Korn, the band, originated and emerged in 1993 from Bakersfield, California. Their eclectic sound helped launch what is now known as nu metal. Frontman Jonathan Davis has said on numerous occasions the group had no intentions of being a part of the musical movement when they first got together, not that nu metal existed in definition or otherwise at that time. In fact, over the years the band has shown some embarrassment with that association. Nonetheless, they are seen by many as the band that launched the polarizing genre.
But things change. And so has the attitudes of the “Godfathers of nu metal”. And every successful mega-band has an album that seems to rise up above all other works. This is the case with Korn’s Untouchables. Let’s take a dive into the work and songs, and review it from the perspective of Korn fans.
Untouchables is Korn’s fifth studio album. It was released on Tuesday June 11th, 2002 and included three singles: the Grammy winning “Here To Stay”, “Thoughtless”, and “Alone I Break”. The first single “Here To Stay” garnered a ton of attention from rock and alternative radio stations, getting “spins” and airplay to help push the record.
At the time of release, the CD sold very well, hitting number two overall on the Billboard 200, behind only Eminem’s wildly successful The Emenim Show. But after the inital release, sales dropped significantly, even though some critics and most rocks fans both loved Untouchables. It was also certified platinum within a month of its release. At the time though, Internet piracy was exploding with websites like Napster and others. Because of this, and low sales, the album was re-released again on Tuesday November 12th, 2002 when the third single “Alone I Break” officially came out.
The album’s artwork is probably my least favorite part about Untouchables. However, the cover features a dark and gritty aesthetic, which is consistent with the band’s image and the overall tone of their music. Unlike my opinion, many fans of Korn praised the artwork, citing that it fits well with the music and album’s themes, so I am very much in the minority here. It’s posted below, along with the alternate artwork used on some releases.
Untouchables Album Artwork
Untouchables Album Review
1. “Here To Stay”: The album kicks off with the heavy, but hooky “Here To Stay”. The song feels like an anthem for the entire 65 minutes of run-time, which I’m sure is why they placed it appropriately at track number one. The song is a statement, or maybe a roar, declaring the ownership of Korn’s existence and their music belonging to them as artists, as opposed to its leeches. A favorite, and appropriate lyric states “anticipating all the fucked up feelings again…” With this first track Korn absolutely asserted they were here to stay. “Here To Stay” was the album’s first single released for airplay.
2. “Make Believe”: This track is subtle in its thrash, yet the bass still vibrates heavily. It feels as if Jonathan Davis unloads his true feelings of everything and everyone around him. But that’s what his does in most of his lyrics. Either way, “all the shit will follow…”
3. “Blame”: Korn lyrics are always cynical and brooding. If you’re depressed and low, there’s nothing better than listening to a Korn album to make you feel better. If you feeling happy, wholesome and cheerful, the same record will make you feel depressed!! And the third track on Untouchables is Korn at their core. The song starts with a grind set to a steady and moving beat and rhythm. And Jonathan’s vocals are quality angst. This isn’t a song that’s high on anyone’s list of favorites, but the groove is amazing and provides a perfect self-loathing atmosphere fit for any goth kid.
4. “Hollow Life“: The haunting intro is classic Jonathan Davis. His voice is strained just the right way too. This track highlights the dedication the band and producer Michael Beinhorn put into Untouchables. If you’re looking for a radio hit single, keep looking. But dedicated fans swear by this song. It digs itself into your hidden angst and reveals spiritual questions you were’n’t aware you were asking yourself. The song is also a reminder that Davis is an amazing rock singer even though he wasn’t nessessarily blessed with God-given vocal talent.
5. “Bottled Up Inside“: How many Korn songs start with and have a great bassline riff? Waaay too many, and “Bottled Up Inside” follows that trend. The song has the same awesome lyrics, and the architecture is also like-minded, but the chorus fearures some variances that excite, and by the time you reach the line “my heart’s breaking, man you really ripped it out…” your ears are already in angry tune.
