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80. Drowning Pool
When Drowning Pool singer Dave "The Stage" Williams passed away in 2002 from an undiagnosed heart condition, nu-metal lost one of its
most charismatic front-men right at the beginning of his career. Williams was an outsized, excited teddy bear of a man in a scene that prioritized the serious grump. That big personality is what makes a song like "Sinner" connect. When Dave demands "Don't corner me, don't lecture me, raise your hands if you're a sinner," he really sounds like he's trying to lead every downtrodden good-for-nothing in a great big march to the church, so they can get wasted and fall asleep on a pew.
79. 40 Below Summer
"Step Into the Sideshow"[London-Sire; 2001]
"Step Into the Sideshow" is 40 Below Summer throwing down the gauntlet. Not only does Max Illege rap harder than his contemporaries, the band
writes better songs than them too. Following a blistering verse-chorus-verse-chorus sprint, "Step Into the Sideshow" breaks down into two choruses linked by silence, the second of which punctuated by Illige revving the song back up with "I know I ignite like a pyro, burn inside so step into the sideshow" delivered acapella. When the song bursts into flames again, it's a double-time mad-dog sprint to the finish line. When it's over, your brain will beg you to run it back for those choruses, and your neck will insist you run it back for those breakdowns. Truly you cannot stop this-- "just get your ass out of the way."
78. Dry Kill Logic
After their debut album, Dry Kill Logic departed from Roadrunner Records because Roadrunner "wanted a more commercial sound". Whatever
dumbass at Roadrunner felt like Dry Kill Logic just wasn't bringing the hits clearly didn't listen to "Paper Tiger," which contains one of those choruses that flips you from fan to fanatic in an instant. That it seems to leap out of fucking nowhere amongst the expectedly hard-charging verses only triples its impact.
77. Limp Bizkit
"Restraint" is not the first word that comes to mind when you consider Limp Bizkit. In fact, between Wes' kabuki costumes, Fred's celebrity
antics, the plywood surfing, the WWE cameos, and the late-career signing to Cash Money, "restraint" isn't something that typically comes to mind at all when considering Limp Bizkit. Yet one of their biggest hits, Significant Other's "Re-Arranged", is nothing but restraint. Thematically, it's not much different than other Bizkit hits, but here Durst raps from a meditative crouch, an observer thinking before he speaks. "You... and me... we're through..." Durst builds long pauses between each couplet, turning the meaning over in his mind before issuing the statement. The song builds towards the chorus, but where a different Limp Bizkit single would push the plunger, "Re-Arranged" tapers off with a long "Re-ah-ranged". When the song does finally explode, Durst seems to fall even further back, remarking plainly "You think that everybody is like you," while Wes Borland finally cranks the distortion. It seems restraint actually looked good on the Bizkit: despite being a stylistic departure, "Re-Arranged" is Limp Bizkit's only number one single in the States.
Before their songs were being compiled for "outer space" mixes on YouTube, before they were being name checked by The Weeknd,
Deftones were a scrappy, thrashy nu-metal band. Their debut, 1995's Adrenaline, is visceral and raw, sounding like it was recorded in the dilapidated and graffiti'd house the "Bored" music video takes place in. "Teething", which was recorded for The Crow II: City of Angels soundtrack, was one more blast of post-hardcore intensity before the band started pushing the genre into more spacey territory. The lyrics are stream-of-consciousness rants and raves before congealing into a hip-hop bridge that could have come straight out of a Nas song. "You got hair, clothes, the fashion, the cash flow, how the fuck you gonna tell me what you don't know?" Before he gets an answer, drummer Abe Cunningham pushes the liquefy button and Chino is back to screaming himself hysterical.
von Freydorf or, as he so humbly prefers to be known, "Christ". Across the album, he seethes at all the women in his life that let him have sex with them before being discarded, and asks why they make him so miserable. He never figures out the problem (it's him) but on the punchy, hook-laden "Leaving You With This," he seems to come close. With his ace Chino impression and a capable band dishing out the riffs, Christ wails "I'm too shy, I'm too dumb, unable to talk about the things that are hurting me!" You almost feel sorry for him.
