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[Wet Music; 1999]
By 1999, nu-metal backlash was getting louder and harder to ignore. Music journalists on both sides of the ocean were getting antsy at having to
pretend to like seeing Korn on TRL everyday, or enjoy photographing Limp Bizkit for yet another cover story. “There’s more to rap than speaking rhythmically, there’s more to metal than a loud distorted guitar, and there’s more to funk than a few funky beats, but you wouldn’t know it from such limp Limp Bizkit fare,” reported SPIN’s Jon Fine from Family Values 1999. However, when listening to Pleymo's debut album Keçkispasse?, you’d swear the genre was riding high on a tidal wave of acclaim and creativity. Keçkispasse? is a joyful tumble of a record, a band of friends tripping over themselves trying to make as much of this incredible music as they can and opener "Blöhm" is their most ebullient crash. Cramming as much beatboxing, bass solos, turntable scratching, scatting, rapping, and bounce riffs as it can into just under three minutes, “Blöhm” is never anything less than a pure delight. As it shifts down a half-step for its crushing finale, singer Mark Maggiori can be heard screaming “Get the fuck up!” from a distance, like he can’t resist bouncing along in the booth anymore. Maybe if American nu-metal swapped some of its tired angst for this explosive joie de vivre, it would have avoided the critical drubbing it was subjected to.
Along with Nine Inch Nails and Faith No More, Alice in Chains exerted the greatest influence on the melodic side of nu-metal, as many bands in the
genre eagerly bit Jerry Cantrell’s signature minor-key harmonies and Layne Staley's wounded croon from songs like “Nutshell” and “I Stay Away.” Indeed, Ann Arbour, Michigan four-piece Taproot pulled heavily from this well, enough so that the late Staley was even set to appear on their sophomore record Welcome before he passed away. But where Alice in Chains used vocal harmonies to enhance their existential dread, Taproot deploys them to punch up big hooks. “Poem,” the band’s huge 2002 hit, is easily the catchiest thing they ever produced. It rips with the same force and intent as the best drop-A nu-metal, but feels gussied up for actual radio play instead of just TRL spins. The major-key harmony that takes over during the chorus (“It helps me to live”) enjambs itself in your brain right away, and the occasional screamed word (“BREAK!”) leaps from the mix. It’s insanely catchy without sacrificing an ounce of heft in the process. Fittingly, “Poem” was a huge hit, just barely missing the Billboard Hot 100. It was the last time an unmistakably nu-metal song would serve as a band’s breakthrough.
38. 36 Crazyfists
"Bury Me Where I Fall"
Because nu-metal so aggressively gobbled up as many genres as it could, more studious (read: boring) music fans have felt it necessary to attempt
to draw firm and uncrossable lines around it in order to protect their favorite bands from the embarrassment. (Don’t believe me? Refer to Deftones as nu-metal in any forum you’d like and prepare for battle.) Sometimes, though, when you hear it you know exactly what it is, and the first 10 seconds of 36 Crazyfists’ “Bury Me Where I Fall” are it. An elemental dropped A# hammer on/pull off guitar riff opens the track, and you know what you’re in for right away.. Brock Lindow sings like the long-banished hero, coming back crazed from isolation and ready to unveil his terrible revenge. “Under it all I black out holes and glorify disguise/Still draining me from all this strife,” he wields over china cymbal sizzle and guitars that churn like a quicksand whirlpool. Skinlab's Steev Esquive makes an appearance, intoning the pre-chorus “Push and pull like sex machines” in a disturbingly low register while Brock shrieks over the top. Taken all together, “Bury Me Where I Fall” is 36 Crazyfists making groovy post-hardcore; it sounds like if Ross Robinson signed Glassjaw to save nu-metal instead of kill it.
