10 times nu metal got surprisingly emotional

Various nu metal legends
(Image credit: JD and Amy Lee: Future; Fred Durst and David Draiman: YouTube)

As divisive today as it was popular during its early 2000s heyday, there can be no doubting that nu metal has been one of the most impactful and widely debated sub genres to ever hit heavy music. It's produced some of metal's most colourful characters, churned out enough one-hit wonders to fill a rock club Saturday night playlist and resulted in the kinds of collaborations we'd have previously never thought possible, but as far as producing music that can spark a real, tangible emotional pull goes, nu metal has often been rather overlooked.

Despite its reputation as a braggadocio, obnoxious corner of the metal scene, however, nu metal is absolutely capable of creating emotional moments, be they amazing covers of classic power ballads, unexpected detours into deeply personal subject matter or team-ups that had us all wiping a tear or two away. Here, then, are ten times nu metal unexpectedly hit us right in the feels.

Metal Hammer line break

Korn - Daddy

The earliest sign of nu metal's capacity to deeply move us came right at ground zero, on the final track of Korn's game-changing debut album. Daddy painfully recounts frontman Jonathan Davis' experiences of chid abuse, namely his parents' refusal to believe him when he told them and the agony that lack of belief has caused him since. The track famously ends with poor Davis weeping his heart out, making this one of the most upsetting and difficult listens ever committed to tape. Last year, Davis told Metal Hammer that he never wants to play the song live again, and we can understand why.

Slipknot - Vermilion Pt. 2

It'd be plainly ridiculous to suggest Slipknot aren't an emotional band - those first two albums are almost nothing but raw, unbridled pain, rage and anguish - but the Iowans really spread their wings on this Vol. 3 number, showing a level of sensitivity we hadn't previously seen from them. An delicate, acoustic sequel to the far heavier but similarly soul-wrenching Vermilion - also on Vol. 3 - it captures the heartache that comes from that most universal of lived experiences: unrequited love. Vermillion Pt. 2 was all the proof you need that you don't need distorted guitars to move people.

Limp Bizkit - Behind Blue Eyes

Classic rock diehards scoffed their tits off at the image of a topless Fred Durst gazing mournfully into the camera as he croons to this 2003 reworking of a Who classic. It clearly struck a chord regardless: two decades on, Bizkit's take on Behind Blue Eyes stands as one of their most popular songs, their third most-streamed song ever and a cover capable of producing the kind of full-hearted, emotional singalongs Ed Sheeran would be proud of. Plus, when all is said and done, it's a fucking great cover. There, we said it. 

Korn and Amy Lee - Freak On A Leash

Korn's classic Freak On A Leash might be more likely to induce mayhem in the mosh pit than bring tears to our eyes in its original form, but this gorgeous reworking from the Bakersfield boys' 2006 MTV Unplugged concert was special. Stripping the track back and adding in bonus strings and fresh percussion, it unlocked a stirring, ethereal new take on a nu metal banger. Its legacy is so strong that Korn and Amy Lee made headlines when revisiting the collab on their co-headline tour last year.

Disturbed - The Sound Of Silence

Imagine if someone told you at the start of the 2010s that a) Disturbed would be bigger than ever, b) their most famous song wouldn't be Down With The Sickness and c) in its place would an absurdly powerful cover of a Simon And Garfunkel song? Nonetheless, when David Draiman et al included a cover of The Sound Of Silence on 2015 album Immortalized, the track took on a life of its own, racking up almost a billion views on YouTube. A billion. Now, the cover is a setlist staple and sounds even more impactful live. Fair play, lads. 

System Of A Down - Roulette

No one should be surprised by System Of A Down's capacity to pluck at our heartstrings - all the way back on their 1998 debut, Spiders had a beautiful swell of emotion lying under its unhinged exoskeleton - but rarely did the band sound so delicately succinct as on Roulette, the beautiful acoustic joint snuck near the end of their ace 2002 b-sides collection, Steal This Album!. An achingly earnest ballad that Daron Malakian once described simply as a "pretty song about a pretty girl", it's one of the album's most popular cuts to this day. 

Linkin Park - One More Light

Linkin Park's final studio album, One More Light, received admittedly mixed reviews upon its release, but its title track has taken on an agonisingly poignant new meaning since the devastating loss of Chester Bennington in 2017. A man who was never afraid to bear his emotions, his tear-jerking performance of the song on Jimmy Kimmel's talk show a few weeks before his death will linger long in the memory - not least because it was dedicated to Chester's dear friend Chris Cornell, who we also sadly lost that same year. 

Snot ft. Lajon Witherspoon - Angel's Son

The tragic story of Snot is a well-worn tale in the world of late-90s metal, but the shocking death of frontman Lynn Strait in a car crash wasn't quite the end of the band. They did manage to rally for one more studio album - a heartfelt tribute to their singer, titled Strait Up and released in 2000. It featured a host of special guest stars, and by far the record's most effective moment came from Angel's Son, a collaboration between Snot guitarist Sonny Mayo and Sevendust. It was the centrepiece of a heartwarming response to a senseless tragedy.

Seether and Amy Lee - Broken

One of the most enduringly popular songs released by either artist (it's clocked up almost 250 million streams on Spotify alone), Seether's collab with Amy Lee remains a perfect slice of earnest, full-hearted 00s metal power balladry. The video, featuring both Lee and her then-boyfriend, Seether frontman Shaun Morgan, sadly plodding around an empty wasteland, was in constant rotation on the likes of Scuzz and Kerrang TV. Given that Lee would go on and pen bitter anthem Call Me When You're Sober in the aftermath of her break-up with Morgan, we're not sure if this is a team-up she'd be mega keen to revisit, but her contributions to this reworked version of Seether's original 2002 track undoubtedly elevated it to greatness.

Deftones - No Ordinary Love

Suggest to a Deftones lover that the band don't have any emotional songs and you'll likely be subjected to an impassioned speech fit for a Ted Talk, but the fact is that their lovely cover of Sade's No Ordinary Love struck a slightly different chord to what fans were used to. Chino Moreno's diaphanous tones are perfectly suited to a version which takes a shimmering pop classic and morphs it into a breathy, gothic epic. Perhaps not a total surprise, but a delight nonetheless.

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He is also probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.