Tape Wyrm LV: The Ol’ Stigma of Nu Metal Tape Wyrm LV: The Ol’ Stigma of Nu Metal

TWlogo3Discussing Nu Metal is difficult. Nu Metal, along with glam, deathcore, industrial, and maybe slam death, are some of the genres most maligned by fans of heavy metal. For whatever reason, these are the ones that never got the knack of being cool. Well, this isn’t exactly true, as glam metal is experiencing a slow revival in which it’s positive attributes and place within popular history are starting to shine through the creep of time. Glam certainly wasn’t the worst metal genre of all time. I do not think something like that even exists. Some of these other genres, however, are so baffling that they may resemble something close to that category.

It would be easy to say most things in the 90’s were destined to always be a product of embarrassment for those who experienced and came of age during the time. This, of course, isn’t true for the myriad of genres that still retain critical weight, which include mainstream hip hop, early indie rock, electronic music, and various styles of metal like death, black, and doom. It would be easier to say that all styles of music from the 90’s were in a purgatorial period between being horribly outdated and having vintage charm. But, this is not true for a lot of things. In fact, come to think of it, most things from the 90’s have aged well except for Nu Metal and Vanilla Ice. Shit, why in the world was this so bad?

Nu Metal specifically groups together a collection of popular hard rock and heavy metal bands that combined groove metal with hip hop and funk along with the emotional angst of alternative rock. The style is related to the alternative metal fusion, with Nu Metal being the tag used by other alternative metal bands when criticizing their peers. Nu Metal artists all released albums within a short time period, toured together, and, for the most part, all saw heavy airplay on MTV, which was beginning a long decline into a non-music channel. It was also the style that went over the top in terms of fashion and attitude with the more aggressively dressed bands seeing more airplay. It was immensely popular and reached out not only to young fans but to listeners not normally associated with heavy metal. For a time period, it was the music associated with social outsiders, and according to the mainstream, was rebirth of heavy metal — or maybe hip hop. Whichever sold more records.

Nu Metal was engineered and made popular by record executives and television producers. It was part of a commercial narrative manufactured by Ross Robinson who produced records for Korn, Deftones, Limp Bizkit, Cold, Slipknot, and Soulfly. Nu Metal ignores all of the developments in heavy metal, hip hop, and hard rock for a self centered revival of youthful music. It was a style grown in a laboratory and was an uneven pastiche of popular styles that, in concept, hit the largest demographic. Nu Metal even rode a steamroller over every other heavy alternative band at the time flattening any delineation between the two. It was the style which shouted the loudest and because it completely ignored any organic growth in a local or underground scene, its synthetic nature was thinly veiled behind a normal exterior. It was the musical equivalent of Frankenstein. This, above all else, is the largest reason for Nu Metal’s stigma.

Nu Metal’s existence was spent entirely within the microcosm of mainstream hard rock. Even its distant influences have ceased to exist, leaving the style stranded. Nu Metal’s influence and reach across other styles has been limited to its fans and there was never any reason to evolve or press the sound. Things would be much different if Nu Metal grew out of an organic scene that was not hellbent on commercial success. Nu Metal would also be different if mainstream rock was allowed to go on unchecked and the 00’s was not just another transformation of the media monopoly. None of those things happened and because of it, Nu Metal marks the time right before things changed, with some people saying for the better. It was. Let no one tell you otherwise. Nu Metal stands diametrically opposed to the rise of file sharing, where file sharing embodies the idea of progress and Nu Metal, the aging mainstream tradition. Nu Metal is a word for something that happened rather than something that wanted to be created. It is the precursor to the collapse of mainstream hard rock and big label heavy metal. It is a statue to remind people of what things sound like when record labels tamper too much with their music — or at least what happens when everything goes horribly wrong.

It is important to be reminded that this stigma of Nu Metal does not come from the contrast between underground and mainstream. Popularity or obscurity does not dictate quality. Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, 70’s hard rock and glam metal have all shown mainstream music to be generally accepted and acceptable. Nu Metal’s creation does not differ that much from other mainstream acts which came before. It only differs in the fact that this one went wrong. Whether too much too fast or too far too thin, Nu Metal’s foil rests in its attempt for pan consumption and no attention paid to its sustenance. It is difficult to talk about Nu Metal or defend it with any sincerity or logic. There are of course exceptions but those lay far between utter nonsense. The bands involved were just doing what they were told before the curtain fell hard on their head. I am starting to view the stigma of Nu Metal as an unfortunate curse — a curse that attached itself to a bunch of unassuming bands who were doing what other bands were doing before them. It is truly a tragedy and something which is truly a haunting for the season. Happy Halloween.

4 Responses about “Tape Wyrm LV: The Ol’ Stigma of Nu Metal”

  • asdf says:

    You’re trolling right?

  • Matt says:

    Growing up in the 90s/early 2000s, I was a prime target for Nu Metal and I have to admit I ate it up. I sometime wonder what influence it has had on my current tastes for music.

  • Sean says:

    Take a second to contemplate before lumping the Deftones with Korn, Limp Bizkit, etc. I believe they have risen above the label of nu-metal and have progressed alternative metal in their own unique and great way.

  • I think my inclusion of Deftones Adrenaline was sort of a funny way to defeat my own argument as the first three albums from that band are decent and do, as you say, rise above the Nu Metal stigma. I really do not know how it happened though.