Review Summary: This is what you get when a band leaves their comfort zone, and steps up to lead the way in their own genre to bring it all back...
OK, I can understand how a success like Korn's debut would be manipulative towards the creation of their latter content. But after two albums used to get the nu-metal boat going, perhaps their third album, if it remained consistent with their previous two albums, would've deteriorated the genre, let alone the band itself. For a prominent approach, Korn have undoubtedly shaped their genre in a monumental performance with their debut and sophomore albums. But time wears even the strongest forces weary and unstable, and at the height of the nu-metal scene, this is the last thing the band would want to do.
When it comes to Korn's original formula that shaped their first two albums, simplicity was ideal to their strength. With Munky shredding on his guitar, and Head in the backdrop dropping the most eerie and mysterious guitar tweaks, and Fieldy slapping his bass repeatedly all the way along, Korn have remained consistent as far as their instrumentation goes. But even the vocals provided by Jonathan have remained quite noticeably the same. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, the band might be overstaying their welcome by now with this style. As good as that style was, it's not as promising as it was 5 years ago.
On the other hand, Follow the Leader takes Korn's power, Korn's shredding instrumentation, and tweaks it in a very experimental way without losing the band's grip. When it came to Korn's guitars and bass, and drums, it was straight up metal without a doubt. But in Follow the Leader, you'll witness several distortions to both the instruments and the vocals in one of the most promising nu-metal albums ever released, even since the formation of newer bands coming in to take a stab at this fame. Bands like Slipknot or Limp Bizkit will take their inspiration from the pioneering nu-metal idealists, especially this album in terms of lyric, and instrumentation for many years to come.
As for the distortions in Follow the Leader, a huge proportion of the album's success in the experimental field is derived from the numerous guest artists that make their way onto this album. Once you combine this newly found style to Korn's sound, the guests actually make themselves at home in this album. A prime example of Korn's change in sound along with a guest comes from one of the most promising songs on the album: "Children of the Korn". This song shows some twisted vocals on Jon's part, and Ice Cube does well in powering a special feel with his rapping along with the catchy bass effects and snare jobs. But even more promising than this is a Korn-only track called "Pretty". This track has the best melodies from Jon's voice displayed in the verse than any other song in the entire discography. No song even comes close to this harmonious feel.
As a 2 for 3 in Korn's reinvention of sound, their lyrics still pertain to the usual angst that the band had become famous for back in the beginning of their career. As only a minor downfall to an overall promising album, some lyrics on the other hand prove that the Korn's formula does work. "Freak on a Leash", a true mainstream success, is one of the most highly acclaimed nu-metal track to ever hit the market. Along with the amazingly distorted guitars, and Munky's deep vocals in the verse, and the best bass breakdown by Fieldy ever, this is definitely one of the high points of this album. Along with all these new sounds, some tracks manage to dwell more along the lines of an 'old-school' Korn style. "B.B.K." and "Got the Life" are good examples. Though the guitar breakdowns are more different than usual, the track's overall composure leans more to something along the lines of a Life is Peachy track.
Korn have without a doubt done something amazing here. The band has surely reinvented a dying sound, and if anything, resurrected it from the dark abyss it was straying off towards, and kept this dynasty alive for just a while longer. As the single best experimental Korn album released to date, Follow the Leader has displayed the best combinations of distortions in the instruments, the vocals, and shown promising guest features in very substantial areas. Along with this promising reinvention to sound, Korn have also succeeded in retaining the steady tempo in the creating of old-school tracks that keep this on the move until the second it is finished.