The nu metal explosion of the late 90s and early 00s was unlike anything heavy music had ever truly experienced before. From its wild array of colourful characters to its near-total invasion of the mainstream, you could barely move for seeing Korn waltzing down an MTV red carpet or Fred Durst hanging around major pop stars.
As the New Millennium dawned, nu metal's big guns were hitting peak form and superstars-in-waiting like Linkin Park, Disturbed and Papa Roach were about to officially announce themselves to the world. And yet, nu metal's history remains littered with one-hit-wonders, also-rans and promising breakout bands that looked set for stardom, yet never quite got there. In that spirit, here are ten bands from the nu metal era that could have achieved greatness, but either just missed out, were hit by horrendous bad luck or just disappeared altogether.
American Head Charge
Championed by Slipknot architect Clown - who appeared in their classic Just So You Know video - signed to Rick Rubin's star-studded American Recordings label and nabbing tour slots opening up for the likes of Rammstein, American Head Charge had the backing and the platform to reach millions of millennial metalheads. Their breakthrough sophomore album, The War Of Art, is rightly heralded as one of the most underrated gems of its era, its gritty melding of nu metal groove and industrial grind still standing up over two decades later. Sadly, lineup turmoil, drug addiction and label squabbles upended their considerable momentum, and by the time follow-up record The Feeding arrived in 2005, the world had moved on.
Producing one of metal's all-time great club night bangers in the irrepressible Bodies, Drowning Pool's 2001 debut album Sinner marked them out as a band with all the tools to make it big. Their appearance on the 2001 Ozzfest tour - where they were eventually promoted up the bill by Sharon Osbourne - saw their popularity explode, while their patronage by WWE put them in front of millions of viewers (the Dallas mob performed at Wrestlemania in 2002 and even got to release their own version of Triple H's Motörhead-penned entrance theme, The Game). Of course, tragically, we all know what happened next: frontman Dave Williams was found dead in the band's tourbus while on another Ozzfest trek in August 2002, and Drowning Pool's destiny would never be fulfilled.
Having previously been best known for their entertaining but ultimately ill-advised cover of The Beatles' While My Guitar Gently Weeps (what was it with nu metal bands covering beloved classics in this era?!), Spineshank properly announced themselves as one of their generation's most promising young bands with the release of the thoroughly decent The Height Of Callousness in 2000. Released on powerhouse label Roadrunner and packing two absolute worldie singles in New Disease and Synthetic, the stage was seemingly set for great things. While 2003 follow-up Self-Destructive Pattern was a step down, lead single Smothered did bag a Grammy nomination, but the departure of frontman Jonny Santos the following year would spell the end of Spineshank's push, and they'd all but disappear for the better part of a decade.
Perfectly bridging the gap between the nu metal boom and the rise of the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal that followed in its wake, it's a mystery as to why Chimaira didn't go supernova. 2003 opus The Impossibility Of Reason positioned the Ohio six-piece near the very top of the mid-00s metal pile, but where the likes of Killswitch Engage and Lamb Of God would graduate into metal's big leagues, Chimaira just never quite seemed to scale the same heights. In 2014, following a still respectable career, the band officially broke up, reuniting only for a couple of celebratory shows since.
Having already put themselves on everybody's radar with 1999's class Wisconsin Death Trip album, Static-X polished up their nu-industrial sound and dropped the similarly brilliant Machine two years later, right into the middle of a scene utterly besieged by nu metal. The Californians had it all: killer songs, larger-than-life personalities and an instantly iconic frontman in the turbo-haired Wayne Static. Despite all this, while they'd go on to forge a very solid career from thereon in, inner-band politics meant they never quite boarded the hype train in the same way again. Wayne Static would sadly pass away at the age of just 48 in November 2014. His bandmates would pay tribute a few years later by...erm...dressing up Edsel from Dope as an undead Wayne to resume touring. Weird.
Despite its qualities, nu metal certainly had its downsides, and one of its most glaring was that the scene could be something of a misogynistic wangfest. When Kittie emerged in 2000 with debut album Spit, they felt like a breath of fresh air: an all-female four-piece writing feminism-powered ragers that flew in the face of the self-pitying angst and braggadocios groin-grabbing that had begun to dominate nu metal by that point. Their initial success proved too much for the band's young members, though, and a combination of lineup troubles and constant battles against an industry not ready for them meant Kittie never managed to scale the heights they seemed set for.
In case you haven't heard it a million times by now: Mushroomhead were doing the mask thing before Slipknot! It's a shame that their feud with Iowa's most successful metal export has all but defined their career, because Mushroomhead really did deserve some spotlight of their own accord. 2001's XX collection - repackaged and reissued by Universal Records towards the end of the year - introduced the band to a whole new, much wider audience, its newly produced video for Solitaire / Unravelling blowing up on music video channels. In 2003, Universal also released the band's next 'proper' album, XIII, and it looked like Mushroomhead might finally hit the big time. While the album did well, selling hundreds of thousands of copies, the eight-piece didn't quite cross over in a major way, and this was about as big as it got for them.
The Union Underground
Mixing nu metal stomp with splashes of groove and industrial metal, in the space of a couple of years The Union Underground got signed to a major label, put out a well-received debut album in An Education In Rebellion, were hand-picked by Marilyn Manson to join him on tour and even wrote the new theme song for WWE's flagship weekly show, Monday Night Raw. For whatever reason, though, the Texans just weren't long for this world, and disbanded before even recording a second album. Strange, given their potential wide appeal and the fact that they were packing an image and style that could have easily survived nu metal's eventual implosion.
The tragic story of Snot is well-worn, but it doesn't make it any less of a shame. In the same year that Limp Bizkit arrived on the scene as nu metal's great young hopefuls, Snot put out a similarly promising debut album in Get Some, mixing influences that incorporated everything from Korn and Pantera to Sublime and Deftones. In Lynn Strait, they also had one of the scene's most electrifying frontmen, and epic things looked certain for their future. Until, that is, Lynn died in a car accident just a year after the release of the album. The rollcall of special guests on Snot's 2000 tribute album Strait Up showed just how admired he was: Fred Durst, Corey Taylor, Max Cavalera and Serj Tankian were among them. What could have been.
In their native Australia, Sunk Loto were signposted for stardom. They signed to Sony Music before they even released their first EP in 1999, then the following year’s debut album, Big Picture Lies, landed at number 30 in the Australian charts. Despite not selling as well, 2003 follow-up Between Birth And Death won producer Paul McKercher an ARIA Music Award (AKA an Australian Grammy) for Engineer Of The Year in 2004. It was also wildly inventive, folding nu metal, post-hardcore and prog music into what’s still an unsung masterpiece. Sadly, behind-the-scenes bullshit and a loss of momentum necessitated Sunk’s breakup in 2007, although they later reunited in 2022.