What Happened To Nu-Metal?
Heavy metal in the nineties was mostly dominated by the likes of Pantera, Metallica and Sepultura, death metal was rising fast and the grunge movement was hitting its peak. All seemed well, familiar and maybe even predictable. We were safe in the hands of masters.
This was until the mid to late point of the decade, rumours of a bizarre new band with an even more bizarre name in Korn began to take hold, rap-metal was becoming a thing and towards the end of the decade a nine-piece masked band from the middle of nowhere Iowa were taking over festivals stateside. The gathering clouds formed into a storm...Nu-Metal had arrived.
Nu metal combined all manners of bits and pieces from other genres into a Frankenstein’s monster of a genre. Hip-Hop? No problem add it in, edgy alternative rock? Sure, we got it, funk? Throw it on top somewhere, to finish, add a sprinkle of industrial and flip the switch, the thing was alive!
Starting with Korn in the mid-nineties and heading full speed into the early 2000’s Nu-Metal was everywhere among the metal community, love it or loathe it there was no escape. Turntables, baggy jeans, wallet chains and skateboards littered Kerrang and MTV2, it was one hell of a time to be alive. It seemed a new band was bursting onto the scene almost weekly, the Nu-Metal market was at risk of saturation and many feared (or hoped) the bubble would soon burst.
By 2005 the ride was all but over, the Nu-Metal revolution was done and a sense of somewhat normality returned to the metal world, though there were still remnants and survivors of those brief few years that remained. Names such as Korn, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and Slipknot would all still stand tall after so many around them, cut from their ilk had fallen in their shadow. The veterans stood with even loftier heights ahead for them all.
So what happened to some of the biggest names of the Nu-Metal wave, those who graced our TV screens, bedroom walls and magazine covers? As mentioned we know what happened to the titans and their future conquests but what about those they had inspired that didn’t quite make it to the same heights?
Here we look at six examples.
Bursting onto the Nu-Metal radar in 1998 with debut release Strictly Diesel. They would go on to capture the essence and sound of Nu Metal unlike anyone else on The Height Of Callousness at the turn of the millennium. Tracks Synthetic and New Disease propelled them to the top of setlists at sweaty club nights, crowds captured by their robotic and polished brand of aggression.
Spineshank signed on a three-record deal to one of the genres most recognisable label, Roadrunner who invested heavily in the emerging style. They made a name for themselves on the legendary Ozzfest 2001 and seemed to be on the up and up. Self Destructive Pattern followed in 2003 but didn’t quite hit the same mark as the prior album and it seemed the curtain was ready to close on the band.
In early 2004, it was reported that vocalist Jonny Santos had quit the band, having fronted them since 1996 this was obviously a huge loss to the unit. Drummer Tommy Decker tried to reassure fans that the break was "amicable" and due to the cliched, "musical differences". Santos would hint that the band wanted to move to a heavier style and this contrasted with Santos’s own vision
Late January 2004 saw the band on the hunt for a new frontman and it would be as much later, November 2005 in fact, that the announcement came that they would be working with Brandon Espinoza and that the group had already been working together before the official word came out. There was also talk that the band were going to depart from the name Spineshank in an effort to completely re-form their product.
In the summer of 2006, Espinoza made fans aware online that the band were still working on new material. Those who had stuck around were eagerly awaiting new music and there seemed to be at the end of what had already been a very long and dark tunnel. That light, to paraphrase Metallica was a freight train coming their way. Two years of radio silence from the band followed before in 2008 Espinoza finally and to no one’s surprise, announced that the band had broken up due to what he identified as a lack of chemistry, something that apparently took three years and zero releases to discover.
Later in the same year however Spineshank would briefly reform with Jonny Santos back in the fold. "First of all, you don't have to worry about us abandoning our sound; there will be plenty of electronics/loops/synths on this record,'' Decker told anyone still listening. He also added that “Jonny is also singing better than he ever has, so there will be a ton of singing and melody as well. This will definitely be heavier than our previous albums but it will not be all bashing. I can wholeheartedly promise you that we will not be trying to be anything we are not. This is simply going to be Spineshank five years later. There will be a few new elements but it will be undeniably us (for better or worse!!!). . . "
In true Spineshank fashion, it was 2011 when they debuted new material with a single called Murder-Suicide seemingly not worried about having missed the boat. The next year in 2012, Spineshank would release Anger Denial Acceptance via Century Media which was met with a lukewarm reception at best. Finally in 2016 long term guitarist Mike Sarkisyan confirmed that the band who had spent more time inactive than active had apparently “Completed what they had set out to do and that there were no plans to continue”, Thanks Mike...
