Ah nu metal, that initially intriguing offshoot of the alternative scene that got too big for its own good -- overexposed in a pre-internet world where things took longer to go away, making everyone sick of it and yearning to go back to the days of denim, leather, and guitar solos. Yet despite the glut of awful music, awful fashion and seeming inescapability of the genre, it was a key entry point for a lot of people and did give us many great albums and tunes. The immediately obvious ones won't be talked about today: Slipknot, Korn, Deftones, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park. Instead an eye will be turned to the bangers that may have gone off like a hand grenade on the dance-floors of yesteryear, but don't get spoken of in the same reverence today as perhaps they should.
1. Sevendust: Denial
Sevendust were a strange fit into nu metal. While they did have the monstrous groove that makes the genre so compelling, they didn't have the rap flavour, teenage angst, and overall ridiculousness that characterizes the genre. What they did have was great riffs, and one of the single greatest clean vocalists in nu metal, Lajon Witherspoon, who was soulful, vicious, highly distinctive, and needs all the love and praise in the world for them vocals. Denial's a good demonstration of this, with a massive chorus and a riff that could level buildings.
2. Static-X: Black And White
Looking at a picture of Static-X, you'd be forgiven for dismissing them as bottom of the barrel industrial, with Wayne's wacky spiky hair and a beard that just screams late 90's. However they do pack a surprising punch, the metallic blasts of guitar having more in common with Ministry than say Incubus. Wayne's vocals have the frenzied quality of Jonathan Davis or Serj Tankian, their stomp has a more danceable edge giving credence to their self description of being "evil disco". Their stuff has somehow aged quite well in contrast with many of the bands surrounding them, give 'em a try, sure.
3. Spineshank: Play God
Nepotism on the part of older bands became an unfortunate part of nu metal, but Spineshank were one of the better groups to come from that, being cosigned by their heroes, Fear Factory. Their take on that sound is far more melodic than the Terminator soundtrack written by death metal fans fare of Fear Factory, Johnny Santos is another vocalist who's clearly too fond of Brandon Boyd's lovely singing voice. They could craft a few decent bangers though, their sound almost foreshadowing the metalcore that would come to prominence a little bit later. One of their more vicious cuts, much like Static X it still holds up today, even the glitching outro. Using an AMV here because that's the real way to enjoy nu metal, played over scenes of your favourite anime.
4. 36 Crazyfists: Eight Minutes Upside Down
From Portland via Anchorage, Alaska, 36 Crazyfists came in at a really awkward time for the kind of band they were, way too heavy to fit in with where the early 2000s sound was, yet too nu metal to fit in with those early whisperings of more traditional heavy music. They fitted in quite closely with metalcore's heaviness and more melodic guitarwork, but there's still plenty of that nu metal bounce here, and Brock Lindow's vocals are still some of the most unique in the genre, strangely amateurish yet so powerful.
5. Bender: Isolate
I'm really not fond of the radio rock/post grunge invasion that befell nu metal. It brought the mawkishness to the fore, reduced the heaviness down far too much, and we lost those beautifully bouncy basslines. Yet in this strangely little known song, we have an example that works. It's basically an elementary school Alice In Chains song with Deftones' guitar style off one of the first couple albums with someone giving their best yarl on it, but, it's...so good somehow. Though the view count is pretty decent, there's little discussion of this band or this song to be found, a lost gem floating through the ether.