Friday, 7 February 2014

The Ghosts Of Nu Metal: Where Are They Now?

With the impending return of Limp Bizkit this year and their upcoming appearance at the Olympia next week, let's take a look back to the beginning of the millennium when everything seemed possible for the unspeakable genre that everybody loves to hate, Nu-Metal. Essentially a fusion of rap and alternative rock (arguably born out of Rage Against The Machine), nu metal swept the airwaves and peaked for a brief period in the late nineties and early noughties, destroying all acceptable music taste in sight with its inexplicable mainstream appeal.

Admittedly, I was one of those young teens who lost myself in the craze- a skateboard I couldn't skate, Kerrang! and a petulant attitude were the orders of the day back then, and so that leaves me wondering; where are my former heroes now? I decided to find out.

Alien Ant Farm
Breaking onto the scene in 2001 with Michael Jackson cover ''Smooth Criminal'' and its follow up ''Movies'', Alien Ant Farm released their debut studio album ANThology to commercial success, reaching #1 on US and Australian charts. To be fair, it's certainly one of the catchier albums of the genre, and its near pop-punk style caught the attention of many, as well as their excellent videos (still a relevant medium at the time).

However, success didn't last long with the release of their follow up Truant (2003) not going quite as smoothly (see what I did there?), peaking at #42 on the Billboard chart. Things only went downhill from here though, when in 2005 AAF recorded an album so poor that their label Geffen refused to even release it, resulting in the band distributing bootleg copies of it themselves on tour. Upon its eventual release in 2006, Up In The Attic was a flop, garnering no official lead single or tour.

Since then the band have been pretty quiet, but in February of last year announced that they were attempting to raise funds for a new album through PledgeMusic, an online platform that fans can use to pay the artist directly. Let's see how long that takes.

Deftones were perhaps the most respected act of the nu metal genre, so much so that their fans will angrily insist that they never belonged to such a scene. But the band's music is unmistakably rap metal, it just so happens that it's pretty awesome too. With a trio of Platinum albums between 1995-2000 (Adrenaline, Around The Fur, White Pony), Deftones may not have replicated their commercial success in recent years but they're still releasing similarly acclaimed work, with 2012's Koi No Yokan marking their 7th LP.

Believe or not, Evanescence were an incredibly successful band throughout the past decade. Everyone knows ''Bring Me To Life'', but the album it was taken from, Fallen, sold over 17 million copies worldwide and won 2 Grammys. Really. This was followed by The Open Door in 2006 which sold a still extremely respectable 5 mil, before numerous line up changes and departures (including vocalist Amy Lee) resulted in a hiatus that lasted until 2011, when they returned to debut at #1 on the Billboard chart like nothing ever happened, with their self titled third record. Alongside Deftones, one of the major bands of the genre to have emerged unscathed.

Ah, Korn. The very definition of nu metal. In many ways the genre began and ended with Jonathan Davis and his equally strange friends with names like ''Munky'' and ''Head''. Formed in 1993, Korn experienced impressive mainstream success while also developing a devoted cult following with albums like Life Is Peachy, Follow The Leader and Issues, the three of which were released within the short space of 1996-99.

And from here nu mental effectively kicked off with countless bands attempting to imitate the unique creepiness of Korn's blend of funk, metal and vulgarity, most notably, and most tragically, resulting in Limp Bizkit's existence. Korn continued their success themselves through 2002's Untouchables, but things came to a halt with the release of Take A Look In The Mirror in 2003, as the album took heavy criticism and failed to perform as well as its predecessors. In turn, Davis admitted that the album had been rushed, and the band have released a steady stream of material since which has included successful efforts like See You On The Other Side(2005) and The Path Of Toltality (2011), which was praised for its innovative use of dubstep and various other genres, with critics going as far as to call it the return of nu metal or the beginning of new life for the genre.

Limp Bizkit
Quite possibly the most hated band in the history of music (Insane Clown Posse might give them a run for their money there), Limp Bizkit, against all odds, still exist in 2014. That alone is an achievement itself, but the fact that we're to expect a new album from the band following their current tour is magnificently impressive and surely Durst deserves some form of credit for his instinct to survive the harshest of criticism over the last two decades.

