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Nu metal (also called aggro metal, or nü metal using the traditional heavy metal umlaut) is a musical genre that has origins in the mid 1990s. It typically fuses influences from the grunge and alternative metal of the early 1990s with hip hop, electronic music and other metal genres, most often thrash metal. The popularity and perceived vast commercialization [1] of such music in the late 1990s and early 2000s led to widespread negative associations with the term nu metal, which in turn led to many fans and artists rejecting it.

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Contents

Overview

The origins of nu metal can be pinpointed to the Lollapalooza music festival in the 1990's which increased the exposure of bands who performed brands of metal and metal-influenced alternative music that had little to do with traditional genre approaches (see Alternative metal). The funk influence of Primus, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone, the hip hop crossover of Rage Against the Machine and Urban Dance Squad, the industrial metal of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, and the aggressive experimental rock of Tool have been mentioned numerous times as influences who toured on the festival by nu metal bands who gained mass-media exposure at the end of the millennium.

Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain's death in 1994 would signal the beginning of the decline of alternative rock (and grunge in particular) as the driving force in modern American rock music, paving the way for nu metal to gain ground with the public. Grunge is perhaps the most recognizable ancestor of nu metal; the quick jolts of distorted guitar chords, tortured vocals and lyrics of angst associated with grunge have found clear public display in signature nu metal artists, including those with a reputation for integrating hip hop into their sound.

While Deftones, P.O.D., Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot are typically cited as the genre's instigators, bands like Fishbone, Body Count, Urban Dance Squad, Faith No More, Helmet, and others are also proclaimed as progenitors. Linkin Park is the best selling nu metal act with 35 million copies sold out of their first two full-lengths, Hybrid Theory and Meteora (and of the collateral remixes and live albums). Producer Ross Robinson was labelled by some as "The Godfather of Nu Metal" due to his producing of several notable Nu Metal albums. Nu metal bands also typically claim influence by more conventional metal acts, particularly Black Sabbath; it also has some sonic similarity with death metal as well as thrash metal bands like Metallica and Megadeth [3]. Entertainment!, the 1979 debut from British post-punk group Gang of Four has been cited as an indirect influence. Critic Andy Kellman suggests that the album's "vaguely funky rhythmic twitch, its pungent, pointillistic guitar staccattos, and its spoken/shouted vocals have all been picked up by many."

Heavy metal bands are usually said to have a harder sound and/or appearance, but with the trend of nu metal bands becoming harder, this subject could be debated in the years to come. In any case, one should note that the terms "heavy" and "hard" are quite subjective and are likely to have different meanings for different people.

The term "nu metal" was coined in the late nineties to denote the resurgance of metal in the public eye with the rise in popularity of bands such as Korn, Limp Bizkit, and the Deftones, as well as the success of the traveling Ozzfest festival. Ozzfest, unlike the diverse Lollapalooza, provided a venue solely for the metal scene. Mainstream metal had been largely derided in America for most of the decade as glam metal excess had been eliminated by the success of alternative rock, but Ozzfest demonstrated that a sizable audience existed for new heavy metal sounds. Unlike previous eras who held bands such as Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest as their icons, the newer bands typically drew direct inspiration from more recent metal movements (particularly thrash and alternative metal).

Some of the genres first instigators P.O.D with their first release coming out in 1991, saw an emcee put with a metal guitarist. While Korn had released their first album in 1994 at the height of alternative rock's popularity, their true breakthrough came with the release of their 1998 album Follow the Leader and the accompanying Family Values Tour that year, which also included Limp Bizkit, Incubus, Orgy, Ice Cube and Rammstein. Soon other bands gained major radio airplay and rotation on MTV's Total Request Live program, leading critics to declare a resurgence in rock music as a whole.

The sentiment was reinforced by MTV's "Return of the Rock" specials which featured Korn, Limp Bizkit, and related bands. Other acts, such as Slipknot, Adema, Godsmack, Papa Roach, P.O.D., and Incubus, also managed major mainstream success at the turn of the century. Nu metal became a term not only encompassing alt-metal bands like Korn, but also a large number of bands who were considered a revitalization of metal by adopting and updating the extreme aggression and tropes of metal such as showmanship and machismo for the turn of the century. Instead of dressing up in spandex, conjuring up images of the occult and dating models, nu metal bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit mixed hip hop and skateboarding fashion, the goatees, tattoos, and piercings of the alternative scene from the early and mid 1990's (Korn bassist Fieldy), painted their faces (Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland), expressed angst about relationships and childhoods, and dated porn stars, models, actress, pop stars etc.

