Korn (stylized as “KoЯn”) became widely known after releasing their very first (official) self-titled album ‘Korn‘ in October 1994. That year, Kurt Cobain ended his legacy by leaving a suicide note which didn’t say much. But what people already then knew, and still know, was that the so called “Generation-X” was “born”. This generation faced different kinds of threats (on a social and personal level) and a kind of emotional emptiness. Nirvana had already demolished any rock clichés, pushing forward an anxiety of the ‘for-ever teenager’. Korn appeared in Los Angeles after moving from Bakersfield in 1993, and did the same thing. They took alternative rock, groove, hip-hop, and metal elements and broke any boundaries that may have existed until then, for better or for worse. After grunge, nu-metal was born.
Playing in various gigs around 1993, Korn were discovered by Immortal Records/Epic Records, with whom the band agreed to sign for their first album. The producer, Ross Robinson, a thrash metal guitarist of Détente, gave the band complete freedom, and as a result the album “Korn” was something entirely new in music. Recording all the instruments together in an old style and less than up to date equipped studio, the result was genuine. The members of the band are influenced by Pantera, Cypress Hill, and Ice Cube. James Shaffer (guitar) wanted the sound to be like a DJ had remixed the sound, and Reginald Arvizu (bass) just wanted to slap the bass (from a Rolling Stone interview December 2014). Jonathan Davis (vocals) was an 80’s gothic boy whose favourite band was Duran Duran. His lyrics and vocal expression derived from his troubled younger life and his drug addiction. He growls, raps, and sings with clean vocals, a technique which is borrowed by all nu-metal bands. Anyone who listens really carefully will understand how emotional this album is. The concepts of the songs are about child abuse (‘Daddy‘), homophobia, bullying (‘Faget‘), drug addiction (‘Helmet In The Bush‘), and social disappointment (‘Shoots And Ladders‘). In other words, pure 90’s!
The album went gold and twice platinum, with ‘Blind‘ being still a hit, and in 1995 Korn performed as support to Ozzy Osbourne. At the same time, many known bands like Slipknot, Coal Chamber and Limp Bizkit followed their lead. Although Davis refused the term “nu-metal” (Metal Injection interview March 2015), claiming that he considered the band’s sound more “funky” rather than metal, this new wave was huge, enriching the New Wave of American Heavy Metal (N.W.O.A.H.M.) and influencing other bands such as Sepultura and Machine Head. Korn and their self-titled album are undoubtedly an important part of the history of metal music. Perhaps as in other genres as well, it was a “violent” and “sick” turn which brought a different aspect to the metal industry regarding compositions, lyrical themes, and image. In addition, it divided the community of metal fans, and brought some bands to an awkward position, due to the still not clearly established term “nu-metal”.