Climaxing around the turn of the millennium with the albums Significant Other and the horrifically entitled Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water, Durst and co. kept rollin', rollin', rollin' until the car crashed in 2001 when the only seemingly talented member of the band, guitarist Wes Borland, decided he was out. Dark times ensued as the band attempted a fourth effort, Results May Vary, for which they didn't, with the resulting record being declared one of the worst instances of recorded music ever. Still, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel and following a 6 year hiatus the band are back on track, having released Gold Cobra to a reasonable reaction in 2011. Judge things for yourself with their seventh album this year, Stampede Of The Disco Elephants. With a name like that it's got to be good... Right?

Linkin Park
My self confessed personal favourite of the nu metal scene, and therefore my Gods when I was 11. Linkin Park and Hybrid Theory pretty much defined an ill advised but necessary period of my young life and in many ways, the band's debut album is really what introduced me to rock music and a lot o great bands further on down the line. I wasn't alone either with millions worldwide following suit, and the band's accessible brand of rap rock made them hands down the most successful nu metal act ever, and one of the most successful bands period post millennium, having sold a total of over 60 millions albums in their 18 year existence.

After Hybrid Theory in 2000, the band found success again with Meteora in 2003 just before it was too late for nu metal, but the end of the genre didn't mean the end of Linkin Park; adapting their style to more traditional rock elements on Minutes To Midnight (2007) the band continued to receive acclaim throughout the US and abroad, before exploring new genres such as electronica in recent times on A Thousand Suns (2010) and Living Things (2012). Nu metal may have began with Korn, but surely Linkin Park emerged as the kings, capitalizing on the movement and pushing onwards after its inevitable downfall.

Papa Roach
''Cut my life into pieces, this is my last resort!''

Yeah we all know Papa Roach, one of many average bands elevated to a higher plain than they were worthy of simply due to the maddeningly popular nature of nu metal itself. Usually a one hit wonder was the source of this popularity, and in this case ''Last Resort'' was actually a pretty banging tune back in the day. 2000's Infest sold over 7 million copies but things went downhill from there as sales began to fall, leading to lead vocalist Jacoby Shaddix cutting the rap vocals all together, which was probably a wise move seeing as Roach are still gaining reasonable sales in modern times; Metamorphosis (2008) hit #8 on the Billboard chart, and 2012's Connection performed nearly as well peaking at #17, in spite of predictably mixed reviews.

Staind were actually a pretty normal, pretty bad rock band attempting to make grunge music throughout the 1990's who decided to capitalize on the nu metal craze in 2001 with Break The Cycle, by far their most successful record, thanks again in large part to a one hit wonder that received endless airplay, the alternative faux beard stroker ''It's Been A While''. There's not much else to say about Staind afterwards; they continued to release average music to crushing reviews (even Break The Cycle was rewarded with a 2/10 by NME) and poor sales, but things came to a halt in 2010 following strained relations between the band and stressful recordings sessions (maybe they realized they were brutal) culminating in a hiatus that's lasted until now. The band are returning to the festival scene in 2014 with intentions of a full reunion, although that seems highly unnecessary to me, and probably the rest of the world excluding the band members themselves.

So what does the future hold for nu metal, if anything at all? Since its effective end in 2002/03, bands have tended to avoid the genre at all costs and any association with it, but if reports are to be believed, we could be on the verge of an unprecedented second wave of nu metal heads. Sparked by Korn's Path Of Totality in 2011 and its resulting acclaim, critics have cited it as a possible new direction for young bands to follow. The likes of My Ticket Home and Of Mice & Men are reported to be leading the charge while old bands, such as Papa Roach make their return. 

Surely not. Is there possibly still life left in this already dead and decaying corpse of a music style? Now that I'm all grown up the thought of another Limp Bizkit seems nothing but frightening, although maybe the kids these days need to welcome an alternative to the Justin Bieber's and Chris Brown's of this world. It certainly didn't do me any harm to rock through my rite of passage as a young lad, even if I sometimes look back with something between a nostalgic glaze and burning cringe.

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