At last we have KK's Priest's second and long awaited album.
VERSUS: Follow The Leader vs. Significant Other
Welcome to another edition of Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal history and compare them to each other, to see which one was the better record.
In this edition of Versus, dig out your JNCO jeans, Adidas tracksuits, and your backwards baseball caps, as we dive into the peak of nu metal. Two bands that are considered the faces of the genre, releasing their most successful releases less than a year apart. Records that would define the sound, cement their names in the history of metal, and make themselves household names. Let's look back at the height of this divisive genre in this matchup I'm calling "That Nu-Phase in Heavy Metal History."
In this corner, we have KoRn, with their third album, 1998's "Follow The Leader". Cited as being the pioneers of nu-metal, the band broke into the mainstream with the release of this record and is one of the most successful records in the band's career. It is also one of the defining records in the nu-metal genre. The album also featured artwork by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, as well as in the band's breakthrough video for the song "Freak on A Leash". Let's check out this defining record and see what the band brings to this matchup.
Opening on the thirteenth track, which lead singer Jonathan Davis has said he's very superstitious and didn't want an album to end on the number thirteen, is the song "It's On!". With a wobbly stereo effect, accompanied with a deep kick drum hit, the song kicks off with the trademark KoRn sound on the guitars with each guitar mirrored, but different in tone in each speaker. Bassist Fieldy's slap bass adds such a unique instrumentation to the main riff and drums, almost a unique percussion element to the band's sound. Davis' shrill and anguishing vocals fit the anxiety inducing feeling of the song in the vocals and cadence.
Next is one of my favorite tracks off the album with "Freak on A Leash". Driving, "in the pocket" style drumming by David Silveria keeps the track pulsing. Distorted vocal effects within the background vocals, add unique touches in the pre-chorus before the chorus kicks in. The bass slapping throughout the main chorus is prominent in the mix behind the tom hits of Silveria. Then the famous breakdown with Davis' scatting over Fieldy's slapping bass and drums hitting hard into the breakdown. With chaotic vocals of singing, screaming and scatting over the simple riff breakdown just makes it an amazing song to picture the crowd losing it live during this section.
Following that is my all time favorite KoRn song with "Got The Life". With that thunderous opening snare hit, into a nice 90's sounding guitar riff with pounding bass hits. The slap bass on the verse section sounds so good, giving a funk feeling to the track. Davis' vocals are at his best, with his aggression and delivery. The vocal harmony of the chorus sounds so good. The beat fading out after the chorus with just drums with the trademark distorted guitars of James "Munky" Shaffer and Brian "Head" Welch, letting Davis' vocals help set the tone for the build that Fieldy's slap bass brings and intensifies with the guitars back into the chorus. The last vocal harmonies at the end into the distorted and fading guitars close out this KoRn classic.
The album takes a darker tone in the song "Dead Bodies Everywhere". With 808 sounding bass drums and a music box sounding melody, before the riff kicks in HARD with that slapping bass adding grit to the riff. The ambient guitar effects create an ominous tone with Davis' trademark vocal delivery. The album does feature three guest appearances by rappers and tries to cater to their rap style, which unfortunately, only one of them is good. The Ice Cube-led track "Children of The Korn" starts with an old-school hip-hop drum beat with Cube hyping the track up. The vocal collaboration of Davis and Cube is a little "out there" and I feel like the song just doesn't work. The second is with fellow nu-metal artist Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit on "All in The Family". A sort of diss track towards the other's band is VERY cringe worthy. With dated lyrics, homophobic slurs, and testosterone-saturated bravado, the only saving grace of the song is the screaming duel both singers share on the chorus. The last featured artist is Tre Hardson of The Pharcyde on the song "Cameltosis". The song actually works really well and is the best of the three with both artists gelling well together musically and working well on the track.
Heavier songs like "Reclaim My Prize" has gritty, distorted guitars with vocals starting strong with heavy slap bass in the opening. Bass is showcased really well with popping bass hits and is prominent on the track. "Seed" shows the band be more experimental. Playing around with guitar and vocal effects to the band's already unique sound. The album closes with "My Gift To You". Featuring Davis' trademark bagpipes with a chugging breakdown sounding riff in the opening and throughout the song. The album has a hidden track after the song. "Earache My Eye", a Cheech and Chong cover, that features Cheech Marin himself on the song with Fieldy leading the charge on vocals. Closing out the album on a comedic high note.
Their opponents, the other defining band of the genre is Limp Bizkit. With their second album, 1999's "Significant Other". Following the success of the band's cover of George Michael's "Faith", the band fine-tuned their sound and really implemented their mix of rap and metal. With the release, the band would skyrocket, along with their opponents, as the new face of this genre as well as their infamous performance at that year's Woodstock. Let's review this nu-metal classic, and see how it stacks up against their competitors.
After a short intro, the album kicks off with "Just Like This". With a nice, up-tempo chuggy riff by guitarist Wes Borland with techno growls in the mix before the verse section. Vocalist Fred Durst delivers his very 90's style rap and lyrical delivery with Borland's guitars playing in the background with drummer John Otto keeping the simple, driving drums, adding punch in the mix.
