Characteristics and fashion
Terminology and origins
Nu metal is also known as nü-metal and aggro-metal. It is a subgenre of alternative metal. MTV states that the early nu metal group Korn "arrived in 1993 into the burgeoning alternative metal scene, which would morph into nü-metal the way college rock became alternative rock." Stereogum has similarly claimed that nu metal was a "weird outgrowth of the Lollapalooza-era alt-metal scene". Nu metal merges elements of heavy metal music with elements of other music genres such as grunge, hip hop, and alternative rock.
Nu metal bands have been influenced by and have used elements of a variety of musical genres, including electronic music, funk, gothic rock, hardcore punk, punk rock, dance music, new wave, jazz, post-punk, symphonic rock and synth-pop. Nu metal bands also are influenced by and use elements of genres of heavy metal music such as death metal, rap metal, groove metal, funk metal, and thrash metal. Some nu metal bands, such as Static-X and Dope, made nu metal music with elements of industrial metal. In contrast with other heavy metal subgenres, nu metal tends to use the same structure of verses, choruses and bridges as those in pop music.
Nu metal is heavily syncopated and is based mostly on guitar riffs. Mid-song bridges and a general lack of guitar solos contrasts it with other genres of heavy metal. Kory Grow of Revolver wrote, "... [i]n its efforts to tune down and simplify riffs, nu-metal effectively drove a stake through the heart of the guitar solo". Another contrast with other heavy metal genres is nu metal's emphasis on rhythm, rather than on complexity or mood, often its rhythm sounds like that of groove metal. The wah pedal is occasionally featured in nu metal music. Nu metal guitar riffs occasionally are similar to those of death metal.
Nu metal bassists and drummers are often influenced by funk and hip hop, respectively, adding to nu metal's rhythmic nature. Blast beats, which are common in heavy metal subgenres such as black metal and death metal, are extremely rare in nu metal. Nu metal's similarities with many heavy metal subgenres include its use of common time, distorted guitars, power chords and note structures primarily revolving around Dorian, Aeolian or Phrygian modes. While loud and heavily distorted electric guitars are a core feature of all metal genres, nu metal guitarists took the sounds of "violence and destruction" to new levels with their overdriven guitar tone, which music journalists Kitts and Tolinski compared to the "...sound [of] a Mack truck being crushed by a collapsing skyscraper."
Some nu metal bands use seven-string guitars that are generally down-tuned, rather than traditional six-string guitars. Likewise, some bass guitarists use five-string and six-string instruments. Bass guitar-playing in nu metal often features an emphasis on funk elements. In nu metal music, DJs are sometimes featured to provide instrumentation such as sampling, turntable scratching and electronic backgrounds. Nu metal tends to have hip hop grooves and rhythms.
Fred Durst of nu metal band Limp Bizkit
Vocal styles used in nu metal music include singing, rapping, screaming and growling. Vocals in nu metal are often rhythmic and influenced by hip hop. While some nu metal bands, such as Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park have rapping in their music, other nu metal bands, such as Godsmack and Staind, do not.
Nu metal bands occasionally feature hip hop musicians as guests in their songs; Korn's song "Children of the Korn" features the rapper Ice Cube, who performed on the band's 1998 Family Values Tour. The hip hop musician Nas was featured on Korn's song "Play Me", which is on the band's album Take a Look in the Mirror. Limp Bizkit has recorded with multiple hip hop musicians including Method Man, Lil Wayne, Xzibit, Redman, DMX and Snoop Dogg. Linkin Park collaborated with hip hop musician Jay Z on their 2004 extended play Collision Course. Kid Rock has recorded with hip hop musicians Eminem and Snoop Dogg. Trevor Baker of The Guardian wrote, "Bands such as Linkin Park, Korn and even the much reviled Limp Bizkit ... did far more to break down the artificial barriers between 'urban music' and rock than any of their more critically acceptable counterparts."
Lyrics in nu metal songs are often angry or nihilistic; many of the genre's lyrics focus on topics such as pain, angst, bullying, emotional issues, abandonment, betrayal, and personal alienation, in a way similar to those of grunge. A lot of nu metal lyrics that are about these topics tend to be in a very direct tone. However, some nu metal songs have lyrics that are about other topics. P.O.D. have used positive lyrics about promise and hope. The nu metal song "Bodies" by Drowning Pool is about moshing. Saliva guitarist Wayne Swinny said that the band's song "Badass" was "meant to be one of those 'sports anthem kind of songs' ". The Michigan Daily wrote about Limp Bizkit's lyrics, writing that the band "used the nu-metal sound as a way to spin testosterone fueled fantasies into snarky white-boy rap. Oddly, audiences took frontman Fred Durst more seriously than he wanted, failing to see the intentional silliness in many of his songs". Limp Bizkit's lyrics also have been described as misogynistic. Dope's lyrics are usually about sex, drugs, parties, women, violence and relationships. According to Josh Chesler of the Phoenix New Times, the lyrics of Deftones, who were once a nu metal band, "tend to have complex allusions and leave the songs open to many different interpretations."
Nu metal clothing typically consists of baggy pants, shirts, and shorts, JNCO jeans, Adidas tracksuits, sports jerseys, baseball caps, baggy hoodies, cargo pants, and sweatpants. Nu metal hairstyles and facial hairstyles include dreadlocks, spiky hair, chin beards, bald heads, goatees, frosted tips, and bleached or dyed hair. Common accessories in nu metal fashion include wallet chains, tattoos, and piercings, especially facial piercings. Nu metal fashion has been compared to hip hop fashion.
Some nu metal bands such as Motograter, Mushroomhead, Mudvayne, and Slipknot wear masks, jumpsuits, costumes, face paint, corpse paint or body paint. A few nu metal bands, such as Coal Chamber, Evanescence, and Kittie, are known for having gothic appearances.