Korn (or Ko?n if you’re up-to-date with your keyboard shortcuts) have had one of the most diverse and influential careers of any band, inside or outside of the heavy metal genre. However, they’ve also had one of the most uneven…
11. The Path of Totality, 2011
Remember that time Korn did an album with Skrillex? Me neither, and I’d vie that the majority of the band and their fans are trying their best to forget it ever happened. As odd as it seems, this collaboration – between a metal band renowned for creatively blending genres and a collection of ‘cutting edge’, contemporary, electronic artists) – could have worked. However, rather than the rightful love-child of ‘Banagarang’ and ‘Twisted Transistor’, what we got instead was a desperate and transparently cynical grasp at relevance.
Single: ‘Get Up! (feat. Skrillex)
Underrated Gem: n/a
10. Korn III: Remember Who you Are, 2010
After spending the better part of a decade attempting to distance themselves from the played-out, nu-metal sound – be it through experimental records, surprisingly listenable covers of ‘80s one-hit wonders or terrible MTV Unplugged shows featuring Amy Lee – Korn made a play at ‘returning to their roots’ with their ninth studio, and third self-titled, record. The album’s subtitle and cover art couldn’t have been more on the nose, and neither could its content, which contains absolutely zero redeeming features and sounds about as hollow and ingenuous as the previous entries.
Single: ‘Oildale (Leave Me Alone)’
Underrated Gem: n/a
9. Untitled (Korn II), 2007
Much like its successor, Korn II offers little in the way of redeeming content. Yet, unlike Korn III, it at least has its own distinct personality and sounds as though the band are still trying to remain artistically viable. The problem with this record is not so much that it’s considerably bland, but rather that it sounds (and feels) as though it’s stuck between the desire to branch out with further experimentation, while also struggling to adhere to the Korn’s traditional song-structure(s) and aesthetic, such that it never truly reaps the benefit of either approach.
Underrated Gem: ‘Bitch We Got A Problem’
8. Issues, 1999
Coming off the back of the incredibly popular and successful Follow The Leader the year before, Issues is where we start to see Korn unravel. While the record yielded the colossal, MTV-abused, hits ‘Falling Away From Me’ and ‘Somebody Someone’ (which remain cornerstones of the band’s live set to this day), the record as a whole feels as overly contrived today as it did upon its rushed release, and is undeniably the weakest of Korn’s ‘traditional’ output.
Single: ‘Falling Away From Me’
Underrated Gem: ‘Somebody Someone’
7. Take a Look in the Mirror, 2003
Though it was mildly received upon release, Take a Look in the Mirror holds up a lot better than much of Korn’s earlier material. Although it continues to come off as a bit ‘by the numbers’, the directness and consistency of the record’s approach is also one of its biggest strengths. While it might not have managed to completely replicate the success of Untouchables (2002), the band’s sixth release continues to be one of their most consistent and listenable efforts to date.
Single: ‘Did My Time’
Underrated Gem: ‘Counting On Me’
6. The Paradigm Shift, 2013
Korn’s most recent release seems to have slipped (unfairly) under the radar somewhat. The band’s 11th album saw the return of founding guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch, after a seven-year detour into born-again Christianity, and made for their most rewarding release in almost as long. ‘Never Never’ is arguably the worst composition Korn have ever come up with, however, the rest of record is incredibly varied and consistently gratifying – not to mention that for the first time in nearly a decade (and arguably longer), the band finally sound like they’re excited to be making music again. Who knows, maybe electronic-tinged, anthemic, arena rock is the sound the nu-metal pioneers were always looking for?
Single: ‘Never, Never’
Underrated Gem: ‘Prey For Me’
5. Korn, 1994
Korn is an undeniably important record in the development of rock and heavy metal, and there still isn’t really anything that sounds quite like it (except for, maybe, the second Korn album). However, despite being inarguably innovative and indisputably weird, it isn’t really all that good, and it certainly doesn’t hold up well. ‘Blind’ remains a classic, but that’s about it… The rest is virtually unlistenable by modern standards, and even if you can persevere, it all sounds incredibly dated. Still, this is one of those records that noticeably changed the musical landscape around it, and inspired a lot of bands who would come along and do more interesting things with the blueprint it laid down…at least in the brief interim before many, many, others put out records that make it look like Master of Puppets by comparison.
Underrated Gem: ‘Ball Tongue’
4. Follow the Leader, 1998
While the band’s debut album is usually the one that is often held up as their most influential and important release, Follow the Leader is, in many ways, the definitive Korn record. This is Korn at their most popular and culturally relevant, and it’s first half is a virtually unfaultable wall of nu-metal classics. Having said that, the record’s second half gets pretty embarrassing at points – whether it’s by way of Jonathan Davis trading homophobic insults with Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst on ‘All in the Family’, or whatever the hell ‘Cameltosis’ is. Nevertheless, the record remains a definitive point in metal history (for better or worse) and the point at which hip-hop played the biggest roll in the band’s sound.
Single: ‘Got The Life’
Underrated Gem: ‘Dead Bodies Everywhere’
3. Life is Peachy, 1996
This is where the old-school Korn sound truly came to fruition, and where the band felt truly dangerous and ground-breaking. The record opens in the most confronting fashion with the openly hostile, scat number ‘Twist’, before delivering 13 other tracks, which in turns represent both a more refined and more daring take on the sound displayed on their now-classic, eponymous debut. Life is Peachy often gets lost between the two gigantic releases either side of it, but it is without a doubt the most realised of the set, while also being the early (read: ‘pre-2000’) Korn record which holds up the best in the modern era.
Single: ‘No Place To Hide’
Underrated Gem: ‘Mr. Rogers’
2. See You On the Other Side, 2005
Korn’s first release sans-Head (original guitarist) is another of the band’s often forgotten and unfairly overlooked albums. Likely due to the 50% decrease in their guitar department, See You On the Other Side saw Korn collaborating with pop-production team The Matrix and turning toward a noticeably less guitar-driven and largely electronic-based sound. By 2005 the Californians’ had lost all sense of danger about them, and they’ve never even come close to getting it back. Yet See You on the Other Side allowed them a way to rekindle the ‘darkness’ and artistic adventure that made their earlier releases so exciting and confronting all at once. The follow-up would prove that the band were incapable of striking gold twice in a row, but that doesn’t change the fact that tracks like ‘Twisted Transistor’, ‘Hypocrites’ and ’10 or a 2-Way’, along with the album that spawned them, deserve to be heralded as modern classics.
Single: ‘Twisted Transistor’
Underrated Gem: ’10 Or A 2 Way’
1. Untouchables, 2002
While the appeal of many of Korn’s ‘better’ albums is based around the degree of innovation they bring to the table, Untouchables instead represents the perfection of everything that came before it. The band’s fifth record perfectly blends the massive radio anthems of Issues and the songwriting consistency of Follow the Leader with the consistent variation, excitement, and aggression of Korn and Life is Peachy; even if it no longer sounded as threatening and out-of-left-filed as those early records did and – to some extent – continue to do. There simply isn’t a weak track on Untouchables – even if, individually, its songs don’t reach some of the same heights as others pulled from elsewhere in the band’s discography. It persists in being the most listenable and least dated of their records.
Single: ‘Here To Stay’
Underrated Gem: ‘Embrace’
If you’re looking for only their greatest tracks, check out their epic live show at the Brixton Academy in London here