Taproot formed in the late 1990s. When they entered the public consciousness in the early 2000’s, they were immediately popular. They produced a sound that easily mixed grunge with metal. While the band has a new single, “No One Else to Blame,” it is unclear if a full album is forthcoming soon. In the interim, a retrospective on how Taproot defines the “nu metal” genre is necessary.
Taproot and early 21st century rock
Arguably, after about a decade of grunge’s ubiquitous popularity, some rock fans missed heavier rock styles. While some rock fans took issue with the sensibilities of alternative rock, most fans seemed to appreciate thoughtful lyrics. Also, while old school heavy metal was losing ground to alternative, hardcore and punk regained some momentum. Fans had choices in the realm of heavy music. But they also wanted an update to heavy metal. Enter “nu metal.”
True to its name, nu metal is not the 1970s, or even 1980s heavy metal. It is an integrated form of metal that welcomes influences from other contemporary genres. Nu metal has more in common with hardcore and grunge, but depending on the band, listeners can still find a shred of traditional metal in nu metal works.
Taproot uses an ominous sound, and narrative-oriented lyrics to craft songs. The band formed in Ann Arbor, Mich., and have cultivated a worldwide fan base. However, it does seem as though some fans in Michigan and Indiana are excited about the band’s success because of the group’s “close to home” quality.
“Poem” by Taproot
A number of longtime fans point out the song “Poem” as their first introduction to Taproot, and their favorite song. Ironically, people who are not fans of the literary genre have taken to this song naturally. “Poem” contains some of Taproot’s best qualities: mild brooding, heavy sound, and a storyline in the lyrics.
“Poem” is found on the album, “Welcome.” In the 15 years since the album’s release, the song continues to be mentioned as a favorite. Some claim the song to be band’s best. The lyrics are smart without being cerebral and off-putting. This is not a re-tooling of progressive rock. Instead, smart as done by Taproot is insightful and tends to speak of a certain generation’s life experiences.
I arrived to the Taproot party late. It wasn’t until I was moving to Minnesota for educational purposes that I learned the band existed at all. My introduction to the group came via their 2005 album, “Blue Sky Research,” and more specifically through the song, “Calling.”
Having been a popular music fan my entire life, I was almost jaded in 2005. In addition, I was sure I had heard all that various types of rock bands could offer in terms of melodic, heavy sounds. I was wrong.
The opening strains of “Calling” are low, yet nimble, guitar chords. The notes repeat themselves and seem to ignore the drums that kick in. The vocals are almost a hoarse whisper, but there are backing vocals that summarize the lead’s ideas, and the whisper rushes into an anthem-like shout, as the lead singer opts to ignore the needy pleas of a person who is most likely a love interest. As the chorus develops, the backing vocals practically moan, as the singer proceeds in his determination to stay away from the object of his angst. The moaning, mixed with the lead vocal qualities that are low in register, yet energetic, has an intense emotional affect on listeners. This is arguably Taproot’s best work.
Taproot’s “No One Else to Blame”
In May 2017, Taproot released a single, “No One Else to Blame.” I have not found official copies of a video or single. All I can find is a video filmed at The Machine Shop in Flint, Mich. While the quality isn’t perfect, there is enough audio for fans to tell that this is another Taproot gem. However, the Internet is rife with tales of Taproot’s verbal and written fights with each other. I cannot find information on a new album, and that is disappointing.
Taproot’s presence in nu metal helps to define the genre. They are a band whose artistic approach defies most trends, and resonates with listeners. At least while fans await a new album, there are now-classic Taproot songs to remind them why the wait is worth it.