Having found success in 2001 in no small thanks to the fact that vocalist Mark Chavez, is the half-brother of Korn icon Jonathan Davis, Adema’s sound borrowed a lot from Davis and his crew. Sounding like a more metallic yet stripped-down version of Korn their debut self titled album performed fairly well and set the platform for them to build upon.
Unstable was the sophomore effort and passed with little to no fanfare other than amongst the diehard fans who wanted Diet-Korn in a scene that already had Korn. The band had already suffered line up changes by the time this second record came about which in hindsight seems to have impacted them negatively. 2005 saw the release of Planets via Earache Records before the band dropped their final record Kill The Headlights in 2007 Shortly after this the band announced a hiatus before reuniting in 2009.
An EP did follow in 2013 called Topple The Giants, which featured some of the worst album art imaginable and was the band's first release in six years. This came on the back of more line up movement and as such is the only Adema material that features guitarist Tim Fluckey on vocals and included new music stacked with older songs re-recorded with the new-new line-up. Since the EP there have been no further releases.
In March 2017 Mark Chavez was reported to be back rehearsing with the original members of the band, signifying his return to the band and yet again another tweak to the lineup. There followed some small shows that year too and news on a new album indicated that things were going well, that was until June 2019 when Chavez left the band again, this made way for Ryan Shuck to step up to frontman duties to obligate a tour with Powerman 5000 and it’s been quiet since then.
It seems that first outing was the best it would get for Adema, constant line up shifts and Mark Chavez’s on-again, off-again relationship with the band had an adverse effect on any longevity the band may have had a shot at.
Forming in 1996 in Ontario, Canada, Kittie was an all-female Nu-Metal powerhouse. Their debut album Spit gained attention almost immediately and by the time1999 rolled around they were sharing the stage with Slipknot. Sisters Mercedes and Morgan Lander joined forces with Fallow Bowman and then Tanya Candler to form the original band but unfortunately Kittie would suffer multiple line up changes which would eventually dilute the bands sound and impact.
Until The End followed in 2004 but the hype around the band was beginning to dip slightly and the record was not as well-received as Oracle. Ahead of the fourth album the band entered difficulties with Artemis Records and would eventually depart for Merovingian Music to release Funeral For Yesterday
Three more releases would follow but Kittie would never return to the spotlight. Whilst retaining a small but loyal following and still producing music as recent as 2018 Kittie’s sound has changed almost with every release and a high number of member changes (the band having eight former members and now operate as three-piece) has had a role to play in that. Their original uncompromising, brutal and unique sound born from the Nu-Metal movement has dwindled and transformed into a more accessible, death metal tinged yet lighter sound. Gone are the days of these fearless ladies turning heads with their music and unfortunately they now linger in the mid to low echelons of the metal world.
One of the most recognisable names on this list, Coal Chamber formed in 1993, a little ahead of the Nu-Metal invasion but would become of one the genres linchpins. Vocalist Dez Fafara became a champion of Nu Metal and introduced many to the movement. In 1997 Coal Chamber would release their debut, self-titled album via Roadrunner Records. Loco was taken from the album and became an anthem of Nu Metal overnight. Sway and Big Truck also helped cement the album in the Nu-Metal hall of fame.
With Dez’s half mumbled, half-deranged vocal style, Rayna Foss’ chunky, Korn flavoured bass style helped develop a unique sound, almost sounding like a proto-type for Disturbed who would follow later. Coal Chamber hit success with their follow up album Chamber Music which also released on Roadrunner and a third time with Dark Days in 2002 again with Roadrunner and in conjunction with Columbia House.
With three heavy-hitting releases what happened to Coal Chamber? Dez, would, of course, go on to find more success with his side project DevilDriver which would become his full-time band by the mid-2000s.
Rayna Foss soon departed the band to raise her daughter a short time after Dark Days hit the market. Nadja Peulen took Foss’s place full time having stepped in during her pregnancy. Rayna fell out with frontman Dez Fafara after apparently finding Christ and claimed this was her reason for stepping away from the band permanently.
