RECORD REVIEW | "KORN" BY KORN
photo & text by nacrowe
the unlikely global phenomenon that is KORN is something i still find truly fascinating. tagged with spearheading what came to be known as NU METAL (an AGGRESSIVE METAL / HIP HOP hybrid) in the 1990s, the band and its sound was most prominently rooted in the ALTERNATIVE ROCK / FUNK METAL of a previous generation of ECLECTIC bands, namely FISHBONE and FAITH NO MORE / MR BUNGLE. throw in some NEW ROMANTIC posturing a la DURAN DURAN and more than sprinkling of GANGSTER RAP like ICE CUBE and DR. DRE and you have the basic TOXIC mixture that KORN drew from in the early 1990s.
the thing about their self-titled debut KORN (EPIC, 1994) is the context of how their sound landed in the ALTERNATIVE ROCK / METAL scene of the mid-1990s. this was a moment of transition as many of the THRASH METAL bands of the 1980s were still holding on to a sound (sans METALLICA) that some in retrospect deride as "type-writer metal" which is highly TECHNICAL and contains riffage that is COMPLEX and extremely uptempo. to be considered a METAL band equated to mastering that sound. KORN changed all that. their riffs were SIMPLE and the tempo was pulled way way back. the focus was on the GROOVE, not the tempo or technical wizardry, and the lyrical content. singer JONATHAN DAVIS on tracks like "BLIND," "FAGET," "SHOOTS AND LADDERS," "CLOWN" and especially "DADDY" seemed to be exorcising some deep childhood trauma of the sexual kind, a deeply DISTURBING cultural taboo that was never part of the vernacular of heavy music before, which was itself EMPOWERING in nature. DAVIS presented, much like KURT COBAIN before him, an emotive and introspective archetype of an ALTERNATIVE MASCULINITY. one that was unleashing a PRIMAL SCREAM against the ills of society and how badly it had treated him during his most VULNERABLE years as a child. i believe that such was a paradigm shift in METAL and ALTERNATIVE ROCK as many bands seemingly modeled themselves on such in their wake to present date.
sonically the band had a UNIQUE two-headed guitar attack a la BRIAN "HEAD" WELCH and JAMES "MUNKY" SHAFFER, both tuned down multiple steps with intertwining parts that buttressed the SLOW, plodding HEAVY riffs but just as importantly enhanced the lighter counterpoint melodies (often in opening riffs). bassist REGINALD "FIELDY" ARVIZU was less a traditional musician in the MELODIC sense and acted more as an extension of the percussion section with his slapping bass lines that really forward-propelled the songs themselves beyond the FUNK drumming of original percussionist DAVID SILVERA. in totality the band presented an OFF-KILTER but sonically POWERFUL front that empowered DAVIS to brave out and expose himself lyrically. it should also be noted that this record is one of the DEFINITIVE early ROSS ROBINSON productions that pushed his career forward and no doubt helped him land later work with the likes of GLASSJAW, SLIPKNOT, LIMP BIZKIT, SEPULTURA / SOULFLY, AT THE DRIVE-IN, CANCER BATS and even THE CURE. i saw KORN once at OZZFEST 2003 and was not prepared for how HEAVY they came across live. they blew the other bands away that night and i was absolutely not expecting such beforehand.
my only gripe with KORN was how DAVIS wrapped his own MISERY in the HOMOPHOBIC tropes of schoolyard bullying. that always seemed CALLOUS and a bit unnecessary in my opinion. even if your early years were TRAUMATIC and you were severely picked on by bullies and abused by adults, what is the purpose of utilizing the language of EMASCULATION that wrongly incorporates TERRIBLE slurs against the LGBTQ community. as if they are beneath you. there is so much unadulterated RAGE and suffering in DAVIS' persona and maybe it would be NAIVE for their to be some semblance of EMPATHY or COMPASSION mixed in somewhere, but that is my feeling. it goes further as such calcifies into MISOGYNY and on some level we are all degraded for our complicity in seeking refuge in DAVIS' misguided rage, as such would play out in the needless VIOLENT outbursts of their fans (a la WOODSTOCK 94) directed at women.
in my estimation its always interesting how KORN and a lot of the NU METAL bands borrowed sonic aspects from bands like FAITH NO MORE but none of their sense of INCLUSIVITY. instead it all became a channel for something truly INSIDIOUS and on some level deeply solipsistically NARCISSISTIC. as if their suffering was UNIQUE and ISOLATED them from the human experience instead of the other way around. one could argue DAVIS suffering made him more human and like those around him, even those that felt the need to hurt him and others like him. life is a cycle of PAIN.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
my god the documentary THE ORIGINAL CHARVEL GANG (ROYALROCKFILMS, 2021) was TERRIBLE.
which is a SHAME, because the story of how TALENTED entrepreneurial-minded craftsmen and startups they initiated took the game from bigwigs like FENDER and GIBSON through INNOVATIVE guitar designs made by and for guitarists is a story very much worth telling. in many ways it reset the table for today's gear landscape with countless high-quality boutique GUITAR, AMP and PEDAL manufacturers. the list of interviewed participants including STEVE VAI (FRANK ZAPPA, DAVID LEE ROTH), WARREN DEMARTINI (RATT), MICHAEL ANTHONY (VAN HALEN), TOM DUMONT (NO DOUBT), STEVE STEVENS (BILLY IDOL), DOUG ALDRICH (WHITESNAKE), BRIAN "HEAD" WELCH (KORN), PHIL COLLEN (DEF LEPPARD), NUNO BETTENCOURT (EXTREME), SLASH (GUNS N ROSES) and past luthiers at every stage of the company's development only goes to show the WIDESPREAD INTEREST and CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE of CHARVEL and JACKSON guitars over the years.
