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Alternative History

The 12 Best Nu Metal Bands & the Origins of Their Unlikely Comeback

Best Nu Metal Bands limp bizkit

Nu-metal bands have a reputation for writing big, dumb-rock music. Well, so did The Ramones or Motorhead, and music critics could geek on their songs all day. With time having softened the general opinion about the baggy jean, and backward-cap-wearing 2000s bands, it’s time we give them their due.

I won’t proclaim to love the genre, but I won’t deny having listened to each of these bands repeatedly, either. Rock n’ ll is sometimes inevitable, eh?

That’s why today I’m staying angry, detuning my guitar and ranking the best nu-metal bands of all-time (but mostly of the 2000s).

12. P.O.D.

Christian rock bands, like Creed, were doing great in the world of post-grunge circa 2000. So it only made sense that they’d also find their way in nu-metal. P.O.D. was that band.

Still, to simply reduce P.O.D. to the status of “record sales chasing Christian nu-metal” band isn’t fair either.

“Youth of a Nation” attempted to be an anthem for an entire generation and did just that. And singles like “Alive” or “Boom” were easy to play on rock radio in the 2000s.

Their studio album “Sattelite” became a hit on the back of nu-metal’s success. P.O.D. has remained active and consistent. But their albums generally sneak by unnoticed. It’s a good thing we just might be in store for a nu-metal comeback.

11. Disturbed

Critics used a lot of words to describe nu-metal. Most of them were unpleasant, and “intelligent” seldom was considered. Disturbed may have embodied nu-metal’s worst aspects, but they sure did make a living out of it.

Singer David Draiman used his vocals to resemble jungle animals. Each and every song of Disturbed featured an over-the-top intensity. And their covers of famous songs were atrocious.

Static-X’s may have had greater music with their debut album like “Wisconsin Death Trip,” but Disturbed had a product that could be sold more easily.

“The Sound of Silence” packs the subtlety of a pack of elephants taking a collective dump in the middle of Manhattan. On second thought, that’s not very fair to the elephants.

But they were ambitious and promoted themselves well. And, by the end of it, Disturbed was one of the few bands on this list to have survived the nu-metal backlash.

Personally, I hate Disturbed. I wouldn’t go and break their car windows with a baseball bat or anything. But the only time I’d consider playing “Down with the Sickness” is to try and scare away children off my lawn.

papa roach nu metal

10. Papa Roach

Papa Roach provided one of the songs that defined not just nu-metal but rock music in the 2000s. “Last Resort,” a ditty about self-harm, became an emblematic song, and its guitar riff is unmistakable. It’s one of best nu-metal songs of all-time.

The rest of Papa Roach’s work could be easily ignored. But not the band’s passion and determination.

Jacoby Shaddix’s work ethic has kept Papa Roach in the spotlight. And the band’s modern mix of trap, horrorcore, along with their brand of hip hop and rock, has been praised for being boundary-pushing.

9. Mudvayne

Mudvayne wasn’t the only masked band in rock, or in nu-metal, for that matter. They were, however, one of the most competent groups of musicians.

Before their single “Dig” became an enduring internet meme, and before they caused controversy by painting headshot wounds at the VMAs, Mudvayne was a band looking for a direction.

They found it in nu-metal with their album “The Beginning of All Things to End.” But they soon began adding more experimental, alternative-metal influences into their sound.

Commercial appeal didn’t last for long. By 2002, they were being confused for Slipknot or Mushroomhead.

Still, in recent years the public has warmed back to Mudvayne, one of the more underrated nu metal bands, which is nice because they were always a better band than most nu-metal coattail riders.

Coal Chamber nu metal

8. Coal Chamber

Coal Chamber knew exactly what demographic they were targeting – Korn fans.

Managed by Sharon Osbourne, Coal Chamber was pushed into the limelight quickly. They had a sound and style that resembled Korn, like a freshly printed xerox copy, and a music video that featured Ozzy Osbourne running around.

But those that stuck around for the band’s follow-up, “Chamber Music,” were pleasantly surprised. The band had incorporated industrial and goth influences.

Of course, nu-metal would have its day by the early 2000s, leaving Coal Chamber behind.

However, Dez Farfara has continued to impress with his groove metal project, Devildriver, and even Coal Chamber’s reunion has been met with surprising enthusiasm.

7. Slipknot

Slipknot was nu-metal’s answer to KISS. They wore masks, created a myth around them, and picked fights will fellow bands. Their relentless ambition paid off. Slipknot is still one of the biggest metal bands in modern music.

But let’s dwell on their nu-metal roots for a moment. The band’s first three albums (“Mate.Feed.Kill.Repeat,” “Slipknot” and “Iowa”) were rap-rock aggro adventures that earned them comparisons (usually unfavorable) to Limp Bizkit and Insane Clown Posse.

But it was through the intensity of their live shows that the band really made its fortune.

By 2008’s “All Hope is Gone,” they were injecting Beatlesque melodies into their singles and distancing themselves from a sinking ship. But we remember Corey Taylor rapping long before Machine Gun Kelly.

system of a down nu metal

6. System of a Down

System of a Down is often depicted as just too intelligent for the rap metal audiences of the 2000s. However, these were precisely the people to which they sold records.

