Nu metal’s time as a dominant musical force spanned the late 1990s and early 2000s, but even it couldn’t maintain that position forever. By 2002, a growing army of US bands were drawing from more traditional metal influences and combining them with hardcore, extreme metal and melodeath. This scene, led by the likes of Lamb Of God, Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall and God Forbid, was dubbed The New Wave Of American Heavy Metal by the media, and over the next few years it reshaped the musical landscape.
While Lamb Of God and Killswitch Engage used the NWOAHM as a springboard for bigger and better things, many of their original contemporaries either failed to match their success or fell off the radar completely. But two decades after the scene’s heyday, many of the same bands have reunited and returned to reclaim their legacies.
We caught up with six bands from the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal‘s Class of 2002 to get their memories of a scene that never gets the credit it deserves – and find out what they’ve been up to in the interim years.
Boston bruisers Shadows Fall released seven albums and bagged two Grammy nominations before going on hiatus in 2015. They reunited in 2021 for a comeback show.
Brian Fair (vocals): “In Massachusetts, the NWOAHM had its own little scene within a scene. At the time, nu metal was king. And we didn’t have DJs; we used loads of guitar solos and had loads of hair. We wanted to scare the nu metal out of people.
“Our first Grammy nomination was a shock. We knew we made waves by selling 100,000 records on Century Media, but that was another stratosphere. We knew we wouldn’t win. But after walking the red carpet, the E! network nominated me for both their Best and Worst Hair awards. Ha ha ha!
“After we signed to Atlantic [for 2007’s Thread Of Life], our lead guitarist, Jon Donais, thought we were gonna be fucking Metallica: ‘Major label! I’m gonna be rich!’ But when we went on hiatus, we had been touring for 17 years. I’d had my first kid; Paul [Romanko, bass] had a kid. I remember watching my daughter crawl on an app – I was in Bulgaria. It was just time to come home, then Jon got the offer to join Anthrax. A friend of mine worked at an instrument company and someone there retired, so I got a job there.
“What got us back together is that we never stopped enjoying shows. We just needed time away to appreciate what we’d created. We didn’t think about what would happen after our reunion show [in December 2021], but the idea of new music has been floating around. If it feels like Shadows Fall material, we may pursue it.”
Mark Hunter (vocals): “The New Wave Of American Heavy Metal T-shirts we did were just a marketing trick. When I bought CDs back in the day, a lot of albums had a tag that said New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, and I thought it was really cool. I had never seen anyone promote themselves that way over here.
“We were working on [Chimaira’s second album] The Impossibility Of Reason at the time and transitioning from the ‘nu metal’ of Pass Out Of Existence. We loved Morbid Angel, Deicide and Suffocation, so being labelled ‘nu metal’ stung a little bit. The marketing around The Impossibility Of Reason became about being metal and this whole new feeling of it. Coincidentally, a lot of our peers were doing the same thing: they were starting a new feeling, a new movement, themselves.”
“When I speak with [Lamb Of God guitarist] Mark Morton, we reminisce on how much we wanted to completely annihilate each other. It drove us to perform better.
“Slipknot were the most fun I ever had with another band. Clown [percussionist Shawn Crahan] had an aversion to clocks. I was standing side-stage and saw him charging towards me with a fucking bat. I thought, ‘What’s happening here?!’, then BAM! He hit the clock next to me with his bat. Now that I’ve been retired [from music] for a little bit, I can look at it all from a bird’s eye view.
“Early in 2014. I had to cancel a European tour due to pneumonia. I took away everyone’s income for six weeks because I was sick. Then we had another tour planned and you could see it wasn’t going to be very lucrative. The profit was $1,200 a dude for six weeks of work. These days I’m a website creator and professional photographer. I can sleep in my own bed and make good money, but still be creative.”
“During a routine physical, my doctor noticed a lump on my thyroid. When I heard the word cancer, in my mind, I’m dead. I immediately collapsed to my knees – cry and vomit. A day later, I shared it with my fans. I got a message from a girl who had it at seven years old and again at 11. It flipped my perspective. It became, ‘Let’s cut this shit out and move on.’”
“Chimaira had some offers in the summer to play festivals but if we were to come back, we’d do it on our own terms. Unfortunately there’s nothing driving anyone to push the band back into high gear, largely because a couple of us have careers we can’t just walk away from.”
New Jersey’s God Forbid were charter members of the NWOAHM with albums such as Determination (2001) and Gone Forever (2004). They split in 2013 following the departure of guitarist Doc Coyle but reunited in 2022.