75. Emil Bulls
"Leaving You With This"
Emil Bulls' Angel Delivery Service functions as an effecive Portrait of the Artist as a Young Asshole. The Asshole in question is lead singer Christoph
looking for someone to idolize. "Stupify" is Draiman's peak smart-dumb moment, a song about trying to get laid pretending to be a song about racism. Speaking to Billboard magazine in 2000, Draiman claimed "Stupify" is about "a relationship I was in with a young Latino girl [that was] driven apart by her family because we were different ethnicities." This is a lot of weight for a song that begins "I've been waiting my whole life for just one fuck!" to bear, yet it somehow does just off of the strength of Draiman's convictions. When he implores his "la gente in the barrio" to "fuck," he truly believes he's healing the deep wound bigotry has carved into society. This kind of faux-intellectualism is exhausting, even dangerous, in passing or on your mom's Facebook feed, but fun when it's this silly and rocks this hard.
Singer David Draiman is to nu-metal what Joe Rogan is to podcasting: a smart-dumb guy finding the perfect place to attract dumb-smart guys
before their successful pivot into respectability with 1999's Make Yourself, they were a wild funk-metal band, blazing with the confidence of a bunch of young adults with more money and more psychedelics than anyone in their 20s should have easy access to. 1997's S.C.I.E.N.C.E catches Incubus at both their most laid back and their most desperate for the spotlight as they try on every genre they can think of to see what fits, and the scratchy, wigged-out "New Skin" fits the best. "At first I see an open wound, infected and disastrous, it breathes chaotic catastrophe, it cries to be renewed," scat-sings lead singer Brandon Boyd, sounding like the most-laid guy in your freshman dorm who just learned what a "Descartes" is. You want to knock his block off, but with the band carving such tight grooves around his ass you're left bouncing and grinning along with everyone anyway.
For the majority of their career Incubus has been nu-metal's accessibly thoughtful KROQ drive-time staple, enjoyable but safe. Yet
similarly massive sophomore effort Meteora (released that same year), represented the end of successful major label efforts to send rock/metal albums into the stratosphere with elaborate promotional campaigns, bank-busting music videos, and fortuitous A&R. After signing to Wind-Up Records the label demanded Evanescence add a male vocalist to the band. The band refused and as a mea-culpa 12 Stones' Paul McCoy was featured on lead single "Bring Me to Life". As a full-time member he would have been a disaster, but on "Bring Me to Life" Paul McCoy's Tapout-shirt grunting is the perfect counter point to Amy Lee's melodramatic swoon. It transforms the song into something like - as writer Tom Ewing observed in his Popular entry on the song - goth metal Aqua; a small pop miracle that reads horribly on paper yet works incredibly well in practice.
"Bring Me to Life"
The explosion of Evanescence's debut album, 2003's Fallen, didn't represent the beginning of something, but rather the end. Fallen, plus Linkin Park's
nu-metal bands to start writing some choruses. Some adapted, some didn't. Ill Niño's "What Comes Around" is a prime example of adaptation, with its angsty pitter-patter verses giving way to an irresistible and infectious chorus that sounds like a pressure valve releasing on a full tank. Better still is the song's bridge, a rumba that finds lead singer Cristian Machado effortlessly and naturally sliding into Spanish. Then we go slamming into that chorus again, and you already know that you'll be running this one back.
71. Ill Niño
"What Comes Around"
After Linkin Park proved there was a way for nu-metal to move beyond the moshpit and into the pop market, major labels suddenly needed their
demanding people stay away, and also standing alone. But on occasion, their swaggering nu update on 70s hard rock could produce songs infectious and confident enough to make you feel like you were ready to kick the world's ass and take names. "Keep Away", with its elemental drop D riff and Sully Erna's gruff vocalizations, was their most successful drag of the knuckle.
