Anyone who has ever written a review for a Korn album, particularly this one, has started with the line "are you ready?" It's the first line of the opening track, and many believe it perfectly sets the tone for the groundbreaking sound and enormous fanbase that shortly followed. Well...it really does. "ARE YOU READY" has become a cliche slogan for Korn fans much in the same way that "I am your father" and "Asta la vista, baby!" are cliche quotes for movie buffs, but much like those lines, "ARE YOU READY" sure did pack a punch, and even if the world wasnt ready for Korn, Korn came in with middle-fingers raised and dreadlocks dropped down low, ready to shove bullies into lockers and give relief to pretty boys from sea to shining sea.
We live in a strange, somewhat hypocritical world. It's popular to hate on Christian rock because it's chipper, uncannily upbeat, and written by people that "have never experienced a single problem in their lives," yet we also hate on nu metal for the exact opposite reasons. Nobody wants to hear about middle class white boys whining about some girl not talking to them in 8th grade math class, and that's where Korn differs with their 1994 debut. I've read quick biographies online of other nu metal vocalists like Aaron Lewis, Fred Durst, Chester Bennington, among others, and I cant find anything more severe than divorces or mild substance abuse in their childhoods. Korn frontman Jonathan Davis, however, was sexually molested as a child and his parents did absolutely nothing to help him and often claimed he was lying for attention. This man attempted suicide twice before the age of 16. If anybody had the right to create nu metal, it was this guy, but middle class white boys listened to Korn and thought "wow, I've felt upset once or twice!" and totally missed the point behind the music, turning the genre into the rightfully mocked "WHY WONT YOU ANSWER MY TEXT!" nu metal that we know and hate today.
Chester Bennington of Linkin Park screams "SHUT UP WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU!" and Aaron Lewis of Staind melodically sings "I just needed someone to talk to but you were just too busy with yourselves." But think about it, we've all been angry, we've all felt emotionally torn apart, it's a human emotion that all people from every corner of the planet experience. We've all wanted to find that douchebag that made today the worst of the week, grab him by the hair, yank him violently and bash his face into a mirror, which is why nu metal caught on so quickly with American teens. No band portrays the genuine feeling of unforgiving anger and unadulterated rage like Korn's 1994 debut does. 'Fake' is Davis practically telling a bully to go kill himself because he sucks at life, hauntingly singing "just let it all go" in a chilling manner. Tracks like 'Faget' deliver jaw-dropping emotion that sounds as real as it gets, almost as if Davis is getting abused during the recording session. Halfway through the track, he stops the song to whisper this message, his mouth a millimeter away from the mic:
"I'm just a pretty boy, or whatever you call it, you wouldn't know a real man if you saw it
It keeps going on day after day, son
You HIV FAGGOT, if we don't want none
I'm sick and tired of people treating me this way everyday
Who gives a ***?! Right now I got something to say to all the people that think I'm STRANGE and I should be out here locked up in a CAGE
You don't know what the hell is up now anyway
You got this pretty-boy feeling Like I'm enslaved to a world that never appreciated ***
YOU CAN SUCK MY ***ING DICK AND ***ING LIKE IT!"
C'mon Puddle Of Mudd, you say that to the dude that picked you last for recess football. C'mon Linkin Park, tell that to the guy that keeps interrupting you. I dare you. When you're pissed off and there's no turning back, what is the inner voice in your head more likely to say? "Shut up!" or the passage above?
Above all, the songs are just flat out catchy and even innovative. Every song, whether it be a charting single or a three minute "filler" track, has its moments that's bound to make the listener go "damn, that's cool!" I guarantee more than half of the riffs on this album will get stuck in your head, and that's nothing to be ashamed of. 'Blind' opens the album and is one of the bands better known songs, as it damn well should be. The track builds up for roughly a minute of nothing but the extremely effective high-hat and a brief four-note riff before Davis yells "ARE YOU READY???" and BAM, the distortion kicks in and the badassery begins. Every riff, verse, and chorus of this track is catchy as hell. 'Ball Tongue' is a track that I'm sure convinced some parents in the world to take away the CD from their kids and enroll them in church camp. The song is supposedly written about some dorky wigger that the bandmembers worked with, but I still firmly believe the song is a social study from a schizophrenic's point of view. The chorus involves Davis spewing insane gibberish over another member whaling "BALL TONGUE!!!" over and over and over again, ending with disturbing moans over the sound of a trash can clanging. 'Predictable' has a cool progressive bridge written in 6/8 time, something you don't often hear outside of Tool in mainstream rock. "Shoots & Ladders" has a 90-second bagpipe intro that catches your attention immediately and uses lyrics from nursery rhymes and childhood folk tunes in a disturbing and effective manner. 'Lies' has death metal growls during the chorus and one hell of a catchy riff.
But if Korn accomplished any single feat with this album, it'd be the release of the most depressing, unsettling track I've ever heard. 'Daddy' is a 9 minute and 30 second song about Davis's childhood molestation, and the emotion is delivered with perfection. Beginning with an eerie melodic section from a lullaby, the song has a very brooding riff and an atmosphere of total hell. While the track may near 10 minutes, the last five minutes consist of nothing but Jonathan Davis sobbing, breathing heavy, swearing in bits of anger, bawling loudly into the microphone. He loses it, and there isn't anything like it on the planet. When he says "real tears came out" while discussing the song in interviews, you know it's true. No one can fake that sort of raw, depressing emotion. It's one of the greatest things ever recorded, but I have only listened to it a handful of times simply because it puts me in a bad mood. There are some excellent pump-up songs that get us motivated; then there is ‘Daddy’ by Korn.
Despite all of this, I'm not sure if I'd call myself a Korn fan. Sure, they released my 5th favorite album of all time, but everything they've done since hasnt touched this record at all. Every album has been sprinkled with minor cool moments but are otherwise pointless, ranging from "eh, whatever" to "this is ***ing terrible". In reality, if I were to make a Korn's Greatest Hits, it'd just be this album three or four other songs…and Coal Chamber’s ‘Loco’. Korn blended with the rest of the angry wigger white boys and forgot who they were. The band has become a laughing stock, and it's a shame that most of the newer fanbases completely disregard this album. To the kiddies: if you want raw, if you want hardcore, if you want interesting music that will feed your attention-craving prepubescent "troubled" selves, then turn off Slipknot, turn off Asking Alexandra, turn off Emmure, hell, turn off new Korn and pop in this classic from ’94. TURN IF YOU’D LIKE, THROW YOUR HATE AT ME IF YOU’D LIKE, TELL ME I’M A PUSSY AND YOU'RE HARDER THAN ME!
Also, that cover art. Damn.