Mainstream success and criticisms

Nu metal bands essentially defined the image of modern metal music in the late 90s/early 2000s by headlining major rock concerts like the Ozzfest festival and Woodstock 1999 as well as dominating the playlists of both Modern Rock and hard rock radio stations, to the chagrin of many. Criticisms included the incorporation of hip hop and electronic sounds, the emphasis of groove and texture over traditional metal hallmarks such as solos and intricate riffing, the mass appeal that some viewed as selling out and a faux rebellion, and particularly the emphasis on angst and aggression in the music. Many disapproved of the rapping and screaming of Nu Metal frontmen, favoring the more ambitious vocal performances of classic metal acts. Fans of rap music often feel that their genre has been adapted tastelessly by nu metal bands (Papa Roach's Jacoby Shaddix, for example, for this reason has abandoned rapping in his band's most recent work). And even P.O.D. with the introduction of a new self-titled album in 2003 (with new guitarist Jason Truby) discarded thier rap-style vocals for the first time ever, but was re-introduced afterwards, and the band remains one of the only rap-style nu metal bands to still release that type of music (it sometimes leads many classifying P.O.D. as rapcore rather than nu metal). Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst, too, tried to give up rapping in most songs from Results May Vary.

Many people refer to fans of nu metal as "mallgoths," "mini-moshers," or "angsters," claiming that nu-metal fans are subversive "rebels without a cause" (whose rebellious attitude is questionable because of their allegiance to corporate vehicles). Some people believe that the entire nu-metal genre was invented by record executives (similar claims have been made about Post-Grunge). The postmodern art design of nu-metal albums and music videos has come under criticism for attempting to appear raw and gritty in spite of the multimillion dollar production teams behind such designs.

A pivotal moment in nu metal's history was Woodstock 99 where a large number of nu metal acts appeared on the bill. After the three-day festival ended in rioting, many blamed the aggressive nature of nu metal bands for the destruction; Limp Bizkit's set drew particular scorn, in particular their performance of the song "Break Stuff" where some believed frontman Fred Durst encouraged the audience to engage in violence. However, nu metal continued to be quite popular, and in 2000 Limp Bizkit's Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water became the rock record to debut with the biggest first-week sales in the SoundScan era up to that point. Another Family Values tour launched in 2001, with Fred Durst label signings Staind headlining the tour.

Abandoning the Term

Many bands have tried to distance themselves from the "nu metal" tag over the years, particularly the Deftones, who early in their career stopping touring and collaborating with Korn partly out of fear of being classified as part of a generic sound. This partially had to with the use of the term nu metal as an insult by many people, including extreme metal fans and alternative rock fans. It is argued by detractors that Nu metal is not a 'true' type of metal, but a form of alternative music. A few bands also dislike to be pigeonholed into a single movement they felt they had no real connection with. Quite a few nu metal bands, including Papa Roach and Limp Bizkit, abandoned the integration of hip hop (once viewed as vital to the sound of nu metal, mainly for its vocals) and experimented with different sounds on their later albums, often with less success than they had previously. Currently nu metal has declined in popularity in the United States as Indie rock, Emo, Metalcore, and other genres have gained support, although it is still considered an active force in the music mainstream, particularly overseas in places like the United Kingdom.

Nu metal bands that still remain popular to todays standards Korn, Limp Bizkit, Deftones, P.O.D., Disturbed, Blindside, Adema, Drowning Pool, Papa Roach, A Perfect Circle and Linkin Park, and even heavier bands such as Slipknot, Mudvayne and Spineshank still seem to remain popular in rock sales, even due to the so called 'end of the nu-metal era'.

Categorization of specific artists as "nu metal" is difficult, considering the widespread mistrust of the term among artists and fans alike, and the "edges" are fuzzy where nu metal bleeds into other genres. In general, the artists in question are American bands that found their first success in the early and mid- to late 1990s. Immediately, other artists began shaping their sound to resemble the new groove-driven metal.

