Not too long ago I came across an article on Metalsucks that asked “What’s the Next Big Trend in Metal?”, in which the writer discussed the notion of trends in metal, and where the next big ‘thing’ would come from. It was an interesting little article, and it definitely made me think about what could be the next popular sub-genre of metal- but the sheer quantity of potential directions the ‘scene’ could head in is hard to pinpoint. That being said, if you’d asked me this question around two years ago, I genuinely would have thought: nu metal.
Before you dismiss my ludicrous suggestion, I think its worth establishing what I mean when I’m referring to nu metal. The bands that I’ll be referencing in this article aren’t necessarily nu metal through-and-through (i.e. not Coal Chamber/ Korn/ Linkin Park/ [insert popular 2000s nu metal band here] rip offs), but instead apply certain qualities or characteristics of that sound to a modern template- namely metalcore, deathcore or hardcore (sometimes referred to as nu-metalcore). Whilst these bands may not be direct lineage to the pioneers and big-name acts, there is more than just a subtle nod to the works of those bands that dominated the metal scene in the late 90s and early 2000s.
In retrospect, I’d probably trace this blending of nu metal and modern sub genres to three releases, all of which were released in 2013. The first of which is Strangers Only by My Ticket Home. The band had previously made a name for themselves playing a fairly inoffensive form of metalcore/post-hardcore, yet on their sophomore release on Rise Records (remember this record label, I’ll mention this label a lot) they switched things up completely. Opting for thick, Korn-esque grooves, a Slipknot style of unhinged aggression and bittersweet melodies- that owed a fair amount to the grunge style that was the predecessor to nu metal- the band tapped into the records that dominated and shaped their youth and experiences of metal. In all fairness, the result was an enjoyable record that took the favourable aspects of nu metal, amped up the aggression, and didn’t touch upon the rap/hip-hop musings that made nu metal the laughing-stock it would later become.
A fortnight later, hardcore mainstays Stray From The Path released their sixth studio effort, Anonymous. Whilst not exactly looking towards Limp Bizkit, Stray From The Path instead took their cues from Rage Against The Machine, with Tom Morello inspired guitar eccentricities meeting hard-edged tenacity (with a social conscience), and plenty of attitude and aggression. Although they didn’t take inspiration from more obvious nu-metal contenders (Slipknot, Linkin Park and Papa Roach to name a few), they still showed modern bands that its possible to liberally sprinkle characteristics from prominent 90s acts without ripping them off note-for-note and create something fresh and different.
The third release would be the gargantuan Sempiternal by British band Bring Me The Horizon. Ditching their metalcore and deathcore heritage for a post-hardcore template, the band controversially eschewed guitar work for electronics/keys and arena-sized choruses that instantly drew comparisons to 2nd wave nu-metal goliaths Linkin Park. Regardless whether you liked it or not, the album took the band to a whole new audience and propelled the group to a level of popularity rarely seen in metal and rock. In truth it was obvious as to why the album did as well as it did. Pseudo-heavy riffs that were edgy but not too extreme for the casual ‘rock’ fan, combined with accessible melodic sensibilities, is a sure-fire way to make a ‘metal’ band as broadly appealing and inoffensive as possible.
These three albums established the nu-metal revival, as it were, by the September of 2013. While the influence of the first two albums that I mentioned may be debatable, they certainly were the first to really establish a ‘nu-metal meets metalcore/hardcore’ style. However, it was Bring Me The Horizon’s contribution that popularized this approach to contemporary metal music- which opened the doors for a certain King 810.
Bursting onto the scene in 2013 (literally- I hadn’t heard of them at the start of the year and by the end they were all over social media/websites and had a four-page spread in Metal Hammer magazine), the band took the turgid, beatdown heavy tropes of deathcore and married it with the quiet-loud/whisper-shout dynamics created nearly two decades earlier by Korn and Slipknot (two acts that the band toured with a year later). Originality may not have been a particular priority, but their efforts received plenty of attention and had a knock on effect as plenty of bands followed in their wake.
Unfortunately, these bands weren’t necessarily concerned with breaking conventions in metal (as nu metal had strived to achieve at the time), and instead embodied the aspects that ultimately made nu metal loathsome by the mid-noughties: namely fat, laboured riffs and a brash “I don’t give a f*ck” attitude that became boring and stale very quickly. Acts such as Sworn In, Attila, Issues, Cane Hill and Sylar quickly saturated the nascent movement with output that ranged from downright terrible to vaguely tolerable- but it was a case of quantity over quality. Ironically the proliferation of these nu metalcore acts became its own downfall (or is becoming its downfall- its hard to gauge if these movement is still going or over), and it’s almost as if nu metal has repeated its own cycle- initial creativity, sudden saturation/popularity, before inevitably losing its appeal. Bands that have attempted to jump on this band wagon are feeling the impact of nu metalcore’s waning appeal- take for example Of Mice & Men, whose Linkin Park-isms struck a chord with fans on Restoring Force, yet on this year’s Cold World they have been left polarized by the continuation of this style.
I guess ultimately it remains to be seen if more bands will incorporate nu metal into a modern template. My hope is that bands actually try to learn from the best parts of nu metal- the groovy riffs, a willingness to experiment, and a willingness to forge an individual identity- and produce albums of real quality that can be held up as excellent albums in their own right. Sadly it seems as though what could have been an interesting genre revival has lost its appeal far too quickly.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? What is your opinion on nu metal and its recent spinoffs? Feel free to leave a comment, like this blog post, like the Facebook page , follow the Pinterest page, and follow this blog for more content.