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KoRn maintains intensity on third album

By Sarah Quelland

KORN HAS COME a remarkable way since its self-titled debut album was released in 1994. Relentless touring brought the five-member band's aggressive blend of assaulting guitars and soul-baring lyrics to the masses, as the boys from Bakersfield jumped on tours with Danzig, Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth, KMFDM and virtually anyone else who would have them. Word got around as KoRn won fans (largely discontented teens) with its intensely heavy musical energy and raw approach, and album sales began to rise.

It's four years later, and the band's third album, Follow the Leader (Immortal/Epic), debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top 200 chart. KoRn now has its own label, Elementree, distributed through Reprise, and the band has just launched the Family Values tour with Ice Cube, Limp Bizkit, Orgy, Rammstein and DJ C-Minus (which comes to the Cow Palace this Saturday). KoRn's second album, Life Is Peachy, was no misnomer; things look good for the critically acclaimed band that has been credited with reviving heavy metal.

With a sound that is more abrasive than typical metal, KoRn exposes the dark side of humanity and offers fearless social commentary. Its debut album features harsh songs about speed addiction ("Helmet in the Bush"), child molestation ("Daddy") and misunderstood youth ("Faget"). Follow the Leader, although not quite so weighty, also delves into serious issues and experiences drawn largely from singer Jonathan Davis' own deep well of pain. His brutal honesty and exquisite fury are both provocative and cathartic. Davis is so wrapped up in his anguish that he doesn't sing; rather he barks, wails, moans, screams, sobs, growls and often speaks in tongues.Although Life Is Peachy was sometimes disappointing, with juvenile lyrics and two cover songs (Ice Cube's "Wicked" and part of War's "Low Rider"), KoRn is as hard as ever on Follow the Leader, with furious lyrics and throbbing, gut-wrenching music. "My Gift to You" is written about Davis' first girlfriend, who destroyed his ideas about the purity of love by sleeping with more than 30 guys behind his back. Still carrying angry scars from the experience, Davis displays his flaring temper: "Your throat I take grasp/and your eyes roll back/love racing through my veins."

The rest of the album isn't so disturbing. Davis and touring buddy Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit fire crazy insults at each other in the rap "All in the Family." Davis also raps with heavyweights Ice Cube ("Children of the KoRn") and Pharcyde's Trevant Hardson ("Cameltosis"). "Got the Life" is a speedy disco-influenced number; "Justin" whirls with psychedelic outer-space echoes; "Freak on a Leash" swirls and scratches with energy; and the hidden track, "Earache My Eye," a song from the classic Up in Smoke soundtrack, features Cheech Marin. Follow the Leader is more polished than the band's previous albums, showing off the ways in which KoRn is toying with hip-hop, rap and electronics. Although Follow the Leader is not as significant as the first album, it is better than Life Is Peachy, proving that KoRn is not diminishing in either intensity or integrity.

KoRn's Family Values Tour lands at the Cow Palace in San Francisco on Saturday (Oct 10) at 6:30pm. Tickets are $27.50. (BASS)

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From the October 8-14, 1998 issue of Metro.

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