Was Nu Metal Metal’s Best Era? Rockers Weigh In
Metal has evolved in many ways over the years, and during a recent chat with SiriusXM Octane host Jesea Lee, Asking Alexandria guitarist Ben Bruce professed his love for the nu metal era of music, proclaiming, "I think it was one of the best eras of metal ever because it was so huge." Bruce is just one of several musicians who've been debating the merits of nu metal of late, begging the question, "Was nu metal metal's best era?"
Bruce made his case for nu metal, further explaining, "People say now, 'Oh, what a terrible era.' I think it was one of the best eras of metal ever because it was so huge ... That was the cool thing about nu metal. If you listen to '80s metal bands, a lot of them sound very similar. But they spawned some incredible bands. Same with the '60s — same with every generation and era of music. And nu metal was so diverse. I feel like when you say nu metal, an automatic sound goes into your head. But the reality is you've got Slipknot on one end of that spectrum, Linkin Park on the other end of the spectrum you've got Evanescence somewhere in the middle, you've got System of a Down, you've got Korn, you've got all these great bands that came from nu metal, and they all sound so different; they're so unique. Slipknot is a nu metal band — they are — but they do not sound anything like Linkin Park, and Linkin Park do not sound anything like System of a Down. So I just think it's such a great era. I still listen to it."
The guitarist went on to add, "If I'm gonna put on a metal album, chances are — eight, nine times out of 10 — it's gonna be a nu metal record from that era. Probably [System of a Down's] Toxicity or something or [Slipknot's] Iowa, but it's gonna be from that era. And I still love listening to Metallica and all kinds of other metal bands too, but nu metal — I don't know — holds a special place in my heart. Maybe it's my age."
Asking Alexandria's Ben Bruce Speaks With SiriusXM's Jesea Lee
As stated, Bruce isn't the only one debating nu metal's place in the history of music, and while the Asking Alexandria guitarist was all about nu metal, on Twitter, Trivium bassist Paolo Gregoletto revealed that he was not really a fan. "Nu metal, as a whole, was a very very bad genre. Once you get past the first layer or two of big bands that survived it gets very grim. Anyone saying otherwise is a sicko."
He then added, "I think you could take pretty much any other genre of metal down to the local level and still be like, 'Yea, that's very good.' Hell shit in the local scenes of 1999-2001."
Elsewhere in the same thread, Gregoletto added in response to one fan, "It's the worst or the worst once you are down below that upper echelon of bands. It really was what pushed me into going to death metal shows before I really even liked screaming."
Bad Wolves' Doc Coyle got in on the discussion with Gregoletto, countering, "I think you could say that for any genre. But we are more apt to like those 3rd and 4th tier bands if we really identify with that genre. I know Motley Crue and Def Leppard - I don’t know any Firehouse tunes. But to a glam head, Firehouse is the shit."
Responding to Coyle, Gregoletto added, "I’d still say thrash and death metal are much stronger top to bottom than hair metal and nu metal. But the top tier of the latter two are great," to which Coyle responded, "But could that be to you because you favor those genres? I think there could be a semi scientific approach to to figuring this out. But imo Nu metal’s legacy grows with time. Not shrinks."
The Trivium bassist then added later, "I have very normie nu metal tastes I guess. I liked the big stuff and what I saw on TRL school in the late '90s."
What About Nu Metal's Initial Success?
Bruce's comments about Nu Metal having a sense of diversity certainly ring true, with the genre emerging in the mid-to-late '90s pulling from elements of hard rock and metal as well as hip-hop, industrial and the starting to fade era of grunge that preceded it.
1997 appeared to be the breakout year for nu metal, with the genre peaking in popularity in 1999 and 2000 with acts such as Limp Bizkit, Korn, Linkin Park, Deftones, Disturbed, Slipknot, Kid Rock, Papa Roach, Incubus, Godsmack, P.O.D., Staind and more coming to the forefront of popular music. As nu metal entered the 2000s, a wealth of successors found fame as well, including Evanescence, Three Days Grace. But, by 2003, many of the genre's bigger acts started to evolve or transition away from the nu metal sounds in anticipation of the music world changing.
What About Nu Metal's Revival?
By the mid-2010s, there started to be signs of a nu metal revival with a number of metalcore acts sharing their nu metal influence and working it into their sound. Social media also played a role in the nu metal resurgence with many Gen Z fans being made after being introduced to it by their parents who had grown up as part of that generation of music. After a lengthy layoff, Limp Bizkit returned. System of a Down started touring again and other acts from that era that had continued through all this time started seeing a shift in their popularity. Then, earlier this year, the Sick New World festival sought to capitalize on the resurgence by staging a massive festival that included System of a Down, Korn, Deftones, Incubus, Evanescence, Chevelle, Papa Roach, Coal Chamber, P.O.D., Sevendust and many others from that early era and adding more modern acts such as Turnstile, Death Grips, 100 Gecs, Spiritbox, Fever 333 and more to the lineup.
Where Do You Stand?
Let us know in the comments your thoughts on the nu metal era of music? Was it among the best eras of metal ever? Was it more top-heavy as Gregoletto suggested, with the second and third tier acts keeping it from being a truly great era for metal? And revisit some of the top nu metal albums of all-time below.