Korn Revels in Nu Metal Nostalgia at Epicenter

Korn's Jonathan Davis (performing at Hollywood Palladium)
Korn's Jonathan Davis (performing at Hollywood Palladium)
Matt Oliver

Epicenter Festival 3/14/15 Even the sweltering sun and the broiling LA heat couldn't keep the masses away from the Epicenter music festival Saturday at the Forum in Inglewood. Thousands flocked to see Hopsin, Suicidal Tendencies, P.OD., House of Pain, Limp Bizkit, and headliners, Korn, whose special appearance included the band's debut 1994 self titled album, performed in its entirety for the 20 year anniversary of its release.     By 5:00 p.m. hundreds of revelers were tailgating in the parking lot, getting hammered before the show. But, the venue was half full at best, for the opening act, LA based rapper Hopsin. Most were walking into the venue, finding their seats, or waiting in line to piss or buy beers.  

Just after 6:00 p.m. OG Venice thrash punks Suicidal Tendencies took the stage and already the floor erupted into a slam dance frenzy in the first song. Mike Muir was swinging across the stage as he sang, as guitarists Dean Pleasants and Nico Santora shredded through classic, raw speed metal punk riffs. Drummer more and bassist Michael Morgan held down the funky, heavy metal end of the musical spectrum to keep fans in the entire arena engaged, especially in the pit. Suicidal chugged through classic tracks like "Institutionalized" and "Subliminal" and "Pledge Your Allegiance" and several others.   Up next, Christian rap metal band P.O.D was a bit slow to warm up at first, with a sound that was initially unfamiliar but soon became recognizable. From San Diego, the band came up in the late '90s nu metal scene and sound and had several major hits, which they played, including "Alive," "Southtown," "Boom," and "Youth of the Nation."   House of Pain came out next, and again it took a few minutes to warm up to the sound, of classic hip-hop with an edge, and backing live band of musicians along with two DJs. In between the band's set front man Everlast picked up a guitar and laid down a live rendition of his hit song "What It's Like" off of his solo album Whitey Ford Sings The Blues. Fans were digging House of Pain's remaining songs and the fans in front were getting their bounce on, but after 30 minutes the band's brief set was over.   Arguably one of nu metal's biggest, most commercially successful bands was Limp Bizkit, led by Fred Durst, who mixes the sounds of Metallica and Eminem for that trademark rap/metal hybrid sound. What truly makes the band's live performances memorable is guitar player Wes Borland's insane ability to transform simple riffs and chords into mood swinging, experimental energy and thumping, buzzing sounds that pound down with the bass and drums and mix well with the DJ. Borland's stage robot like maneuvers are a bit strange but still rocking and his style would fit easily into any type of metal from NIN to Slipknot and anything in between.   Limp Bizkit performed hit songs, like "My Generation," "Rollin," "My Way," and even a cover of Rage Against the Machine's "Killing Inn The Name Of."  "I miss those guys," Durst said of Rage after the tribute.  The live stage show included hip hop dancers and a break dancer, and Fred Durst acknowledged the time span it had been since the band played the Form last, in 1998 with Korn, on the first Family Values Tour, also featuring Orgy, Ice Cube and Rammstein. "We are all here for one reason, and that is the band Korn!" Durst yelled to the crowd just before the last song, "Break Stuff." Many in the crowd were seen proudly sporting original tour shirts from that very tour, 17 years ago.   At 10:20, lights went out, the crowd was nearly at a capacity on the floor and in the seats, and a huge backdrop of Korn's first album lit the stage. The hypnotic ticking drums of the first track, "Blind" rang through and the arena erupted in cheers and a frenzy waiting for the funky bass, then slow heavy build up to singer Jonathan Davis growing "ARE YOU READY?!?!" Fans everywhere were head banging, moshing and jumping like it was 1996. Korn came out at a time before rap metal or nu metal was cool. They were a strange, dark, yet street sounding band that was outcasts. The first record's influence for sure can't be denied on many bands today.  

Parts grunge, funk, hip-hop, alternative punk and metal, Korn broke down the barriers of what heavy metal should or shouldn't sound like and were a raw mix of Pantera, Metallica, Ice Cube, Faith No More, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Helmet, which no one had ever seen or heard. Jonathan Davis sang about several personal traumatic issues in his child hood for some of the songs on this record, including "Faggot," which were intense, and even a bit hard to watch. But the energy and release of angst, hate and anguish made for some of the most cathartic and tortured head banging in heavy metal. Fans loved every single song off the album, especially the death metal hip-hop tinged dark nursery rhyme song, "Shoots and Ladders," with Davis performing an intro on the bagpipes. Moshing was at its peak for songs like "Ball Tongue," "Clownl" "Divine," "Fake" and "Lies."  

Drummer Ray Luzier provided the solid wall sound and beats to synthesize the funky bass of Fieldy, and low, down tuned guitars of  Head and Munky, both of whom play guitar in spasms of riffs, slumped over but leaned down and constantly head banging Just after the last song, the very tortured "Daddy," the band took a two-minute break then came out and rocked the entire venue again with the hit songs, "Falling Away From Me," and "Freak on a Leash." As a powerful, successful  hard  rock/metal band,  Korn's influence can still  felt two decades after the release of the first album.

See also 10 Punk Albums to Listen to Before You Die 10 Goriest Album Covers 10 Most Satanic Metal Bands

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