Welcome to the first instalment of Rolling Stone’s three-part heavy music column, created to celebrate the release of Diablo II: Resurrected.
Have you ever found yourself wondering why something as far-reaching and universal as a music genre can be so divisive? Why is it that an entire collective of bands and artists can be equally overlooked or celebrated just by the music they play? While this could be said of just about any genre, it seems that when it comes to a genre that is arguably heavier than its counterparts, so too does the intensity and voracity of its fanbase increase.
But why is such a topic coming to mind? Well, earlier today, I found myself looking back on a number of the great songs that soundtracked my formative music-loving years and as I listened through some of the albums and singles that got me through the early years of the millennium I realised that a lot of observers would likely be quick to judge me for my taste. Music is personal, and so is the love which one shares for the artists and songs they listen to, so why is it that tastes can be so divisive?
Well if you’re anything like me, your formative years might just have been spent listening to some of the most popular nu-metal bands of the era. So with this in mind, I’m going to take a look back at some of the finest nu-metal bands of the early 2000s to see how it started, and how it’s going for these classic artists.
What were you up to back at the turn of the century? Like most of us, you might have been embracing the continuing technological rise that saw media enter our homes at a rate faster than ever, allowing music, movies, and TV to be far more accessible than it was previously. While this was happening, you might have been what I was doing and playing video games as often as possible, with the likes of Diablo II remaining a standout of the era while I soundtracked the experience with music.
For me, heavy music and Diablo II will be forever intertwined, and with Blizzard Entertainment gearing up to unleash the fully remastered Diablo II: Resurrected, I’ve been taking a look at the era to see how everything holds up. As such, I’m going to revisit a handful of these iconic names that soundtracked the era for me, and check in to see if two decades down the line, they’re still ageing as gracefully as they should.
How it Started:
By the start of millennium, Limp Bizkit were something of a dirty secret amongst fans of metal, rock, and well, music in general. While they had an impressive card up their sleeve by way of the inimitable Wes Borland, his guitarwork was often outshined by the attention-grabbing headlines of frontman Fred Durst. While the group had found a firm fanbase by way of 1997’s Three Dollar Bill, Y’all, it was 1999’s Significant Other that put them on the map. Tracks like “Nookie” and “Break Stuff” made them MTV darlings, and high-profile festival appearances left them in the sights of fans the world over.
But 2000 was when the floodgates burst and the Limp Bizkit fandom truly made itself known. Third album Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water felt like it came out of nowhere, with huge tracks such as “My Generation”, “My Way”, “Rollin'”, and the Mission: Impossible 2 theme “Take a Look Around” dominating radio and showing everyone that nu-metal wasn’t just a fad, it was here to stay.
How it’s Going:
More than 20 years later, Limp Bizkit have had some tumultuous times. Ignoring the controversy surrounding their 2001 Australian tour, guitarist Wes Borland left in 2001 (though he would rejoin shortly after), and while 2003’s Results May Vary was well-received, it didn’t quite capture the energy of their previous work. In fact, recorded material in general hasn’t been terribly forthcoming for the group, with last studio album Gold Cobra arriving in June of 2011.
But despite this, they’re still powering on, with updates surrounding a new album arriving every so often. But what can we expect of Limp Bizkit in 2021? Well the answer to that is simply, ‘the unexpected’. In late July, the group appeared at the Lollapalooza where Durst showed off his new look. Looking less like the red-capped troublemaker of his late 20s, the rocker is now looking much more sensible and refined. Could we be seeing a more age-appropriate Limp Bizkit album arriving soon? It’s hard to say, but we can only hope it’ll recapture the magic that they gave us with Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water.
How it Started:
As the ’90s ended, Korn were in the midst of a major hot streak. Third album Follow the Leader had truly made them household names, and the hype surrounding their next album, 1999’s Issues, had left them with some major commercial appeal. As it turned out, this hype was legitimate, with both of these records topping the charts both here and in the US and showing fans that nu-metal had amazing staying power.
