Life Is Peachy, Korn’s sophomore album, turned 20(!) on October 15th and two decades ago, the question on everybody’s lips was ‘how do you follow up an album that had been lauded by the worlds press as changing the face of metal?’
That was the considerable problem facing the members of Korn once the tour cycle in support of ‘that’ world-conquering debut had ended. In the end, they decided to keep the same set-up and buried themselves under mountains of drugs and alcohol….but the result was still uniformly stunning!
When you compare Life Is Peachy to Korn the first thing that strikes you is the sound. With their debut album, producer Ross Robinson went for a warm, fuzzy analogue sound, whereas this time around the result was colder, more clinical and discordant but still drenched in reverb.
While guitarists Brian “Head” Welch and James “Munky” Shaffer were already considered a new kind of six string tag-team – an anti Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman if you will – eschewing solos and instead crafting their music with a series of squeals and lead heavy drop-tuned riffing, the star of the show was still vocalist Johathan Davis; who screamed, roared and whispered his way through the most tortured and perverted psyche imaginable. Unlike a lot of metal frontmen at the time, Davis was not afraid to expose his frailties and rather than come across as some sort of chest-beating Superman he portrayed a completely broken and seriously fucked up character.
At this stage, Life Is Peachy was still a new kind of metal but not quite yet ‘nu metal’; although the template for the sub-genre had now been intricately designed. Of course, what was most important was the songs. Ultimately, Life Is Peachy suffers from the same problems as its illustrious predecessor, namely consistency and quality control. The likes of “Good God”, “Mr Rogers”, “No Place To Hide”, “Chi” and the closing “Kill You” were all prime slices of mosh pit fodder and probably as good as Korn would ever get. Sadly, on the other hand, the album was slightly let down by the likes of “Ass Itch”, “Wicked”, “K@#ø%!” and the pointless “Lowrider”.
For a short period of time in the mid 90’s, Korn were cutting edge metal and they helped to usher in the nu-metal era which saw them become one of the biggest metal bands around. The problem was that while their style of music may have been exciting at the start, for two albums at least, it left Korn with little room to manoeuvre. While Jonathan Davis’ delivery may have been a breath of fresh air to begin with – hell, he’s managed to fashion himself a 20 odd year career out of his troubled childhood – his schtick has now worn rather thin; not forgetting the irony in Korn’s music being embraced by the very knuckleheads he railed against!
In hindsight, you’re left with an album that has some truly fantastic moments but remains equally as flawed; life proving not quite as peachy as perhaps it once was! Nevertheless, Life Is Peachy is always worth another nostalgic listen and remains a fascinating precursor to nu metals dominance.