Nu metal is a wide-ranging alternative genre of metal music that combines metal elements with pieces of other music, usually the rapping of hip hop lyrics or some funky beats. In the late 90s and early 2000s, a huge nu metal craze saw some of rock’s biggest bands enter the mainstream. In this article, we’ll look at 25 of the best nu metal bands of all time.
1. Linkin Park
It’s almost impossible to have not heard some Linkin Park songs with hits like In The End, Crawling, and Bleed It Out. The band mixes metal, rock, and hip hop to create its nu metal/alt-rock sound, the very sound that has made them one of the most successful bands of the 21st century. Linkin Park debuted in 2000 with the Hybrid Theory album. They sold over 100 million records worldwide and won two Grammy Awards and six American Music Awards. In 2014, Kerrang! named them the biggest rock band in the world, with Billboard ranking them as the 19th Best Artist of the Decade for the 2000s.
Slipknot is one of the greatest nu metal bands in history, delving into their heavy metal roots and becoming famous for their aggressive and chaotic live performances. Their fourth album made them top the Billboard 200. Their style of grinding, shocking, rap metal made them famous and earned them a cult following during the nu metal explosion of the early 2000s.
3. System of a Down
System of a Down is known for pushing social consciousness, but they’re also famed for their inventive and frankly kind of weird music. Of their five studio albums, three have debuted at the top of the Billboard 200. The band has been nominated for four Grammy Awards, with the song, B.Y.O.B., winning Best Hard Rock Performance in 2006. On the Alternative Songs chart, both Aerials and Hypnotize have reached number one, but Chop Suey! and Toxicity are also excellent pieces.
One of my favorite bands. Disturbed comes in with an aggressive blend of heavy metal, nu-metal, and hard rock. Their 17 million worldwide record sales rank them alongside the likes of Slipknot and Godsmack (both on this list) as one of the most successful hard rock bands of the 21st century. Rocking hard and presenting difficult and conscious messaging seems to be the name of the game for Disturbed on their later albums, with their signature brand of metal landing them somewhere between heavy metal and hard rock.
“Wake Me UP!” Evanescence took center stage in 2003 with the release of singles like Bring Me To Life and My Immortal. Their debut album, Fallen, earned Grammy nominations and won two of the awards, paving the way for their second album to gain another.
Amy Lee’s vocals are absolutely haunting throughout the band’s music, raising the chicken skin on every part of your body. Evanescence is easily one of the best bands in rock, and their gothic metal and hard rock mix place them as one of the preeminent nu metal bands in history.
6. Papa Roach
Papa Roach is probably best known for their song Last Resort which has been turned into a ridiculous number of memes in recent years and has had a major pop culture influence. Originally a hardcore punk band that included some rap elements, Papa Roach leaned into the hard-rock aesthetic with some metal undertones that became their signature sound. Their first studio album, Infest, would go triple platinum, while they would follow it up with more successful releases in the years after.
Korn was one of the pioneers of the nu metal genre, making them one of the most provocative acts of the 90s and one of the first to employ metal sounds with rap-rock lyrics. Their downturned guitars, groovy rhythms, and dark lyrics are what they’re best known for today. The band has received eight Grammy nominations, winning two awards for the songs Freak On A Leash and Here To Stay, but you should also check out other singles like Twisted Transistor and Coming Undone to get the full effect of their sound.
Incubus is another of my all-time favorites, thanks to their unique sound and the general emotional feel of the songs. Make Yourself, Pardon Me, Drive, Privilege, and Stellar were all such good tracks. Forming in the 90s, they were another group to help pioneer the nu metal genre, though many of their songs don’t get too into the heavy metal rhythms of bands like Korn and Linkin Park, preferring to stay on the lighter side of those tunes.
9. Breaking Benjamin
Breaking Benjamin’s mix of post-grunge and alt-metal rocketed them up mainstream rock charts in the early 2000s. Evolving on the heavy chords of grungers like Alice in Chains and combining it with the darker style of bands like Godsmack, Breaking Benjamin became one of the most popular rock groups in the US. Singles like Diary of Jane, Breath, and So Cold saw them off on nationwide tours alongside the biggest names in rock.
Godsmack took the dark and menacing route of the nu-metal genre, building on rhythms from Alice in Chains and Metallica. Three albums (Faceless, IV, and The Oracle) stood atop the Billboard Top 200 while Godsmack also saw 12 singles top Mainstream Rock Airplay. I Stand Alone, Cryin’ Like A Bitch, and Whatever are all also worth listening to.
