90s score: 8/10
2000’s score: 8/10
Picture this: the year is 1999, and sitting in a high school cafeteria is a wannabe goth kid who thought their taste in music was better than everyone else’s. He thought, “screw all that mainstream crap, I only listen to Korn!” Completely unaware, of course, that, at that point, Korn was about as mainstream as Britney Spears. Yes, that kid was me, and boy, do I cringe when I think about how close-minded I used to be when it came to music. Thankfully, that’s changed. But regardless, in 1999, Korn released one of their biggest records ever: Issues, which took the nu-metal world by storm, even if, at that point, the genre itself was starting to die out.
The promotion of the record was about as 90s as you can get. The band offered their first single as a free mp3 download on their website (despite attorneys advising them not to), and attempted an email chain, asking fans to email a letter to ten other people and then sign the “I Downloaded the Korn Single For Free” guestbook on the band’s site. Sounds silly today, sure, but in 1999, it must have worked because within six days of the album’s release, it shot up to #1 on the Billboard charts – an impressive milestone for a band whose t-shirts and merchandise were banned in most high schools.
But, for all its success back in 1999, how does Issues stack up today? Pretty damn well, I’d say. This thing grooves like a mother fucker. Opening with the ominous intro “Dead,” with Jonathan Davis’ bagpipe playing (is it really a Korn record if there aren’t any bagpipes on it?), and then leading into one of the band’s biggest singles “Falling Away From Me,” Issues holds nothing back from the start as we get pummeled by Munky and Head’s seven-string assault, Fieldy’s unique slap-bass style and David Silvera’s drum attack – staples throughout every song on Issues and a style of playing the band had already perfected on their previous release, Follow The Leader.
It’s crazy to think that this record has a whopping 16 tracks. Sure, some of it is filler, namely some of the short tracks like “Am I Going Crazy” that are meant to serve as bridges between songs. And some tracks, like “Let’s Get This Party Started” and “Hey Daddy,” could’ve easily been cut from the record and put on an EP. But overall, Issues easily holds some of Korn’s best songwriting. If we focus solely on the singles, songs like “Make Me Bad” and “Falling Away From Me,” these songs managed to dance the fine line of crushing nu-metal riffs with almost annoyingly catchy choruses.
However, the track that always stood out to me the most was “Somebody, Someone.” Even if you’re the type of person that scoffs at Korn for just being just another cheesy nu-metal band, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that the slowed-down chorus at the end was anything less that crushing, as Jon Davis shouted “I need somebody, someone” over a simple, heavy sounding riff. In some ways, this song was the first time I realized that music didn’t always have to be fast to be heavy. Maybe it even has something to do with my affinity for Doom Metal today?
So, sure, Korn had some questionable releases in their later years, but there has to be something said about a band that’s still playing a genre of music that has supposedly been dead for over a decade. Pre-covid, these guys were still filling arenas and I’m sure they’ll continue to do so, once this clusterfuck of a pandemic is over. Until then, put on your favourite pair of Jnco jeans, get your Sony Discman out and blast Issues at full volume.
Written by Dominic Abate
*Edited by Chris Aitkens