Nu Metal Is Back and There Is Nothing You Can Do About It | “Head on a Spike” by Orthodox


Nick Sanchez, Host of Thee Hourz O' Power

Like all things, nu metal changes with time. Given the renaissance of hardcore music that we are currently living through, it seems only natural that nu metal would find its new home snugly in the arms of the American punk scene. 

Tennessee hardcore outfit Orthodox has been dancing with the sounds of nu metal on their last two albums, but their most recent outing, Learning to Dissolve, sees them fully embrace the style and blend it with their unique brand of hardcore. The result is one of the most biting and — as overused as this word is when discussing extreme music — brutal contributions to the heavy music landscape this year. 

Any of the tracks off Learning to Dissolve could serve as a case study into the resurgence of nu metal, like the searingly quick “Fast Asleep,” the pinch harmonic frenzy of “Cave In” or the unexpected industrial cut “1 1 7 6 2.” As terrific as all these songs are, none of them quite pack the punch of “Head on a Spike,” the leading single from the album. 

The pummeling double bass that opens the track could leave a listener expecting an average hardcore beatdown, but what I find to be particularly nu metal about this track — and this band in general — is not strictly their sound, but their attitude. The lyrics are rife with the same directness you would find in bands like Slipknot, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. Like these bands before them, Orthodox brilliantly toes the line between absurdity and sincerity in their lyrical content. Subtlety is abandoned to more directly scream a message of perseverance in the face of the listener. I am strong. You cannot kill me. 

How does one get across the idea that they feel strong in their own skin, that they can take on any challenge and emerge on the other side alive? Bluntly.

You want me dead? /

Put my head on a spike.”

The intensity of the song, overwhelming as it may be, is ratcheted up another notch in the breakdown, which obliterates a moment of quiet peace with down tuned, repetitive chugs. Sophistication no longer exists here, Orthodox is tapping into primal feelings.

Brilliantly orchestrated around an ambient break in the song instead of a traditional buildup, the breakdown callout is not shouted, yelled or screamed: in subversive nu metal fashion, it is whispered in near silence. The common pessimism of heavy music is abandoned in favor of positivity, defiance in the face of adversity, serving as a thesis statement for the song as well as the attitude of the band. 

This is my life. I will live it on my own terms.

When it becomes my time /

I’d like to see you try and take me alive.”