The five members of Korn have helped pioneer the rap-metal revolution that has spread like wildfire over the past several years, mixing hard-hitting beats, growling guitars and sometimes brutally personal lyrics to often stunning effect. With its fifth album, Untouchables (Epic/Immortal), the group ups the ante, capitalizing on the rap-metal mania while looking well beyond it.
Leadoff track (and first single) "Here to Stay" features an ultra-heavy bassline, menacing guitar work and Jonathan Davis's trademark straightforward, angst-ridden vocals, while elsewhere the group delves into knockabout punk on "Wake Up Hate" and the softer melodicism of "Hollow Life." The approach clearly worked: Untouchables debuted at number two, kept out of the top spot only by omnipresent rapper Eminem.
Throughout its career, Korn has garnered no small share of controversy. Employing some of the same shock tactics as Marilyn Manson, the group can sometimes skirt the limits of what some might define as "good taste." Yet the muscularity of Korn's music and its intelligent lyrics have won legions of fans and swayed some of its harshest critics.
The band began its path to the top as LAPD, a hard rocking outfit based out of Bakersfield, California. In 1993, LAPD guitarists James "Munky" Shaffer and Brian "Head" Welch, bassist Reginald "Fieldy Snuts" Arvizu, and drummer David Silveria joined forces with Davis - then a mortuary science student - and the Korn name was born.
Relentless touring in support of Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson and Megadeth led to gold certifications for the group's first two albums. By 1998's multi-platinum Follow the Leader, the group had established itself as a major force in its own right, headlining Lollapalooza and winning the reinstatement of a Michigan high school student who had been suspended for wearing one of the group's t-shirts to class. (The high school administrator had deemed the group "indecent, vulgar and obscene," although the shirt in question merely featured the group's name.)
Later that same year Korn debuted the "Family Values Tour," featuring some of the heaviest rock/rap outfits around, including Limp Bizkit and Rammstein. It was with 1999's Issues, however, that the band reached a pinnacle, debuting at number one and spawning the eerie, high-charting single "Falling Away from Me." The album went quadruple platinum.
"We knew when we wrote the album that we were going to have to do something really great," Shaffer said at the time. "We had to move forward, push the boundaries, and create something very personal."
The same could be said of Untouchables, produced by Michael Beinhorn (Aerosmith, Hole, Soundgarden). As a result of the state-of-the-art equipment used in making the album, he says, "You can pick out and hear each individual instrument while everything's going on. Considering how dense the recording is - how many instruments are playing at any given time - it's pretty remarkable."
Now on an international tour, Korn is positioned to widen its influence even further. Parents everywhere be warned.