Korn is usually credited as the creator of Nu metal, a style pioneered by late 80s and early 90s bands such as Faith No More, Rage Against The Machine or Pantera, which are identified by the use of groove-driven riffs. They rode the first wave of Nu metal with Limp Bizkit (a band they discovered and helped achieve commercial success) and are referential for the subgenre. They are an active band to the day that has sold over 40 million records worldwide, making them one of the most successful metal bands of the past decades.
The band was formed in Bakersfield, California (1993), a small arid town west of Death Valley that Johnathan Davis (lead singer) when asked about it, answered:
“It [Bakersfield] really had a big impact on me, the town itself, cause it’s kind of baring a part. There are a lot of oil fields, farms… So it’s either dirt bike riding or music; that was basically it.”
Before the formation of the band itself, drummer David Silveria. Guitarist James Shaffer “Munky” and bassist Reginald Arvizu “Fieldy” had a band called L.A.P.D., which lasted an album. They quickly changed their singer for Davis (picked up from the band SexArt) and enlisted Brian Welch “Head”, creating the first Korn formation. The name came shortly after, as well as the logo (designed by Davis himself).
1993 would also be the year Korn would put out their first EP Naidemayer’s Mind, with Immortal Records. The purpose of this EP was to give out for free to record labels and to the public going to the shows in order to promote the band. What they didn’t know was that they would be pioneering the Nu metal sound, riffs and rhythms.
By 1994, they would be back in the studio, with producer Ross Robinson (Sepultura, Glassjaw, Limp Bizkit, Tech N9ne, Slipknot, The Cure…), preparing the release of their self-titled album. It was a hit on release that sparked the new wave of metal and directly influenced bands like Limp Bizkit or Slipknot. One of their most famous hit songs to the day is from this album: “Blind”.
The success of the first album pushed Korn to get back in the studio but also consolidated them as a professional metal act. Within two years of their first album release, they would come out with another album Life is Peachy (1996) which would make their growing fan base a big new social movement. The first generation of Nu metal fans was being created, but it wasn’t until the release of their third and most iconic album, Follow the Leader (1998), that they would break right into the mainstream and create the Nu metal subgenre. This same year also saw Korn’s first big label contract after they signed with Warner Music Group’s subsidiary Warner Chappell Music. This allowed them to create a massive marketing campaign for the album, which included an online TV show of the band KornTV (aired three weeks prior to the release of the album), the guest appearance of Ice Cube, Tre Hardson, Fred Durst and Cheech Marin on various tracks and the biggest tour they had ever done throughout North America. The great success of the album with award-winning, long-lasting hits such as “Freak on a Leash” brought Korn to the next level and was, with Deftones, considered the metal revival of the late 90s – early 00s.
The following albums had good success with fans and critics but got far fewer copies sold due to the wave of music piracy that had come with the internet. But, it was Take a Look in the Mirror (2003) where we can pinpoint the beginning of the end of the “original” Korn. This self-produced album had flavors and sounds that were new to the average Korn fan and was described by the band as their approach to having a record of Korn the way it should be and the way it should sound. Nevertheless, in 2005 Brian Welch would announce his departure from the band as he was struggling with a methamphetamine addiction. In early 2006, founding member and drummer David Silveria announced he was taking an indefinite hiatus from the band, which caused Joey Jordison (Slipknot) to cover his place until Korn finally came across Ray Luzier, who is still the drummer to this day.
They have continued to push the boundaries of metal for decades and are still one of the most important metal acts of the moment. Their legacy is one of experimentation that has allowed metal music to hybridize with all sorts of genres.
Korn is a band that has experimented with and pushed the boundaries of metal past the previously fixed limits, making them one of the most influential metal acts of the last decades. Bands such as Slipknot, Limp Bizkit or Linkin Park have stated them to be one of their major influences. They have also been a primordial influence towards metalcore acts such as Atreyu, Bring Me The Horizon and Asking Alexandria. Not only their fusion of metal with other genres or the fact they added a DJ into a metal band but also their bass playing stands out. This is because the approach to the bass lines is extremely percussive and rhythmic, mixing slap technique with fingerstyle playing and a five-string bass. The guitars are also one string extra (7 stringed), giving the deep sounds and allowing low tunings.
John Davis, the lead singer, has also contributed to the development of the subgenre and future subgenres of metal. The use of whispered vocals to create a state of anguish and to transport the listener into a mental asylum-like soundscape has determined a way to create ambience with vocals. He also mixed rap-like vocals with fry screams, melodic lines and growling.
– Korn (1994)
– Life is Peachy (1996)
– Follow the Leader (1998)
– Issues (1999)
– Untouchables (2002)
– Take a Look in the Mirror (2003)
– See you on the Other Side (2003)
– Untitled Album (2007)
– Korn III: Remember Who You Are (2010)
– The Path of Totality (2011)
– The Paradigm Shift (2013)
– The Serenity of Suffering (2016)
– The Nothing (2019)
– Requiem (TBR; 2022)