11. Rage Against the Machine
There would be no nu metal without activists like Rage Against the Machine bringing an in-your-face attitude to the battlefield. Mixing rap, hardcore punk, and metal, the band’s politically charged narratives were an urgent call to action, asking the oppressed to stand up. Bulls On Parade, Killing In The Name, and Guerilla Radio are all prime examples of them at their best. While nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, each of their bids has unfortunately failed.
12. Limp Bizkit
Limp Bizkit was one of the best rap metal bands of the 90s, at least partly responsible for bringing the genre to mainstream audiences with albums like Significant Other, Chocolate Starfish, and Hot Dog Flavored Water. From the underground music scene in Florida to the big stage, Limp Bizkit came a long way and eventually received three Grammy nominations and sold over 40 million records worldwide. Their most recognizable single is probably Break Stuff, though you’ve also probably heard singles like Nookie and My Way.
13. Drowning Pool
Drowning Pool found fame after playing alongside Ozzy Osbourne at Ozzfest in 1997, four years before they released their debut album, Sinner. That 2001 album only took six months to reach platinum status, but it would sadly be their only album with their original lineup. Some songs have caused controversy, like Bodies, but man, does that song rock hard.
Over Deftone’s nine studio albums, they have evolved from a heavy sound to a more experimental one. They’ve gone on massive tours, including the 2010 triple-header tour alongside Mastodon and Alice in Chains. Among their biggest successes has to be the single, Elite, which won a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance and helped the White Pony album reach platinum status in the United States.
15. Alien Ant Farm
Alien Ant Farm achieved their biggest fame in 2001 when they covered Movies and Smooth Criminal. The songs were some of the first punk pop remixes that gained popularity later in the decade and catapulted the group to stardom. An alt-metal band in the beginning, they took their name from the sci-fi trope that humans are just here for the amusement of aliens.
Staind had their most successful run in the early 2000s, seeing their 2001 album, Break The Cycle, go five-times platinum in the US. The single It’s Been A While reached the top five of the Billboard Hot 100. Right Here and So Far Away are two more of their songs that see Staind at its best, though they became less active after the release of their seventh studio album in 2011.
Flylead went through several names before settling on their current name after signing a record label deal. The band is mainly hard rock, but takes inspiration from the likes of Nirvana, Incubus, Smashing Pumpkins, and Incubus. Their debut album would sell over one million copies, spending 133 weeks on the Billboard 200 and becoming the ninth-best-selling Christian album of the 2000s.
Mudvayne is best known for its sonic experimentation, face paint, and masks used in live concerts. The heavy metal group has sold six million albums worldwide and toured relentlessly alongside other nu metal groups for more of the 2000s. Their debut album saw two singles chart on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, with the album itself making it to number 85 on the Billboard Hot 200.
Trapt scored a crossover hit: Headstrong, their 2002 debut single. It became a massive hit that was included on sports video game soundtracks and is played in sports arenas to this day, peaking at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their self-titled debut studio album Trapt would go on to be certified platinum, and the band would stay relevant in rock circles for the next decade.
20. Crazy Town
The rap rock band, Crazy Town, scored a Billboard Hot 100 number-one with their 2001 single Butterfly, driving their 1999 album, The Gift of Game, to sell over 1.5 million copies. While the band broke up in 2003, their second album didn’t find the same success as the first, they reunited in 2007 and released their third album, The Brimstone Sluggers. Their wild combination of hip hop lyrical styles and live rock music made them one of the best groups in the early 2000s nu metal craze.
P.O.D. (Payable On Death) formed as a Christian nu metal band in 1992 and became one of the best-selling bands in the genre. With over 12 million worldwide record sales, three Grammy Awards, and international tours, it’s hard to argue against their success. Songs like Youth of the Nation and Alive still find radio play today.
Sevendust landed three consecutive gold records during their run of 13 studio albums. Their biggest hit songs include Denial, Animosity, and Angel’s Son. One interesting tidbit, Sevendust filmed a video in 2010 of the song Falcons On Top for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons that served as the team’s official team song.
Static-X produced an exotic sound by combining thrash metal riffs with a techno-pulsing beat. White they aren’t one of the biggest groups in the mainstream, they amassed a huge cult following on the back of their debut album, Wisconsin Death Trip, in the metal world.
24. In This Moment
In This Moment is a band that’s gone a bit under the radar but puts out some incredibly intense nu-metal music. Another female-led band, singles like Blood, Whore, Sick Like Me, and Adrenalize scratch the itch for a hardcore sound without going overboard. Four of their singles and an album are certified gold by the RIAA, though they’re best known for their festival schedule, including Warped Tour, Ozzfest, and Aftershock.
Saliva has put out some bangers in its time despite not receiving the critical and commercial success you might expect. Always made it to number one on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, while Ladies and Gentleman peaked at number two on the Mainstream Rock Chart.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.