Nu Metal Is Back. Now, With A Conscience.
WORDS BY BIANCA DAVINO
Once attracting disaffected suburban teens donning industrial piercings and oversized black tee’s, no genre has left a permanent sonic and aesthetic stain on the popshere quite like Nu Metal. Polarizing the masses for almost a decade, the slightest mention of Nu Metal will still often incite a collective cringe amongst purists of all things heavy. Its hybrid hip-hop-meets-metal sound, and look that sent church authorities into a moral panic was celebrated on the stages of the Big Day Out and on the airwaves of Triple J, as an intrinsic element of Australian youth culture in the mid 90s and early 00s. Gimmicky, and angsty by nature, true metal heads scoffed at its commercial appeal as tacky one hits wonders cashing in on the trend made their way onto So Fresh CDs and blared from the stereo systems of bedrooms.
The eleven-year-olds who once infested suburban Guitar Factories to practice Last Resort by Papa Roach have now grown up. They’re Millenials who are socially and politically aware. With Pauline Hanson overtaking primetime coverage, news of revoked refugee working visa’s and The Australian infamously ridiculing brunching habits, frustrations surrounding a growing conservatism in politics is beginning to manifest itself in more than just memes. Wanting to evoke the nostalgic sounds of their youth, young Australians are ushering in a #woke Nu Metal Revival. Obviously, politically aware art isn’t a new idea, however a shift in musical style in the Australian heavy scene has paralleled a new social consciousness. Band’s have ditched dime a dozen breakdowns for DJ scratches and body paint and have found need to illuminate current social issues.
Although Nu Metal was never political, it was misunderstood, misinterpreted and lambasted by adults. It payed homage to hip-hop, both musically and aesthetically and, was extremely commercial. Australian bands are reappropriating this notion for a 2017 audience who are equally concerned with belonging to a musical niche as they are with politics.
Last year, Melbourne’s Void of Vision released Children of Chrome, an album the band described as ‘Eleven songs of protest, power and sheer energy’. Lead single‘s rap-screamed vocals and droning, dissonant guitar soundscapes are pulled straight from the 1997 nu-metal songbook, however, lyrically the band have punched above the brain-numbing poeticism of Limp Bizkit.
"You ignore the voice and take away discretion, but blink for a second, and you've got kids locked in detention centres. How can you turn a blind eye with such ease? Since when did we become that naive?"
Like Nu Metal forefathers Korn, Void of Vision have embraced a brands like Adidas, typically associated with hip-hop artists. For Millenials, when political music comes to mind, artists like Kendrick Lamar are more likely to resonate than rioting punks. With musical backgrounds consisting of equal parts alt and urban, it’s no surprise young acts like Void of Vision are blending the ideals of both subcultures to voice their concerns.
Triple J favourites Ocean Grove released their debut album The Rhapsody Tapes in early 2017, in conjunction with the creation of the ‘Rhapsody Manifesto’ that outlines the bands ethos. It reads:
‘Take the opportunity to embrace people of different creeds and cultures’
‘There is need for inventive thinking that goes against uninspired standards’
Not only is this calling for a shift in the musical spectrum, but a call to arms amongst young people to use art as an outlet to reclaim their identity in a political climate that forces them to succumb to fear-fuelled rules and regulations.
The video for lead single Intimate Alien’s Mad Max-esque aesthetic alludes directly to the post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk styling’s made popular by Linkin Park, however its overt zaniness is a direct stab at the conservative government’s attempts to supress freedom.
Up and comers DREGG provide one the starkest reactions to the bleak future promised to Millenials. Making blatant attempts to rip-off the legendary Slipknot in both face-mask wearing and guitar tone, the video for SORRY DADDY, sees Donald Trump and Kochie (Yep), kidnap a young man and beat him with a baseball bat. Ouch. Even scene-leaders Northlane have recently delved into musical territory, bearing similarity to the more experimental forbearers of the genre, Deftones. Along with the inclusion of groove-based riffs and ethereal electronic elements, the bands most recent releases Node and, Mesmer have seen a lyrical shift towards critiques of the government environmental policy and corporate greed.
With such a young and impressionable fan base, the fact that bands in the heavy music scene are preaching more than just self pity is monumental. The wide reaching popularity of Beyonce’s Lemonade and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly make it clear that Millenials are eager for art that challenges their views. For artists in a genre that often values tried and true formula over innovation, harkening back to one of music’s most ridiculed genres to bring to light the issues that plague the youth of today is pretty damn ballsy. If all it takes is a Void Of Vision song to get a 14-year-old on the anti-Pauline train, then hey, we should back it.