SOAD also toured with nu-metal genre bands and made music videos similar in tone to those groups.

But they were quirky. The band insisted on incorporating its Armenian roots into its brutal, occasionally funny (sometimes on purpose) metal. Serj Tankian’s lyrics dealt with weighty topics. They got produced by Rick Rubin.

System of a Down was The Talking Heads to Limp Bizkit’s The Ramones.

By 2005, they’d also transcended nu-metal. And just when many people were getting excited about their music, they broke up. A recent mini-reunion in 2021 proved that stopping saved everyone a lot of trouble.

5. Rage Against The Machine

Rage Against The Machine created a generation of leftist activists and described their music as “propaganda.” But, at the heart of it, they were a rap-metal band.

In fact, RATM’s sound, along with Anthrax and Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise,” is the most vital element in creating the nu-metal sound.

Their self-titled album made the band infamous. Zach de la Rocha’s lyrics referenced James Baldwin, Che Guevara and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

And, while guitar wiz and bandmate Tom Morello tried his best to sway Rocha toward the spoils of capitalism, the singer would not budge.

The band left behind four records, reunited occasionally, and enjoyed a nearly flawless reputation. It’s more than you can say about Morello’s prestige.

4. Linkin Park

Linkin Park didn’t exactly sweat it out in the club for years before being signed. They were one of the bands that took advantage of nu-metal ascendency. Still, they incorporated innovative sonic elements and did well working with Chester Bennington’s excellent singing voice.

Just like Foreigner or Nickelback, Linkin Park was corporate rock.

They were also slick and, at times, seemed to have their finger on the pulse of rock music.

Their first two albums, “Hybrid Theory” and “Meteora,” built upon the sound that Korn and Deftones had built. But they created more hits than those bands combined.

The slightly geeky image of Linkin Park endeared them to a generation. And their willingness to work with the music industry smoothed their ride.

By 2017, at the time of Chester Bennington’s untimely passing, they were one of the most noteworthy nu-metal and modern rock bands.

deftones nu metal

3. Deftones

Deftones is one of the most respected of all the bands on the list. Starting out as a straightforward metal band, they’ve gravitated into exciting, daring sonic territory.

This makes Deftones occasionally sound like visionaries and other times like a pretentious prog-metal band.

The one thing that’s clear is that the band has plenty of imitators. And, unlike some of their contemporaries, the bands influenced by Deftones are quick to admit it too.

Released in 2000, “White Pony” brought a new kind of inventiveness to nu-metal. It made record execs thrillingly proclaim the band as “the new Nirvana.” This left singer Chino Moreno perplexed as he explained that really they were just trying to be “the new Morrissey.”

The hype has surrounded each one of Deftones’ new releases since “White Pony.” Few projects have lived up to expectations. Nonetheless, the band supports nu-metal’s bold claim to be able to incorporate art-rock successfully.

2. Limp Bizkit

Limp Bizkit was nu-metal in the early 2000s as far as most of the world was concerned. That might explain the backlash against the style.

Depending on who you asked, the Fred Durst-fronted group was either one of two things. An uninspired group of hacks taking advantage of the anger of their young fans or daring rock adventurers moving the style into the 21st Century.

Nobody could agree on a middle ground for Limp Bizkit. It made their rise to the top meteoric and their fall from grace catastrophic.

After it was all over, for a long time, Limp Bizkit was just a punchline in movies like “Deadpool.”

But the unbelievable did happen. By 2021’s “Still Sucks,” the world was ready to love again.

Limp Bizkit are touring to their largest crowds in years. And nu metal songs like “Rollin'” and “Take a Look Around” are still nearly sparking riots from men reminiscing about their frat days and working livers.

1. Korn

Korn invented all of the things we associate with nu-metal, and they’ve been apologizing for it ever since. We should be lenient, however. Korn was revolutionary.

Munky and Brian Welch used Steve Vai’s seven-stringed guitars to play monstrous, detuned guitar riffs. Fieldy and David Silveria played Red Hot Chili Peppers funk-rock against it.

And Jonathan Davis sang, rapped, and screamed about the kind of topics rarely discussed outside of therapy sessions.

They dressed funny too. The band wore matching Adidas tracksuits. It left old-school metalheads feeling nervous about their leather-dominated attire.

And albums like “Follow the Leader” and “Issues” turned them into global superstars.

The band’s popularity and creative output nose-dived in the mid-2000s. But Korn has earned back many of its fans in recent years who agree that all hype aside, Korn was a solid heavy-metal band with a strange, twisted vision.

About author

Eduard Banulescu is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications, including FootballCoin, Play2Earn, BeIN Crypto, Business2Community, NapoliSerieA, Extra Time Talk, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc. He has written a book about Nirvana, hosts a music podcasts, and writes weekly content about some of the best, new and old, alternative musicians. Eduard also runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website www.alt77.com. Mr. Banulescu is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.
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