Music made by and for insecure weirdos, nu-metal started out twitchy and lame and got way lamer after it
blew up into MTV saturation hell
but play “Your Disease” at a suitably high volume and you feel like you’re cruising an empty Atlanta highway in a chromed out Cadillac with a fur coat draped over your back. Saliva, who would quickly go on to become something like the WWE house band, managed to somewhat mitigate the stigma of being sellouts by making “being sellouts” their whole brand. “Make me a superstar!” demands singer Josey Scott on the first song of their major label debut Every Six Seconds, “It don’t matter who you are.” That shamelessness becomes something akin to cartoon villainy cool on “Your Disease.” It’s slow-rolling and laced with enough silicone swagger that it just works. Scott drops into the cut with a flow pitched perfectly between bluesy melody and rap cadence: “I'm blowin', comin' up inside/Like the Bee Gees' cry, I'm just stayin' alive, come on!” It’s cool in the way things were cool to you at 13 years old, cartoonishly larger than life and exactly what you want to be when you grow up.
[Closed Casket Activities; 2018]
If every cloud in the sky turned into an anvil, the ensuing crash still wouldn't sound as heavy as Vein.fm’s “Virus://Vibrance” does. As the first
song on their 2018 LP Errorzone, it doesn’t so much blur the line between nu-metal and hardcore as it slamdances it to shreds. Guitars dive-bomb, drums break, and defeatism is demolished. “I've got a nuclear weapon called self-actualization,” lead singer Anthony DiDio explains as the band opens the bomb-bay doors underneath him. 20 years ago a song like “Virus://Vibrance” would have sent A&R’s from every label scrambling to the nearest club show, $100,000 advance in hand, in hopes of signing them first. As it stands, Vein.fm’s totemic, earthquaking “Virus://Vibrance” is plenty of rocket fuel for the next generation of nu-metal, six figure slush funds be damned.
days’”. As of this writing, it has well over 800 upvotes. Truly, there’s nothing hardcore Machine Head fans would like better than for frontman Robb Flynn to have just bashed out endless variations on “Davidian” before fading into insignificance. Thank god Flynn never listened. “From This Day”, Machine Head’s big foray into nu-metal, is swaggering and confident, the sound of a band keenly aware that they’re about to fall behind the times and deciding to nimbly skip ahead a few steps. Machine Head could have clumsily attempted to adapt nu-metal’s surface without understanding its depth (like Metallica would just a few years later with St. Anger), instead they brought the same 10-ton asphalt stomp of Burn My Eyes, injected some nu-metal bounce, and cut loose. Robb Flynn certainly wasn’t the most versatile rapper but you can hear him having a ball and that’s more than enough: “I fall asleep to freeways far from here/Spend half the night just drinking beer” he grins triumphantly. “One of these days you’ll see I’ve always been right.” Maybe that day hasn’t arrived yet, but it’s coming soon.
35. Machine Head
"From This Day"
Nelson Ciappa’s comment on the music video for Machine Head’s “From This Day” reads, “this is the new ‘let's not talk about pantera glam
Indeed, “Blood Brothers” could be second only to “Last Resort” as Papa Roach’s most-known song, this has nothing to do with the record execs at DreamWorks and everything to do with someone at Neversoft having good taste in metal. 1999’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 had a static playlist, meaning every time you dropped into the game for the first time, you were greeted with that muted stabbing riff and those rim clicks already hyping you up for the run of a lifetime. Like everything Papa Roach did during the Infest era, “Blood Brothers” is absolutely sluiced with a life-or-death urgency-- literally, in this instance, as Jacoby Shaddix howls with rage at our human desire for violence. “It’s in our nature to destroy ourselves/It’s in our nature to KILL! KILL! KILL!” He’s dead serious, but for millions of kids with Playstations the only thing serious about “Blood Brothers” was how easily they were about to run up this Pro Score.
34. Papa Roach
Would you believe me if I told you this song wasn’t a single? The 28 - 36 year olds in the audience cry out “Impossible! I still know every word!”
the singer permitted a slightly pathetic grunt, and the bassist? 0-2-0-2. But the drummer needs to be absolutely and utterly on the sharpest end of the point.
