NEW METAL (also: neo metal, nu-metal, alternative metal)

What is metal?

Heavy Rock originated in the late 1960s, when some bands started dropping more and more of the blues and classic rock and roll influences that reigned the period. The bands taking Heavy rock even further, turning up the volume and the speed were quickly dubbed Heavy Metal - This resulted in the metal we know today; Loud and characteristic guitar riffs that are repeated mechanically throughout the songs. By the early 70s the style had started taking over the Rock'n'roll scene completely.

Varying wildly between the highly technically advanced rock and your average run-of-the-mill three-chord metal, the style staid on the charts for a long time, before basically just disappearing in the mid-80s.

What is New Metal?

New metal is a hard-to-define style that has once again dragged the Metal music genre from its underground caves and out into the mainstream. The style has taken a few steps away from the riffing of the original metal styles.

The New Metal songs usually have fairly advanced drum patterns, either electronic or a combination of using a drum machine and a live drummer. In the original Metal, it would be the drums and rhythm guitars forcing the song forward. This gradually changed - in New metal, the bass player and the vocals seem to have taken over these roles.

Typical of New metal tracks, the songs would consist of quieter parts, with heavier passages inserted to spice up the song (or vice versa).

The lyrics of New metal tracks can be quite varied, from heavily rap-inspired, via the typical primal-scream kind of singing, to melodic chanting from singers who obviously can sing. In general, New Metal lyrics tend to include a load of seemingly unprovoked obscenities.

Where does New Metal come from?

It is hard to pinpoint exactly where New Metal came from, and who invented it. It is commonly accepted that the whole evolution peaked with Korn's first album - this can thus be called the birth of New Metal.

Before Korn started to become a known name in the music underground, and later in mainstream music in 1994, lots of significant things happened in the music (yes, Haddaway had a smash hit with What is Love, and no, that's got absolutely nothing to do with new metal :).

Main influences

One of the new influences in the beginning of the 1990s was the brand new rap metal style. Rap Metal, incorporating the most hardcore elements of heavy metal and rap culture. The early influences of rap metal was the infamous Run DMC and Aerosmith cooperation on making a new version of Aerosmith's Walk This Way, all based on Beastie Boy’s insane music style. Bands like Anthrax, Kid Rock, White Zombie, Tool, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine all experimented with the rap metal style to various extents.

This style of rhythmically shouting the lyrics (As opposed to the (at least slightly) more refined vocal artistry of the rap genre) gained quite some impact in the music societies, and many of the New Metal styles (Especially Limp Bizkit's) can be traced back to the rap metal roots. However, it wasn't just the singing style that survived from the rap metal era - many of the beats and some bass lines that appeared in New Metal have obvious influences from Rap and Hip Hop.

In addition to the Rap Metal style, Industrial Metal also has some heavy influence on the evolution of New Metal. The distorted guitars and electrical beats are two of the technical influences the style has had on New metal. In addition to the technical influences, the all-round more urbanized, dark, depressive, sombre sound that New Metal tends to have can be traced to Industrial Metal. The most obvious contributor to the Industrial Metal genre was Nine Inch Nails, but Ministry and Type O Negative* also needs to be mentioned, as both styles are traceable to today's New Metal.

*) Technically, Type O is usually classified as Goth metal, but this style is closely related to both Industrial and New Metal

Annotated Timeline

  • 1981
  • 1983
  • 1986
  • 1989
  • 1992 - All the premises for New Metal meet up
    • Rage Against The Machine release their first, self-titled album. Their music starts containing the first traces of New Metal; The lyrics bear rap characteristics, and the bass player drives the song ahead. This, along with the variation between calmer and heavier passages in the songs has been to much inspiration to later New Metal actors.
    • Insane Clown Posse release their Carnival of Carnage album, an album distinguished by its heavy riffs with rap lyrics on top.
    • Biohazard Ditto as for Insane Clown Posse - Rap Metal evolves
    • Fear Factory launch their first album. Death metal meets industrial metal meets a set of double pedals. Fear Factory has turned out to be a major inspiration for the New Metal wave, in particular to the heavier acts (Soulfly, Staind etc)
    • House of Pain are another shoot on the tree of rap metal. Their major hit "Jump Around" received massive airtime on MTV. Chances are that this opened the gates for later metal acts to be more commonly accepted to MTV, i.e into the mainstream music scenes.
  • 1993
    • Tool showed that bands that were willing to experiment with the darker sides, and uses several of the New Metal genre characteristics in its songs.
    • 311, a band relatively unknown outside the US start crossing the punk and rap genres to a larger extent - hitting the mainstream audience and selling a load of albums.
  • 1994 - The birth of New Metal
    • Korn's self titled album is released, without really catching on at first. After touring with Marilyn Manson, 311, Megadeth and Ozzie Osbourne, the band gains popularity... The New Metal wave is a fact.
    • Marilyn Manson releases his debut album (Portrait of an American Family), generating heavy debate by parents and politicians about the future of music, resulting in a number of media appearances, propelling Manson to new hights
  • 1995
    • Deftones release their first album, making the New Metal wave significantly harder and heavier, without actually leaving the genre completely. Deftones seem to have been part of the reason of the New Metal wave "growing up" past its infancy - The New Metal music genre went from being a novelty to being a full-fledged music style.
    • Incubus release their first album, which really passed by without receiving much notice, however, it did pave the way for their 1997 release, S.C.I.E.N.C.E.
  • 1996
    • Heavily industrial, Rammstein did the exact opposite of Deftones. Instead of being more serious, Rammstein became a parody of the New Metal style. Ironically, many of the New Metal fans embraced Rammstein as strongly as they had the other bands in the genre, causing the genre to include Rammstein as well.
  • 1997
    • Limp Bizkit, a phenomenon on the charts
    • Coal Chamber, although as heavy as Deftones, gained significant respect from their intense lyrical value and more technically rich sound, without using any significant technological gadgets.
    • Creed
    • For the nine nutcases in Slipknot, everything had to be harder and sicker. Their stage show (which is an experience in itself) and the music widened the New Metal genre to well beyond the limits of sanity.
  • 1998
    • Soulfly - The regeneration of Max Cavalera's heavy metal band gone new metal
    • System of a Down - Bringing some political values and (to a certain extent) intelligent lyrics to the genre
  • 1999 - 2001
    • New bands: Papa Roach, Linkin Park
    • The market seems to get saturated with New Metal music. The "older" bands seem to be repeating themselves. There are a few newcomers to the genre, but bands such as linkin park seem to be combining the boyband appearance and quality with New Metal music styles. The style seems to become more insecure, and has probably broken into some new fractions.


Updated and expanded sept 22, 2002. Please /msg me with any further suggestions or corrections.