When it comes to talking about bad music genres of yesteryear, chances are you can’t do worse than nu metal. There are plenty of reasons why it doesn’t have the best of reputations – the genre’s confessional lyrics often reached unsophisticated melodramatic heights, even perpetuating homophobia and misogyny at times. It was also perceived as a genre that gentrified black music for a mostly white male audience. Who would want to be part of that?
While it’s true that there are some questionable and outright harmful aspects of nu metal, the assumption that it’s a predominantly white male music genre simply isn’t true. Thanks to their surprising commercial reach via radio play and MTV, nu metal soon became a rite of passage for many young people – kids who felt different and bullied and could feel their rejection reflected in this angry and dark music. Black and Latinx fans were abundant, as they saw themselves represented onstage in these bands.
Plus, some of the biggest nu metal bands boasted Latinos in their lineups. Korn had Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu on bass and David Silveria on drums, while Deftones – arguably the most beloved band outside the genre – includes four Latinos, like frontman Chino Moreno. Other groups like Coal Chamber, Static-X, Incubus, P.O.D., and Papa Roach, also had Latinos in their ranks. Even groups that influenced the genre had Latino members, including Rage Against The Machine, Fear Factory, Quicksand, and Cypress Hill.
Latin America had its fair share of nu metal bands, too. Some of these made enough noise to be heard by international listeners, while others remained in their local scenes. Here we present some of the best artists from the era, as well as a playlist with many more bands. Time to pull out your Adidas sweatpants and backwards baseball cap.
Not long after Sepultura changed the game with their 1996 album Roots, which embraced Brazilian music styles, frontman Max Cavalera defected from its ranks, though he continued to explore nu metal with his next band Soulfly. Guests on the first Soulfly album included some of the biggest names in the genre, like Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and Chino Moreno, which, along with Cavalera’s reputation in metal, helped establish the group. Subsequent albums would continue the collaborative trend, with diverse figures like Chico Science, Tom Araya of Slayer, and even Sean Lennon coming into the fold. The band is still going and are slated to drop their eleventh album in the near future.
Although they hail from New Jersey, Ill Niño probably boasted the largest lineup of Latinos in nu metal, including a percussionist. In the past, they’ve embraced the label of “Latin metal” over any other genre. Originally formed in 1998, by 2001, they had already signed to Roadrunner Records (then home of Soulfly and Slipknot, among others), released a hit record in the form of Revolution Revolución, performed at Ozzfest, and wore fresh Adidas sweatpants. In other words, they were living the nu metal dream. Their bilingual assault helped them stand out, becoming favorites on the Latin American tour circuit, and they continue to be a beloved cult band to this day.
How many Argentine bands can say they played a Warped Tour, sold out some of their country’s biggest venues, and had Lemmy Kilmister and Robert Trujillo from Metallica as guests on their albums? Acosados Nuestros Indios Murieron Al Luchar (aka A.N.I.M.A.L) were not some mindless heavy metal machine, but rather a socially conscious group that evolved their sound and always spoke out against injustice. Plus, they opened for Sepultura in Argentina during the Roots tour, so we’re talking true OGs here. Vocalist and guitarist Andrés Gimenez would go on to form De La Tierra along with members of Sepultura, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, and Maná, so you know who’s bringing the heaviness.
Lima’s Área 7 represents one of the only all-female nu metal bands of the era. Formed in 1999, the group released their self-titled EP, followed by their first full-length Máquina de Almas in 2006. The project’s highly personal style garnered them nationwide acclaim. During this time, they played with some of the country’s bigger metal bands, as well as massive shows, even contributing music to a contemporary dance piece entitled Género Femenino, choreographed by Morella Petrozzi. For their second album 126.96.36.199., Área 7 decided to move away from nu metal, gaining new audiences and even opening for Guns N’ Roses when the band played Lima in 2016.
Mixing heavy guitars and salsa might seem like a novelty exercise that can only work for a meme-ready YouTube video, but it was this combination that allowed Puerto Rico’s Puya to have a great career. Producer extraordinaire Gustavo Santaolalla was so impressed by their debut album that he soon offered to work on their next one and helped them get a major label deal. The result, 1999’s Fundamental, was one of Latin American nu metal’s first classic hits, as they crafted their own blend of jazz, salsa, and aggression. Not long after the release of Fundamental, they toured Ozzfest and the world. They broke up in 2005, but they have toured and recorded sporadically ever since.
Mexico State’s Resorte is one of the earliest Latinx nu metal bands to release a major label debut. Their first album, República De Ciegos, was released in 1997 via Mercury Records, led expertly by Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid. Songs like “América,” “Opina O Muere,” and “La Mitad + Uno” collide hip-hop, metal, and hardcore with an original twist, thanks in no small part to their double bass attack. XL gave them even bigger exposure, and they even invited ex-Control Machete rapper Pato Machete to be their frontman for a bit. Not everything in their catalog has aged well, but their debut remains a definitive artifact of the era.
Rap made a big impact in Chile during the mid-90s, so it’s no surprise that some rock bands experimented with hip-hop. 2x was probably the premier nu metal band, with their aggressive and funky music as well as some of the best rapping found anywhere in the genre. Their debut Pateando Cráneos became an almost instant hit, with radio and MTV spinning their singles on the regular. For the follow-up, Lucha Eterna, the band went bigger and even toured in Europe. They broke up shortly after, but 2x continued with an almost completely new lineup, and they’ve kept at it to this day.
Considering the fallout, it’s common (and understandable) for bands that were originally inspired to form in the wake of Korn, Deftones, and Limp Bizkit to distance themselves from the label of nu metal. Venezuela’s Agresión even changed their name when they left behind hip-hop-inspired rhythms and pursued a career in stoner/doom metal. But the band had talent to spare for nu metal, as heard on their albums Sur, Cultura 3, and Guerra Santa. Their path is also pretty unorthodox; after winning a battle of the bands and recording a demo, they decided to relocate to Holland where they spent the rest of their career, but periodically returned to tour Venezuela.