Given enough time and support, any whipping boy can become rise to become a king. The kids who grew up on nü-metal went on to form their own bands… Thus beginning nü-metalcore. The first ripples of nü-metal’s return date back over a decade. The angsty melodrama of Sworn In or the bounce-riff enthusiasm of Emmure obviously comes from the nü school and even the later albums of heavy hitters like Impending Doom and Suicide Silence.
The initial crossover yielded mixed results, to say the least, but the latest wave of nü-core bands have undeniably dialed it in. In fact, the 2020s is arguably the best time to be a nü-metal fan. There seem to be more metalcore and deathcore bands doing nü-metal right than ever before! The five bands below stand out for a multitude of reasons, but every one of them effectively elevate the best aspects of nü-metal, while replacing the bad with cutting-edge metallic hardcore.
Note: Code Orange isn’t listed here because they’ve become a ubiquitous presence in modern heavy music. For any holdouts, quit messing around and give Underneath a shot.
Few bands even have the guts to cover System of a Down, which Orthodox not only does frequently but does insanely well. This Nashville has a deep appreciation for Slipknot and SoaD—a devotion to the lesser-known facets of those bands. Instead of „Wait and Bleed“ or „Chop Suey!,“ Orthodox’s songs often recall deeper cuts like „Virus of Life“ or „Mind.“ The dark, psychotic nature of nü-metal is shamefully overlooked, so it’s amazing to hear vocalist Adam Easterling muttering menacingly during down sections before exploding with rage once the breakdown hits. The same could be said about Austin Evan’s approach to the guitar. While not terribly technical, he channels the likes of Mick Thompson and Daron Malakian by constantly keeping listeners guessing about what he’ll do next. The mosh parts hit hard, but never quite as expected. The melodies are simple but very hard to forget.
Drummer Mike White and bassist Shiloh Krebs really bring the SoaD influence to the forefront. Their grooves rarely lock in the way anyone should expect… unless you grew up on SoaD’s self-titled album. Incredibly, Orthodox’s debut LP Let It Takes Its Course contrasts those sporadic influences with the gargantuan, thoughtful songwriting of a band like Gojira. It’s frankly astounding that it all works as well as it does, but it’s one of the best examples of nü-metal finding its second wind through the current hardcore wave.
A lot of listeners like to call Loathe „metalcore Deftones.“ While this isn’t wrong, it takes away from the leap in creativity these guys took last year. Besides, Deftones has become the go-to comparison for every heavy band with dreamy passages and sensual vocals. Loathe’s album I Let It In And It Took Everything certainly fits in that box, but it also sounds like the band knows about their reputation and wants it to change it. The band’s effort to expand the boundaries of their sound has allowed them to escape their pigeonhole without forsaking the key tenets that got them over.
In fact, the most Deftones-ish part about Loathe is the fact they’re hard to pin down. One minute they’re bringing in those bottom-heavy double-kick beatdowns, and the next they’re floating on clouds of reverb. The band clearly has no use for appealing to a specific demographic, relying instead on their raw talent to bring people of various music tastes on board. Loathe makes sure every aspect of their sound remains fantastically executed. The shoegazey dreamscapes mesmerize, the mathcore attacks totally spazz out and the savage mosh parts could give any pit warrior a stank face. Perhaps the most promising aspect of Loathe is their ability to bring melody to their sound without it sounding like a mainstream cash-grab. They’re melodic without sounding plebeian, a hard feat to pull off for nü metal and metalcore alike.
I know what you’re thinking… „Isn’t this just a deathcore band?“ It’s definitely less nü than other entries on this list, but I want to emphasize the vocals of Darius Tehrani. Specifically when he goes from angry to utterly insane. Where bands like Sworn In ended up posting cringe with this level of dramatics, Spite harnesses emotional abandon to a convincingly haunting effect. Now ask yourself… which artists brought nervous breakdown vocals to the mainstream? The answer is, irrefutably, Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Jonathan Davis of Korn. That’s the lineage Tehrani draws from when the breakdown hits and it’s unclear whether he’s about to burst into tears or rip his enemy to pieces (or both!).
Spite also does an admirable job of avoiding nü-deathcore’s biggest pitfall: generic riffs. Does this mean they’re particularly technical? Not exactly, but there’s a reason songs like „The Root Of All Evil“ and „Kill or be Killed“ stand out from the crowd. The band knows how to find the pocket, while tastefully switching up the groove. Deathcore’s proximity to nü-metal is often reviled, but Spite epitomizes the crossover’s potential for emotion and infectious groove.
To think a mathcore band can tour with two turntablists! This is the kind of band a lot of fans would like to distance from nü-metal, but that’s a pretty obvious cope to deny the fact a band as good as this could easily get over at Ozzfest ’98. Beyond that, nü-metal is much more than clickity-clack bass and rapping in the verses. There’s an emotional nucleus that allows it to resonate much more broadly than other subgenres. That’s what Vein.FM has to offer. Anthony DiDio has some of the most emotive, wide ranging vocals in the game, imbuing the tight riffage and drums with chaotic passion. Listening to Errorzone is like hearing Deftones and Nothingface fed through a mathcore meat grinder.
If turntables in Vein.FM’s live show isn’t enough, listening to Old Data in a New Machine, Vol. 1 brings a whole new dimension to their nü-metal connection. The original movement helped normalize remixes in rock/metal music, and it’s clear that Vein.FM’s approach echoes Linking Park’s Reanimation or Deftones‚ White Pony 20th anniversary remixes. The four originals and three demos also show how committed these guys are to pushing boundaries. It harks back to the time when nü-metal hadn’t totally succumbed to cookie-cutter nonsense, and this may keep the new breed vital.
Tallah surely benefits from Mike Portnoy’s son Max behind the kit and the internet clout of vocalist extraordinaire Justin Bonitz. The band represents the most unabashed synthesis between nü-metal and metalcore. The songwriting is air-tight, exhilarating, and unpredictable, and Bonitz takes obvious pleasure in catching people off guard with what he does with his voice. But Tallah’s considerable chops come in a package very reminiscent of nü-metal’s questionable visuals. With ’90s nostalgia in vogue for the moment, this might not be entirely a bad thing. Still, it’s worth considering how nü-metal’s outlandish image prevented many bands from garnering respect during their initial run.
Even though Slipknot’s music has become more accepted, the day may never come people don’t dunk on them for their visual gimmick. Granted, those who won’t appreciate Tallah’s music because they sometimes get melodramatic are playing themselves. If Bonitz’s over-the-top theatrics makes it harder to get behind him as a virtuosic vocalist—just close your eyes while you listen. The amount of cool ideas on Tallah’s debut album Matriphagy is almost absurd. It certainly opposes nü-metal’s reputation for simplicity, even during the hooky choruses. On top of that, Matriphagy comes as a full-fledged concept album (no spoilers, but look up the name’s definition. It’s pretty screwed up.). With such an ambitious opening statement, one can only hope that Tallah continues to elevate nü-metal’s aesthetics instead of succumbing to them.
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