Disclaimer: The following write-up is a bit subjective, but then again, everyone has opinions about music. I tried to be as informed as I could and not just say X band sucks. It was hard, and I dunno how good a job I did. I tried to add to the previous write ups. Feedback is greatly appreciated.
Many can argue until they're blue in the face about what started nu-metal. Whether it was Run D.M.C. rapping over Aerosmith's Walk This Way, or Biohazard's underground shenanigans, 311 and their smooth grooves, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who combined fun, funk and rock. There is no one band to point to, nor artist to exult in creating this genre of watered down musick. Several bands, already named, and many that haven't, have had a helping hand in this looked-down-upon musical genre.
The time before the prefix:
In the 80's, glam rock ruled supreme across the land. White boys everywhere wanted to tease their hair, stuff their pants, and put god-knows-what up their nose. Oh yeah, and play guitar too, I almost forgot. Bands like Motley Crue, Poison, and the anti-glam glam band Guns N Roses ruled the land. However, there was trouble in glam town. The underground scenes were growing. Tired of partying all the time, and singing lyrics about sticky sweetness, whatever the hell that's about, the underground Metal and hip hop scenes were growing. They were vary different genres with metal being angry, and loud, and rap being in its forming stages, and still simple. They would make for very strange bedfellows indeed.
Rap's popularity rose in the late 80's, throughout the 90's to it's modern day dominance in the musical world. Feel free to laugh at anyone who says otherwise, but you're not going to have a metal act come out anytime time soon and have their debut record go platinum in a week, like 50 Cent just did, even if they were signed by Metallica, recieved Ozzy's blessing and all the band members were related to either The Beatles, Led Zepplin, or Jimi Hendrix, it wouldn't happen. But I digress.
The 90's brought about some very interesting musical stylings. The influx of grunge, AKA "the Seattle Sound", allowed for once metal gods Metallica to break through huge with their sell-out effort, The Black Album. Go on, try and tell me they didn't. Metallica slowed down their sound, muted their bass even more, and moved away from the melodic thrash that got them where they were. Not only this, but Nirvana exploded in the early 90's. With their simple iffs and angstful, introspective lyrics, they modeled grunge as a slow punk without the punk eliteism or garb. Bands like Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and the quintessential Pearl Jam extended this sound to new levels.
On the complete opposite of the spectrum we have Rap, which did nothing but grow in popularity and push various aspects of Black culture, more commonly referred to as Hip Hop. Albums by The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, and Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre pushed rap into livingrooms across America. Although, perhaps the most influential to what we're concerned about was House of Pain, and their hit single, Jump Around. For in that single, White America got to see a rapper, who was white, and not a corporate slut, like Vanilla Ice.
That's spiffy, what's nu-metal though?
Nu-Metal is nothing more than the bastard offspring of these musical genres, and cultures, with the skill of neither. Several bands have put out good nu-metal albums, Korn's self-titled debut, as well as Life Is Peachy and Follow The Leader, System of A Down, Slipknot's selftitled album and Linkin Park's debut CD, Hybrid Theory. Not to forget Rage Against The Machine. However, that's not the birth of the Genre.
Here's where it gets sticky. Where does this stuff actually start? It's nice to know where it came from, but where did it begin? Some might say Biohazard, the underground New York Hardcore rap-rock act, who, on several occasions, laid down lyrics in a rap style, while rocking away with heavy backing. Some others might say 311, who's sleek sound penetrated radio with their debut album, or was it the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who successfully combined Funk and Rock, two genres that molded metal and rap.
Nu-metal, oftenly mistaken for the horrid rap-metal or other such nonsense, is its own genre, one that has produced several great albums and bands. However the sound is hard to pinpoint. Several good examples of the nu-metal sound can be found on (sic), off of Slipknot's self titled, Blind and All In The Family, by Korn, SOAD's entire Toxicity album, several works by RATM, as well as more songs than I care to mention. The idea of nu-metal is expanding the soundscape of metal. This is important.
