The other day I was travelling down a youtube rabbit hole and ended up seeing a video featuring a live performance from everyone's favorite Nu-Metal band: Korn. What got me to click, however, was the fact that this video was from a performance in 2016.
Two thousand and sixteen. In the year in which we are currently living, Korn is still performing concerts.
This idea was so jarring to me, that I had to click.
Lo and behold... Korn still kills it live. The whole experience was pretty surprising, so I decided I would go ahead and put on my favorite album from when I was a budding 8th grade goth kid: Follow the Leader.
What happened next was even more surprising. I really liked what I heard. Like, legitimately.
Should I be embarrassed by this? Absolutely. Am I? No. Therefore, what follows next is my track by track love letter to one of the greatest forgotten albums from my youth.
God help us.
When I was around 10 years old, my brother and I had a regular babysitter named Karen. Karen was a female, so I naturally fell in love with her. I remember one time, Karen was listening to music on her discman, and I asked her what she was listening to. She told me she was listening to a scary band named Korn, a name which I found hilarious. She let me listen to a few seconds if I promised not to tell my parents. What I heard terrified my 10 year old ears. I vowed to never listen to Korn ever again.
In 8th grade, I made friends with the goth kids, and they all wore Korn shirts. At 13, nothing is more appealing than listening to devil music behind your mom's back, so I borrowed my friend's Follow the Leader CD, loaded it in my parents' CD/tape player combo, and recorded the album to cassette. I played that cassette constantly for the next couple months, memorizing every "boom-dop-da-oom" and "rum-ba-dee-boo" sung by Jonathan Davis.
Here we go.
13. It's On!
First and foremost, the original CD started with 12 tracks of 5 seconds of silence each. Therefore the first song was track 13. My 8th grade mind was blown.
The song itself is one of my favorite opening tracks ever. It has these other-worldy wobbly sounds jostling for attention with the crushing downtuned guitars that Korn is known for. And the fact that the opening track is titled "It's On!" got me so amped every time I put on the album.
14. Freak on a Leash
The song they are most known for, and it's justified. I remember watching the video on MTV (at a friend's house of course. I wasn't allowed to watch MTV) and thinking it was so cool. What's not cool about a bullet flying around a shack as the band members bob and weave, a-slappin da bass? I still have the gibberish from the bridge memorized. Cuz I'm cool like that.
15. Got the Life
Fun fact: I convinced myself that Korn was singing "God's the Life", sending subliminal Christian messages to teens everywhere. It was essentially my justification to my 8th grade self that I was not going to hell for listening to this band.
16. Dead Bodies Everywhere
The deep bass drum combining with the childlike piano riff is straight out of a horror movie. Such an excellent intro to this heavy as fuck song. When the verse starts, you can really hear the downtuned bass strings rattling against the fretboard. Such an iconic Korn-sound.
8th grade Kyle's favorite lyric: "You really want me to be a good son. Why? You make me feel like no one."
17. Children of the Korn (feat. Ice Cube)
I had never heard of Ice Cube, and I totally forgot he was featured on this song until I listened to it again as an adult. I never liked this one as a kid as I wasn't really into rap. As an adult, I can confirm: it still sucks. Ice Cube plus Korn is just stupid.
Another straight banger. The chorus riff is just two notes, and incredibly heavy. The drum break in the bridge is so 90s it's not hard to envision myself raving with neon glowsticks listening to it. 8th grade Kyle was pretty proud of his raving skills.
8th grade Kyle's favorite lyric: "Life sometimes pisses me off."
If you haven't noticed, Korn really likes their loud-quiet-loud formula. The weird guitars during the quiet parts are really excellent, but it's the bridge that really grips me. The guitars sound like they are coming from a portal to another dimension, and Davis' vocals are super interesting.
20. All in the Family
This song starts out with the worst 90s rap song cliche: "Say what say what?"
I'll tell you what. Skip this track. Jesus christ it's bad. No redeeming qualities here.
21. Reclaim My Place
If you can get over Davis yelling "What the Fuck?" over and over again throughout this song, it's really great. Of course, that was 8th grade Kyle's favorite part.
My favorite song from the album, without question. I don't know what that sound is at the beginning of the song, but it's so awesome. Then the bass line kicks in, and it will really rattle your stereo. When the song finally explodes, they just play the same note over and over again, and I had never heard anything so heavy in my life. Love this song.
This was essentially the last song on the album for me, since the last two songs range from "Dog shit" to "Mediocre". Therefore, the album really ends well with this song. I love the repetitiveness of the main riff, and the vocals really play well within the guitars. The self-deprecating lyrics really resonated with me as a conflicted 8th grader. They're obviously kind of silly now, but I can't tell you how much I liked singing "Like some god damn fuckin freak" over and over again.
25. My Gift to You
So there you have it. I wrote way too much about an album very few people likely give a shit about. But I was really surprised how much I still liked this album. I like to think I am a bit less angsty than my 8th grade self, but my adult self really had fun hearing these lyrics and thinking how cathartic it was at the time to hear a band express these feelings in the heaviest way possible.
So give it a listen. Make your parents mad.