Opinion — In defense of nu-metal


Samuel Roberts

LIVE AND IN PERSON – My view of Limp Bizkit onstage from the very back of the stadium, reminding me what a $65 arena ticket truly gets me. Despite this, seeing Yung Gravy and Limp Bizkit in one night was worth it all.

Harry Stine

Last May, I drove to Green Bay to see the band Limp Bizkit play in a half-filled stadium. I was in the very back of the crowd, banging my head in a Hawaiian button-up to songs such as “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle),” “Dad Vibes” and a particularly edgy cover of George Michael’s “Faith.”

There is a lot to make fun of when it comes to nu-metal: JNCO jeans, backward baseball caps and an overwhelming dude-bro mentality. Even the best bands of the genre were never that great at writing lyrics — I will never forget Korn starting one song with the line “I’m feeling mean today.”

Even a favorite singer of mine who had a huge influence on the genre, Mike Patton, was not a big fan of nu-metal.

“Nu-metal makes my stomach turn,” Patton said to Metal Hammer in 2002. “Don’t blame that poo poo on us, blame it on their mothers! Do you think I listen to any of that stuff at all? No, it’s for 13-year-old morons! Believe me, we’ll all be laughing about nu-metal in a couple of years. Heck, I’m actually laughing at it now!”

But you know who does like nu-metal? Bjork. The Vespertine Queen herself. The critically acclaimed musician who has inhabited my playlists since I was 15 loves Sepultura and Cannibal Corpse, and even performed her song “Army of Me” with metal band Skunk Anansie in 1995.

Hell yes. 

While I cannot speak for Bjork, I can explain my love of nu-metal. Ever since high school, I have always liked heavy music and weird singers — Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers was my favorite vocalist at 17. I found an even stronger love for dance music, hip hop and just plain-old weird music along the way. 

I did not warm up to nu-metal right away. I used to make fun of it like everyone else. That was until I discovered Deftones as a sophomore in college, particularly their record “White Pony.” The stuttering rhythms, the whisper-screaming-singing vocals and the way they could make heavy music sound intimate and insecure quite literally blew my mind. It quickly became one of my favorite records.

Still, I swore to myself that I would not enjoy nu-metal. I could make the argument that Deftones was not nu-metal, they were just a really creative metal band. But then I found myself listening to Limp Bizkit as a joke. I found myself saying “hey, Slipknot is kind of death metal,” to allow myself to tout their sophomore release, “Iowa.” Then one day I realized I could perfectly recite all of Jonathon Davis’ scats in multiple Korn songs, and I had to face the truth.

Nu-metal is good. That is it. I feel like most rock and metal bands have a hard time reconciling their music with other genres, leading to pretty plain sounding music. Like I said, there is plenty of silliness in nu-metal, but the best bands have plenty to enjoy. I like listening to record scratches played alongside metal riffs. I like drummers that can put danceable rhythms between hard hitting blast beats. I even like jazz scats used for metal breakdowns.

I like a lot of different genres of music. Hearing music, especially heavy metal, that embraces all of its influences really gets me going.

A lot of my favorite bands welcome this mindset, where if you like something — no matter how disparate it is from another genre you like — you still play it unapologetically. One of my favorite bands, Mogwai, mixes punk-rock ethos with expansive film-score tunes. A current favorite of mine, “Mr. Bungle” featuring Mike Patton, toes the line between death metal, carousel music, ska and western tunes like it is nothing. Or go back to Bjork, a singer, songwriter and techno queen, who also has a penchant for both composers and beatboxers.

In recent years, nu-metal has been making a bit of a resurgence and is pretty devoid of the frat-bro mentality that used to plague it. Bands like Chat Pile have no qualms about praising Korn in interviews, and Poppy has perfectly blended 2010’s pop with nu-metal and industrial – 2019’s “I Disagree” being my most played album last summer.

I believe that one day, nu-metal will eventually be subject to revaluation, similar to disco and new wave. Until then, I will be in my car, scatting along to the bridge section of Korn’s “Freak on a Leash.”

Editor’s Note: The North Wind is committed to offering a free and open public forum of ideas, publishing a wide range of viewpoints to accurately represent the NMU student body. This is a staff column, written by an employee of the North Wind. As such, it expresses the personal opinions of the individual writer, and does not necessarily reflect the position of the North Wind Editorial Board.