Doc Coyle (guitar): “New Jersey was an eclectic scene. The first show I ever went to, Candiria headlined: they combined hardcore, jazz and hip hop. God Forbid came out of that scene a pure metal band and really stood out.
“Our first tour in 2000 was with Shadows Fall. Their album Of One Blood came out a year before our album Determination, and we always felt like we were playing catch-up. We headlined with Bleeding Through and Avenged Sevenfold and it didn’t do that well: 100 people per night. We went home broke, doing shitty jobs and bummed out.
“Our last tour, in 2012, was with Shadows Fall too. When it finished, I was homeless. I quit the band and moved to Los Angeles and John [Boecklin] from Devildriver showed me some Bad Wolves material with Tommy Vext singing. I thought it was something special.
“I did a podcast [in 2019] and said I didn’t think anyone gave a shit about God Forbid reuniting. That went viral. We started talking and texting more. Our reunion show [at Blue Ridge Rock Festival in September 2022] was nerve-wracking, but the energy was absolutely incredible.”
Orange County’s Bleeding Through mixed hardcore with black metal and keyboards on standout albums This Is Love, This Is Murderous (2003) and The Truth (2006). They split in 2014 before reuniting in 2018.
Brandan Schieppati (vocals): “In Bleeding Through, we always kept our goals reasonable. So when we got thrown onto Ozzfest [in 2004], it was like Lord Of The Flies – these kids trying to figure life out. On that tour, Randy Blythe from Lamb Of God started a new crew called the Shirts Off Crew!’ We were a bunch of drunk fucking bands wreaking havoc, and Sharon Osbourne sent an email: ‘This has to stop! The grounds are complaining about you flipping trash cans over!’
“Bleeding Through needed a break because our lives beyond the band had to matter. I started working out on tour because I’m bipolar and downtime is bad for me. I had this opportunity to open my own gym. I’ve had Rise Above Fitness for more than 10 years. Avenged Sevenfold used to come here!
“We missed the band so much that we reunited. We call ourselves ‘vacationcore’: whenever we can get away and go on vacation on the band’s expense, we do it!”
All That Remains
Formed by outspoken ex-Marine Phil Labonte, Springfield, MA’s All That Remains have released eight albums since 2002’s debut Behind Silence And Solitude.
Phil Labonte (vocals): “The first time I saw Shadows Fall, I was like, ‘That band’s onto something!’ They were taking that European metal sound I was always interested in and making it American. It was inspired by At The Gates and Soilwork and making waves in western Massachusetts! But, in All That Remains, we knew that metalcore was a trend: we were trying to buck it as soon as we got wind of that. After we released The Fall Of Ideals [in 2006], we focused on writing choruses, not breakdowns or solos.
“Being openly libertarian is important to me because liberty is important. It’s important to have liberal principles like due process and the freedom of speech, and those things aren’t in vogue anymore.
“All That Remains haven’t put out a record since Oli [Herbert, lead guitar] passed away in 2018. I don’t know if I can articulate what that does to a band. It made us appreciate that life is short and that you never know what’ll happen. It was a shock that made us think about our own mortality. But we’ve got a very competent group of people that are writing now, and we have some really cool ideas.”
Formed in 1998 and still going strong, Boston metalcore ragers Unearth have outlasted the NWOAHM scene. 2004’s The Oncoming Storm and 2006’s III: In The Eyes Of Fire remain cornerstones of the movement.
Trevor Phipps (vocals): “After nu metal, people were eager to find something not as commercially driven and more real. There was no real production value, just a lot more basement shows. So the NWOAHM happened organically.
“We were brother bands with Every Time I Die. We shared a bus with them four or five times. There was one time on Ozzfest where our bus had to leave but there were a few cars blocking us, and Andy Williams [ETID’s guitarist, who moonlights as AEW wrestler The Butcher] started to pick the cars up! Those guys were a ton of fun.
“In 2007, we took out Darkest Hour, August Burns Red and, as the first band of four, Suicide Silence. I noticed on that tour just how well Suicide Silence were doing. I think the scene’s always looking for the next thing.
“Next year, we’ll have a new record out. We just approved the final mix and master, and it’s vicious! We’re offering a lot more dynamic tracks – I pushed myself vocally and Buz [McGrath, lead guitar] pushed himself out of his comfort zone – because we had more time to write it over the pandemic.”