But that wasn’t all though, with the era even seeing Korn becoming the first rock band since Buddy Holly to perform at New York’s Apollo Theatre, while single “Falling Away from Me” had its premiere on the deafeningly-popular South Park. If any nu-metal band defined the era, it was Korn.
How it’s Going:
While this commercial peak didn’t maintain for Korn, their popularity has never explicitly waned. While they’ve not seen a chart-topping record since Issues, every one of their subsequent albums has hit the top ten in the US, with many critics claiming that the band have actually refined their sound more, turning into more of a tastemaker’s metal band rather than a shadow of their former selves.
However, the years haven’t been without upheaval. Founding guitarist Brian “Head” Welch announced his departure in 2003, while drummer David Silveria would leave in 2006. Though Welch would rejoin in 2013, 2021 has seen bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu take a hiatus from the group. Despite this though, latest album The Nothing has been cited as one of their best in recent memory, indicating the future is still extremely bright for Korn.
How it Started:
In 1997, Deftones took the world of alternative metal and nu-metal by storm with the release of Around the Fur. Their second album, it was a triumph of the genre, leaving fans to wonder what was coming next. In 2000, they answered this question with the release of White Pony, which would become their highest-charted album to that point, and see them increase their fanbase rapidly.
It was a period of great change for the group, with massive popularity coming their way and similarly large opportunities. Massive shows followed, and before long, Deftones were one of the most iconic groups on the scene, leaving fans unable to turn away for fear of missing even a single moment of their creative streak.
How it’s Going:
While the nu-metal genre has faded away, Deftones have remained as bright as ever, though their musical styling are arguably far more diverse than many of their contemporaries, with Wikipedia itself listing a litany of genres they’ve been classified as over the years. Notably though, the group too experienced a difficult lineup change, with a 2008 car accident ending the career of bassist Chi Cheng, who would later pass away in 2013.
For the rest of the band though, they remain at the top of their game, with relentless acclaim following them at every turn, and their fanbase remaining as fervent as ever. In 2020, the group complemented the release of new album Ohms by re-issuing a 20th anniversary edition of White Pony, showing that they’re still the furiously brilliant group they were 20 years ago.
How it Started:
Unlike the other bands on this list, Disturbed were at the start of their career by the time the new millennium rolled around. Though their origins went back to the middle of the ’90s, it was in 2000 that the wider public first got wind of the group thanks to their confronting debut and powerful sound.
Debut album The Sickness exploded onto the scene, with singles such as “Down With the Sickness” and “Stupify” making them staples of heavy stages the world over. It was still early days, but chatter was constant and consistent about what the future held for such a new and exciting band.
How it’s Going:
These days, Disturbed might take issue with being labelled as nu-metal, but when you can boast a massive 17 million album sales, it’s doubtful they don’t particularly mind too much. In recent years, Disturbed have managed to seemingly crack the code of chart and commercial success, with almost every one of their records topping the charts in their native US.
While a brief hiatus marked the beginning of the last decade, Disturbed returned with one of their biggest successes to date, releasing a powerful cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”, adding a tenderness to their sound which had previously not been seen, and showing off an air of versatility that naysayers believed didn’t exist. In short, you’d be hard pressed to find a heavy band doing better than Disturbed.
Reflections on a Golden Era
In the early 2000s, it felt almost impossible to look at my CD player without seeing an album that I might need to hide in case friends came over. I might have loved bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn, but if anyone was to see them, it was almost inevitable I’d be criticised for my taste.
As I grew older, I realised this was nothing to be ashamed of. Why should I apologise for my taste? Not only is music subjective, but if anything, others should apologise for trying to shame me for my musical preferences. Maybe it was this sort of defiance that left me wanting to dwell on this music more, unable to leave it in the past, or maybe it’s the fact that this music is actually still pretty amazing more than two decades down the line.
Whatever the case, if anyone ever takes you to task for what you listen to, tell them to look back at what they listen to in 20 years time. Chances are, you’ll be the one still rocking to your jams, while they’ve forgotten what good music even is.