These Are The Big Four of Nu-Metal

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Chester Bennington: Drew de F Fawkes, CC BY 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en, Wikimedia Commons / Jonathan Davis: © pitpony.photography / CC-BY-SA-3.0, www.pitpony.photography.de, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en, Wikimedia Commons / Corey Taylor: bill, CC BY 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en, Wikimedia Commons / Fred Durst: Antje Naumann (AllSystemsRed), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en, Wikimedia Commons
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With nu-metal experiencing a massive revival with Generation Z, it’s time we ask the big question: Who are the Big Four of nu-metal?

While there are sonic similarities shared between acts, nu-metal is a subgenre brimming with various creative styles. Compare almost any two nu-metal bands and you’ll be surprised to notice that each is quite different from one another.

So, in the decades that have passed since nu-metal’s emergence, who are the four bands that have proven themselves to be not only incredible acts but also pillars of the genre? Much like the Big Four of thrash metal, who are those bands that not only represent the finest of what the genre has to offer but have also influenced the greater landscape of heavy metal?

Without further ado – these are the Big Four of nu-metal.

Korn

To kick things off, it’s only fair that we start with the pioneers of the genre. With their 1994 studio album debut, Korn turned heavy metal on its head; unlike the abrasive metal riffage and shredding that had come before, here was a style of metal much more groovy and funkier-sounding. Here was a band taking many of the metal qualities we had heard for years, and twisting them into a new melodic and metallic beast. By incorporating elements of rap, funk, grunge, and metal into their sound, Korn came into the ’90s offering a whole new creative side to the art form of heavy metal. With that debut LP, the band would go on to break big time into the mainstream, still standing today as one of the most successful acts in the scene. By 2021, the band has sold over 40 million records, with several of their albums having gone platinum. 1998’s Follow The Leader, the record that pushed them further into the mainstream, has gone 5x platinum.

Limp Bizkit

Another nu-metal band that has experienced similar success is Limp Bizkit. Packing an exhilarating groove into their brand of metal, Limp Bizkit leans much further into elements of rap in their music, with frontman Fred Durst spitting bars more often than screaming. In the ’90s, metal and rap were experiencing tremendous popularity; by embracing these two styles of music, Limp Bizkit came out of the gates primed for success. Even after a decade of on-and-off releases and touring, the band made a comeback in 2021 with one of their best albums to date.

The band has sold 40 million records and has been nominated for three Grammy Awards; among their releases, their beloved LP Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water has been certified platinum six times. To this day they are still playing massive metal festivals, have a dedicated fanbase, and have gained new fans in recent years. Honestly, the band gets way too much crap, for it’s impossible to listen to Limp Bizkit and not have a good time.

Slipknot

Among all the bands to come out of nu-metal back in the ’90s – and there were a lot of heavy bands – Slipknot was perhaps the heaviest sounding among their peers. The Des Moines, IA band packed death metal, thrash, and even noise into their music, providing sonic experiences that weren’t just explosive, but sometimes downright disturbing. For many young listeners back in the day, Slipknot became a pivotal band in discovering extreme music. As the years have gone on, Slipknot has held onto their animalistic ferocity, while also expanding upon their artistry; since the release of Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, the band has incorporated musical elements from outside metal, creating songs that provide a range of thrilling and captivating atmosphere.

Of their seven albums, four have gone platinum (.5: The Gray Chapter went platinum in Canada), and the band has sold 30 million albums worldwide. Alongside the final Big Four nu-metal pillar, Slipknot is the act that represents how much creative depth there is to the genre.

Linkin Park

When we talk about nu-metal bands who made it BIG – no one compares to Linkin Park. Yes, every other band on this list is massively popular, but Linkin Park changed the pop culture landscape. While much of rap rock was defined by overly exaggerated machismo, Linkin Park showed it was possible to merge different elements while also getting sensitive and deep. It wasn’t just that Linkin Park blended so many popular musical elements together, but through the band’s chemistry, they synthesized those elements into an astounding force of, not just metal, but heavy pop.

In fact, at the time of this writing, the band’s debut LP, Hybrid Theory, has been certified diamond. Linkin Park is also considered one of the best-selling music artists, having sold over 100 million albums worldwide. When we think about popular metal bands today, and the presence of electronics in metal, so much of that stems from artists being influenced by Linkin Park.