Korn / Hellyeah / Droid
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Vancouver, BC Canada
***Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
As influential as they have been, Korn’s metamorphosis from whiny, gibberish-spewing nu-metal pioneers to the sleek modern rock band they are today has been an interesting ride. Whether one looks at the bizarre circumstances surrounding the departure of former guitarist Brian “Head” Welch and subsequent use of masked replacements on stage, singer Jonathan Davis’ brush with death in 2006 or the revolving door of drummers filling in for the “on hiatus” David Silveria, Korn has faced a lot of obstacles recently yet always seem to come out ahead. The band’s latest visit to Vancouver supporting their new release, UNTITLED, saw the “supergroup” Hellyeah, as well as Droid, a new band signed to James “Munky” Shaffer’s label, Emotional Syphon Records, along for the ride.
A spartan crowd huddled around the guardrail for Vancouver’s introduction to Long Beach, California natives, Droid. Incorporating the groove of Pantera, the aggression of Hatebreed and the chug of Machine Head, Droid is not breaking any new ground whatsoever but their self-titled debut album is a thoroughly enjoyable slab of heavy metal, nonetheless. For their half-hour live show, eight of the twelve songs from DROID were presented in the typical no-frills fashion of an opening band. Vocalist James “Buddy” Eason interacted with the crowd in front of the stage, while bassist Duke got a few of the ladies hot under the collar once he stripped his shirt off. “The Resurrection” rides along on a choppy riff while “Fueled By Hate” and “My Oath” are full-bore cranial assaults. Meeting with the band afterwards, I was surprised to find out Droid has been toiling the scene for eight years despite their debut just getting released this summer. Eason, sporting a sweet pair of Iron Maiden KILLERS shoes, is a fireball-spewing madman on stage but quiet and personable off. Drummer Nick McWells and dread-locked guitarist Jamie Teissere are just as down-to-earth, the three offering my brothers-in-arms from Abort Magazine and I free reign of their stock of after-show refreshments during an interview. Droid are a nice bunch of hard-working, dedicated chaps worth checking out if the opportunity arises.
For The Following
Withdrawals of Me
Together We Die
Behind Dead Eyes
Fueled By Hate
Built To Last
Hellyeah’s self-titled debut didn’t get the best review on our site and considering the pedigree behind it, the white trash lyrics and crude southern rock found on the album is a major letdown. Vinnie Paul (ex-Pantera; ex-Damageplan) and two members of Mudvayne—vocalist Chad Gray and guitarist Greg Tribbett—make up the bulk of the lineup, yet Hellyeah comes off as a booze-soaked, weekend side-project rather than a serious band. Hellyeah’s forty-five minute set covered most of their self-titled debut with high points being “You Wouldn’t Know” and “Waging War” but the knuckle-dragging, low-brow foolishness of “Hellyeah,” “Goddamn” and “Alcohaulin’ Ass” seemed even more ludicrous live. The Kid Rock-style faux-country of the latter is trumped only by the so-corny-it-hurts lyrics of the former. That being said, Hellyeah’s realm is clearly the live setting. The zombie-like Tom Maxwell aside, Hellyeah’s songs come across significantly better with the energy of Gray surging behind them and Vinnie Paul’s freight train beats and Bob Zilla (ex-Damageplan) is like the over-caffeinated little brother of Metallica’s Robert Trujillo on bass. Lots of energy and it is immediately obvious the guys are having a great time performing together. Skip HELLYEAH (the CD) but for a better representation of Hellyeah (the band), catch them live, if for nothing else than to see Vinnie Paul–and his snakeskin drumkit–back in action.
Despite all their ups and downs, Korn has never lost sight of its main priority: its fans. Whether choosing four pieces of fan-submitted artwork to adorn the different covers of 1999’s ISSUES, to using fan-chosen setlists for their live shows, Korn has remained down-to-earth and avoided the stratospheric egos that drive a wedge between musician and fan. My one and only experience seeing Korn live previously—their run with Papa Roach and Powerman 5000 (*shudder*) opening in 2000—left a bad taste in my mouth with the headliner playing for barely an hour but the band more than made up for it this time, gracing the stage for a respectable ninety minutes. Despite being officially reduced to a three-piece, seven musicians round out Korn’s touring lineup including former Sevendust guitarist, Clint Lowery, filling the vacant spot of Brian “Head” Welch, and Slipknot’s Joey Jordison temporarily residing behind the drumkit. Keyboardist Zac Baird took frequent trips across the stage with a portable, eighties-style “key-tar” and percussionist/vocalist Kalen Chase—imagine an albino Corey Taylor—added aggressive vocals and scads of charisma to the backing band. Up until recently, the “unofficial” members had been wearing animal masks to avoid “confusing” fans over who the “true” Korn members are but they are now relegated to a background area instead. Fieldy, looking trimmer than ever, mentioned to me right before going on stage that he was “ready to get up and act like a clown” and his trademark movements and bass style were out in full force. Slapping, thumping and generally abusing his chosen instrument, Fieldy’s hip-hop-inspired five-string rumble is an essential part of Korn’s sound and with Jordison augmenting his beats with fancy fills and added flair, the rhythm section hit like a Sherman tank. Jonathan Davis was adorned in his kilt but the bagpipes, once a staple of any Korn show, were not heard this time.
Fear Factory/Strapping Young Lad bassist Byron Stroud was at the sidelines with me basking in the green lasers and top-notch production Korn brings as the set weighed heavily on UNTITLED. “Evolution” and “Twisted Transistor” are two of Korn’s most infectious songs to date and their familiarity resonated with the crowd, while “Ever Be” is one of those creeping songs the band almost single-handedly cornered the market on. “Coming Undone” and “Falling Away From Me,” with their thick, rubbery basslines and chugging downtuned guitar tones, simply crackle live. The tortured lyrics of “Faget” had the entire crowd shouting “you can suck my dick and fucking like it!” in unison and “Dead Bodies Everywhere” garnered a similar response. The wicked groove of new song “Hold On” stands just as punishing as UNTOUCHABLES’ “Here To Stay,” while the slow, ambient “Kiss” seethed with Jordison’s military-like drumming. Considering Korn circa 2007 is an assembly of hired hands with only three “real” members, they are surprisingly tight and the old material mixes seamlessly with the new. The “extra” members—Baird and Chase—augment what is an already beefy sound and the music certainly benefits.
Here To Stay
Dead Bodies Everywhere
Falling Away From Me
Freak On A Leash
Sadly, only 2,500 people took in this show and even with the reduced “concert bowl” set-up, it was still glaringly obvious that sales were not what anyone had expected or hoped for. It’s been nearly a decade since Korn’s popularity hit its peak with FOLLOW THE LEADER in 1998 and the experimental roads taken with 2003’s TAKE A LOOK IN THE MIRROR didn’t do them any favors, either, but the influence that Korn has had on heavy music over the last thirteen years is immeasurable. Granted, they can be held solely responsible for inflicting the world with the scourge of Limp Bizkit but they also helped give metal a much-needed shot in the arm during the mid- to late-nineties when the shoe-gazing flannel farmers took over. Like them or not, Korn is one of the most important bands of the last ten years and for that, they will always have my respect.