To be clear, nobody in Loathe sucks. Still, it is a testament to just how crucial the drummer is that in “Screaming”, a highlight from their stunning 2020 album I Let It In and It Took Everything, the drums are what put the song on the top shelf. From the jump, Sean Radcliffe paces the song at a casual lope, deploying a straightforward 4/4 beat before it switches and the hi-hat starts falling on the two and four instead. Then, at 00:30, the kick drum jumps behind the beat, kicking the song from a jog into a confident sprint. It’s a dazzling moment, as catchy and involved as anything else on the track and the song never loses that momentum. Lead singer Kadeem France unspools a gorgeous vocal melody that keeps rising and rising, as enrapturing as Deftones at their most florid. But before it becomes too pretty, massive rippling screams and end-of-the-world guitars come gnashing into the mix, along with those drums dropping into a thundering half time. It closes on a smooth, jazzy chord and an atmospheric piano wash. Everything Loathe does well is being done to perfection here but it’s those drums that will pierce your mind.
In a nu-metal band, everyone is allowed to suck except the drummer. The guitarist is allowed to know the most rudimentary 0-2-0-2 riffs ever,
together like old family films. There’s Static-X’s North American death trip, Incubus’ blissed out Morning View jam sessions, Godsmack’s testosterone soaked idiot fantasia, Staind’s rags to riches account, Korn’s riches to “maybe we’re too rich now?” feature. These were cut quick and chucked out to satiate the appetites of hungry fans; now they’re almost achingly nostalgic. Kittie’s contribution to the form, 2000’s Spit in Your Eye, catches the Canadian group on the greatest slumber party of all time. It’s replete with adorable moments-- Morgan Lander tearing out page 666 in every bible she finds in their hotel rooms; piling into a shopping cart and racing through a parking lot; giggling at a horror movie on their tour bus-- but more than anything, it’s their tight bond that beams brightest. Kittie was an insane anomaly in the record industry: a group of teenage girls that met in high school, wrote their own songs, got signed, and were subsequently embraced by a scene dominated by men. There’s no male Svengali or secret songwriting team; it’s just a group of friends excited to be making music together. It’s that friendship that shines through on “Brackish.” Like everything on Spit, “Brackish” benefits from a close mic’d and unquantized intensity. Written for a friend in a bad relationship, much of “Brackish” could have been aimed at the machinations of a media who thought that a group of young girls having fun on tour wasn’t scandalous enough (“Times have changed and so have you, I think I'd rather crucify than learn”), and did their worst to dredge drama from them. Elsewhere on Spit in Your Eye, a dead serious Lander fumes at the band’s treatment-- not by the metal community, but by the media and interviewers harassing the group with the same questions about their age and about being a group of girls in metal. “I am not a tool for exploitation,” declares Lander. When guitarist Fallon Bowman shows up with a reassuring, firm hand on her shoulder during the chorus (“Take so much away from inside you/Makes no sense, you know he can't guide you [...] Be strong”), it’s a powerful moment of solidarity. “Brackish” is a friendship bracelet, one made from steel studs, spikes, and letter blocks that say “FUCK YOU”.
The home movie/tour diary video tape is one of nu-metal’s most endearing features: homemade compilations of DVR and Mini-VHS footage spliced
they sound like they’re having a blast from start to finish, but it also means you walk away feeling like there’s more promise than delivery. When Pleymo released their sophomore major label debut Episode 2: Medicine Cake expectations were high among the French metal community. As soon as the first proper song, “Tank Club”, kicks in it’s very very clear; Pleymo are no longer fucking around. To experience Episode 2 is to experience one of music’s most satisfying joys, watching a good band fully manifest themselves into a great one. “Tank Club” gets things going on a high note with a 7-string riff that shifts down an octave for a drop that feels like a 5th floor parking garage caving into an art gallery on the 4th. Swimming into the first verse and you’re immediately struck by the production which trades Kickespasse?’s live from the basement charm for a trunk rumbling bass effect that embraces producer Fabrice Leyni’s history with French rap royalty Supreme NTM. It’s actually shocking how unique this production approach was, most nu-metal was mixed for treble; stock stereos in cheap cars and FM radio. Pleymo mixed theirs for French nightclubs. As such the production of Episode 2: Medicine Cake has aged incredibly well as the low-end wound up winning the day. Throughout “Tank Club” you witness a band in full control of their art, they’re game tight, dominating the songs starts and stops with total precision from the dense clean thickets of the verses to the glass shattering octave pedal screams of the bridge. “Tank des cakes au détail [...] You! Can! Try!” shouts singer Mark Maggiori on the chorus. With “Tank Club” as an appetizer you’ll be starving for the main course.
