KORN — Korn (review)

KORN — Korn album cover Album · 1994 · Nu Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Perhaps more than any other band other than Nirvana, KORN (stylized as KoЯn) completely changed the world of metal music with a style that was equally loathed as it was eagerly embraced by an appetite for everything alternative in the early 90s. This Bakersfield, CA band only formed in 1993 and after one simple demo tape and a few live gigs already found itself with a record contract and was releasing its first album from the very next year in 1994. This was the era when glam metal and everything 80s was being thrown out the window and suddenly anything that sounded new and alternative was skyrocketing up the charts and laughing all the way to the bank. KoЯn was very much riding this new wave of deemphasizing hairspray fueled bands that cranked out cheesy ballads along with high-fueled guitar solos which started to get a little stale by the early 90s and KoЯn positioned itself to jump on the scene at the very right time.

With its eponymous debut album KoЯn dropped a bomb on the world with a completely new metal paradigm that put the ultimate face on the exploding world of the everything alternative world of the 90s. With the appearances of a schizoid hip hop group playing a down-tuned grunge funk, this band adopted the aggressive guitar angst of alternative metal and mixed into elements of hip hop, funk, industrial and grunge. One of the more notable attributes of the nu metal sound was the use of seven-stringed guitars that were down-tuned to sound more like a bass. The use of DJ’s and samplings also blurred the lines between electronic music like techno and turntablism and once KoЯn dropped its bomb on an unsuspecting world, the aftermath left old bands in the dust with glam metal going extinct and older extreme metal bands following in the wake by crafting more alternative sounding albums throughout the 90s. Coupled with the creepy themes like child abuse, drug use and bullying, this album struck a few nerves at the time.

KoЯn’s debut album had somewhat of a slow start commercially and while sales weren’t stellar in the beginning, the band did launch a tidal wave of nu wave metal bands that followed. With acts like Coal Chamber and Limp Bizkit getting into the act the genre was picking up steam rather intensely and KoЯn’s debut album finally hit the album charts and subsequently was certified gold. While forming in Bakersfield, the band moved together in Huntington Beach in the LA area where they crafted all the songs for their debut and even at that stage were attracting crowds just from the rehearsals in their garage which clearly was a sign that the band was honing in on the zeitgeist of the era. It seems that Nirvana pretty much changed the musical compass to point towards anything with a grungy sound and KoЯn took that sound into completely different areas.

While many consider this debut to be the band’s best effort, i’m completely in opposition to those claims as i find that the band hadn’t really quite honed its own idiosyncratic sound so perfectly quite yet. While the down-tuned dueling guitar riffs, the grungy yet funkified bass and atmospheric backdrops had already gestated into the mid-tempo nu metal style that eschewed guitar solos and focused on heavy syncopation and Jonathon Davis’ agro-metal vocal deliveries coupled with the detached introverted utterances, the KoЯn exhibited many of its influences clearly on its sleeves as well. Sometimes a little too clearly for my personal liking. True that the album has the rawest nu metal sound before the sub-genre became quite popular and subsequently over-produced but i personally find that the albums that had all slick production techniques to suit this style of metal quite perfectly. Commercial yes and in many cases pathetic, but KoЯn is one of the bands from this era that i actually like quite much.

The album starts off fairly well with the bass driven funk grooves, twin guitar assaults and the insane asylum vocal styles that alternate with the sedated semi-whispers. The tracks all have that classic nu metal nonchalant way of keeping things mid-tempo but heavily distorted with a rather unimpressive percussive drive that merely keeps the beat. One of the more interesting aspects of KoЯn is the use of bagpipes as heard on the beginning of “Shoots And Ladders.” The band certainly came up with an original sound however as the album carries on it becomes more obvious that one of the primary influences was “The Real Thing” album by Faith No More at least in the guitar riffing department with Davis’ cleaner vocal styles emulating Mike Patton on many occasions.

Overall KoЯn’s debut album is not a bad one and single-handedly change the metal paradigm throughout the 90s. Personally i find this debut to be a bit on the long side with a few too many Faith No More worship sessions and the irritating silence that finds creepy abused kid sounds into the seventeen minutes is a bit too much. I think the band’s future releases are much more interesting and more diverse however there’s no denying that it all started here and that the earlier tracks starting with “Blind” up to “Shoots And Ladders” are all pretty cool. This is actually an album that i wafer on quite a bit. Sometimes it sounds brilliant and other times it completely turns me off but as a music critic who judges things fairly by their merits it do have to say that this is fairly unique and even the nu metal acts that jumped on the bandwagon didn’t display their brand of alternative nation with the same amount of finesse. This is lower on my list solely due to the fact that the string of albums that follow are much more consistently pleasant.
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