Musical traits

Guitar

Unlike traditional metal, the overall defining trait of nu metal guitar-playing is the emphasis on mood and texture over melody or complex instrumentation, achieved largely through performance or effects. Generally speaking, the emphasis in the music is on either communicating feelings of angst and hostility, or motivating a crowd to move with the beat -- ideally, both at once. However, guitar-playing in nu metal still often varies vastly in complexity, sound and usage. Bands take elements from several forms of music when composing the riffs for their guitars, causing a high variance between the bands. One common trait of most nu metal bands however, is to emphasize the guitar as a rhythmic instrument. Riffs often consist of only a few different notes or power chords played in rhythmic, syncopated patterns. To emphasize this rhythmic nature, nu metal guitarists generally make liberal use of palm muting, that is often widely spaced out and blend easily into the surrounding riffs.

Another common technique with nu metal guitarists is the use of de-tuned strings whose lower pitch creates a thicker, more resonant sound. Strings 'de-tuned' in this way, are often drop-D or lower, sometimes adding a seventh string. Guitar solos are generally not part of nu metal songwriting, and when they do appear they are often short and uncomplex when compared to those of other metal genres. Some even consider these as more like melody lines for their short length.

Linkin Park, Spineshank and Static-X are three bands that may be considered to represent examples of many techniques common to nu metal. There are exceptions in the genre however, with some bands using few to none of these common traits, such as Korn.

Bass

The speed and skill of a bassist in traditional heavy metal plays a large part of outcome in the band's sound, complementing percussive tempos (and occasionally the guitar riffs) to add a strong rhythm to the tone.

In nu metal, the bass is often the main focus of the music, acting often as the lead instrument, setting the bands other instruments as acting as rhythm. The nu metal bass is often slow and reminscent of hip hop or pop music, strutting a funky, loud sound that would arguably compete with the presence of the band's vocalist, however this is not always the case.

Drums

Nu metal drumming usually consists of 4/4 beats, often believed to come from the genre's hip hop influence. These 4/4 beats are sometimes used as a sole drumming pattern. One of the most important aspects of nu metal drumming, is that tempo rises above the estabilished midtempo range on chorus lines and bridges. This is an almost universal rule, with a relatively small number of bands, including Slipknot and System of a Down, being the rare exceptions. Also, many notable nu metal bands feature a DJ for additional rythmic instrumentation (especially scratches and electronic backgrounds). Two of the more famous nu-metal DJs are DJ Lethal of Limp Bizkit and Joe Hahn of Linkin Park.

Vocals

Nu metal bands often feature aggressive vocals that range from melodic singing akin to pop music music style, guttural screaming and shouting from various forms of metal music and metalcore types, and rapping.

Some distinction is usually maintained between bands that use rapping vocals extensively, and those that don't. Bands featuring almost exclusively rap vocals are sometimes loosely called 'rap metal', while the less common term rapcore is term used by fans to describe bands that use a combination of singing, screaming, and/or rapping (for example, the vocals of Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and P.O.D. , some b-sides by Korn's work, and most songs from Papa Roach's early releases). Moreover, it's very difficult saying if Corey Taylor raps or not in several songs by his band Slipknot.

Tool has been a recognizable origin for some nu metal vocal styles, Chevelle's Pete Loeffler, Taproot's Stephen Richards and even Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst have cited Maynard James Keenan's signature style as an influence. Keenan however has expressed distaste for this and has stated that he does not see the influence, specifically referring to Limp Bizkit.

Lyrical themes

The lyrics of most nu metal bands reflect on the stresses and mishaps of everyday life. Topics covered in this manner range from childhood alienation or abuse, socio-economic status and relationship/marital difficulties. Political progressivism and activism is a less common theme, but still noticeable in many nu metal bands. More often, this is usually discussed candidly rather than in songs.

Footnotes
  1. ^ Limp Bizkit, Puddle of Mudd, and Staind for example, have used the same marketing firm [1] as pop music artists such as Nsync, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. [2]

See also

Sources

Christe, Ian (2003). Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal. HarperCollins. ISBN 0380811278.
Kitts, Jeff and Tolinski,Brad (2002) Guitar World Presents: Nu-Metal Hal Leonard. ISBN 0634032879
Quart, Alissa (2003) Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers. Perseus Books Group. ISBN 0738208620

External links

Heavy metal
Black metal - Death metal - Doom metal - Folk metal - Glam metal - Gothic metal - Grindcore - Industrial metal - Neo-classical metal - Power metal - Progressive metal - Symphonic metal - Thrash metal
Other topics
Fashion - History

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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