Then "Nookie" starts with that classic hip hop drum sound with that 90's guitar tone as the song kicks into gear. With a very drum heavy beat, with little guitar sections and a good bass groove from bassist Sam Rivers. With that infectious chorus, the riff hits hard with pounding snare and a catchy riff. The bridge section adds unique change to the song and gives a feeling of build with the guitars and drums rising at the same time to hit hard as it leads back into the chorus.
Following that track is "Break Stuff". With that iconic and simple opening riff and aggression in the verse section, it sums up all the teenage angst and aggression we all had and makes you want to just break something as soon as you hear that opening riff. With a music video with cameos from actors and musicians throughout, the song became a classic and a live staple for the band. The band slows it down with "Re-Arranged". With a nice, bass heavy melody and DJ scratching by DJ Lethal adding to the track, the song lets Durst show off his singing more then his rapping. The guitar section accompanies the bass section, along with Otto's intricate yet simple drumming behind it. The song picks up the pace and intensity at the halfway mark before returning to the chill intro vibe near the end of the song. Closing out with Lethal's intricate scratching and mixing with Otto's reverb drenched drumming.
"I'm Broke" kicks off with a gritty, grungy opening riff by Borland. The beat, accented by start/stop sections by the band, accenting Durst's bro-like energy in his rapping. The following song, featuring Jonathan Davis of Korn and Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots is "Nobody Like You". A unique song, with elements of nu-metal, with 90's alternative, delivered by Weiland's vocals on the chorus. A very unique track for the album. "Don't Go Off Wandering" shows the band bring the tempo back again after a rising intro, almost giving off a unique 90's ballad-like feel to the song. Durst's vocals are more angsty and aggressive at the same time going into the chorus.
The song "N 2 Gether Now" features rapper Method Man and is pretty much a straight hip-hop track. No guitars or heaviness in the song. That beat is a toe-tapper, and a catchy beat with a catchy chorus, the song fully embraces the hip-hop and rap that the genre fused into the band's sound. "Trust?" returns to the heavy sound the band delivers. With an aggressive sounding riff and drums punching hard in the mix, the song kicks the door down with it's energy and picks the album back up from it's hip-hop interlude from the previous track. With a unique time signature, start/stop section, the track slows down to let Durst shine as the drums join behind him and add pop to the delivery.
"No Sex", featuring Aaron Lewis of Staind, starts off with a gritty, effect-laden guitar melody with Otto's drumming keeping the pulse of the song going in its melancholy nature. Songs like "Show Me What You Got" continue the 90's party energy, matched with frat-boy energy, that the band perfected in their sound. The album closes with an outro similar to the intro of the album, but features two hidden tracks. "Radio Sucks" featuring former MTV VJ Matt Pinfield, and "The Mind of Les" featuring Primus bassist Les Claypool with a unique beat and Claypool's trademark vocals and quirky lyrics.
After we hang up our baseball cap and grow out of our nu-metal phase, who won this 90's matchup? For me, the winner is KoRn with "Follow The Leader". Though some of the rap features on the song are not the best, overall the album is just stronger than "Significant Other". Musically, with Fieldy's slapping bass throughout the album and guitars building heaviness and also eerie ambience, the record is more unique and dynamic. "Significant Other" has some songs which are still good and hold up to this day, but a lot of the songs sometimes blend into one another or almost have a generic/simplistic riff feel to the song. Both records still show the different takes of the genre. With KoRn slightly showing some hip-hop and rap elements over a more heavy, gritty, down-tuned seven-string guitar sound. While Limp Bizkit fully embraced the rap and hip-hop sound, infusing the heaviness of guitars, but mainly focusing on rap and hip-hop.
KoRn continued the success of "Follow The Leader", with the more heavier follow up in 1999's "Issues". Guitarist Brian "Head" Welch would leave the band in 2005 to tackle his addiction to meth. After getting clean, he would rejoin the band in 2013 and has been with the band since. Drummer David Silveria would leave the band in 2006. The band released their most recent record in 2022 with "Requiem", receiving positive reviews from critics and fans.
Limp Bizkit would release a follow up, 2000's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water". Guitarist Wes Borland would leave the band in 2001. The band would hire former Snot guitarist Mike Smith and released the negatively received "Results May Vary" in 2003. The band would reunite with Borland for the 2005 EP "The Unquestionable Truth (Part 1)". After the release of the 2011 album "Gold Cobra", the band would go on a nine-year hiatus before returning in 2021 with their sixth album "Still Sucks" and has been touring since.
I might make light of the nu-metal genre, but to many people, this was sort of the intro to hard rock and metal. They might like the music, but eventually grow out of the genre, and want to listen to heavier music. I myself was one of those people. I loved these bands when I was first discovering heavier music, and after listening to these and searching for new music, I found heavier genres and bands. So, even though myself and the metal community might make fun of these bands and this genre, it was kind of our gateway to metal. I might look back and cringe at some of the lyrics and style of the genre, but at the end of the day, I wouldn't have found the bands I like if I didn't start with these ones.
Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won this battle of 90's nostalgia? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.