CLASSIC ALBUMS REVISITED: Korn’s Issues Turns 20!

Think back if you will to the late great 1999. That was the year we were supposed to party like we were out of time. The states were in the throes of the Y2K scare. It was the year Nelson Mandela stepped down as president of South Africa and Kosovo went to war. It was also the year that Korn released Issues (Immortal/Epic Records). The first single, ‘Falling Away From Me’ was actually given away for free to the fans. Love them or hate them, it was a novel idea at the time and ended up raising over a quarter-million dollars for charity.

In addition to ‘Falling Away From Me’, Korn released ‘Make Me Bad’ and ‘Somebody Someone’ as singles. They are arguably three of the best Korn songs that many still sing today. Let’s take a look at what makes these three songs stand the test of time. ‘Falling Away From Me’ has a creepy industrial sound that aurally describes depression and hopelessness. The lyrics tap into maudlin feelings that everyone has had at one time or another. Korn’s stripped-back approach to writing music evokes emotions and feelings even in the parts of the song that have no harmonies nor melody. ‘Make Me Bad’ continues with the theme of post-apocalyptic maudlin ramblings. Jonathan Davis has a great talent for making his voice vacillate between smooth and syrupy to horror movie creepy and back again. ‘Somebody Someone’ finishes this trifecta of eeriness.

 

David Silveria on drums and Fieldy on bass work the polyphonic rhythms superbly. The sudden starts and stops coupled with the weird time signatures and meters rely on Silveria and Fieldy to hold the hodgepodge of the compositions together. Just re-listen to ‘Beg For Me’. The way it’s written is ridiculous! But, Silveria and Fieldy drive the songs forward and contain them. Most of the songs on Issues makes the listener feel agitated and sorrowful at the same time. Two complex emotions that Korn, through their songwriting, sought to explain. ‘Let’s Get This Party Started’ is a perfect example of discordant music set to goth-like lyrics.

What does that mean for metalheads twenty years later? It means that Korn’s Issues is still a relevant album; probably more so now than it was when it was released. With all the stressors and triggers people face as the first decade of the twenty-first century comes to a close, re-listening to Korn’s Issues gives an outlet to the frustration coupled with apathy that some people feel. It’s easy to use Issues to explain how people are feeling and coping with life. Melancholy and paranoia are the benchmarks of life today and for Korn’s fourth album, Issues.

VICTORIA ANDERSON