Review Summary: Grim, brooding, nihilistic, and enjoyable to surprisingly great lengths.
The come-around age for nu-metal was squarely implanted into the 90’s decade, and took a great amount of control on its primary audience of young teenagers. At the time, Korn was perfect for teens living in that day and age. Their lyrics unquestionably angst-ridden, the guitars and bass were down-tuned into sounding behemoth and shock-wave, and nu-metal seemed to be something that was new, experimental to them.
Now, not only nu-metal, but the style of rap-metal that Korn offers is considered a joke. Nu-metal made now that is called experimental by its fans, is mostly likely something to raise more than two eyebrows over. It is now a juvenile fad that has long since perished into depths of stupidity that can’t really be seen by anybody else, but that teenage audience. Back in its hey-day though, Korn were seated upon a throne that was more than welcomed into the fold of its peers. This self-titled LP is Korn in their most crucial stage of musicality. The angsty lyrics that I mentioned before are simplistic yes, and at times even a bit tepid, but their view on this album is necessary to its atmosphere.
As you probably know by now, the vocalist in a nu-metal band is key and essential to their line-up. After all, Jonathan Davis is the center of attention on this. No, their guitarist, Munky is not exactly a shredder. He and the others are part of the elements needed of course, but Davis’ dramatic interpretations of the world at this time, were something that turned head, especially since most of the lyrical themes stated are child abuse, most of them either viewed through the eyes of the victim, or the abuser. I remember the first time I heard “Blind”. Sounds of cymbals being tapped lightly approached me, and it was nothing to be excited about at first. Then, an ugly, screechy guitar note is picked in menacing harmony, to join the party. All hell breaks loose when Davis breathes in heavily, and gives a ferocious grunt of, “Are you ready?!” I found myself banging my head instantly. I imagine people would have probably been snickering if they had seen my enthusiastic reaction.
“Ball Tongue” is a definitive highlight of the album, as Jonathan roars a bone-breaker chant of “Ball tongue”, followed by frantic, fast-paced raps of “Congratulations, you just ***ed up my make-up and ***”.
“Faget” follows the same routine, belting out animal-like lines and spitting raps vigorously with speed. “Shoots and Ladders” begins with bagpipes (also played by our vocalist Jonathan Davis) whining through creepily, with the distortion kicking in, creating an experiment that doesn’t feel forced, but is actually in all justice very satisfactory.
“Lies” is an interesting take on the Cookie Monster death metal growl that inverts screeched vocal harmony. “Daddy” is miserable and brooding. It starts out slow, beginning with softly sung lines (apparently a lullaby sung by Swami Kriyananda, called “When I Awake”) put in to begin a disheartening despair, with Jonathan continuing his usual vocal-style, that progress into him cursing everything generally, as he starts to sob. He sits there weeping, and a door is shut, leaving grim nihilistic silence to sit and bubble. This is Korn at its grim, most seriously taken songs. This album may or may not turn haters of the band into fans, but either way, Korn proves itself worthy of some credit.
The production is limited, all the bells and whistles of studio-polish that were provided later are not here, but it even aids the album, giving it a hostile, raw feeling to the music. The song structures are very, very (very) simplistic, but even that cannot stop you from enjoying to the music, and Korn itself. With a strong set of songs, exceptional vocal talent, and a knack for the rap-metal hybrid (at least for this period of time), Korn's debut is grim, brooding, nihilistic, and enjoyable to surprisingly great lengths.