6. “Thoughtless”: This is the first single released off this amazing album. I reeeeaaaalllly love corn (even tho it shows up in my poop the next day), but I also crush the band Korn too, so I’m as biased as they come. But radio stations that stopped playing this track after the initial song release push from record labels left a gem off the airwaves. There’s a very solid reason this song became the second single from Untouchables– it kicks ass and it is hooky as fuck, but it also displays a diligent effort and intricacy to nail this audio masterpiece. The audio tapestry perfectly represents the album it sports, and the era it came out of. Davis has stated the song is about the ridicule some people endure at the hands of their peers. If you can relate to the lyric “I wanna kill and rape you the way you raped me”, then this track is for you. Careful, this track will inspire you to do things not acceptable in a civilized society!
The song’s music video even features a very young and disheveled Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad before his breakout role as Jesse Pinkman on the hit AMC show. The theme of the video focuses hard on bullying, with some fairly quick imagery and a ton of symbolism about our guns-at-school crisis. This was twenty years ago by the way… Here’s the “Thoughtless” music video so you can check it out for yourself.
7. “Hating”: After the anger and resentful loathing so far on the disc, the name of track seven entitled “Hating” begins with a techno feel, and somehow helps release the tension built up so far. Anger is replaced with a sense of bereavement and acceptance. But internal conflict persists still. Davis’ savvy with words is displayed on the chorus line “an angry mouth with a broken heart”. Poetry.
8. “One More Time”: “One More Time” has a bit of experimentation from Davis and the style of delivery he gives. The sensibility of the song sticks, while also giving another facet of the album’s sound. The track feels as if it could be on a movie soundtrack, sporting the hook on the opening or closing credits. Its very 2000’s, or aughts, as the decade is sometimes referred to.
9. “Alone I Break”: Placesetter number nine is this author’s favorite track on Untouchables. The actual sonic value of “Alone I Break” is nothing like most Korn songs, revealing pain and suffering from a disposed soul, burying the anger deep in the gut as opposed to straight-out screaming it. The song is pissed, yet mourns more. If you’ve ever suffered any type of deep sadness during your lifetime, this song will help you try to reconcile it. Try NOT to reflect on your existence while listening to this one.
10. “Embrace”: If you were longing for Jonathan’s full-frontal violent style, this song will bring you back to the fold. “Embrace” has a heavy, marching sound. More experimentation happens too, but all the loved and admired elements of Korn is very present. The song is not a throw-away or just filler, but surrounded by the other great tracks on this album, one could make the mistake and define it that way.
11. “Beat It Upright”: Even if you’re just a tad bit of a Korn fan you know almost every album has a song about sex on it. And should we expect anything less from the lyricist that came up with the A.D.I.D.A.S. song acronym? (If you don’t know what A.D.I.D.A.S. stands for, click here.) Jonathan Davis and crew puts together yeat another great song to poke the whiskers to. It’s a good, driving track, a guteral bass presence, with dark verses with a singing chorus, and lines you can get dirty to like “Yes I’m ready for a good flogging, Baby” or “Ass up high, make a motherfucker cry” and “Are you ready for a good pounding, Baby?” Hmmm… I’m hearing tendencies of an oveeractive libido.
12. “Wake Up Hate”: Korn’s Untouchables album doesn’t have a bad track on it, but this track is not the greatest. Honestly, I find myself skipping the song quite a bit when I listen to the full record. This song is funny… I love the parts, the creativity, the intricate sounds and the attitude but the song as a whole is not appealing to me.
13. “I’m Hiding”: There’s something about Munkey’s basslines in some of the best Korn songs, and “I’m Hiding” is one of those. The track starts with solid, slow but driving bass. And the entire four minutes burns like a grinding workout, inducing a deep and internal sweaty fire. this song is a hidden gem. Be sure to check it out.
14. “No One’s There”: THis is the final track on Untouchables. This is a perfect cap to an almost perfect Korn album. Jonathan Davis has said many times how much effort he and the band put into Untouchables, and I love how they finalized the CD. The song is a pure deep album track, and true Korn Fans are the one’s that benefit from listening to the whole damn disc, instead of just the singles. It clocks in at nine and a half minutes, but also includes a hidden dance mix of “Here To Stay” halfway through.
Overall, Korn’s fifth studio album Untouchables is widely considered the band’s best release, even though it received mixed reviews from music critics. But what do those nerds know… Some praised the album for its heavy sound and the band’s experimentation with new musical styles, while others criticized it for being overly produced and lacking the raw energy of their earlier work. But the album was well-received by fans and was a huge commercial success, debuting at number two on the Billboard 200 chart.
How do you feel about the album? Please join the conversation and leave your comment below.