Nu-Metal & the Emo scene
The mid 00s extreme music scene and the murder of Sophie Lancaster.
In my last post I mentioned the birth of a new genre in Metal. In the mid 90s, bands like Machine Head and Korn released debut albums that were as ‘street’ as their contemporaries in hip-hop. Rage Against the Machine and Biohazard were more overt, fusing rap with hard rock. In a series of previous posts, I detailed how the soundtrack to the movie Judgement Night showcased how the two genres of hip-hop and metal made great bedfellows. Somehow this resulted in Limp Bizkit.
Meanwhile on the soundtrack to The Crow, shoe gaze and goth bands like The Cure and Medicine, sounded right at home beside metal giants like Pantera. There isn’t a straight line between The Smiths and Panic! At the Disco (there was Weezer’s debut album and Jimmy Eat World, along the way), but introspective, angst ridden lyrics and baring of the soul formed a convoluted elastic thread. Somehow this resulted in My Chemical Romance.
Yes, I’m being banally facetious. Like grunge before them, many artists were shoehorned into one genre or the other for marketing purposes. There was massive crossover appeal with the likes of Linkin Park, who’s debut album ‘Hybrid Theory’ was monstrously successful. Linkin Park sounded metal, and in Mike Shinoda they had a very good rapper. But key to their success was the wonderful voice of lead vocalist Chester Bennington. Chester could growl, scream, but best of all, he also had a lovely singing voice. When he sang he seemed to be baring his soul on every track. Linkin Park were very much seen as a nu-metal act, but in my opinion had one foot firmly in the Emo camp as well.
Because of this weird dichotomy, the fanbases for both genres overlapped. It wasn’t unusual to see Paramore on the music channels shoehorned in between Slipknot and Coal Chamber.
Emo became a fashion. It was kind of goth-lite. Kids wore eye-liner and Cradle of Filth t-shirts. Nu-metal was more cargo pants and wallet chains. Traditional metal bands got in on the action. 1996’s ‘Until it Bleeds’ by Metallica saw the metal giants sporting eyeliner and short hair. As I mentioned in a previous post, Slayer dabbled with Nu Metal vibes on “Diabolis in Musica”. Ozzy appeared in the video to ‘Loco’ by Coal Chamber.
But aside from the commercialism and the faux posturing by metal bands, something more insidious was going on. There was a sneery contempt towards the suburban-street posing of Limp Bizkit. Older metal fans sneered at Slipknot fans (who were usually quite young). Emo kids were derided. I was a fan of both genres, and I’m old enough to recall playlists in clubs in Ireland that featured Blink 182, System of a Down, Evanescence, and Weezer.
But at the same time I laughed at the Emo kids. I’d walk pass them as they congregated in my home town city centre or parks, and think to myself that they were posers, faux hardcore, and it was something they’d grow out of. I knew better, because I was in my early twenties. They were all young teenagers. I wasn’t alone in this sentiment. My Chemical Romance (and their fans) were a huge target for this kind of ire. In 2006 at their appearance at the Reading Festival, the band had bottles of urine thrown at them for their entire set.
I thought this was kinda funny at the time.
On August 24th 2007, a young woman by the name of Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend Robert Maltby, were walking home through their home town late at night. They were brutally attacked by a group of teenagers. They were targeted due to their Emo look and style. Robert was knocked unconscious, and Sophie received a vicious and sustained beating while trying to shield him from further attacks. Sophie died from her injuries. She was 20 years old.
In March of 2012 perhaps as many as 100 young people were murdered in Iraq, in a similar fashion to Sophie. These young people identified as, and were targeted due to their Emo fashion sense and musical taste.
There is no doubt in my mind that there is a link between these attacks and attacks associated on people identifying as LGBTQ+. But I think the cause is worse than that. It’s not just the fear of the outsider, or people who look different. It’s a sense that someone’s very existence threatens or cheapens yours. It’s a deep rooted anger and malaise with life, that becomes targeted onto others.
Or perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Maybe Sophie and Robert were just unlucky enough to encounter a group of scumbags on their way home.
I’ve been to countless hard-rock and metal gigs over the years. I have never felt afraid at any of them. I’ve never felt afraid while attending a gaming convention, or any activity that nerddom embraces. However, I have felt afraid from time to time when I pass by bored looking male teenagers and young men standing around in groups.
I’ve started to look back on the Emo and Nu-Metal scene with a fresh perspective. In the next series of posts I’ll take a deep dive into both genres. In most respects it was a fun time, and many of the bands that made it big back then are still lauded by fans. We’ll take a look at some of the mistakes made (e.g. Woodstock 99) and take a closer look at some of the violence that occurred alongside the birth of these genres. But for the next post we’ll have some fun. How about pitting one of the Nu Metal giants versus the biggest Emo band ever, in a head to head?
By the way, the Aquanaut hasn’t posted much this year and I’d like to take a moment to reflect on that. Mental health is a fragile thing sometimes and mine has been suffering in the early months of 2023. Ironically enough, writing makes me feel better, but often the energy to open the laptop and start typing is in short supply. I’m on the road back and looking forward to bringing you some thoughts and stories from my favourite heavy bands.
Next post: "I push my fingers into my..." vs “Just like the Hearse you die to get in again”