Origins of Nu-Metal

Nu-Metal is a subgenre of heavy metal which surfaced around 1993. It is what is known as a fusion genre, which combines sounds and characteristics of metal and other genres such as hip-hop and grunge.

Alternative Metal, Funk Metal, Rap Metal and Industrial Metal have been said to be the spawning point of Nu-Metal, with bands such as Jane’s Addiction, Tool, Primus, Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails being some of the main influences in the creation of the genre. The sound typically consists of aggressive riffs with pop structures, screamed, clean and sometimes rapped vocals, and the addition of electronics/scratch DJs.

This loose description of Nu-Metal allowed for many different types of bands to fall under the umbrella of the “Nu-Metal” label. Nu-Metal really started to make waves in California in 1993, with the release of Korn’s demo. Their unique blend of metal, rock, hip-hop, groove and dissonance was a shock to the local scene and they quickly gained popularity. The term “Nu-Metal seems to have appeared around this time, as vocalist of Korn Describes: “I remember when we were coming out we were fighting being called a metal band because we weren’t a metal band, we were something that wasn’t classifiable, then they came up with ‘nu-metal”.

Korn’s self titled album. Found at:

Popularity of Nu-Metal

1998 is generally recognized as the year nu metal broke into the mainstream, with Korn’s third album hitting number one on the Billboard 200 charts, becoming a multi-platinum album and paving the way for other nu-metal bands. Established metal bands such as Fear Factory, Machine Head and Slayer released albums which drew from the style.

Slipknot (Arguably one of the biggest Nu-Metal bands ever) surfaced around 1999 with the debut album that gave the genre a new, even heavier sound, while incorporating all of the typical elements of Nu-Metal to create an incredibly aggressive sound. Their debut album received over 2 million sales in the USA alone.

Entering the early 2000s, the Nu-Metal label was placed on a much broader range of music, with Rap-Rock bands such as Papa Roach and P.O.D hitting the big time. Papa Roach’s debut album became a platinum hit with the Single “Last Resort” becoming something of an anthem for the time. Linkin Park also made it big around this time with their debut album, which to this day remains the best-selling debut album by any artist in the 21st century.

The influence of Nu-Metal on today’s industry

Whilst most bands which harboured the Nu-metal label have since changed their sound with the times, it is starting to show up in different forms in today’s metal scene. Bands like Hollywood Undead, who found success with their debut in 2008, brought back a sound very similar to Nu-Metal which found them headlining many festivals and tours. Korn’s release in 2011 started combining electronic elements such as Dubstep, which has lead to talk about being the new direction of Nu-Metal. More recently, bands like Issues (while heavily controversial) claim heavy influence from Nu-Metal and include use of samples, turn tables and Pop-styles clean vocals with heavy riffs and breakdowns.

Nu-Metal was incredibly important, as it started major experimentation in the metal scene. It was something that had never been heard before, and the shock of the sound is what made it stick. The experimentation with electronic sounds in metal can still be seen in today’s metal industry, with bands like Attack Attack, Asking Alexandria, The Devil Wear’s Prada amongst many others using it as a key part of their sound. It also lead to a lot of decent-quality home-Studio recording, so bands could demo out and write this new style of music, which was almost unheard of in metal. Bands like Linkin Park released many home-produced demos before their major success which would still stand up in quality today.

Papa Roach’s original Lineup. Found at:

Essential Nu-Metal albums:

  • Korn (Korn)
  • Three Dollar Bill Y’all (Limp Bizkit)
  • Hybrid Theory (Linkin Park)
  • Slipknot (Slipknot)
  • Iowa (Slipknot)
  • Sevendust (Sevendust)
  • Follow the Leader (Korn)
  • Coal Chamber (Coal Chamber)
  • Infest (Papa Roach)
  • Around the Fur (Deftones)

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