Popdose Flashback 1993: Korn Again
Dw Dunphy – Chris, in 1993, were you an angry suburban music fan who wanted to ride on the train that was hip hop/rap, but didn’t want to give up down-tuned guitars in trade?
Chris Holmes – Angry? Check. Suburban? Check. Hip hop? Not so much. I had a cassette copy of Raising Hell, but that’s about it. I’m on the record as being firmly in the worlds of Kiss, Rush, and Iron Maiden.
dw – Ah, but somebody out there needed that magic combination fulfilled. Luckily, in 1993, a little band named Korn released a demo called Neidermayer’s Mind and, subsequently, got a record contract with producer Ross Robinson in tow. The Nu-Metal sound was, supposedly, started from there and with that came the likes of Linkin Park and, more egregiously, Limp Bizkit.
Khris – I’m rather conflicted on this whole scene. I hated it all at first – and in the case of Limp Bizkit, justifiably so. But I admit to owning some Korn albums (yes, plural) and still liking them. Mainstream metal had become dreadfully predictable by the early ’90s, so I can see how Nu Metal bands were able to fill a certain void.
Anyway, if you want to look at a Big Bang moment for the genre, you have to go back even further than 1993. Behold.
dW – Believe it or not, I’m kind of on the same page here. I don’t mind Follow The Leader or Issues for that matter. But from them came this whole other thing: the emo-cum-metal-cum-b-boy Linkin Park which was afflicted by WAY TOO SERIOUS, the frat house date rape rock of Limp Bizkit and the rise of Fred Durst as a thing, the wildly flailing Deftones that could be at turns really good (and also be firmly in WTFLand)…
KrHiss – What was shocking to me is just how quickly the Nu Metal posers sprung to life. Usually in any new music movement, it takes at least a few years for bands to latch onto all the wrong elements of a style and ride them to success. So with the ’80s hard rock revival, it took awhile for shitty Van Halen imitators to flood the L.A./Sunset Strip club scene.
But here, it’s like the entire history of the genre was condensed into about five years. You had the originators and the weak-ass followers all at once. And look, it’s not like Korn was all that gifted or innovative, but they’re like the Led Zeppelin of Nu Metal to Limp Bizkit’s Molly Hatchet.
dDabYou - That was to be expected for a couple reasons – MTV was still kind of powerful in the ’90s so this idea of a hybrid had the full benefit of promotion. For music fans, the positives and negatives of this nu-metal sound were based in an appreciation of the music. For fans of bad-ass-ery, it had nothing to do with the heavy Iommi-influenced guitar sound or the lingua franca that it made into the rap realm…it was “look at what a tough mutha am I!” So immediately the sound went from people who wanted to do something with it to people who just wanted to be a tough guy.
The other thing is that Durst immediately capitalized on that surface-interest and signed as many sound-alikes as possible. I think I’m recalling correctly that he was a record exec before and during the Bizkit onslaught, so this all was about asset management for him.
I’m not implying that Korn was the most fantastic thing out there though. A little of Jonathan Davis’ whine-sing goes a long, long way. But you did get a sense they weren’t as interested in being a part of a movement as they were with sounding they way they sounded.
KRRRush – Absolutely. I think one aspect of Korn that gets overlooked by many is that for all those sludgy riffs and dark (whiny?) lyrics, their songs had a lot of groove to them. That’s one of the things I picked up on right away. While most of the attention was on Davis or Fieldy, I was really digging on David Silveria. Not to compare Korn to Black Sabbath in terms of quality of influence, but one of the things that made their early albums great was Bill Ward’s jazz-influenced drumming.
DDDDaaAH – Which comes through, specifically, on “Fairies Wear Boots” with that bit of shuffle he throws into it.
Having said that, I can’t think of a single element from, say, Staind that stands out other than how fast I wound up reselling Break The Cycle after I bought it.
KRRRRR – I dismissed them out of hand as a weak Alice in Chains clone. Am I wrong on that count?
(Guttural Noise) – Not really wrong. I think Alice In Chains was built on an appreciation for metal and classic rock, and has all that in the bloodline. Staind was just taking whatever the last generation gave out. In that, they always seemed angry or sad because that’s just what you do with that sound, right? Plus, AIC in their prime would have melted Staind, at their best, into a molten puddle.
Speaking of which, I’m hearing some of the new AIC and I’m impressed. After all this time, even with the loss of a central member, they’ve got it. The last couple of Korn albums (actually, for me, ever since Untouchables) have nothing to speak of. Not being a hardcore aficionado, maybe I’m biased, but right now they’re almost permanently affixed to their time.
(Phlegm Rattle) – Alice was always about more than just Layne Staley’s voice, so it makes sense that their new stuff is still good. My biggest beef with Staind and other bands if the era is their dogged adherence to dreariness. As much as hair metal was derided for being puerile party anthems, I’ll take fake fun over fake depression any day. And to stay somewhat on topic, at least Davis had a little mope street cred from his time as a morgue employee.
Barney Rubble – Yeah, being a cadaver file clerk does allow you to be a tad morose.
In related news, Korn will be reuniting with Brian “Head” Welch on their appearance at a festival with Smashing Pumpkins and other ’90s rock bands, and it will be infinitely better than a certain cruise ship to hell…