“It still blows my mind to this day”: How Korn’s Follow The Leader changed the game
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 their unique sound, merging the raw angst of 1994’s 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 23rd anniversary of Follow The Leader’s release – yes, that old! – we reached out to some of rock and metal’s upcoming and established stars and asked 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 downtuned 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
“There’s never been a band that’s sounded like Korn, and in all honesty probably never will be. Follow The Leader gave them the larger-than-life, rock star 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! I was ‘trading’ CDs with my friends, and Follow The Leader was the first one I gave in exchange of Linkin Park’s Meteora, as well as Metallica’s Black Album!
“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!”
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
“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 favourite, 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!”
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. 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.””
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