In a scene full of lunkheads, Godsmack might have been the lunkheadest. Their songs are about demanding people go away,
69. Primer 55
Across Primer 55's sophomore effort (The) New Release, the tone is dustier, the sound is fuller, and the songs are more varied than on previous record
Introduction to Mayhem. The same vices-- women, drugs, and drink-- that were reveled in on Introduction are still here, but they now feel entirely like coping mechanisms: an endless procession of motel rooms to wake up in, with headaches and sweaty sheets. "This Life" sets these scenes with a hard, infuriated look in the mirror. It opens with the sound of bubbles and distant voices before surging into a riptide of guitar and bass. The late J-Sin, unconvincing as a swaggering gangsta but so devastating here at the end of his rope, howls like someone whose day-to-day existence is staring down the barrel of Microsoft Excel documents. Where the bridge is supposed to hit, Primer 55 drops a third verse, both a genuine surprise and a succinct thematic elaboration on suppressing emotional expression in order to survive another new day of the same old shit. The sentiments aren't novel, but the tone, woozy and stumbling, feels novel. And when we do finally hit that oh-so-nu-metal BREAAAAAKdown it feels invigoratingly earned and deeply cathartic.
woman and people of color, the face of nu-metal will always be aggrieved white males with backwards caps and bones to pick. So Sevendust's "Black" is an anomaly on a couple levels. It's not simply that they are a band fronted by an African American ex-soul singer, it's that this is a song about being racially profiled and discriminated against long before that was part of the constant conversation. That it whipped enough ass to get the extremely white and extremely angry crowd at Woodstock 99 to lose their shit is just a bonus.
It's hard to deny that nu-metal is a white man's world. Without discounting the incredible contributions made to the genre by
2004's Rock exchanges its predecessor's rap and groove metal styling for clean singing and smooth hooks to mixed results. The one time on the record it all comes together spectacularly is "Divine Excuse". It's vividly emo in the Jimmy Eat World mode, with slick poppy vocals and a bright, tightly harmonized chorus, but muscled up with nu-metal accoutrements: heavy drop tunings; loose stringy bass sound; turntable accents. Yet, instead of singing about familiar lodestones like girls, or pain, or pain caused by girls, Mark Maggiori turns in surprisingly thoughtful lyrics about mankind's invention of god in order to justify its evils or "Divine excuse en somme" ("Divine excuse in short"). Heady stuff for the top of the pops.
After consolidating a hardcore underground fanbase with 2001's Episode 2: Medicine Cake, Pleymo saw their shot at the top and took it.
spinoff, and broke big with LD 50 (2000), an album about monkeys doing mushrooms and how fast Ryan Martine can move his left hand up and down the fretboard. Ryan Martine's bass playing was so enthusiastic that it became a widely popular meme two decades later, but its joie de vivre ends up being more beneficial to Mudvayne than the actual technique. Martine doesn't just sound like he's really good at playing bass, he sounds like he's have a fucking blast doing it too. Take "Not Falling," the lead single from Mudvayne's sophmore effort, The End of All Things to Come. On its own, it's a remarkably sturdy bit of modern metal, with singer Chad Gray even turning in a surprising touch of falsetto during the verse. Most bassists would have gotten out of the way and trailed along the guitar part, but Martine just can't help himself, turning in all kinds of crazy bends, slaps, chords, and melodic runs that bump the song onto higher ground and make "Not Falling" an endlessly replayable tune, if only to relish one more time in how much fun Martine is having.