As much fun as Pleymo’s debut album Keçkispasse? is, there’s a distinct atmosphere of fucking around going on. It works to the record’s benefit,
While this author aims for a big tent approach, the line must be drawn somewhere. So while bands like Rage Against the Machine, Primus, Nine Inch Nails, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tool, Pantera, and Faith No More certainly qualify as proto-nu-metal, they aren't nu-metal enough to be on this list. Ministry is our sole proto representation because in 1989 they just so happened to record "Thieves." Thematically it anticipates many of nu-metal’s lyrical concepts, minus thematic heft; divorced from context, samples of military sergeants, and condemnations of racist society, Ministry mastermind Al Jourgensen’s rage towards “hypocrites and bastards'' would be watered down to generic “haters and losers” by imitators only a decade later. During the bridge, a tritone-dropped run is used, pioneering yet another future nu-metal staple. But the most influential, most important thing “Thieves” anticipated was launching into a bounce riff with a “Get up!” That command, to “get the fuck up!” dominates nu-metal; you’d be hard-pressed to find a performance where the singer doesn’t demand it of the crowd at least once, and the bounce riff follows right behind. A bounce riff doesn’t have a formal definition, but you know it when you hear it. The kick drum clicks into place and the snare falls right where it needs to so the audience can jump and land without missing a beat. The ultimate testimonial to “Thieves”’s nu-metal status would come when Limp Bizkit covered it during their era-defining Woodstock 99 set. It translated so perfectly that nobody blinked. In July of this year Limp Bizkit would open their set at Lollapalooza with the same cover. Once again, nobody blinked.
Debating what is or what isn't nu-metal is an exhausting part of nu-metal discourse that everyone simply must do at some point or another.
calculating how to move some units. For one of the least jammy bands to ever exist, “Points of Authority” sounds even less like five guys in a room making music than normal. The guitar part is a three chord riff played by Brad Delson, disassembled by rapper/producer Mike Shinoda, and reassembled into the finished version. The rest of the song feels just as true to its cut and paste nature: the aggressively rapped bridge gets an early song preview that effectively sets it up as a payoff, each snare has a metallic clang underwriting it; a turntable throw by DJ Mr. Hahn gets repeated exactly at the top of measures. So how does all this artificiality come together into something so replayable? The human hearts of Linkin Park, Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington, elevate what could have been bumper music for MTV Cribs into a devastatingly effective pop song. Bennington delivers his verses like Placebo’s Brian Moloko auditioning for Slayer, all sugar hook and clenched-fist roar, while Shinoda adds beatboxing inspired by Philadelphia hip-hop band The Roots and provides shaker percussion by jingling sugar packets into the mic. There’s hardly a wasted second of time here; everything is either a catchy vocal melody, or an ear-grabbing sound effect, or a clanking drum loop. It all seems so simple when you break it down but the dozens of washout imitators that followed beg to differ.
