It was the year 2000. The turn of the century. I was in Grade 9, and it was only my second year of high school. I was pudgy back then, and wore really terrible glasses. The epitome of awkward nerdy teenager, me at 15.
Mission Impossible 2 had come out and with it, my first real taste of alternative music with Limp Bizkit’s Take A Look Around. I got into Limp Bizkit in a big way. They mixed rap and nu-metal, the lead singer was a skater and wore his hat backwards. They also sang with swear words.
Now, the next move split my friend group in half – my mate Karl got into Limp Bizkit, but it wasn’t enough. there had to be more, something heavier. Something better. He started listening to Korn. My other friend Erwin – he was quite happy with Limp Bizkit and “didn’t want anything to do with those evil Korn guys”. I decided I liked Korn and Limp Bizkit (and I still listen to both – but for very different reasons!). So I went with Karl. Down the part of Korn and the ever search for the perfect heavy music. We all know where I ended up, so no need to go over that, but for a TL;DR of my music past – Korn, Slipknot (who I still absolutely adore), and now Heaven Shall Burn, Fit For A King, etcetera. As you can tell, I went heavy and never looked back.
From the first time I heard Blind, off of Korn’s self titled 1994 album, I knew I would love this band forever. But a very special album of theirs stood out to me.
Mixed with my teenage angst and having nowhere to put it, and Korn’s 1998 album – Follow The Leader – being Jon Davis’ angry angsty letter to his parents, this album became my favourite out of their 3 I had heard at the time. My excuse to this day is that I didn’t hear Issues until an entire year later – in 2001. And looking back, every single one of Korn’s albums have some special memories for me.
I am not going to talk about this album from a streaming point of view, but from a physical-CD-put-in-the-CD-player point of view. I think that will encompass what it was like…
Follow The Leader starts at track 13, and in the old CD players you have about 1 to 2 seconds of silence while it figures out that each track until 13 is a blank track. So you have this amazing build up. To those listening on tapes, I feel your frustration. But the build up is so worth it. Track 13 starts off with this weird hum and then the drums kick in. Give it a listen and just hear how amazing this sounds. Guitar and bass come in and it takes the past 12 tracks of build up and explodes with Jon Davis yelling “Come on!” To teenage Kyle, this was the most amazing planning, and looking back, at where this album sits, not just in Korn history, but in the entire musical history, this album, and band, broke so much ground in 1998 with this album.
For example, Korn pioneered streaming, did you know that? They were the first band that used the internet and RealMedia Player to connect with fans over the internet – live! And they did this to promote Follow The Leader.
The music video for Freak On A Leash also broke technical ground.
Seriously, watch it right now
They used computer graphics and everything. When Fieldy – the bassist – does his solo break down, and Jon does some free form scat rapping over the top – well that right there inspired so many bands and artists we hear about today. And then it blows up in the GO! and you just have a wall of sound coming at you. Goosebumps, every time! Its probably the most famous part of any Korn song, and it will be in every metalheads musical vocabulary.
Korn is also the only band to have the only two songs ever retired from MTV Live. People couldn’t get enough. Got the Life is the other song, in case you were wondering.
Dead Bodies Everywhere is for every teenager that feels like their parents are telling them what to do and how to do it. Jon wrote this to his parents, who never wanted him to go into the music industry. Its an incredible song and so good.
This whole album is a great poster child for nu-metal. It came at the right time, hit all the right notes and still holds up to this day.
So why now, and why just one album from a band I still so clearly love? Well, doing a whole discography is in my To-Do list, but thats going to take planning, and time. An abundance of time. I want to do it properly. Secondly, this last month was this albums 20th anniversary. Twenty years of this album and it still shows it prowess over the metal scene. In fact, some of the things Korn pioneered on this album – both musically and socially – are still on the surface of the entertainment industry.
This album for me represented independence. It represented me becoming my own person, developing my own tastes and styles – I mean, I still dress as metal as I can while being a full time functioning adult. It gave me a place for my angst (even though there was absolutely nothing to be angsty about – but hey, you try tell that to teenagers).
By following the leader, I found freedom – not freedom from tyranny, personal freedom – and for that, I’ll always love Korn.