In 2002 Coal Chamber announced they had officially broken up. This came as no surprise and followed and on-stage, a physical altercation between Fafara and guitarist/keyboardist Miguel Rascón which stemmed from a backstage argument. Fafara yelled "This is the last Coal Chamber show ever!" before he stormed offstage. There were sporadic reformations after but all were short-lived, Fafara would go onto to focus on DevilDriver and find success with them. Seemingly Coal Chamber was done for good.
That was until 2015 when like all good Nu Metal bands Coal Chamber reformed for one last record, titled Rivals and released via Napalm Records. The record followed some rocky live reunions during 2011 and 2012. Following the release of Rivals In May of 2016, Dez Fafara told Blunt magazine that “Coal Chamber is on indefinite hiatus”. This is due to the success of Devildriver and the commitments that project demand from him. He would go on to perform some Coal Chamber songs with DevilDriver but Coal Chamber will likely never tour again.
Dry Kill Logic
Dry Kill Logic started life as Hinge but were made to change their name to Hinge A.D (The A.D being common in metal bands who share a name) but would eventually settle on Dry Kill Logic due to ownership issues with the copyright to the band name Hinge. A quick search brings up a now-defunct band called Hinge who played grungy, metal tinted music in the late ’90s. Other reports claim a recording studio owned the name, either way, it’s not important.
Dry Kill released their debut album The Darker Side of Nonsense on none other than Roadrunner Records in 2001. The band would promote the album on the road for over a year, sharing the stage with names like Fear Factory, Kittie, Ill Niño, Spineshank, Saliva, and even Slayer.
The album didn’t exactly break records and Roadrunner of all labels wanted a more marketable sound, at this time looking to carve out as much profit from the fledgeling genre as possible in a catch and release fashion.
Psychodrama Music Group would put together a deal with two indie labels to release Dry Kill’s second album titled The Dead and The Dreaming in 2004. The band could never be accused of a poor work ethic as they also toured this record for over a year, this time with Motorhead and DevilDriver.
In late 2006 Dry Kill Logic dropped their third studio album
Of Vengeance and Violence via Psychodrama/Repossession Records again which was part of a larger deal with the label that included re-releasing old material. However, the touring off the back of Of Vengeance and Violence has had little effect and the band went MIA the dying days of 2018 when in a Facebook posted Dry Kill insisted that "New music will be heard. Spread the word". Whether or not the word was spread is unknown.
At the dawn of 2019, teasers appeared on social media that showed snippets of new music. In the summer of 2019, Dry Kill announced their signing to eOne Music and dropped a new single Vices which retains some of the bands chaotic sound. We should be hearing something new about the fabled fourth album sometime soon.
There is no doubt that Dry Kill Logic are one of the hardest working bands to come from the Nu-Metal era and hopefully all that work will pay off with their upcoming release which may put them back on the map.
Another anchor of the genre’s sound, Drowning Pool’s debut album Sinner released in 2001 and played like a textbook on how to write Nu-Metal. The iconic Bodies and Tear Away became anthems and saw the band invited to Ozzfest, the album went platinum in no time and the future seemed bright.
Tragically it didn’t go to plan and frontman Dave Willams passed away on his tour bus from a heart condition called Cardiomyopathy which at the time was undiagnosed. Which a frontman that galvanized a band with just their debut effort it was already going to be tough to replace Williams but Drowning Pool insisted they continue and after mourning the loss of their vocalist Jason 'Gong' Jones was announced as the new frontman in 2003.
The band would release their second album Desensitized in 2004 but the album didn’t come close to the stellar performance of Sinner, and in 2005 Jones departed the band. Ryan McCombs formerly of Soil replaced jones before he departed to make way for Jasen Moreno of The Suicide Hook who remains the frontman today.
While Drowning Pool are still somewhat active today with Hellelujah their seventh album having released in 2016, it’s hard not to ask what might have been however if tragedy didn’t strike so early in their career and had they not suffered unsuccessful frontman changes.
As alluded to, Nu-Metal faded away towards the late 2000s, or at least it wasn’t as prominent. An oversaturation of rap influenced acts, commercial and mainstream crossovers and the natural changing the times and tastes within the wider metal community all playing a part. That doesn't mean it’s completely dead, of course, Slipknot and Korn both remain even if they have evolved and moved away from the initial Nu-Metal sound, Limp Bizkit and Disturbed are still worth a listen and bands such as Hacktivist (if not strictly nu metal) and Jynx are adding their own spin on things. With the recent return of Static X and System Of A Down, there is still a little pulse to be found for a genre that was a product of its time and continues to polarize the metal world.