29. Linkin Park
"Points of Authority"
[Warner Bros; 2000]
Linkin Park’s music, for better or for worse, always sounded like a series of extremely expensive ProTools plugins becoming sentient and immediately
style chippy new wave. Think Fear Factory being asked to soundtrack Jet Set Radio Future. On their most invigorating song, “Tribe” from 1999’s OSC-DIS, they’re hyping themselves up to graffiti the Eiffel Tower on roller-blades. Over 53 seconds of build that sounds like Refused’s “New Noise” remixed for Sonic the Hedgehog, The Mad Capsule Markets draw themselves into a coiled spring position, ready to strike. Lead singer Hiroshi Kyono raps into a mic that sounds like it’s been thrown against a wall after a heated gaming session. When the song does erupt it lasts only a moment before drawing back down into the verse, just synth and kick. The restraint is savory; you can feel the band dying to cut loose again as it cycles back and forth from full-scale attack to synth arpeggio interlude. During the bridge a squiggling bass solo is deployed that uses an octave pedal to zoom into an electric guitar sound before plummeting back to earth. “Why don’t you strike? Justify your mind!” asks Kyono during the chorus. Even if you’re not sure when to strike or how to justify your mind, listening to “Tribe” will make you feel prepared to do both.
28. The Mad Capsule Markets
Japanese nu-metal band The Mad Capsule Markets combined heavy guitars with aggressively blown out sonics, rapcore stylings, and Devo-
ahead of them boasting a style that fused hardcore punk and nu-metal with shocking seamlessness-- but they did. That debut album would see singer Lynn Strait and Co. seizing their one shot with the bug-eyed, veins-bulging shot of pure adrenaline that is "Snot". Describing Strait as a singer would be a reach, as he was more a ranting raving evangelist for life itself. "SNOT! We're fittin’ to take your town! You know we wear the crown!" he roars at the song's outset, sounding like he was going to will his dreams to reality through sheer volume and intensity. Drummer Jamie Miller is nearly the star of the show as he lays down a laser-accurate hardcore Long Beach groove, pounding the skins of the sharpest snare in the game until they’re clear. Strait’s bandmates toss in catchy accents to his vocal (“Can’t you see?”, “Motherfucker said!”) and rocket forward in a musical drag race up the LA coast. “We'll never stop,” Lynn Strait declares during the song’s bridge. A year after Get Some’s release Strait would be dead, killed in a car crash on the 101 Freeway. In the wake of his death, nu-metal’s biggest names-- including Corey Taylor, Brandon Boyd, Fred Durst, Serj Tankian, Lajon Witherspoon, and Jonathan Davis-- would come together for the 2000 tribute album Strait Up and, far from cobbling together a series of haphazard songs in their free time, writing new material and meeting up for the cover photo. In interviews conducted during the cover photo shoot, everyone speaks with incredible reverence for Strait’s memory, and seems thrilled to be seeing each other. In death, Lynn Strait helped pull the nu-metal scene together. His legacy will never stop.
Snot had one shot at this. They didn't know that at the time-- if anything, Snot’s 1997 debut Get Some is the sound of a band with a long career
debut Waste of Skin feels like it. Across the album they sound like poised, confident, tight veterans who had been road-dogging it for years while waiting to get signed. Waste of Skin’s brute force anthems are predominantly about sticking it to all the worthless men that stand in lead singer Shannon Harris’s way, but she doesn’t sound angry; she sounds over it. With a voice like Janis Joplin headlining Ozzfest, she easily dismisses pathetic chauvinists thinking they’re about to manipulate their way to an easy lay. On standout “Measure Me” the band settles into a low bounce while Harris confidently and coolly lays down the law: “Don't push to try and beat me you ditch the pressure anyway/Just feel your back as you're crawling away.” As the song crashes into its huge chorus, Harris lets rip with her modus operandi, , “I won’t be on your side when you measure me.” If Kittie exists on one side of the nu-metal spectrum, where men’s advances are existential threats to be raged against, Shannon Harris might be on the other, where men are whiny babies in need of a clean beatdown and nothing more. She’s going to roll up her sleeves, toss the bum out on his ass and get back to having a good time after.
