Concert Reviews

Korn and Rob Zombie Gave Hope to Nü-Metal Diehards, Horror-Loving Weirdos

Despite a ticket that boasted "rain or shine," Tuesday night's Korn and Rob Zombie co-headlining show at Fiddler's Green Amphitheater was delayed considerably due to inclement weather. Just as opening band In This Moment were set to take the stage, the amphitheater was evacuated and concert-goers were told to take shelter in preparation for "golf-ball-sized hail." People retreated to their cars, nearby parking garages and hotel lobbies and waited for the storm to pass. The hail never did come, but the threat of it pushed back the start of the show and ultimately canceled In This Moment's appearance. An hour and a half after the concert's designated start time, Korn, the show's co-headliner,  took the stage. 

A 2015 article in Decible magazine by Shane Mehling discusses the history of the "nü-metal" genre. The article states, among other things, that Limp Bizkit, with its passionless posturing, was essentially the end of a genre that started out with good intentions. The author cited Korn, which started in Bakersfield, California, in 1993, as an early and earnest pioneer of a genre of metal that has been very divisive in the greater heavy-metal conversation.

The bandmembers took the stage at Fiddler's with their name, in large jagged letters and featuring the trademark backward ’R' emblazoned behind them. They started their set with the song "Right Now," off of 2003's Look in the Mirror.  Many people, including Mehling, argue that nü-metal, as a genre, lacks the musicianship and skill possessed by bands in "purer" forms of metal. Watching the riffs played by guitarists James "Munky" Shaffer and Brian "Head" Welch, it's not a difficult point to argue. The pair, while skilled in their own right, play down-tuned seven-string guitars that focus more on single-fret chords that provide beef and resonance but are very rudimentary and do not provide much in the way of melody. From a player's perspective, it lacks the precision and skill of riffs played by ’80s hair-metal acts and modern-day metal bands like Lamb of God or Intronaut. But it's a style that Shaffer and Welch helped pioneer and allows them to focus on stage presence and energy — which, 23 years later, the group still has plenty of. Ray Luzier, the band's third drummer, is the exception here, as his double-bass chops and fills were impressive and well played. 
Korn played newer songs in the front half of its set before ending in a flurry of well-known hits like "Freak on a Leash," "Got the Life" and "Blind." While the band, and the music it plays, has always been an easy target for critics, Korn is still an impressive and engaging act. Singer Jonathan Davis is what sets the band apart from "nü-metal" fillers, as his range, mystique and overall presence are unmatched and original. Korn continues to follow a road it has traveled for a while, but it's a road that it helped build, and the enthusiastic and massive crowds it still plays to may ensure there's no need to veer off anytime soon. 

Despite the late start and the strict sound ordinances of Fiddler's Green, Korn appeared to play a full set, and that left Rob Zombie facing a time crunch. Zombie's stage set takes some time to assemble and features a giant boombox, monster and zombie heads, a floating throne, and massive devils and alien "puppets." All of this production and the weather delay left Zombie with less time than usual to entertain the capacity crowd.

Zombie has long been one of the more interesting characters in music. He is a vegan, horror-film-directing icon whose sound falls somewhere between heavy metal and dance music. He has taken his love of horror, the occult and aliens and somehow made them fun, accessible and mainstream. On this night, he showed several sides of his complex persona. 

After John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High," played over the speakers, Zombie and his band of ghouls bounded onto the stage and jumped into "Dead City Radio" off 2013's Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor. Wearing his trademark cowboy hat, frilly boots and matching jacket, Zombie showed boundless energy, performing songs across his solo albums, White Zombie classics like "Thunder Kiss '65" and "More Human Than Human," and a strange version of Tone Loc's "Wild Thing." 

While ultimately, Zombie's set was not as long as the crowd would have liked, he was engaging and affable throughout. Zombie's success, and the crowd he performed to, helps prove that conforming to trends may not always be the quickest way to success, and that there's hope for vegan, horror-worshipping weirdos from planets all over the galaxy. 

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Andy Thomas is a music journalist who hopes other music journalists write nice things about the music he performs. He lives in Denver with his wife, their two cats and a massive pile of unfinished projects.
Contact: Andy Thomas