Korn: Brian (vocals, guitar); Jonathan Davis (vocals, bagpipes); J. Munky Shaffer (guitar, background vocals); Fieldy (bass, background vocals); David (drums, background vocals).
Additional personnel: Judith Kiener (vocals).
Recorded at Indigo Ranch Studios, Malibu, California.
"Shoots And Ladders" was nominated for a 1997 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance.
"Are you readyyyy?!" With that question--an inquiry that begins as a growl and ends as a scream--Jonathan Davis provides a fitting beginning to this searing collection of relentless, metallicized thrash/funk. His question is well-posed; this is not music for the faint of heart. Producer Ross Robinson and Korn have found a formula that works: start with a layer of fuzz-soaked guitar, add some big beats, and finish the whole construct off with a healthy dose of Davis's tortured vocals.
This is dark music, scary music. It's also occasionally funky music. "Ball Tongue," with its stop/start syncopation, tinny guitar whine, and stripped-down-to-the-bone verse, is a perfect encapsulation of the Korn style. The track also contains a trace of (gasp!) Hip-Hop flavor, but you won't be hearing this L.A. quartet on the dance floor any time soon. Their assault is severe, fueled with explosive bursts of guitar a la Metallica, as well as frenetic tempo changes reminiscent of Faith No More. The themes are frustration, alienation, pain, explored the way a bulldozer might peruse a patch of daisies.
Through songs like "Divine," where guitar and drums intertwine to form a sinewy, intricate rhythmic pulse, and "Fake," in which Davis's voice alternates between a dreamy sing-song and a demonic roar, Korn amply displays both their musicianship and their rage. But the disc's most startling moment is the last. "Daddy," in which the farthest reaches of human cruelty and depravity are held up and judged by an abused child, begins with a haunting surprise--and ends in an emotional meltdown, a final purge, with Davis sobbing, screaming, "You ruined my life!" Korn exorcises their demons the only way they know how--with music.
What the critics say...
Q (7/01, p.87) - Included in Q's "50 Heaviest Albums of All Time".
Q (8/00, p.127) - Included in Q's "Best Metal Albums Of All Time" - "...[Their] clinical power generated maximum moshpit activity, while singer Jonathan Davis' lyrics spoke directly to any teen who'd ever been misunderstood, bullied or abused."