Nu metal (also known as new metal or nü metal) is a musical genre that emerged in the mid 1990s which fuses influences from grunge and alternative metal with funk music, hip hop and various heavy metal genres, such as thrash metal, industrial metal, and groove metal.
Nu metal music emphasizes mood, rhythm, and texture over melody. Often, nu metal songs use rhythmic, syncopated riffs played on distorted electric guitars with strings detuned to lower pitches to create a dark and thick sound.
Nu metal, like metalcore, is widely hated by many metalheads. Both genres are frequently called 'mallcore' and 'poser metal'.
Like the bands of its antecendant, funk metal, many nu metal bands came from Southern California. Bands such as Snot, Manhole, Linkin Park, Human Waste Project, P.O.D., and Korn are early nu metal bands all from Southern California and started in the mid nineties.
Korn's signature sound came from an attempt to emulate chords used by Mr. Bungle's guitar player, which they referred to as "the moveable Bungle chord". They have also cited Mike Patton's other band Faith No More in Kerrang!'s The Greatest Videos of All Time in 2006, saying that Korn was influenced by them because they did something unusual with a metal band. Nu metal bands also often state more conventional metal acts as an influence, particularly Black Sabbath.
The term was first used for a review of a 1997 Coal Chamber concert in Spin magazine in the form "new metal". Categorization of specific artists as "nu metal" is difficult, an issue made more prevalent in the online community by traditional metal fans who take offense to the term. Nu metal began as a mix of different genres, so the definition is not solid. Linkin Park's Meteora, for example, is listed as "alternative" on AOL Music Now, and three different genres ("rock", "metal", and "alternative") on Metacritic. Because their style was not clearly defined, nu metal bands were often considered within multiple other genres. For example, Korn cross into alternative metal and industrial metal, Limp Bizkit and P.O.D. cross into rap rock, Disturbed and Godsmack cross into hard rock and alternative metal, and Linkin Park crosses into the genres alternative rock and rap rock. Rap rock, post-grunge and alternative metal are common genres which nu metal bands cross into.
Nu metal bands often feature aggressive vocals that range from melodic singing similar to Pop and rock, guttural screaming and shouting from various forms of metal and hardcore punk, accessible to rapping.
Some distinction is usually maintained between bands who use rap vocals extensively, and those that do not. Bands featuring almost exclusively rap vocalization are sometimes loosely called "rap metal," while the less common term rapcore is used to describe bands who use a combination of singing, screaming, and/or rapping (for example, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Papa Roach and P.O.D. have songs that combine the styles).
Another method is "shouting"; this form of vocalization can be heard on Slipknot's song "Spit It Out". This is basically a mesh of rap with some metal influences, commonly called rapcore. Another common method is simply utilizing the different styles in different parts of the songs, such as a "screaming" chorus breaking up rapped verses. The style and lyrical themes of nu metal's rapped verses are generally very different from those of mainstream hip hop. Distortion and other post-production effects are often added to vocals in the nu metal genre.
Tool is a recognizable origin for some nu metal vocalization; Chevelle's Pete Loeffler, Taproot's Stephen Richards, Disturbed's David Draiman, and Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst have cited Maynard James Keenan's signature style as an influence, with Durst also calling the entire group (in general) both a biggest musical influence and favorite band.
Unlike traditional metal, the overall defining trait of nu metal guitar playing is the emphasis on mood, rhythm, and texture over melody and complex instrumentation, achieved largely through performance or effects. Generally speaking, the emphasis in the music is on either communicating feelings of angst and hostility, or motivating a crowd to move with the beat—ideally, both at once.
However, guitar playing in nu metal still often varies vastly in complexity, sound, and usage. Bands take elements from several forms of music when composing the riffs for their guitars, causing a high variance between the bands. One common trait of most nu metal bands, however, is to emphasize the guitar as a rhythmic instrument. Riffs often consist of only a few different notes or power chords played in rhythmic, syncopated patterns. To emphasize this rhythmic nature, nu metal guitarists generally make liberal use of palm muting, a technique inherited from thrash metal that is often widely spaced out and blend easily into the surrounding riffs, in a manner similar to grunge and hip hop.
Another common technique with nu metal guitarists is the use of detuned strings whose lower pitch creates a thicker, more resonant sound. Strings detuned in this way are often drop-D or lower, sometimes adding a seventh string. This technique is often criticized as a misuse of alternate guitar tunings, with detractors emphasizing the ease and frequency with which power chords are played. When Korn first began its career, members of the band stated that guitar solos had become saturated and too boring in the rock industry, thus they felt no need for them. This is typical of nu metal bands in that guitar solos are rare in nu metal songs in general.
The speed and skill of a bassist in traditional heavy metal plays a large role in the band's sound, complementing percussive tempos (and occasionally the guitar riffs) and adding strong rhythmic pulse to the band. Nu metal bass parts are often reminiscent of hip hop or funk grooves, and in some songs, slap bass technique is used to give the music a funk groove.
Typically, most nu metal bands use basses that require more than the traditional four strings, such as five-string basses, which provides an extended lower register. Fieldy of Korn, Ryan Martinie of Mudvayne, and Sam Rivers of Limp Bizkit use five string basses. Paul Gray of Slipknot also uses a 5 string on occasion, although he is better known for using a 4 string, tuned to B-E-A-D, the last 4 strings of a 5 string bass.
Many notable nu metal bands feature a DJ for additional rhythmic instrumentation (especially for music samples, scratches, and electronic backgrounds). Some examples of nu metal DJs are DJ Lethal of Limp Bizkit, Mr. Hahn of Linkin Park, and DJ Sid Wilson (Starscream) of Slipknot.
Nu metal drumming often consists of hip hop, funk, and heavy metal influences. Double bass drumming is not very common in the style, with Slipknot and Ill Niño being notable exceptions. But unlike the long passages of double bass that death metal and black metal drummers utilize, nu metal drummers use double bass in "stop-go" bursts. System of a Down and Soulfly have also integrated middle eastern and tribal music in their styles, respectively.
Nu metal songs have a song structure of instrumental introduction, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. The bridge is often a climax to the song, has a relatively different sound to the previous two and sometimes is just one line repeated, getting gradually louder. It is generally louder in the instrumental parts and the choruses than in the verses. Nu metal shares most of these characteristics with grunge. Songs also tend to have rapped verses and sung/screamed choruses e.g. Linkin Park has Mike Shinoda rapping the verses and Chester Bennington singing/screaming the choruses on most of their earlier work (Hybrid Theory and Meteora in particular).