Rock And Metal Stars Remember The Impact Of Korn’s Follow The Leader
Few albums have had as much of a cultural impact on heavy metal as Korn’s 1998 record Follow The Leader. The band’s third full-length release, Follow The Leader saw a perfect refinement of Korn’s unique sound, merging the raw angst of their self-titled debut and the more arch, pointed sound of their sophomore album Life Is Peachy. That, combined the the world-conquering videos for singles Got The Life and Freak On A Leash, made it a smash hit that redefined what metal could be, and how far it could go.
Since today marks the 21st anniversary of Follow The Leader’s release — old enough to drink in the States now! — we reached out to some of rock and metal’s upcoming and established stars and asked them what the album meant for them. Here’s what they had to say…
Dez Fafara, Devildriver
“First off, it’s nice to say, when you can about musicians, that they are great dudes. But that’s the simple truth of the matter in regards to the cats in Korn.
“When Follow The Leader came, out that’s exactly what everyone was trying to do…and at that time, it was Korn and a myriad of other bands from the nu-metal scene at the forefront of all things music and style. The record in its entirety is a lush background of down tuned riffs and emotion…and like a bad child, not well behaved, which all true art aspires to be. Watching them hang on over the years and remain at the top has been an exercise is higher learning that all musicians should pay close attention to.”
Schuylar Croom, He Is Legend
“I grew up a young Goth parading my identity around as a bad kid raised in a Christian home. I would steal CDs that I wasn’t allowed to have as a kid from a big-box electronic store. It probably started with the Smashing Pumpkins’ Melancholy And The Infinite Sadness and Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar. These albums would hide under my bed in a CD booklet that I used to shove into the box springs.
“Korn was one of those bands that littered my secret stash. There’s never been a band that’s sounded like them, and In all honesty probably never will be. Follow The Leader gave them athelarger than life, rockstar personas they deserved, where as the first records made them seem more like monsters in my head…These angst-ridden devils released sounds that only the misunderstood could hear as real music. I remember seeing the video for Got The Life and being so wildly inspired by not only the music but the film work in the video, and I knew anything was possible for our little community. I continue to listen to their records when they come out for nostalgic reasons, and I love the band for being such an influence on my youth.”
Max Portnoy, Tallah
“Korn was the first band that truly got me into the nu-metal sound. Hearing Follow the Leader for the first time was like hearing something I’ve never heard before. Songs like Freak on a Leash and Dead Bodies Everywhere were so unique and different from any other band. They’ve definitely stuck around for me as a major influence.”
Baptiste Vigier, Betraying The Martyrs
“Korn’s Follow The Leader is very special to me.
“It has influenced me a lot, since this is the album that started everything for me. It got me into metal, it got me into playing music and pretty much made me the musician I am today.
“This is the first physical record I ever bought back when I was 14 years old! I remember going back to the shop where I got it in Paris twice to return it because I thought the CD was broken due to the fact that it starts at track 13!
“Its production is incredible and still blows my mind to this day — every time I go back to it, I discover unheard harmonies, crazy guitar effects and tones, and that snare hit at the beginning of Got The Life will forever give me goosebumps!”
James Agusta, Anamorph
“I heard this album when I was in elementary school, and it was certainly one of my earlier exposures to heavy rock music. I didn’t really listen to anything else like it at the time. I have some fond kid-memories of listening to Korn tracks on my old iPod mini.”
Mike White, Orthodox
“Follow The Leader was an album that showed me exactly how important it was to put as much emotion as you can into your music and to push the boundaries of what is expected of a band.”
Zadak Brooks and Corey Emond, Boundaries
“The transition from Life is Peachy to Follow the Leader was such an important breakthrough in heavy music, it also very much inspired Boundaries’ writing style and pedalboard set ups.”
Anthony Kaoteon, Kaoteon/Death Tribe
Photo: Ella Mssawir
“Growing up, I was exploring all music I could get my hands into, from Faith No More to Slayer and Korn. Korn were fresh and different — a mix of Sepultura’s Chaos AD, Pantera’s groove, and the gangster stuff of Ice Cube. Many of us might thought back then it was too much hip-hop, and a lot of songs were not really memorable. However, looking back it, Follow The Leader has a lot of original elements that influenced me and the whole metal community, from sound to riffage to vocal delivery and even imagery. The classic Korn sound hits you in the face after those silent intro tracks and It’s On! Heavy bouncing guitars, groovy beats, and a demented, angry vocalist who brought a whole new delivery and expanded the metal genre forever. Life Is Peachy might be a favorite, but without Follow The Leader, we wouldn’t be talking about Korn today.”
James "Jas" Dillon, KillSET
“Follow The Leader was an absolute game changer! It was an album that perfectly combined heaviness, hip-hop and the hooks destined to have commercial success. It seemed fearless to drop a record like that and not care what the industry thought. I was inspired by their ability to combine such diversity, basically saying, ‘This is who we truly are, do what you want with it!’ We strive daily in KillSET to combine all of our individual influences, regardless of genre, to create something as incredible and game changing as [Korn] did with Follow The Leader!”
Absence Of Despair
“Follow The Leader was one of those albums that I dug into at an early age. The style the heaviness, and the emotion portrayed, helped me find the darker aspects of life and deal with them in a healthy manner. Also, All In The Family was one of my favorite all-star mash-ups. I wish I could have seen it live.”
-Joe Reynolds, vocals
“Follow The Leader was the first metal album I ever purchased. I was thirteen years old at the time. The guitar effects and vocal style were unlike anything I had ever heard, not to mention the overflow of sincerity and emotion along every step of the album. I couldn’t believe how the band could take such wrenching, gritty noises, and turn them into something beautiful. That album had a huge influence on me personally, and definitely paved the way for countless metal acts to come.”
-Rob Bryant, bass
“The first time I heard this record, I was instantly hooked. From all of the chaotic noises to the super heavy low end of the guitars and bass. Jonathan’s signature vocal styling and phrasing always stuck out to me as well. Follow The Leader was and always will be a true game changer and staple in the metal world.”
-Tyler Caruso, guitar
Artie Alexander, Damn Your Eyes
“I remember the anticipation for this album. I’m an old-school metal guy, but Korn always had my attention. I am a fan. Follow The Leader was off-the-bat different than the first two albums. Everything was brighter in the mix and the guitars were next-level vicious. It just had a different groove to it, and bigger bridges and choruses. The groove alone was an influence to me — putting disco beats behind metal was revolutionary, and there are parts of this album that make your hair stand on end. Korn showed the world (and me) that you can be something different while staying true to your roots.”“
Read this next:
- The 6 best Jonathan Davis scat performances
- A loving tribute to the timeless genius of Korn’s Freak On A Leash video
- How Korn’s self-titled debut made me the metalhead I am today
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