There’s a conversation happening about artists such as Poppy and Rina Sawayama reclaiming nü metal. This conversation is no longer possible without bringing up WARGASM, YUNGBLUD’s “superdeadfriends.” Fronting like grunge style icons, the duo make “angry songs for sad people” that sound like fresh collabs of Poppy, Slipknot, 100 gecs, Marilyn Manson and Refused. So yes, definitely party music. Best enjoyed “sipping on some rich blood.”
Ocean Grove’s Flip Phone Fantasy is an acid trip back to 1999 that Charli XCX would probably approve of. This bubbly poolside cocktail of melodic alt metal, nü metal, radio-friendly rock and rap metal sounds exactly like a 2000s teenage dream. And in “JUNKIE$,” these Melbourne nü-metal superstars are also every 2000s parent’s nightmare. They own the cringe, embrace the corny, celebrate the trashy and maximize the funky. All that while wearing tracksuits, channeling Kid Rock and representing other things known for awakening raging Karens in metalheads as much as elitists of polite society and good taste. Just perfectly awful.
Tallah made 2020 suck less by dropping their debut LP, Matriphagy, a concept album centered around the story about something nü-metal bands were dragged for since forever—childhood trauma and mommy issues. Wearing the influences of Korn and Slipknot on their sleeves, Tallah create a fun, compelling matrix out of past references and fresh sounds. Oh, and did anyone say “machismo culture”? Say it louder to Justin Bonitz’s pink, fluffy rabbit ears while watching him cover *NSYNC in drag.
For a change of scenery, let’s go to SoundCloud and listen to some emo rap. Here’s a song about heartbreak, “i miss u.” Moving on to “#MONEYOVERHOES,” an ironically flex-y hip-hop track about money and bitches with an aggressive beat. Hold on to that darkness, deep bass and crunchy noises because what goth-looking rapper and producer Salem Vex does in his hip-hop projects also reflect in his guitar work in Bloodbather, an industrial deathcore band with hip-hop tendencies.
生 Conform 死
生 Conform 死 are the answer to the “not metal enough” or “not heavy enough” claims about nü metal. As pointed out by a YouTube comment under “Luxury Letdown” featuring Dropout Kings, there’s no other band as heavy because they play in drop Z. Which is a solid statement. All there is to add is that 生 Conform 死 aren’t just heavy. They’re also extremely versatile, managing to connect the dots between Slipknot, Limp Bizkit and System Of A Down on the lowest register of an eight-string guitar.
To end the “not heavy enough” argument once and for all, let’s finish strong with “State Of Decay,” a track that starts with what sounds like a massive breakdown. Only it’s not. That’s just the level of groove, rage and intensity Deficit are rolling with on their debut EP. So yes, it looks so far that blending hip-hop and metal has a bright, dissonant and heavy future. And that a large part of it will be coming from Australia.