where this documentary FALTERED was in its execution. the sound design and cinematography was uneven and highly DISTRACTING. as a viewer you are made aware of how poorly edited this film was constructed (the ultimate sin in cinema since the medium strives for seamlessness). compounded is the fact that the subject at hand is about the relationship between TECHNICAL INNOVATION and shifts in CULTURE, which means this documentary should have been likewise seamless in its production and quality control. there were also lots of odd choices, like a fully-clothed TOM DUMONT walking around fully clothed on a marina with a surfboard or the director himself walking around in a sand dune like the NATIVE AMERICAN dude from OLIVER STONE's THE DOORS (TRI-STAR, 1991). and then there is the lame jam session with the director and two hired guns in front of lear jet in a hanger. i didnt get the point of that. maybe the director just thought all these DISTRACTIONS looked cool (?), but it just came off completely amateur hour and really sidetracked from the intent of the film which was to showcase the legacy of WAYNE CHARVEL and GROVER JACKSON. this and the fact that it was PAINFULLY obvious the film wasnt able to secure any of the rights to the music of the important artists being interviewed (i.e. VAN HALEN, QUIET RIOT, NO DOUBT, RATT, DEF LEPPARD, OZZY OSBOURNE, KORN) which is just SAD.
i think it makes total sense why GROVER JACKSON did not take part in this film. its a total utter DUD. definitely not worth checking out, which again is UNFORTUNATE because this wasted opportunity of a documentary covers a topic i care about as someone who lived within a few miles of SAN DIMAS when the glory days being discussed where underway. its part of my cultural heritage that i wish was presented in a more coherent, mindful manner.
photo & text by nacrowe
what i remember about KORN's fourth album ISSUES (EPIC, 1999) as a teenager was how quickly it was released on the heel of the previous year's landmark FOLLOW THE LEADER (EPIC, 1998). in my opinion the band was on a trajectory with their first three records that saw them expand their sound with confidence with each subsequent release. this role of their's ended with ISSUES, which sounded like a retread and to some extent the rest of their career has been an attempt at capturing the magic of those first three releases.
when i hear ISSUES singles like "SOMEBODY SOMEONE," "MAKE ME BAD" and especially "FALLING AWAY FROM ME," all i can think about is "FREAK ON A LEASH" from FOLLOW THE LEADER. i understand that the record was seen as a gift to fans by the band, case in point all the alternative fan-created cover designs, but in retrospect the record just comes off as uninspired and a step backward for a group that was quite innovative at its time. quite literally they were the leader rallying a movement of like-minded bands during the late 1990s and with this record they unfortunately stepped into self-parody. they ended up following themselves.
i remember getting this record in SACRAMENTO while on a trip visiting family alone from boarding school in MASSACHUSETTS during my sophomore year. i remember being excited about the release but a little uneasy at how quick it came out. my instincts about quality control were sadly correct and for me this album remains the ugly duckling of their extensive discography. in fact, only when KORN released their DUBSTEP hybrid record THE PATH OF TOTALITY (ROADRUNNER, 2011) many years later, which included some of the best JONATHAN DAVIS choruses to date in "NARCISSISTIC CANNIBAL" and "GET UP!," did i even begin to notice them again.
if you are interested in KORN my suggestion would definitely be to check out their first three records: KORN (EPIC, 1994), LIFE IS PEACHY (EPIC, 1996) and FOLLOW THE LEADER. you can pretty much skip ISSUES entirely.
SPOTLIGHT | THE JASTA SHOW
photo manipulation by nacrowe
ok, admittedly i am not a HATEBREED fan. full disclosure. i did however highlight them in a recent METALCORE episode of DEER GOD RADIO and i do respect them, but i always found them to be a bit corny because their music was essentially humorless. i mean, even SLAYER throws in some latin rhythms every once in a while just to break up the monotony. i found it to be all about brute force and this unrelenting intensity that is just pleading to be mocked. seen them a few times, however, including OZZFEST JAPAN a few years ago and HATEBREED is absolutely crushing live. brutal and intense, no levity.
even though HATEBREED frontman JAMEY JASTA is a bit of a meathead (maybe guns and hunting is cool in CONNECTICUT?), he does have a captivating podcast that interviews musicians and peers from all reaches of the METAL community as evidenced with the recent participants such as of RANDY BLYTHE (LAMB OF GOD), JIMMY BOWER (EYEHATEGOD, DOWN), SAMMY DUET (GOATWHORE), BRIAN "HEAD" WELCH (KORN), OLA ENGLUND (THE HAUNTED), KEITH BUCKLEY (EVERY TIME I DIE / THE DAMNED THINGS) and TREVOR STRNAD (THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER) among many many others. so i will give him that.
recently they started releasing videos of these shows on YOUTUBE so definitely check them out if you are hungry for SLUDGE, DEATH, BLACK, THRASH and PROG METAL news during this never-ending quarantine.