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.
LIMP BIZKIT gets a bad name, which is probably more than well deserved. the dull-witted MISOGYNY and general WHITE PRIVILEDGE frat-boy behavior and incessant whining by frontman FRED DURST has not aged well in the least, not to say it was that welcome back when their debut THREE DOLLAR BILL, Y'ALL$ (INTERSCOPE, 1997) came out in the late 1990s.
DURST is a terrible frontman. i believe that is common knowledge at this point. so i want to go beyond him and discuss what i like about this album and LIMP BIZKIT in general, which are the actual musicians in the band.
i feel wholeheartedly that LIMP BIZKIT has one of the most talented (and criminally underrated) rhythm sections of their era. starting with WES BORLAND who is an absolute wizard at guitar. his highly IDIOSYNCRATIC style has an IMPRESSIONISTIC and layered PAINTERLY vibe that feels like a hybrid between PRIMUS, WEEN, SLAYER and THE CURE. the dude is incredibly talented (just check out his superior side projects BLACK LIGHT BURNS and BIG DUMB FACE as well as moonlighting gigs with everyone from MARILYN MANSON and FROM FIRST TO LAST to JONATHAN DAVIS and COMBICHRIST). his LES CLAYPOOL-inspired double-hand tapping technique is all over this record, most prominently on tracks like "STALEMATE," "INDIGO FLOW" and "SOUR." in terms of big riffs, there is a certain angular POST PUNK flair, which are absolutely scorching despite the fact that they are usually in odd time signatures. BORLAND is treasure that modern guitarists respect despite the mind-bending stupidity of DURST in much the same way people separate the bigoted views of PHIL ANSELMO from the stellar musicianship of DIMEBAG DARRELL.
JOHN OTTO has a FORCEFUL, hard-pounding snap to his drumming that is pretty iconic to their sound, especially on heavier tracks like "COUNTERFEIT," "POLLUTION" and "CLUNK." in later albums he would develop and integrate modern double-bass into his arsenal, but this record seems to be a bit more hands-centric in how forcefully he hits the toms and snare, and with speed and precision.
not to be forgotten are the memorable SLINKY bass-lines of SAM RIVERS which provide a sense of grounding, but also much needed FUNK to the festivities. tracks like "STUCK," "EVERYTHING" and even the GEORGE MICHAEL cover "FAITH" showcase keen sense of DYNAMICS and an artistic freedom to float in-between the guitar heroics of BORLAND and the hard-hitting groundwork of OTTO. taken as a whole, the rhythm section is UNRESTRAINED, UNPREDICTABLE and UNRELENTING.
just too bad about that singer situation. we're talking MIKE LOVE / DAVID DRAIMAN / BONO / CHRIS MARTIN / IVAN MOODY / SCOTT STAPP level terrible. although id love to hear BONO front LIMP BIZKIT. that might work.
despite growing up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA and actively listening to the massively influential local ALTERNATIVE ROCK radio station 106.7FM KROQ out of LOS ANGELES, i didnt come across BAKERSFIELD's KORN until i was living in NIGERIA shortly after their second album LIFE IS PEACHY (EPIC, 1996) came out.
the three things about this record that stood out to me as a preteen were the self-scathing, almost T.M.I. lyrics of JONATHAN DAVIS, the pronounced bass of FIELDY that served more of a percussive than melodic function and the down-tempo, down-tuned dual guitar attack of guitarists HEAD and MUNKY. i think the sound of KORN can be described as a brick wall falling on top of you; it is one cohesive, machine-like unit repeatedly pummeling your senses with wave after wave of claustrophobic yet strangely hypnotic massive grooves. examples of this on LIFE IS PEACHY include "GOOD GOD," "NO PLACE TO HIDE," "TWIST," and "ASS ITCH." a big reason for the visceral impact for these songs is the aggressive production work of ROSS ROBINSON, who is historically celebrated for his ability to motivate (or coerce) stellar performances from his clients. along with KORN's debut, LIFE IS PEACHY is another defining example of this ability, especially with regards to DAVIS.
i have always had an odd appreciation for DAVIS' work since (much like his peer KURT COBAIN) he is definitely not playing it safe in his role as a METAL frontman or falling into cliche tropes of aggressive masculinity the genre is famous for. if anything, his aggression is aimed inward and his lyrics and performances are almost public sublimations for the immense pain he went through growing up an artistic kid in the conservative cultural backwater that is BAKERSFIELD. on later albums this scatting style of singing he trail-blazed on the first two KORN records comes off a bit forced, rote and even hackneyed, but on LIFE IS PEACHY it still carries a compelling sense of authentic ethos and aggression. like other GENERATION X icons like BILLY CORGAN, it is a bit disappointing to see DAVIS degenerate into a conservative parody of himself as a closet conservative since he was a bit transgressive and progressed the METAL movement forward with his lyrical subject matter (which included topics like CHILD ABUSE, SELF-LOATHING, BULLYING, SUICIDE, DEPRESSION and SELF-ISOLATION).
listening back i can look past the more cartoonish tracks on this record (like "PORNO CREEP" and "A.D.I.D.A.S.") and see an emerging group influenced by hybrid bands like FISHBONE and FAITH NO MORE trail-blaze new sonic terrain that propelled the band its peers forward for the rest of the decade. LIFE IS PEACHY is most definitely a record worth revisiting.
parodies by nacrowe
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