Korn are musical pioneers, laying the blueprint for nu metal back in the 90s in Bakersfield, California and forever altering both the metal scene and music as a whole going forward. No other artists that had come before channeled rage and pain in such a raw and sonically aggressive way as Korn proved they could when they smashed down the doors of the industry with their first batch of albums.
There are a countless number of bands today that have been influenced by the iconic riffs and rhythms and guttural howls of Korn, so much so that’s nearly impossible to escape the impact they’ve left on music. So it’s miraculous that now, over twenty-six years later, the group has refused to become stale; they've only gotten better and the live shows are bigger than ever before. Time, experience, and changes in technology and music have been kind to the metal titans, who earned themselves a career of multi-platinum records, chart-topping hit songs, and tons of awards recognition.
With the triumphant return of original guitarist Brian “Head” Welch back in 2012, Korn have since reinvented themselves with their past three albums. They’ve taken all they learned from their early days of aggressive insanity and later forays into experimental electronics and more atmospheric pieces to craft a sound that feels larger, more precise, and at times even heavier than anything they’ve done before. 2013’s The Paradigm Shift, 2016’s The Serenity of Suffering, and their latest, 2019’s The Nothing are the new defining sound of a band that revolutionized the scene and are continuing to do so, and contain a significant amount of the group’s best songs to date.
The Nothing just may be Korn’s greatest achievement yet. It’s certainly their most personal, which is saying something for a group that’s pretty much laid themselves bare since the start. The album is heavily influenced by recent tragedies in the life of frontman Jonathan Davis, and the feelings of grief, despair, frustration, and helplessness have never felt more potently vulnerable - yet still powerful - than they do on songs like “Can You Hear Me”, “H@rd3r”, or “Cold”. The album was released in September of 2019, which means that the majority of the band’s touring plans for it were forced to be called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For many fans and likely for the band themselves, not being able to experience the new music in a live setting has been a tremendous disappointment.
Many artists have been taking advantage of livestreaming over the past year to bring new kinds of musical experiences to their fans. From the comfort of their own homes and studios, musicians have taken to the internet to play through sets of their classic albums or setlists voted on by fans. Some have debuted brand new music, and others have even taught lessons or given viewers an intimate look into their recording process. Of course, if Korn is going to do one, it’s going to be as big as possible, which is exactly what their global streaming event, Korn: Monumental promised to be.
From legendary producer Danny Wimmer, Monumental had the band performing in Los Angeles at the Strangers Things: The Drive-Into Experience. The attraction immerses guests in the world of the acclaimed Netflix series with sets and an array of audio and visual effects, making it a fitting spot for Korn - who have always drawn on the colorful horror elements of media - to tear through a set of classic hits, deep cuts, and selections from The Nothing that never got played for much of the world.
A pre-show began half an hour before the official festivities was hosted by Allison Hagendorf along with Jonathan Davis, Head, and Munky. Hagendorf interviewed the bandmates to get their thoughts on the past year of no live music while also showing a behind the scenes look of the band preparing for their first show in over a year. There was a lot of emotion to be found in the rehearsal space as the group got together.
The location was incredibly cinematic with the city looming in the background and a huge LED screen directly behind them. It is a bit bizarre for every song to be followed by the silent absence of an audience, but this isn’t a first for Korn - another infamous performance of theirs was 2010’s The Encounter, where the band played in the middle of a crop circle out in a big empty cornfield.
The chat room was filled with fans from all over the world briefly brought together again to unite in a love for music. People shared where they were tuning in from, sang along to their favorite songs, and moshed with their families and pets in their living rooms. Some even watched from their phones while at work or alone in their bedrooms in the early morning; one person was using the show to fuel his daily jog.
The set was pumped full of rare tracks that never usually get played live, like “Dirty” from Issues, “Victimized” from The Paradigm Shift, “Justin” from Follow the Leader, and more - it was like an ideal hardcore fan setlist that covered every aspect of their vast discography. The mixing was fantastic, the band has never sounded better, and songs like “Black Is the Soul” really showcased the band’s all-encompassing sonic assault. Few things can make you yearn harder for in-person concerts than something like this, even if the virtual most pit hurts a bit less than the real thing. Korn prove here to be masters of both.
The show will be available to stream for 72 hours through April 27th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. You can find it at kornlive.com.