Nu Metal – Marmite In The Form Of Music

“Alright now wasn’t that fun, let’s try something else”

Nu metal, the much lampooned, derided, underrated and mocked medium that developed and formulated through the late 80’s and 90’s, hit its stride in the year 2000. Sure, there were predecessors that led the way and influenced those that were to follow. Rick Rubin pioneered the blend of rock and rap with the Beastie Boys and Run DMC, and Korn held high the torch of the genre a decade or so later with Issues.

In 1999 with the single “Falling Away From Me” Korn lit the fuse for the utter domination, however short lived, of Nu Metal. The first year of a new millenium and the sometimes unsubtle blending of hip hop beats and vocal delivery with a more traditional if industrial heavy metal was born unto the world. The quintessential “Angry at your Dad” music saw its seminal releases in this year. 1999 led the way with the aforementioned “Issues” from Korn, the eponymous debut from Slipknot, the again eponymous Godsmack album, “Significant Other” from Limp Bizkit and more besides. 2000 brought the genre into its own by introducing new albums and new artists. The ultimately and still ridiculously titled “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water” as released by Limp Bizkit, “Infest” from Papa Roach, “Hybrid Theory” from Linkin Park, Disturbed’s “The Sickness”, POD’s “The Fundamental Elements of Southtown”, Cypress Hill with “Skull and Bones” and Incubus with both “Make Yourself” and “Morning View”. What a time to be alive.

Albums and music taken for granted now emerged in two short years and whilst the artists remained and recorded for decades or more, their music further developed and changed away from this signature vignette of no more than 24 months or so. Why derided? Most of the singles and big hits from these albums would fill a dance floor and a spotify playlist today and for many years hence, even whilst some are guilty pleasures. It’s not all the fault of Fred Durst though the red capped one should shoulder some of the blame as being the key proponent of the issues that writ large across the genre. Metal and later nu metal is supposed to be entertainment. Music as a whole should subscribe to this motto at all times but necessarily some of it comes across with a message or a necessary gravitas that means it has to be taken seriously. Heavy Metal with vocals that rapped, guitar solos burned for hip hop DJ riffs, and in the harder elements, screams, roars and pure cacophony instead of lyrics.

Nothing in that lot leads to anything more serious than a banging tune that you can play again and again without taking too much heart in the message.
From heavy, stomach churning bass backing up nursery rhymes and bagpipes, to clowns beating the shit of beer kegs with baseball bats this is pure unadulterated, piss taking fun. Don’t write this stuff and record and think of yourself as Shelley, Keats or Byron for fucks sake. Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach would be the quintessential example of a lead singer of the time
that saw it for the fun it was and still is. It couldn’t be more clear in the live shows of the band that the 42 year old runs around the stage with the energy of a 20 year old and still shows the unadulterated glee a front man of half his age. The enthusiasm and unabashed showmanship would be a salute to anyone in the trade that follows the road, plays unrecognisable small towns and sweats it all out on the smallest and most insignificant stages.

Yes sometimes the music transcends the genre and the band or the singer takes on more a role or a place in society. Having witnessed the last gig of Linkin Park before the sad suicide of Chester Bennington, you couldn’t have seen a single element of what was to follow in that final concert. Yes the music of these bands that consistently recorded for the 20 years since 2000 has changed. It had to if they were ever to seem still relevant, but let’s be fair it has always been the debut albums, or the albums that dropped in 1999 or 2000 that were by far the most popular. A Korn gig without “Falling away from me”, a Linkin Park one without “Crawling” or a Papa Roach show without “Last Resort” and you’d riot. No one cares about the latest album with the synthy sound, the inspirational lyrics and the almost pop like vibes. Nostalgia sells but the public also knows what it wants and it usually wants your best material first and foremost. It might not be revered as the best the rock or metal world has to offer. There won’t be the nostalgic re-examining that shows the true cultural significance of the albums released, or the message they contained, or the influences they became. Largely because there wasn’t any. At worst the music was a shrewd attempt at homing in on the teenage market and the angst of finding a place in that difficult mid ground between childhood and being an adult. It’s been the hunting ground brutally ruled over by artists since music was a saleable asset and the likes of Elvis and Johnny Cash through to the Beatles and far beyond have all hit upon this market.

The teenagers from that time are now a lot closer to 40 than they’d like to admit and yet this music still holds its own. Ok so you might listen to it at full blast in the car, after dropping the kids at school, with the windows firmly rolled up, but you still love it.

Does it strike that same chord as when you were huddled in your bedroom listening to it for the fifteenth time on your new cd player or possibly even still on cassette, when you were angry at the world and it’s apparent disdain for you and yours? No, but you’ll still reach for that CD when you think no one else is listening. What we’d like you all to do, just once if you can’t make it a routine, is turn it up a little bit more. Wind down that window. Don’t care a jot for what the passers by think, that guy in the traffic in front of you with his window open, that person crossing the road at the lights as you wait for your turn. Take the power back here people, don’t just let the Backstreet Boys fans have all the nostalgic fun. If you’re popping into a shop for some black nail polish then you’ve probably gone too far. Head bang like no one is watching, crank that volume like they aren’t listening either. Cut your life into pieces like it’s your last resort. Or your first. Fuck it, you do you folks!

Article by James Clinch

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