Untouchables is widely regarded as one of Korn's sleeper albums. Released on June 11th, 2002, the nu-metal band's fifth record arrived at the peak of their status as heavy music's reigning champs, but it didn't have the explosive impact of 1998's Follow the Leader and 1999's Issues, which both landed at No. 1 on the Billboard top 200 and spawned time-tested hits, like "Freak on a Leash" and "Falling Away From Me," respectively.
Due to Eminem's impenetrable reign atop the chart with The Eminem Show, Untouchables peaked at No. 2 on the top 200. It also failed to produce another titanic single. Despite its slight commercial disappointment and its rather high-variance standing in the average metalhead's Korn canon, many hardcore fans consider the album to be the band's lowkey greatest achievement, citing its advanced songwriting, crisp production and Jonathan Davis' mature lyricism as some of the group's most, ahem, untouchable work.
Songs at the top of the track listing like "Here to Stay" and "Blame" are reliably standard-fare Korn bangers, but as the record moves forward, it becomes clear that the band weren't just rehashing the manic and angry sound they'd perfected in the Nineties. "Hollow Life" features ethereal synths, a tasteful glockenspiel melody and emotionally felt falsettos from Davis. "Hating" boasts a glorious hook with a fascinating guitar effect that carries a tuneful harmony. Meanwhile, "Alone I Break" contains a soft, moody synth line, acoustic guitar strums and a warbled bridge that could reasonably be described as beautiful.
These are some of the most musically complex and thoughtfully crafted tracks in the band's discography, providing a stark contrast to the raw intensity and off-the-cuff danger of their earlier records. For whatever reason, the hidden wonders of Untouchables still feel like a secret handshake among Korn fans rather than common nu-metal knowledge, so we took some time to dig into the album's wild and over-the-top making to provide the necessary context and give this gem its flowers.
1. It's Jonathan Davis' favorite Korn album
It's not uncommon for artists to be uniquely proud of their most polarizing albums, and that's how Davis feels while looking back on Untouchables. In 2018, the frontman revealed to Silverstein singer Shane Told on the "Lead Singer Syndrome" podcast that he has a particular affinity for his band's 2002 opus. "We spent two and a half years working with an amazing producer, Michael Beinhorn, recording in different studios," Davis said. "That album is perfect. I call it the heavy-metal Aja [Steely Dan's 1977 album]. ... It's just unreal how good [Untouchables] sounds and how much work we put into it."
2. It cost $4 million dollars to make
Untouchables isn't Korn's highest-charting or best-selling album, but it was by far their most expensive. As bassist Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu told Kerrang! a month before the record dropped, the band racked up a whopping $4 million tab over the the course of its creation process. Most of that money was spent on housing the crew and funding the band's lavish rock star lifestyles, but the recording itself still cost a cool $700,000. That's over a $1 million today adjusted for inflation.
"We moved to Phoenix and rented five houses for $10,000 apiece for four months," Fieldy said proudly. "We came to L.A., rented five more houses for $10,000 apiece for four more months. We went to Canada and rented a house for $8,000. That's a week, not a month," he clarified. Sheesh.
3. Fieldy made guests sign disclaimers at the insane parties he threw during the recording
It's been well-documented that Davis engaged in a death-defying drinking regimen while recording 1998's Follow the Leader, which he had thankfully halted by the end of the decade. However, Fieldy kept the hedonistic flame alive. In that same Kerrang! interview, the bassist admitted that he drank hard every single night during the band's stint in Phoenix. "I didn't stay home once," he said. "Every day I came in to write hungover and I'd throw up before every single day."
The band's resident wild boy took things a step further when he started hosting parties — and videotaping them — at the house he was renting, which got so chaotic that he started asking guests to sign disclaimers before they could enter the door. "This one girl came in and she was on the [stripper] pole, she flew off and hit the fireplace and split her eye open. That was when I was like, 'We've got to get a disclaimer.'"
"When you've got a strip pole in your living room, people are going to hurt themselves," he continued. "Half of them aren't even strippers, they just want to be because they're all drunk. This one girl climbed to the top, tried to hold on and fell — bam! — hit the top of her head."
4. Producer Michael Beinhorn had difficulty keeping the band focused
Considering what you now know about the band's lifestyle outside of the booth, it's not surprising to hear that the album's producer, Michael Beinhorn, had a tough time keeping them focused in the studio. In a 2019 interview on the "BREWtally Speaking" podcast, the famed boardsmith (who also made records with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden and Hole) said that Korn are "extremely talented, but they also have the most incredible case of collective ADHD I've ever seen."
"They were one of the biggest bands in the world," he added. "They could have anything that they wanted. They could spend as much money as [they wanted]. They had access to whatever they could possibly imagine or think that they needed at that point. So I think they were pretty pampered, as well. So if we were gonna get anything extraordinary out of them, it was gonna take a tremendous amount of effort. But, fortunately, they gave a hundred percent. So I think it worked itself out."
5. The album was leaked online with a different track listing
In today's streaming age, it's hard to imagine an album leak having a seriously detrimental effect on a label's rollout plan, but back in the early 2000s, that kind of thing was a big deal. Like many records of its era, Untouchables appeared on file-sharing sites months before its release date, which caused quite a ruckus at the Korn headquarters. The band claimed that the songs were hacked and stolen off of guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer's laptop, and Davis went on to blame the leak on the album's less successful sales compared to previous records.
Interestingly, the leaked version of Untouchables had a significantly different track order than the official one, and almost all of the songs were slapped with alternative titles. Notably, opener "Here to Stay" was bumped to the No. 7 slot in the track list, and the closer, "No One's There," was moved up to No. 10. Most other songs appeared in a drastically different sequence than they would later on the CD version. To this day, some OG fans claim that the leaked order is better than the real one.