Nu metal has forever gotten a bad wrap.
The brash sub genre’s kaleidoscopic fashion, bleached hair, pocket chains, and overall flashy vibes garnered derision from Metal purists who viewed Nu-Metal’s amalgamation of other, less dense genres as slightly spineless. But the quirky movement actually re-energized a waning interest in heavy music that came as a result of the watered-down post-grunge movement of the mid-nineties. Limp Bizkit’s unpredictable stage antics, Mudvayne’s insane costumes, Linkin Park’s emotional catharsis– all of it equated to a genre bursting with limitless experimentation and self-expression.
While bands like Disturbed and Papa Roach remain household names when discussing nu metal, there was a plethora of bands that continue to churn out hard-hitting projects while remaining relatively under the radar. Here are a few of nu metal’s best, but more slept on, acts whose contributions were only respected by those who respected metal’s quirky sub-genre.
One of the most unique bands of the mid-aughts, 10 years’ grasp of melody was unlike anything that came before and helped bolster their complicated reflections on drug abuse and the dismantling of religion. Thanks to the multi-faceted vocals of frontman Jesse Hasek, the band’s third effort, The Autumn Effect, broke the Knoxville quintet into the mainstream as curators of intelligent nu metal.
Haunting and reserved, 10 Years was emotionally charged but never cheesy. Their colorful melodies were intricate upon first listen, with songs like “Prey” and “The Autumn Effect” requiring multiple looks in order to dissect them fully. Each track was driven by suffocating metal thrashing, while Hassek’s fluttery vocals provided enough reprieve for the songs to really take flight. They were a nu-metal band unlike any other. While often grouped into post-grunge circles with Breaking Benjamin and Shinedown, they always teetered between sub-genres (except for their third effort, Feeding The Wolves, which leaned heavily into post-grunge sensibilities) making them an incredibly versatile band.
The boys are still very much together minus a few lineup changes, and their 2017 effort, (how to live) AS GHOSTS, was still incredibly substantial and satisfying. While they’re best known for 2005’s hit single “Wasteland,” further inspection finds their discography has so many hidden gems for those willing to journey into their dense world.
A master of powerful shifts from quiet melodies to loud, brazen metal thrashing, Chevelle has remained one of metal’s most consistent acts, encapsulating sounds from nu-metal (This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In), Wonder What’s Next) and post-grunge, Chevelle remains one of the only early aughts metal acts who’ve gotten better with each release. 2016’s The North Corridor was one of the most critically lauded metal records of the year, and the Illinois trio has found new ways to push the limits of their sound.
Let’s not forget that full band recording sesh that gave 2009s Sci-Fi Crimes that extra garage kick, or the ode to Ponzi scheme victims that gave 2011’s “Face to the Floor” that extra boost of anti-capitalist cut-throat angst. But unless you’re an enthusiastic metal-head, Chevelle still doesn’t seem to be a household name, but maybe that’s what they want. Regardless, Chevelle has remained a master of their domain. “I think it’s harder to try and make new, younger fans because we’re not just breaking on the scene, and we’re not just a fad right now,” lead man Pete Loeffler said in an interview.
Atlanta, Georgia’s Sevendust has one of the most die-hard fanbases in metal, and that’s partially due to the soulful vocals of frontman Lajon Witherspoon and partly because they were very much a rag to riches story. Their self-titled album sold only 310 copies its first week, but thanks to the band’s relentless touring and energized performances, the album slowly broke into Billboard charts and eventually earned a gold certification.
Their soulful melodies and rip-roaring metal sensibilities made them one of hard rock’s most talked about acts. Over their illustrious career, they’ve incorporated industrial and rap-rock (Seasons, Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow) and have even gone mostly acoustic (Time Travelers & Bonfires). They are still rocking out to this day, with 2018’s All I See Is War being as ferocious as some of their best work.
Jacksonville, Florida’s Cold broke through to mainstream audiences with 2003’s iconic Year of the Spider, debuting at number 3 on the Billboard 200, with “Stupid Girl” cracking the Billboard Top 100. Frontman Scooter Ward’s vocals always sounded full of pain and trauma, with “Gone Away (A Song for Starr)” a notable highlight. Ward’s exhausted pangs cut deep as he reflects on his inability to see his daughter grow up because of life on the road.
But when success came knocking, the band disappeared, releasing 2005’s lackluster A Different Kind of Pain before announcing a break-up. The group has since returned but is mostly slept-on by people who wrote the group off as a flash in the pan metal act. But the group remains as hard and cathartic as ever, with Ward sounding refreshed and recharged.