Mudvayne crawled out of Fuckall, Illinois (Peoria, to be specific), costumed themselves like they were Slipknot's Saturday morning cartoon
and singer Johnny Santos howling out the chorus like last call at the karaoke bar? Yet the reason Spineshank's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" deserves a place among the best Beatles covers is precisely that same initial impulse. A million bands have cranked out uber-respectful performances of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," but Spineshank viewed the song in their own light and found new dimensions. "Look at you all!" Santos wails, as though he has just returned from the void after glimpsing infinity. It's a surprising revelation to pull out of a song as familiar as this and really, when it comes to the art of the cover song, what's more respectful than that?
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps"[Roadrunner; 1998]
The first thing that hits you is the disrespect. George Harrison's masterpiece twisted into this? A rusty bassline, some sloppy power chords,
back. Blake Beckman's vocals range from calm whisper to frenzied shriek, with lyrics evoking daydreams and nightmares. There's Rubik's Cubes, spaceships and airplanes falling from the sky, flowers that piss on those in power, dreams that taste too good to be true, and aquariums to sit beside. That's where the album begins, with "Aquarium" introducing the listener to the record's drop-tuned psychedelic logic. "Watch the fish, scales cover everyone", directs Beckman, "take the light right through the cranium." It's a journey well worth taking.
Stepa's self-titled debut is a lost classic: a meditation on childhood that remembers how easy it was for wonder to be twisted into terror and
that shit as hard as you can? Tallah's "Overconfidence" is the exact kind of nu-metal track that you just can't believe someone would still be making in 2020. Turntables? Drop tuning? Rapping? Breakdowns? It's all here and it's glorious. Justin Bonitz reminds why he's one of the finest vocalists working in metal today, speeding through the wild-eyed rapping of the verses and back into a world-swallowing bellow for the choruses and then finally an unexpected Mike Patton-esque lounge croon for the bridge. It's a thrill to watch him work through this many voices on one song while the band mutates into new shapes and sizes around him.
How does a young up-and-coming metal band avoid the stigma of being tagged as nu-metal? How about not trying to avoid it at all but lean into
genres to become its own sun, the genres that got it there proceeded to be drawn into its orbit: separate, but benefiting from the heat. Filter, the passion project of former Nine Inch Nails guitarist Richard Patrick, are not nu-metal. Instead, they are a perfect blend of industrial metal heft and alternative rock adventure. But they did make an appearance on Korn's era-defining Family Values tour, so they had to rock hard enough to entertain crowds waiting for Limp Bizkit and Rammstein. "Jurassitol," from the excellent The Crow: City of Angels soundtrack, is the closest Filter ever got to outright nu-metal, while distinctly remaining in their own lane, more Venus than Mercury. A song either about drugs ("Change your mind gonna make you take it") or greedy boomers ("Save your life with your life support/You know me, I'll pick up that), "Jurrasitol" floods the senses with off-kilter and trippy reversed sound effects, as well as a bridge that feels like a roller coaster stopping and going back up the drop. It's still grounded in the industrial metal tradition, but boldly points at the psychedelic power drive Patrick would take on Filter's next album, the 1999 masterwork Title of Record.
Nu-metal is an amalgamation of genres-- funk metal, industrial metal, rap metal, hip hop, and so on-- and after nu-metal broke off from said
as a genre malleable and adventurous enough to fit their ambitions. Rina Sawayama's "STFU!" is the most successful melding of modern pop sonics and nu-metal abandon yet seen. It wields the kind of hooks songwriters across the globe spend years trying to write but married to a nu-metal explosion that most pop producers wouldn't dare attempt. When she twists a mocking "ha ha ha ha!" into a vocal run its playful effortlessness is thrilling, this is the work of someone that understands nu-metal is as fun as it ever was grim. The effect is like piloting a massive robo mech, bearing down on obnoxious music execs that would like nothing more than for Rina to strip all these guitars for something more radio ready. No wonder the song's first lyric is "Woo!"
61. Rina Sawayama
[Dirty Hit; 2020]
As a new generation reaches for heavy guitar music that hasn't been cycled through generations of rock-crit antiseptic they've seized nu-metal
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