Noisey Vs. MetalSucks - Threaten My Family if You Must, But I Still Say Korn Rules
Skeptics and shit-talkers be damned.
Welcome to Point/Counterpoint, where we prove to the rest of the Internet that we are smarter and more right than any other editorial outlet on planet earth. We know these dudes who run a metal site called MetalSucks that people seem to like, so we challenged them to an editorial cagematch. The rules were simple: two blogs enter, one blog leaves.This week we're facing off over polarizing nu-metalheads, Korn. We unapologetically love them, MetalSucks loves to hate them. You can read their wholly illegitimate response right here.
Few bands polarize the metal community like Korn. As pioneers of the so-called nu-metal movement, they receive both praise and blame for spearheading the style of music that brought metal back into the mainstream after grunge and alt-rock killed off hair metal and thrash. Some have accused Korn of dumbing-down metal, being wannabe rappers, having stupid nicknames and tragically misinterpreting the intent of great hybrid bands like Faith No More and Bad Brains. In my mind, what they did was present a simple, accessible form of brutality and’s that’s far more of a blessing than curse, regardless of their impact on Limp Bizkit, Staind, and dozens of other shitty bands. Korn named their third album Follow the Leader. They didn’t say, “Make shitty, misogynistic music that will discredit everything we’ve created in the eyes of the public."
In reality, Korn and their kin (Deftones, who developed into one of the best rock groups of the ‘90s, and Coal Chamber, who didn’t) were the natural spin-offs of alternative rock for those whose hunger for volume wasn’t sated by Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots, and Korn most visibly brought a new vibe to metal. They used seven string guitars to make their sound more booming, drew from the staccato riffs of Prong and Helmet, and incorporated them with funk slap bass, hip hop beats, and vocals that veered from quasi-rap to pain stricken howls.
When Korn formed in Bakersfield, California in 1993 they sounded, original, angry, and innovative, and part of their inventiveness had to do with the way guitarists James “Munky” Shaffer and Brian “Head” Welch layered crushing rhythms with galactic sounds generated with a wide array of effect pedals and studio gizmos. But like most bands that become huge too quickly, Korn embraced the extracurricular perks of touring: drinking like Pantera, doing lines like Sabbath in their heyday, and committing any number of outrageous acts with groupies. Of course, this has nothing to do with their music, but it was a significant factor in why the band started to fall apart, and why Head—spun out on methamphetamine and booze—quit Korn in 2005 before they released their seventh album, See You On the Other Side, and sought salvation through religion.
Whether it was the absence of Head or the slick production of The Matrix (Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears), See You on the Other Side lacked the fury and creativity of earlier efforts and was the band’s first of several missteps. Soon after, drummer David Silveria bailed because of personal and professional differences, but Korn persevered. They hired various touring guitarists, including Sevendust’s Clint Lowery and Shane Gibson, and continued as a major metal draw long after nu-metal was declared dead.
Even though they lost some steam in the studio, downplaying their guitar thunder and experimenting with industrial elements that led to a couple of unremarkable albums through the naughts, they got heavy again when they reunited with their original producer, Ross Robinson, in 2009. Forcing the band to examine their roots and their personal traumas—especially those of eternally tormented vocalist Jonathan Davis—Korn resurfaced with the blazing Korn III: Remember Who You Are, a striking return to the raw power of the band’s first two albums, 1994’s Korn and 1996’s Life is Peachy.
It would have marked a good stopping point. Korn recaptured whatever ground they lost experimenting with keyboards and pop melodies, and, internally, they were a mess. Even without Head’s involvement, religion permeated the mix; bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu discovered God after his father died and give up drugs and alcohol (which, at the time, wasn’t necessarily a good thing), Munky was a raging, incoherent drinker when he wasn’t making incredible guitar noises, and frontman Jonathan Davis, an atheist, was scrambling to decide how to proceed. Everyone wanted Head back, but that wasn’t happening. So Davis, who had become involved as a DJ in the EDM scene, convinced his band mates to hire a bunch of dubstep producers, including Skrillex, to produce their next album.
The move created even more controversy, but if nothing else, it cemented the notion that, regardless of what trends spiral around them, Korn are determined to follow their own path, whether it leads to platinum albums or the complete alienation of their fanbase. The Path of Totality impacted somewhere between the two. The album sold about 250,000—not bad in an era of digital downloading—and critical reception was mixed between high praise for their adventurous foray into electronica and absolute disdain for their bastardization of an already tired genre. But to their credit, Korn took a major left turn and did whatever the fuck they wanted, which is the only way they’ve been able to stick around for 10 albums and 20 years. Along with Deftones, they’ve persevered through the past decade, sometimes derailing for a spell, but always trying in spite of personal and professional adversity.
Maybe as a reward for their uncanny persistence, Head agreed to return to the band earlier this year, and Korn recently finished their yet-untitled 11th album, which isn’t dubstep, but which incorporates electronic techniques Davis discovered working on the last album. At the same time, Head and a now-sober Munky have reportedly brought a new level of aggression and serrated riffing back into Korn’s sound. We have yet to see how significant Head’s contributions are, but when he appeared with Korn onstage May 5th at the Carolina Rebellion in Rockingham, North Carolina to perform the band’s old hit “Blind” with them, the audience went berserk. Of course, it’s always cool witness a historic (or, at least, significant) moment. However, when the band announced Head was back in the band, Korn’s fans were genuinely stoked. And why the fuck not? This is the lineup (sans Silveria) that wrote such nu-metal classics as “Blind, “Shoots and Ladders,” “Clown,” “No Place to Hide,” “A.D.I.D.A.S.,” “Got the Life,” “Freak on a Leash,” and “Falling Away From Me.”
Skeptics and shit-talkers be damned. I can’t wait to see what Korn and Munky are able to do together again and how they’ll mix their guitar parts with Davis’ tortured vocals and industrial samples. As long as Head and Fieldy don’t start contributing preachy, Christian lyrics (fat chance of that happening), I’m happy that faith has brought them peace—so long as they continue to rip it up musically like their families were being held at gunpoint.
MetalSucks doesn't agree with us, which you might like if you like things in the world that are wrong. Read their wholly illegitimate response here.