I’ve been toying with the idea for a while of creating playlists to post blogs about so that the experience on this site is not one dimensional. However, as anybody who has ever put a playlist or mixtape (back in the lo-fi cassette days) together, it is not an easy feat. Like John Cusack’s character Rob said at the end of the movie High Fidelity, “the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do’s and don’ts. First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.”
That being said I’m trying to put a lot of thought into both the songs that represent a certain genre, while not entirely enslaving myself to the popular hits of the era. There is also sequencing of the playlist which any great artist or producer will tell you is one of the key things that can make or break an album. You want something at the beginning that is familiar and grabs attention, but you don’t want to have an hour or more of songs that just punch you in the nuts either.
Many rules, many thoughts, and many tempos and feels combine to make a playlist a whole and cohesive thing. Hopefully I can manage to put together something that you, the audience of this site, will enjoy. On the site I will be posting the songs in order and a little blurb about each one. I will also be incorporating a new feature where I will link these posts to a corresponding playlist on Spotify so that you can listen to these playlists and even save them if you want to for repeated enjoyment.
Well… Here goes nothing…
Since there were a great many of people who read and enjoyed my Top 5 Nu Metal Albums post I thought this would be a good jumping off point. What follows is a cultivated list of songs that span the timeframe of the genre from various acts that were both immensely popular as well as some that are more cult favorites. The following playlist covers over 2 hours of songs that may be familiar to you, but also (hopefully), something new for you to discover.
If you like the songs or want to listen to the playlist you can find it at the link at the bottom of the post.
- Korn- “Got the Life”
Korn were one of the bands at the forefront of the Nu Metal genre. “Got the Life” Is punchy from the jump with a groove and upbeat heaviness supplied by David SIlveria’s drum pattern. A heavy song that kids could connect to as well as ‘pogo’ to at shows serves as a good track to a playlist.
2. Deftones- “My Own Summer (Shove It)”
No Nu Metal playlist is complete without at least one early Deftones track. The lead song off of the sophomore album Around the Fur shows the moody and the heavy of the band at the time. While they did not find their ‘sound’ until their third album White Pony, the band put out a solid dynamic album as their second release.
3. Limp Bizkit- “Break Stuff”
Limp Bizkit took the heaviness of metal riffs and combined it with hip hop lyrics to forge a defining sound of Nu Metal bands that followed. “Break Stuff” is a high octane song that makes you actually want to get up and move. Mosh pit or pogo, you could do either to this song.
4. Slipknot- “No Life”
Slipknot came on the scene out of nowhere and brought a heaviness that was not present in a lot of the rap/metal bands that encompassed a lot of the Nu Metal genre. “No Life” is one of the few songs where Corey Taylor brings a rap feel to the verse lyrics. The music has a hoppy beat that is energetic and provides a dissonance that Slipknot has become known for.
5. Taproot- “Poem”
Self motivational and a good closure song for a lot of people. The song put Taproot on the map in the Nu Metal scene and offers a mixture of heaviness that is poppy enough to just jam to. I can never get through the song without getting into it and singing the chorus as loudly as possible.
6. System of a Down- “Chop Suey!”
SOAD had a decent amount of success with their debut album but Toxicity managed to provide a more pop friendly sound to the weird song structure and lyrical content that made System stand out in the first place. “Chop Suey!” Should be a staple song in any Nu Metal playlist.
7. Creed- “What If”
I know a lot of people will say about this one, “Creed, really?” Yes, I have pointed out my affinity to this song as well as the guitar work of Mark Tremonti in the past and regardless of how you feel about the band (Creed could be considered the Nickelback of the early 2000’s) this is quite possibly their heaviest songs. A little different from the hip hop/metal mix of a majority of Nu Metal acts, Creed managed to also create another sub genre within the movement that allowed the more rock oriented acts to get some attention as well.
8. Seether- “Fine Again”
A little slower of a song here. Seether were more of a post-alternative band that came out in the time of the Nu Metal craze. While they have always stayed in a more rock oriented format this song fits within the timeframe and popularity of similar Nu Metal acts which is why it ends up on this list.
9. Disturbed- “Fear”
Disturbed came on the scene and changed a lot of the dynamic of the Nu Metal movement. While eschewing the hip hop elements of the vocal the band managed to utilize sequencers and other hip hop associated instruments into their sound. Dave Draiman’s vocal nuances set the band apart and the band has proven over time that they can consistently produce heavy and commercially viable music.
10. Godsmack- “Greed”
While Godsmack is more of a hard rock band and have proven to be more so over the ensuing years, they came out at the height of the Nu Metal movement with their debut album and had a major hit with their tribal sounding “Voodoo”, but their Sophomore album managed to produce steady rockers that put them solidly in the pack of Nu Metal acts that have remained popular long past the lifetime of the genre.
11. Nonpoint- “Your Signs”
While widely overlooked by the masses Nonpoint have managed to secure a loyal following and have produced a number of solid records since their debut. “Your Signs” is off of their overshadowed sophomore album and remains one of my favorite songs of the time.
