On October 11th, 2019, Korn celebrated the 25th anniversary of their groundbreaking and trendsetting self-titled debut album. Almost exactly one month before, on September 13th, they dropped their critically acclaimed latest full-length, The Nothing. Which makes now the perfect time to revisit the prolific alt-metal giants' extensive catalog in all its downtuned, scatting, dreadlocked and bagpipe-piping glory. Below, we've ranked Korn's 13 albums to date from worst to best.
Korn were trying just a little bit too hard and a lot too obviously to tap into former glory when they re-enlisted Korn and Life Is Peachy producer Ross Robinson to make this purported "follow-up" to their landmark first two albums. While Robinson did manage to reach again into singer Jonathan Davis' seemingly bottomless well of psychological torment, the resulting songs are mostly meandering, poorly developed slogs that suggest the band just wanted to get this album over with.
Even though the record features Frank Zappa protégé Terry Bozzio behind the drum kit and stands as arguably the strangest Korn record to date, the band's experimentation on Untitled never quite takes off. Most of the eccentric, gothy weirdness just feels like a step down from other artists of the time, like Mindless Self Indulgence, more dedicated to the quirky approach.
2013's The Paradigm Shift marked the return of original co-guitarist Brian "Head" Welch to the fold, and for the most part, it's a solid comeback. The interplay between Head and James "Munky" Shaffer reestablishes that signature heavy-riffage/weird-noise dynamic on songs like "Mass Hysteria," and meshes well with the Path of Totality dubstep remnants on cuts such as "Victimized."
"Giving Head to God" in 2005 was a big hit to Korn's songwriting and confidence on Take a Look in the Mirror, but there are still definite bright spots on the LP, particularly, Davis' vocals. The harsher range of his singing really soars on the aptly titled "Counting on Me," and throughout the album, there's a real sense of pain carried on each track.
Collaborating with a pop production team is often a big red flag for rock bands, but working with producers The Matrix (Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Shakira) on 2004's album See You on the Other Side really injected fresh life into the group. Korn crafted legitimate singles worthy of their canon with "Coming Undone" and "Twisted Transistor," combining heaviness and poppiness at their best.
Korn were truly on some prophetic shit when they tapped into the crossover between dubstep and their own low-tuned wallop by making their 10th record, The Path of Totality, all about collaborating with prominent DJs. Skrillex's cyberpunk chaos brought a futuristic level of crushing force to singles "Get Up" and "Narcissistic Cannibal," while EDM veterans like Excision and Noisia offered their own electronic assistance, making for a truly forward-thinking, if polarizing, offering.
Korn's second album after their reunion with Head, The Serenity of Suffering saw the reconstituted lineup really finding its footing and marked a return to the heaviness and innovation Korn spearheaded in their earlier years. Standout cut "Black Is the Soul" captures the undeniable hooks the group is capable of, with that signature sinister low-end driving the proceedings.
It took a little time but ever since Head rejoined the band, Korn had been building to a legit return to form. The Nothing is just that. And of course, it was also birthed in a crucible of real-life pain and tragedy, with Jonathan Davis facing the recent death of his estranged wife Deven across some the rawest lyrics and vocals of his career. The harrowing result melds the best of early heavy-as-hell Korn ("Cold") and more recent gothy Korn ("Can You Hear Me") and is the group's finest full-length in nearly two decades.
Jonathan Davis' own favorite Korn album, the band's fifth full-length Untouchables costed a reported four million dollars to make, money that went into the densest and most intricate production of the group's career. The guitar tone on "Blame" is otherworldly in its crushing heft, while "Hating" gets wonderfully aggro and weird, a straight-up Korn epic.
Following up something as game-changing as Korn's self-titled is no easy task, but the Bakersfield quintet had ideas to spare on Life Is Peachy. Opener "Twist" is pure WTF, setting the stage for Davis' scat vocals to become a staple for the band. "A.D.I.D.A.S.," meanwhile, turned sophomoric lust into a hooky sing-along, paving the way for smash dark party-anthems to come.
By the time Korn released 1998's Follow the Leader, they had hit the big time and the album is a kind of monument to their star power and excess. "Freak on a Leash" would unite outcasts around the world, becoming one of the biggest metal singles ever, while the album's undercard is filled with burners like "Justin" and "Pretty." The less said about "All in the Family" the better, of course, but in context of where the band and culture were at the time, it's a forgivable relic on a powerhouse album.
The members of Korn were battling significant problems in their personal lives even before joining the band, and the rapid success they enjoyed only seemed to exacerbate things. Their fourth record Issues is one of their most reflective and revealing, Davis frankly battling with his new reality on songs like "Wake Up" while backed by explorative instrumentation. The band getting weird always feels in service of songwriting, where ambient gurgling on "Trash" rises up to spit back at Davis's anguish, while "Let's Get This Party Started" totally feels like loss of control.
It isn't hyperbole to say that Korn changed the direction of heavy music with the release of their debut 1994 self-titled album. The tension and rise of "Blind" — with its iconic cry of "Are you ready?!" — is a mission statement for the band's career of low-tuned, ultra-heavy dominance. Korn riffed and roared their asses off on songs like "Lies," "Ball Tongue" and "Faget," and resurfaced the darkness of nursery rhymes on the memorably bagpipe-assisted "Shoots and Ladders." The dread and trauma of the LP reaches catharsis on its harrowing final track "Daddy," with Davis giving a tortured vocal performance filled with a genuine horror that listeners would never forget. Korn was the start of something big, and deservingly so.