Tuesday, 24 September 2013

In defense of Nu-Metal

Because I'm incapable of learning from my mistakes I continue to follow the NME, which means that from time to time I come across gems like this tosh. For those who can't be arsed reading it it's a ten point demolition of Nu-Metal, dealt with all the care and grace that a mag which has permanently hated anything involving guitars with something more than a tepid emotion can possibly muster. Now the rubbishing of the genre by NME I can handle, however the assortment of rockers going 'yup, it blows!' took me by surprise (not least of all because anyone who is old enough to have an experienced opinion on that genre should have been yelling 'fuck you NME, Melody Maker was boss!'). What people seem to have forgot is that Nu-Metal was not just rather good in many places, it was an essential part of keeping metal from falling by the way-side.

Seriously, after the pasting that glam received at the hands of Grunge the only stuff left was either third rate Guns'N'Roses rehashes in shabby looking leathers, power metal bands that refused to accept that the 80's had finished or thrashes continued march to an over-heavy Valhalla. Metal fans may have enjoyed the rich pickings of the previous 10 years of the Alternative scene but they sure hadn't picked up of any of it into their music, resulting in a rapidly ageing demographic and bands dropping out of the business as they failed to make ends meet. The genre that had once been vibrant and exciting had become a dinosaur (again) and whilst the bigger bands did well they were few and far between. It was rapidly getting out of touch with the real world and slowly becoming less and less relevant as sales went down. It was also dull, very very dull as other than get heavier no-one had done anything new for ages, or at least done anything new and then not been instantly kicked out of the club and designated 'Alternative'.

Then along came a bunch of kids who picked up elements that had been promised by things like Run DMC/Aerosmith, Anthrax/Public Enemy, & the Judgement Night soundtrack, had been fueled by a love of heavy music and dance/hip-hop, liked the experimentation of Alternative, and just wanted to go fucking mental. It had the benefits of not being about debauchery or goblins, actually being dance-able, and maintaining the heaviness that was missing from most of everything else that was going on. It was new, it was exciting, it scared the parents, and it brought life back into a dying genre. Significantly it helped bring around Oz Fest, which helped renew media interest in a dying scene, and got metal back onto the radio & the clubs. It also refused to not be called metal. It stood proud, it didn't shy away from the term 'metal', and it demanded its place at the table like the upstart it was. It wasn't going to considered 'alt' or 'grunge' or 'new wave of heavy rock' or any cobblers like that. It was metal and proud, just like all those 80's and early 90's tunes had sung about.

Sadly the genre had a number of elements going for it that meant that oldies would hate it: a lot of the bands were young, it was selling a hell of a lot of albums, it got on the telly, it had picked up a load of tricks from genres other than metal that had being going around, and it had a lot of young fans (hurm.... sounds like the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and the 80's US glam/thrash scene to me....). Clearly this meant that the oldies had to hate it, but then they weren't going to the gigs or the clubs or buying the music so quite frankly fuck em! It also had a number of bad bands, some overly hyped bands, a bunch of carpet baggers, and some pre-fab studio bands. However that includes every other genre on the planet that makes it big so its hardly the best argument to hate it with. Possibly its biggest sin was to not wear the 20 year old uniform of black leathers, jeans, and a band t-shirt. Everyone knows that you should express your freedom in the proscribed manner, least you get the term 'sports metal' thrown at you and not be considered serious enough. However this was mostly bollocks, and the meeting of the tribes that was late 90's fashion soon put paid to that cliche' (and was helped by the oldies no longer being able to fit into their lycra so easily).

Overall it did a lot of good for the world of metal: it definitely addressed a number of the gender and race barriers that were around, it brought in a new sound that let people (including a number of older acts) play around with what metal could be, it enabled a more colorful presentation without the high-drama/70's reworking of glam or the 60's nightmare of power/thrash, and it brought things back to the real world. It also, eventually, let young people back into the genre by giving them something of their own to hold onto among the 'classics'. Overall it did nothing more or less than any other generation of metal, in that it rocked and brought out a lot of classic tunes. So give it another 10 years and it'll be seen as the new golden age.