12. Linkin Park- “Forgotten”
While their entire debut album is pretty much a greatest hits package, Linkin Park managed to outlive and quickly distance itself from the Nu Metal genre. While being one of the defining acts that coupled hard rock riffs, rapping vocals and a dedicated DJ, they managed to show their greater musicianship as the lifetime of the band extended. The loss of Chester Bennington was a huge blow to anyone who listened to the music of the early 2000’s and “Forgotten” is one of my favorite songs on the debut.
12. AudioSlave- “I Am The Highway”
On paper Audioslave did not seem like a band that would work. One of the titan frontmen of the Grunge movement teamed with the politically charged musicians that made up one of Rap Metals biggest bands, sounds awful.. But instead it ended up being awfully good. While maintaining their signature groove and abrasiveness of Rage Against the Machine, Chris Cornell’s song crafting ability is very apparent and I think influenced a lot of the band’s best songs. “I Am the Highway” is a slow burner but heartfelt and the vocal performance is underscored but the subtleness of the music.
14. Chevelle- “Send the Pain Below”
Chevelle had a major hit with “The Red” and their entire debut album is a great listen even today. “Send the Pain Below” provides the heaviness and openness of lyrics that both while being cryptic, can be interpreted by the listener to apply to their own lives.
15. Cold- “Bleed”
Slowing down the tempo quite a bit “Bleed” showcases a debut from Staind’s Aaron Lewis on the chorus. Both Cold and Staind were signed by Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and managed to make a decent impact on the Nu Metal genre with more melodic and dark lyrics and feel. While expressing the woe’s of depression Scooter Ward manages to also speak to how the power of music can help you get through the difficult times.
16. Static-X- “The Only”
Coming from Static-X’s third album Shadow Zone, which is the most mainstream friendly album in their catalog, “The Only” highlights a lot of the elements that made Static-X such a huge act in the Nu Metal genre. From samples to the heavy groove of the band this song is one of the few that managed to show a heavy and simplified version of the band. Not within their signature “Evil Disco” wheelhouse, this song manages to show the potential the band had as well as the depth of Wayne Static’s songwriting ability.
17. Flaw- “Whole”
Largely unknown outside of a devoted fanbase, Kentucky’s Flaw managed to produce some solid emotional Nu Metal. While health issues has sidelined the band at various times, the band managed to recently get some national attention by being featured and pointed out by Stephen Colbert on his show. “Whole” gives you a preview of the dynamics that the band manages to make great use of throughout their music.
18. Kittie- “Brackish”
Canada’s Kittie managed to come in and not only show that metal is not a genre purely for the guys but also managed to kick them in the nuts with hard music while doing it. While their debut album didn’t show a lot of the songwriting ability that they proved on later albums, there were some solid songs that showed promise. “Brackish” combines some heavy riffs with some great clean vocals on the chorus that are layered over fast rap like lyrics.
19. Marilyn Manson- “Mechanical Animals”
Here we are at the halfway point of the list. Marilyn Manson personified one of the things that the Nu Metal movement encompassed which was something for your parents to fear and misunderstand. “Mechanical Animals” is one of my favorite Manson songs of this era. Sluggish in pace it manages to provide a good emotional performance and a thoughtful lyrical path for the Shock Rocker.
20. Godhead- “Far Too Long”
Keeping with a good moderate paced midsection to the playlist is Godhead’s “Far Too Long”. While not widely popular Godhead managed to write solid heavy songs and combined some goth elements to the Nu Metal genre.
21. Motograter- “Down”
Long before Fiver Finger Death Punch was a regular on the active rock charts singer Ivan Moody fronted the band Motograter. Heavy and dark music provided the perfect platform for Moody’s signature ability to go from rough scream to powerfully sung vocals. “Down” is a mid-tempo rocker that gives a preview of what Mr. Moody was capable of.
22. Mudvayne- “Not Falling”
Mudvayne was the strange painted monsters of Nu Metal. Bursting on the scene with the heavy and relatable “Dig” they soon became an MTV staple. “Not Falling” from their Sophomore album shows the heaviness, the insane musical ability, and the range of the band. While they quickly ditched their space alien look after the release of the album, “Not Falling” proved to be a hit and a fan favorite, even appearing on the soundtrack for the horror film Ghost Ship.
23. Papa Roach- “Born With Nothing, Die With Everything”
Papa Roach was one of the biggest bands of the Nu Metal movement as they were one of the best examples of the marriage of rap and metal. Their big hit “Last Resort” is a staple of any Nu Metal playlist but I decided to go with a song off of their second album. This song shows the transition of the band from the rap/metal of their debut album to the hard rock/punk rock energy of their next couple of releases.
24. Powerman 5000- “Neckbone”
Nobody really knew about PM5K prior to their Nu Metal “Action Rock” album Tonight, the Stars Revolt, however, the band had a debut album that was far more groove oriented than the hard upbeat rock of their sophomore album. “Neckbone” is a groove heavy hard rocker that was a standout of their early years. The only time I saw the band live was on one of Korn’s earliest tours and I loved the groove that they brought to the heavy metal genre.