26. Spike 1000
By the time they signed with Columbia Records around the turn of the century, Spike 1000 had been a band for a decade and their stellar 2001
name is 311 and you know it ain’t easy.” One imagines singer Benji Webbe in some hotel room with MTV on, maybe while on tour with Soulfly (whose debut album he contributed to), watching these five white guys arrogantly smug their way through a frat-fuck mockery of dancehall and just seethed. Maybe right then, the first seeds of his band Skindred’s staggering gauntlet-throw “Nobody” began to germinate. “My sound we’ve come to take over,” it begins. “MC you better look over your shoulder.” If it sounds like a warning, that’s because it is. The band is giving it their all; guitarist Mikey Demus does expert work summoning the urgency of a dancehall horn with the octave pedal, but for the most part their job is to get out of Benji Webbe’s way. Shifting through an unreal litany of accents, voices, and flows, Webbe turns in one of the greatest vocal performances nu-metal has ever seen, one that’s as much Wayne Smith as it is Wayne Static. It’s difficult to single out any particular moment-- the little squeak he throws into “nobody”, the inimitable “Why-yai-yai!” that leads into the breakdown, the “bah-bah-bam”s that set it off-- that could define the song, but nothing quite tops the bottom dropping out of the chorus and Webbe downshifting into a brutal growl. It’s a full-body-chills moment that surprises every time it happens. Even though they left instructions right in the song (“Blend up the reggae, metal, punk, hip-hop”) there’s still never been anything quite like “Nobody,” before or since, and hey, what do you know, maybe it ain’t easy after all.
“Funk slap bass mixed with the dancehall and hip-hop beats and punk guitar,” smirked Nick Hexum on 311’s 1999 single “Come Original.” ”The
summon up some of the most transcendentally stupid music of all time. Coal Chamber, maybe the only band in the genre that could make Korn look like intellectual giants by comparison, had one guiding principle powering their music: whip up a great groove and get out of the way. Right now someone, somewhere, is trying to explain how “Loco” is actually about the dearth of opportunities in rural America and the way that modern infrastructure is built upon the bones of decades-old efforts and the rise of the carceral state, but it’s not. It’s not about any of those things. It’s about being loco.
24. Coal Chamber
Nu-metal was never as dumb as its detractors wanted it to be…. However, it would be naive to pretend that this genre didn’t have the ability to
arrows; disco, for example, had it much worse. Race resentment, gay panic, and the brutal narcissism of rock ‘n’ roll culture set a small generation on the warpath to annihilate disco music at all costs. They only blew up a stadium in an effort to kill it off for good. But while nu-metal continues to reside in the dumpster bin of history, disco’s reputation has been rehabilitated many times over to the point where it continues to dominate pop music with barely a touch-up from its 70s heyday. The two genres generally stay far away from each other-- disco being historically black and queer and nu-metal being very white and straight-- but they did collide on occasion, one of those occasions being so good it almost demands its own sub-sub-genre. Like the best disco, Korn’s “Got the Life” is built from the rhythm section up. A 4/4 disco beat played with impeccable finesse by David Silvera and a clattering bass line played with a more 'peccable finesse by Fieldy provide the muscle. Simplify Silvera’s funk or add complexity to Fieldy’s caveman smacks and the whole thing falls apart. Munky and Head add squealing guitar parts, contorting their 7-strings into car alarms to create the kind of slight melodic lead the way Giorgio Moroder might have used a string stab. On the choruses they play more conventional leads with subtle but impactful details (love that chorus effect on the right panned guitar). Finally, frontman Jonathan Davis turns in a performance both sincere (“Inside I feel so hollow”) and sarcastic (those taunting “La-ahhhhh”s in the chorus). This grand mixture-- combined with the song’s unconventional verse-breakdown-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure-- combines to create one of nu-metal’s all time grooves. When Jonathan Davis cries “Come dance with me!” during the bridge he sounds like he’s dropping the disco ball over the unwashed masses that heeded his command all over the world.
