As the frontman of modern nu-metal torchbearers, DED, singer Joe Cotela knows his shit when it comes to music of the heavy, bouncy, rap-inflected variety. Their album from earlier this year, School of Thought, is a bangin' blend of retro nu-metal and modern melodic metal that sounds like the next logical point in the genre's ongoing trajectory.
Therefore, we wanted to pick Cotela's brain about some of the nu-metal songs that stack to the top of his personal canon. "Honestly, you could ask me the question, 'What are your favorite nu-metal songs?' on any day of the week and get a different list," the frontman tells us. "Today, this is the list I am sticking with."
"Taproot, POD, System of a Down, Sw1tched, Linkin Park and Stuck Mojo could be on here," he adds. "[So] if you're not familiar with any of these bands, and you are fond of this era of music, I suggest that you check them out at your favorite streaming platform after you read this."
However, the songs that did make his top 10 range from beloved classics by Korn and Mudvayne to underrated deep cuts by groups like Hed PE and Endo. Check out the whole list below and read Cotela's warm reflections on each song.
We'll start this off with a track from one of my favorite bands of all time, Deftones. This riff gets me in instant "pit mode" to this day. A riff that every groove-metal head knows well and it's a simple one to play. This was a tribute track to [Max Cavalera's late stepson] Dana Wells and it's easily one of my favorite tracks on Deftones second offering Around The Fur. You can feel the loss-fueled anger in the vocal performances, with a swagger and heart done in a way that only Chino and Max [Cavalera] could do. I also heard that the lyric "Soulfly" is where Max named his band Soulfly
I just listened to this track the other day and the bass tone is still one of the best ever in somewhat modern heavy music. The pulsating programming, the signature staccato palm-muted riffs, and Lajon [Witherspoon] belting his perfect blend of beauty and harshness over the top makes this a perfect gateway track for the band. This is the first Sevendust song that I heard, the opening track to their momentous self-titled debut album, and I immediately went to the record store to get the album when I heard it. This is a gym song all day long.
This is a bit of a deep cut in the nu-metal genre but one that I felt should be mentioned. This band never really popped off like most of the others in the list, but I loved this album [2003's Evolve] and [especially] this track, "Leave Us Alone." It begins with a classic build up intro into one of the hardest nu-metal riffs of its era. I still love the harshness of the yelling vocals in the chorus and I remember it felt rebellious and non-wavering to me when I was younger. Fun fact: I used to jam this song in my car with the volume all the way up before I would play shows in one of my older bands back in the day.
Maybe Limp Bizkit's heaviest, most hardcore-flavored song? "Trust" has always been a favorite of mine. "1,2 what the fuck you gonna do?!" Classic tag-line yell into a banging Wes Borland riff and a John Otto drum groove. These verses are some of Limp Bizkit's hardest to date. I love this song for its perfect combination of heavy and catchy. Love the new Bizkit album, Still Sucks, that just dropped as well. A fine return to form and just a straight, fun banger of an album.
Speaking of both of these frontmen earlier in the list, the track "Bleed" from Soulfly's self-titled album makes the cut today. I love the crazy laser sound happening over the raucous riff and groove in the opening bounce of the song. Fred and Max are almost seemingly battling for who can scream harder back and forth in the chorus, and the drop into Freddy D's verse at the end makes this a jam for me.
This is the song that brings me to a fond place of everyone moshing in the car. I remember driving around with my friends on Friday or Saturday nights, pulling up at a stop light and all of us losing our minds, screaming and moshing with the windows down while Slipknot's self-titled is turned way the fuck up. Particularly this song and the lyrics in the chorus, which meant a lot to us at the time and really makes you feel unstoppable. It still does when I listen now.
I revisited this track and album over the pandemic for fun and I was pleasantly surprised with what I heard. I feel like the first couple Hed PE albums are still super diverse, interesting and just plain good. M.C.U.D. has such a wide variety of character and capability in his vocal ideas and performances on these albums. It's honestly really inspiring to listen to when I go back, it's better than I even remember it. The little ad lib part, "with both of us in the backseat, who the fuck's driving?" was a funny staple for my friends and I back around the time this album was out. This track is a banger stand-out amongst an incredible fusion of punk, hip-hop, metal, reggae, EDM and more.
There aren't many instances where you remember hearing an album for the first time, but L.D. 50 is one of them for me, and "Dig" was the single that brought me to the album. It has a unique vibe and a combination of prog and nu-metal that was a welcome contribution amongst an oversaturated and exploited genre at the time. Absolutely savage lyrics like, "wish you were committing suicide," and crushing section after crushing section. This song never gets old and ages well.
A departure from their thrash sound to a Ross Robinson-produced album, nothing on this this list may be as ferocious and pummeling as Sepultura's "Roots Bloody Roots." From front to back, the album had me hitting repeat when I was younger and the opening title track started things off with an unmatchable bang. It felt like a more hardcore and tribal tinged Korn.
This song had to be on the list and should be No. 1 even though this list doesn't have an order. "Blind" and Korn's self-titled changed everything when it came out. Ded has had the honor and pleasure to tour with Korn on a few occasions and I didn't miss watching this song for one night. From the stretched out intro to the iconic "ARE YOU READY?" to the cypress hill-esque outro. It was and is one of the heaviest and coolest tracks of any genre. It changed heavy music forever. Korn changed my life, both as a kid navigating [life as] a teenager with it as the soundtrack to my life and as an adult in my band Ded touring with them.