Nu-metal has never aimed to be the heaviest metal subgenre. In fact, its embrace of danceable rhythms, sticky rap flows and eccentric personalities are largely why bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit broke beyond the scattered Nineties underground and became MTV sensations — not because they wrote the most brutal riffs.
That's not to say that nu-metal's biggest bands didn't sometimes write heavy-as-fuck songs. In fact, we'd argue that the most aggressive Slipknot track and the most spastic Deftones cut even hold a candle to more extreme genres like death metal and metalcore. Below, are the 10 heaviest nu-metal songs in the genre's canon. The ones that make you want to fuck shit up for real.
Deftones earned their place in rock history by doing the unthinkable: making nu-metal sound pretty. That said, don't underestimate crooner Chino Moreno's ability to scream like a goddamn banshee, as he does on the band's uncharacteristically chuggy, spazzy, damn-near metalcore rager "Rickets." If there was ever a Deftones song that could be compared to Converge, this is it.
Kittie's essential 2000 debut, Spit, is a bit of a sonic grab-bag. A song like "Charlotte" has a Deftones shimmer to it, while "Brackish" sounds like a mish-mash of Korn and Soulfly. There's truly something for every nu-metal fan in its tracklist, but its title track could probably even win over a few death-metal heads. The screamed vocals send shivers down the spine, the guitar tones are ugly as hell and that final breakdown goes apeshit.
Korn don't really have any songs that go hard as fuck from the first note to the last — their signature move is to ebb and flow between earth-shaking choruses and sparse verse instrumentation. "Good God" is one song of theirs that bucks their own convention, maintaining a swift, spiky momentum the whole time as Jonathan Davis foams, "Won't you get the fuck out of my face," like a rabid animal. When he finally has enough and starts screaming that line, the level of sheer sonic vehemence is genuinely frightening.
Long before they were doling out the "Dad Vibes" or even sneering about plentiful "Nookie," Limp Bizkit were dealing in the kind of untamed, youthful outbursts that parents pray their kids never engage in. "Counterfeit," from their raw underratedly heavy 1997 LP Three Dollar Bill, Y'all $, features Fred Durst unleashing scabrous screams with a hardcore punk intensity, and his bandmates playing with a feral force that even "Break Stuff" falls short of.
While their music became a lot catchier as their career progressed, on their early material, Mudvayne found a way to contort nu-metal's hip-hop grooves and rapped vocals into proggy, jagged, even challenging new forms. L.D. 50 standout "Internal Primates Forever" is such an abrasive, snarling beast of a tune that jostles wildly between noodly madness and furious stomps.
Mushroomhead might be one of the last bands you'd expect to score a cameo from Meshuggah's body-banging frontmaniac Jens Kidman, but the carnivalesque Cleveland troupe did just that on their 2003 breakthrough album, XIII. The resulting cut, "The Dream Is Over," doesn't quite attain Meshuggah-level heaviness, but it is one of the most chest-caving, neck-snapping moments in the nu-metal canon.
There are so many apoplectically heavy songs in Slipknot's catalog, but no track quite matches the intensity of "People = Shit." The Iowa opener sounds like the boiling point of their collective misanthropy set to music, with violent lyrical lashings spewing atop a turbulent storm of romping percussion and grizzled riffage. Corey Taylor's vicious first line, "Here we go again, motherfucker!" sets the disgusted tone of what's to come.
While Max Cavalera first dipped his toes into nu-metal sounds on his Sepultura finale, Roots, he leaned all the way in with his next band, Soulfly. Their 1998 self-titled debut packs a serious punch, but the most clobbering track is "Bleed," a duet with Fred Durst that sees the two screamers feeding off of each other's chaotic energies for an ass-beating frenzy that feels like it's going to dissolve into pure pandemonium.
Static-X's electrified sound came from sticking an alloyed nu-metal coin in an industrial-metal socket just to see what happens. Their early "evil disco" is propulsive and punchy, but not overly heavy. When Wayne Static decided to ramp up the aggression, the result was a careening machination like "Get to the Gone" — no breakdowns, but numerous, legitimate blast beats and a commanding vocal performance.
System of a Down don't get enough credit for how heavy they are. The breakneck wonkiness of their compositions and Serj Tankian's beguiling cantillations understandably attract the most praise, but a track like "Suite-Pee" — after whizzing through hiccuping verses — screeches to a halt, digs its heels into the dirt, and lurches forward into a savage, knuckle-dragging breakdown that achieves Bolt Thrower levels of mosh delicacy.