25. A Perfect Circle- “Judith”
A straight gut punch is the only way I can describe this song. APC bust out on MTV being somewhat an enigma. Anybody could recognize Tool’s Maynard James Keenan on vocals but the rest of the musicians were relatively unknown by the larger audience. The guitarist was Tool’s guitar tech, their drummer for the album was studio great Josh Freese and the bassist was a female?! Judith is one of the few heavy songs on the Mer De Noms album but it still rocks and good luck trying to match Maynard’s lung capacity on the chorus.
26. Saliva- “Your Disease”
Saliva was one of the more rock orientated bands in the Nu Metal movement. They managed to be a songwriter’s hard rocking version of the time with frontman Josey Scott’s ability to write catchy, heavy songs one of the things that made the early incarnation great. While the band has went through lineup changes and has been operating without the original singer, the early work manages to still hold up almost two decades later.
27. Staind- “For You”
Aaron Lewis and company managed to be one of the most emotionally heavy bands of the Nu Metal. Dysfunction was the emotional enema that the generation needed at the time but the band’s second album Break the Cycle managed to let out the rage in a cathartic way. “For You” was an anthem for any teenager at the time that did not know how to communicate with parents that they felt did not understand them.
28. Sevendust-“Licking Creme”
Sevendust is a workhorse band that has a devoted following that they have built and maintained largely through touring. The band released to great albums in the time frame of the Nu Metal movement and received moderate airplay for a few songs in that time. While infinitely heavier than a lot of Nu Metal acts, the band managed to write some catchy songs with great vocals. “Licking Creme” showcases Skunk Anansie’s Skin on the vocal duet. This song could have been a huge hit and opened America up for Skunk but unfortunately the video was banned in the US by MTV.
29. Spineshank- “Transparent”
Not fitting within the rap/metal mold of the Nu Metal genre, bands like Spineshank and Static-X managed to bring a heavier element to the time and were lumped into the genre by sheer timing of popularity. Markedly different from their debut album Strictly Diesel, Spineshank’s second album The Height of Callousness managed to bring a heavier version of the band that also added elements of industrial music to the mix. “Transparent” is the last song on the album but in no means a filler track… More like a killer track.
30. Trapt- “These Walls”
Most people know the band Trapt for their song “Headstrong” which garnered fairly heavy airplay in the day, but “These Walls” is a sound song in regard to the craft of the song itself. A more melodic heavy flair to the track makes it stand out in my head compared to their more popular hit.
31. Strata- “The Panic”
Strata fits into a genre I like to call “Groove Metal”. Infinitely more emotional and melodic than a lot of metal acts the band manages to produce some great songs with a lot of songwriting strength on their self titled debut. “The Panic” is a great song to include as it shows some of the outer fringes of the Nu Metal movement where the emotionality of music was a focus over the rap/metal amalgam.
32. Unloco- “Neurotic”
While short lived (only two albums), Unloco managed to make an impact in my listening tastes in the span of the two songs of their that was featured in the Music as a Weapon tour cd/dvd. The band had an groove and feel that was both light and dark. “Neurotic” is one of the more upbeat songs on their album Becoming I but it manages to show all of the potential the band had.
33. 3rd Strike- “No Light”
Speaking of short lived bands, 3rd Strike only released one album but managed to make an impact on the Nu Metal movement with this hit. Their single album overall has some great songs on it that highlighted what most Nu Metal bands tried to do, which is put metal and heavy music together in a cohesive sound.
34. 40 Below Summer- “Better Life”
40 Below Summer is one of the bands that I found accidentally. Again, not the standard Nu Metal fare, the band managed to bring melody and aggression together into great music. “Better Life” comes from their sophomore album The Mourning After which has a lot of great songs on it.
35. Ill Nino- “I Am Loco”
Ill Nino is one of those bands that not everybody can get into, but those who like their sound will listen to almost anything they put out. Coupling Spanish vocals with heavy music is one of the hallmarks of their songs. Incorporation of tribal beats and a percussionist on their debut album gave them a latin flair to their sound that set them apart from a lot of the other Nu Metal acts out there.
36. Drowning Pool- “Tear Away”
Last but not least is Drowning Pool’s “Tear Away”. While “Bodies” was the big debut hit, “Tear Away” showed me what potential the late Dave Williams had as a singer and lyric writer. While a lot of the debut album has repeated lyrics, this song manages to keep the narrative from being repetitive.
Unfortunately I was unable to find this song on Spotify to include but it is one of the great songs that Snot produced prior to the death of their singer Lynn Strait in a car accident. This song was included on both the soundtrack to Dee Snider’s cult horror movie Strangeland and the tribute album Strait Up. I have added it here because it is a killer song and should be listened to.
Think this is a good playlist and want it on your own without the work of putting it together? You can find it on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/user/5p4q8gvcte2m0cq7qf9zc0vsu/playlist/00DcyowfBjtvHvjRFWqsBC?si=NdDZcAN-Smah4RdKDQWr8A