Back in 2010, Korn streamed a gig from inside a Californian crop circle. The eerie setting had been fashioned by art collective Circlemakers, who had created a series of giant circles incorporating the band’s logo. It proved the nu-metal veterans were way ahead of the game when it came to online gigs, not to mention partial to a bombastic statement.
This time, they’ve gone even bigger, with the band’s ‘Monumental’ global stream beaming in from the rooftop of a parking garage in downtown LA. With the glittering city skyline and the expanse of the city sprawling behind them, they’re backed by a staggering amount of production. Filmed at the location of the the city’s Stranger Things: Drive-Into Experience – an immersive venue based on Stranger Things‘ fictional setting of Hawkins – the band aren’t fighting off any demogorgons tonight. Instead they’ve nabbed the venue’s huge LED screen and lighting; amid eye-popping visuals, strobes and towering plumes of smoke shoot into the night sky.
Back in March 2020, the band had just finished up a US tour with alt-metallers Breaking Benjamin – and then the pandemic cut short chances to give their 2019 album, ‘The Nothing’ a proper headline tour. Instead, ‘Monumental’ marks the first time most fans are hearing those tracks live. And all the bells and whistles in the world can’t hide the fact these are deeply dark, harrowing songs. ‘The Nothing’ was written during a turbulent time for vocalist Jonathan Davis, who first lost his mother, and then his ex-wife, who died after an accidental overdose in 2018. On ‘Cold’, Davis barks, scats and howls in cathartic anguish, while on ‘You’ll Never Find Me’ he clutches at his chrome H.R Giger-designed microphone stand as though his life depends on it. ‘Can You Hear Me’ – one of Korn’s glossier moments – sees electronics unfurling subtly into a down-tuned cry for help.
Thirteen studio albums and 28 years deep into their career, with the kind of back-catalogue capable of uniting metal-heads in fields the world over, Korn have never really followed the likes of Slipknot, Avenged Sevenfold and System Of A Down into the festival headliner realm. Tonight, they certainly make a case for it.
Elsewhere though, the anthems take a back seat. Largely, this is a set geared towards die-hard fans, and stacked with deep cuts. Churning opener ‘Victimized’ – a track from 2013’s darkly experimental ‘The Paradigm Shift’ – gets its live debut. The band haven’t played bone-shaker ‘Thoughtless’ since 2010, while the bludgeoning ‘Throw Me Away’ had its last live airing a decade ago. Similarly, ‘Dirty’, from 1999’s ‘Issues’, sees Korn blowing up pain full scale, Davis screaming “I just want to laugh again” in a blaze of flashing lights.
Of all the tracks Korn could have chosen to play from their 1998 classic, ‘Follow The Leader’, the inclusion of ‘Justin’ will come as a surprise. Including ‘Ball Tongue’ – ending in a jazzy, down-tuned jam between bassist Fieldy and guitarist Munky – in the place of their most incendiary song ‘Blind’ may well ruffle a few feathers. Still, it shows Korn as a band willing to take risks, rather than rely on easy wins.
At this point in the pandemic, we’ve seen many of metal’s biggest bands go to town with their livestreams (see: Corey Taylor streaming from a deserted 17,500 capacity arena, and Architects‘ emotional performance from a deserted Royal Albert Hall). According to Davis, Korn have been waiting until they could bring something different to the table. As a monstrous rendition of ‘Here To Stay’ brings things to a close, there’s a sense that this has been mission accomplished.
‘Falling Away From Me’
‘You’ll Never Find Me’
‘Throw Me Away’
‘Black is The Soul’
‘Freak On A Leash’
‘Alone I Break’
‘Can You Hear Me’
‘Here To Stay’