Review by Jeff Maki
My, how time flies. Twenty years of Korn? Technically, the anniversary of Korn’s seminal, genre-altering debut album was in 2014, but the band extended its tour into 2015, in which it is playing the album from start to finish. Yep, from “Blind,” all the way to the rarely before performed “Daddy.” One week into the tour, Korn played the Fillmore Silver Spring, with deathcore metallers, Suicide Silence and rap-metal up-and-comers Islander in support.
I’ve been a fan since the debut and was a self-proclaimed “Korn-kid” back in the day. I’ve seen, heard and done it all when it comes to this band—it’s been much documented on this site (read here). But this one was extra special, in that many of these songs I either had never heard live before, or you would have to go back to 1994-’95, when I saw the band play smaller clubs in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area, when I was thumping around in my late teens.
The sold-out show hearkened back to those good old days, when it was our mission to spread the word about this new band with the new sound that eventually went on to change the landscape of heavy metal music. All that was missing here were the Adidas jumpsuits and Limp Bizkit. (I’m surprised vocalist Jonathan Davis didn’t at least break out the three stripes for a couple songs.)
It had been nearly two decades since the last time I heard “Ball Tongue” (complete with a Rob Base “It Takes Tow”and “Lodi Dodi” medley), “Need To” (featuring a chorus from “Alive,” the earlier version of the song), “Divine” and “Helmet in the Bush” performed live, and “Predictable,” “Fake,” “Lies” and “Daddy,” well, I don’t think, ever. The Fillmore crowd erupted as Davis belted out the opening lyric of “Blind” (“Are you ready?!”) and they didn’t relent until the end. Neither did the band. There was little banter out of Davis. It reminded me of when I saw Megadeth play its Rust in Peace album in its entirety. Dave Mustaine took the stage and said only, “Hello, you know why we’re here.”
It’s clearly a joy for both the the band and fans to have guitarist Brian “Head” Welch back in the fold. He rejoined in 2013 after being out for nine years and bassist Reggie “Fieldy” Arvizu couldn’t be happier. The two interacted onstage quite a bit and could been seen joking and smiling. Fieldy once called Head the “highest talent in the band” on the Who Then Now? (1997) video, and he’s right. Head’s a badass and makes it look easy up there, partnering with James “Munky” Shaffer, who plays most of Korn’s shows hunched low to the stage over his guitar, dreads to the floor. A lot of the guitar noises and effects and hip-hop style scratching these two were responsible for on the debut, may seem like second-fiddle to Davis’ tormented lyrics, but in a live setting, the authenticity is really what brings the album to life. Davis’ vocals were mostly true to the recording, and it helps that he’s center stage and focused more on his performance, rather than running around engaging the crowd. He still does his freak-out scats and crazy arm flailing on the mic, though nowhere near to the extent he did in his youth.
I said “authentic” earlier, but I can’t help but at least mention original drummer David Silveria. He was largely responsible for the bands rhythmic foundation of funk and groove. However, he left the band years ago, whether it was due to drugs, starting a restaurant, giving up music or something else—we’ve heard it all. He was not invited out for the 20th anniversary tour, and he wasn’t happy about it (read here). In 2009, Ray Luzier came into the fold with an impressive resume, and though he may not have the exact style of funky playing, it’s damn close. It looked like he was having the time of his life up there, mashing behind the kit.
Korn ended the show by playing four of its biggest hits: “Falling Away from Me,” “Here to Stay,” “Coming Undone” and “Freak on a Leash.” Who knew that when its self-titled album was released in 1994, this band would grow into one of the biggest rock bands, maybe ever? I’ll tell you who—we did.
Korn set list:
“Shoots and Ladders”
“Helmet in the Bush”
“Falling Away from Me”
“Here to Stay”
“Freak on a Leash”
It almost seems like an afterthought now, but Suicide Silence, led by vocalist Eddie Hermida (who joined the band in 2013 following the death of vocalist Mitch Lucker), was in direct support. I also had the chance to interview Eddie before the show. More on that later. The band’s heavily abrasive, metallic deathcore may not seem like a good match to Korn, but if you scratch the surface, this is a band that clearly is influenced heavily by Korn. This influence is felt particularly on its 2011 album, The Black Crown. The band’s set mostly comprised older, Lucker-era material, including the opener “You Only Live Once,” “Wake Up,” “Slaves to Substance” and “Fuck Everything.” “Sacred Words,” from its newest album, You Can’t Stop Me (and the first with Hermida), was a standout.
I saw South Carolina nu-metal band Islander on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival in 2014, but the band now is entirely different, with only vocalist Mikey Carvajal remaining. What happened? I’m not sure. J.R. Bareis (Love and Death) is now the lead guitarist, and they have a touring drummer and bassist. Nevertheless, Islander is an entertaining live band, with Carvajal trying to create that “family” vibe. He also lived up to the band’s name by spending a few songs surfing and performing atop the crowd. We had Rage Against the Machine in the ’90s, P.O.D. in the 2000s and now might we have Islander for the 2010s?