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  • Writer's pictureCharles Pennefather

An ode to Korn

It was my first ever rock show. It was the early 2000s, and I would never have been allowed to go to a show like that if it wasn’t held near my house – in my school campus, in fact, a short walk away from my house. I don’t think many people knew what to expect, there were families with little children who were all ready for a picnic on the grass, complete with food to snack on and blanket to sit on. At that time I had small cassette player that my father had taught me to eq in a ‘V’ shape to reduce the mids. I had just learned about Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, and Guns n’ Roses.

The first band onstage at the show was Pin Drop Violence. A local boy was the vocalist, which made us really very proud. They started with ‘Blind’ by Korn. If you’ve never heard Korn or this particular song by the band, it starts off quiet, with the ride cymbal tapping out the tempo, while the guitars take turns building up dark, dissonant harmonies. Nearly a minute in, Jonathan Davis screams “ARE YOU READY?” and all hell breaks loose.

Korn was the band that defined the drop-tuned guitar movement. Sure, Steve Vai was the first to use a 7 string electric guitar in the modern era, but it was Korn that elevated it. Vai was driving when he heard Korn for the first time, on the radio. He had to pull over to listen better to the song.

If that wall of sound impressed Steve Vai in his car, you can imagine what it did to that kid for whom the heaviest song until then was ‘My Michelle’ by GnR, played on that tiny National cassette deck. I felt more than heard the bass guitar (Fieldy’s tone is famous for no mids), and I hadn’t ever seen a 7 string guitar up to that point, let alone hear the fury of a drop-tuned 7 through a cranked Mesa Boogie.

I was hooked.

The song was dark, yet melodic. It had anger and pain, and yet uplifted me. I couldn’t understand it, and I wanted more. I went on to listen to more music like Korn, but this band is the reason I always wanted a 7 string guitar. The 7 string you see me play here is modified to sound like the guitars used by the band members.

Korn’s music remains startlingly simple to play, yet it is very complex to put together. They aren’t guitar heroes in the traditional sense of the word, but if you like your 8 string guitars or baritone guitars, you should know that Korn is one of the big reasons why those guitars are readily available at affordable prices to you today.

They managed to surprise me almost as much as that first time once again, when they did their MTV Unplugged show. If you don’t like the idea of the noise that nu metal is, do listen to that show, you will be pleasantly surprised.

As for the show, the picnicking families all packed up and went away with the first scream. I don’t think they were quite ready.

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