"Got the Life"
As much as this list may prattle on about how disrespected nu-metal is, it is worth mentioning that it’s not the only style of music to suffer slings and
because it's got a great sense of humor about itself. Drum sticks are thrown and band members shout at each other. The weepy acoustic closer is immediately followed by a song about demanding someone named Seb get his drunk ass up and out. During “Rot,” “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls gets interpolated at length and it’s fucking incredible. And of course it is, this is the same band that revolutionized the very idea of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" after all. So when Dry Kill Logic names a song “Pain,” maybe the most well-trod of all nu-metal buzzwords, you better believe it’s gonna rumble. Or maybe it’s gonna suck. That is, in fact, the first thing you hear when you press play. “This is gonna suck,” grumbles someone with the enthusiasm of your favorite coworker heading into the Monday meeting. Then a wobbly 6-5-6-5 riff gets going, drums start to thunder and singer Cliff Rigano bellows “ENOUGH. PUSSY. SHIT,” and you know it is, in fact, not going to suck. He bruises into the verse with a linebacker’s determination: “I! Have! Every single thing I believed in, I knew I could not win. Without you I thought that I--”, then, just when you think you’ve got a handle on where it’s going, everything drops out save a gentle double kick, and Regano finishes in his tiniest voice “-would fail.” It’s a perfect set-up/punchline that whallops each and every time it happens, especially when it sends the song zooming out of the breakdown (“Want to walk on that fine line? Well I think it’s about time to show you exactly what--”) with a particularly gleeful “-I mean!” For all its growling and griming, “Pain” always feels charged up by these small, impish tweaks to formula. At one point there’s a trendy turntable solo-- only it’s not actually a turntable solo at all, but a power drill being spun up and down. Sometimes the best cure for “Pain” is a good joke.
22. Dry Kill Logic
Dry Kill Logic’s 2001 Roadrunner debut The Darker Side of Nonsense isn’t a classic just because it’s mean, lean and heavy as hell-- it’s a classic
Mushroomhead) and had to rethink their whole gameplan. Unless, of course, you were willing to go speeding off in the opposite direction with it.. Peoria, Illinois’ Mudvayne also donned elaborate makeup and costumes, but where Slipknot dressed up in deadly serious Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre cosplay, Mudvayne looked something akin to a circus troupe after being shot in the face with Homer Simpson’s makeup gun. With their long, blue facial hair and glued-on black spikes, there was no way you were taking these guys seriously. Their debut single, 2000’s “Dig,” leans so hard into that ridiculous skid that to approach it on its own terms is to simply throw up your hands and join in. I mean, how does one even truly describe what’s going on here? Is it “Spit It Out” getting remixed into the Seinfeld theme song? Is it a clown car of blue meanies being dropped off at Family Values? Why does this auctioneer high on homemade speed want me to kill myself so bad? At the outset, once singer Chad Gray finishes huffing and puffing and finally gets to drop his opening “LOOAAAAD,” he sounds like nothing so much as a painfully engorged member finally discharging its rancid seed. Ryan Martine gallops into his ballistic bass part with demonic glee, his infamous brr-brr-deng styling becoming the face that launched a thousand bass covers. “Dig” was as much a breakout video as it was a breakout song. Set predominantly against a pure white background, the Thomas Mignone-directed clip leapt out of the churn of abandoned buildings, edgy rack focusing, and six-figure budgets that dominated MTV at the time and let Mudvayne’s wild costumes, and the music, speak for themselves. It is a true performance with each band member assuming a particular style of movement; Martine’s vodka-redbull-marionette dancing works because of guitarist Greg Tribbett’s animatronic-Gossamer-from-Looney-Tunes routine serving as contrast. The video is still so striking that it remains a popular meme to this day, with a YouTube comment section full of hilarious one liners (my favorite, with 14,000 upvotes: “If all humanity were to die and aliens were to uncover our existence I hope they find this video”).
After Slipknot broke big in 1999, any band that wanted to perform in costume were doomed to “cheap knock off” status (pity poor
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