Korn expanded the idea of metal by giving it a little groove, and adding a lot of dissonance. Korn is not a rap-rock band, unless you consider the gutteral growling of Johnathan Davis as rap. Korn's style is based off the slap-happy groove created by their bassist, as well as the guitar tag played by Munkey and Head. On the first track to their self-titled album, Blind, a classic display of this is shown as one guitarist plays low power chords and the other plays powerchords on higher pitch strings and higher on the neck of the instrument. Their timing creates the sound. On later albums, the two play stranger chords than the straight forward power chords. The notes they play would not agree, creating a noticeable wave sound and a sort-of oddness, like the notes didn't belong together. They found their nitch, and they rocked it.
But Korn is not your typical Nu-Metal, they're a standout. If I had to pick an album that was the purest of the nu-metal, I wouldn't pick an album, only half of one. The first 6-8 tracks on Slipknot's debut disc are the Plato's ideal of nu-metal. The songs are heavy and aggressive, like metal. Their lead singer raps, without focusing on rapping, and is ready to scream when need be. Their percussion is heavy, and layered, and when combined with their DJ, sampler and the two guitarists and bassist, a heavy, insane, thick groove is produced. And groove is what it's all about. Slipknot managed to take the groove of rap, the heavyness of metal, the layered soundscapes of techno and trance and spit out a rough and brutal album that will rock your fucking socks off.
However, Slipknot was not the first in the nu-metal field, shoing up near the late 90's. Their success was built on several other great bands that came before them, as I have mentioned several times before. Other bands, though, do deserve mention. The first of which when from multi-platinum to multi-hated, and that's Limp Bizkit. Mayhaps the most generic nu-metal/rap-crock band there is. Bizkit got popular off a cover song after acquiring a small fanbase with their appropriately titled first single, something many bands have attempted to immitate over the 90's. When I say popular, I mean popular. You almost couldn't escape the nasal, whiney voice of front man, and all around dickhead, Fred Durst, who would do anything to suck the cock of the public. Even with Fred's stupidity (the man got into a fight with Trent Reznor about who had better music! I mean serously), Bizkit soared with its tight rhythm and amazing, innovative guitar work by Wes Borland. Not only that, they warmed America up to the idea of a white rapper, mostly because Bizkit had more than one hit.
Another such band, commonly hated, is Linkin Park. LP is perhaps the most stereotypical Nu-metal act, as they have a DJ, a rapper, a singer, and the rest, guitarist, drummer, and bassist. Yet no one can deny their popularity, and their sleek, overproduced sound, which successfully blends each influence and sound into a cohesive unit. However, it remains to be seen, at this point, whether their follow-up to Hybrid Theory will be any good, or if they're going to go the route of Slipknot, and have a lackluster sophomore disc.
So, you ragged on some bands, and praised others, but what is Nu-Metal?
The easiest answer to this is whatever eMpTyV and your radio station tell you the Label executives decide to be nu-metal. Nu-metal is a pishposh of everything. It's like giving a three year old a piece of white paper and 128 crayons of varying colors. You're gonna end up with splotches of colors, randomly spread around the page, and not much else. That's assuming the kid stays on the page. Nu-Metal is variety, it's all these different influences coming together, while trying to sound like neither. Mostly, Nu-Metal is the attempt at adding more of a hip-hop groove and flow to metal music. Metallica had groove, their own kind of groove. Put on Battery, One, or another such cut, and you will be banging your head in the rhythm. If people are around you, they will be too, and you'll be a mass of headbangers all grooving together. Hip-Hoppers dance, c-walk or do whatever they do, but they groove too. If you can't sense the bounce in good rap you must be dead.
The future of nu-metal is still around the corner. It will be washed out in another few years, and by the looks of it, the weak and pathetic are taking over. The music of metal is following a trend started in nu-metal, and that's one of weakness. The tempo has slowed, and there's a distinct lack of thrash in most new nu-metal made today. Not for a long while will you hear the tightness of Megadeth, Fear Factory or Pantera on a record. While there are highspots in modern rock music, mostly a band called Audioslave, but otherwise a lot is lacking. But that's what happens when you give slackers who don't want to learn music theory guitars.