Since emerging onto the heavy music scene with their self-titled 1994 studio album debut, Korn have become a staple of modern heavy metal music. Throughout their time as a band, and at the time of this writing, there are 14 Korn albums; while some of those albums have shown off the incredible talent of the band, some are a tad more lackluster.
Given that the band just released their 14th studio album earlier this year (titled Requiem), we thought now might be a good time to go through the band’s studio discography and rank the Korn albums worst to best. The goal of this ranking effort is to look at what Korn albums stand out as the strongest among the band’s discography, as well as to shine a light on what albums best represent the band today.
Of course, this is our own personal ranking and it may differ from your own.
Without further ado, let’s go over our list of Korn albums, ranked from worst to best. What do you think is the best Korn album?
14. Korn III: Remember Who You Are
Korn III is an odd record. While the quality of the production itself is fine, there is a messy element to this record. There is a lack of identity in not just the flow to and from tracks, but the individual songs themselves don’t do much to represent the band’s great qualities. The record lacks the vibrancy and pounce of past Korn albums, while also not doing much of anything to push the band forward creatively. It is a dip in creative quality as compared to the band’s prior release to Korn III, their Untitled album.
13. Life Is Peachy
As the follow-up to the band’s incredible studio album debut, Life Is Peachy comes off as more of a sophomore let-down. Playing off the band’s aggressive performance established in their self-titled album, Life Is Peachy does little to offer listeners anything new. Even in future records that struggle with monotonous and repetitive elements, those records at least involve some element of effort to be more progressive – whereas Life Is Peachy does little to differentiate itself from the band’s debut LP (outside of some relatively heightened sounding production).
12. Take a Look in the Mirror
Among other records in the Korn discography, Take a Look in the Mirror is an interesting case. It is a fine record that displays the band’s talent for fusing melodic grooves with crunchy sounding instrumentation. That said, throughout Korn’s nearly three decade run as a band at the time of this writing, there have been those releases that show Korn entering states of repetition. For as much as Take a Look in the Mirror offers some solid tracks and, yes, it sounds great – it lacks not only the more progressive qualities that would come later on within the band, but continues to play off the same qualities that the band have played too multiple times prior to the album’s release. There just isn’t a ton happening here that is all too interesting.
Untouchables is also another album that finds itself in awkward period for Korn. With the band’s previous album prior to this one (Issues) being quite a banger, Untouchables displays the band now playing into a comfortable flow of previously established songwriting structures and style. It is the same problem that the band’s next album, Take a Look in the Mirror, would also suffer from; we just argue that, as compared to “Mirrors,” Untouchables offers a greater catchy appeal.
10. The Path of Totality
While some folks have taken to shitting on this record – and while it is not the strongest Korn album – it displays the band itching to expand upon their artistry (and we appreciate that). This record is the one to come after Korn III: Remember Who You Are – which in a lot of ways, helps it stand out much more. The stylistic choice of blending metal, rock, and electronic music does work in the band’s favor at times to present sonically layered and intricate sounding compositions. This electronic element is actually something that would end up becoming a greater Korn quality in not only the album to come after this one – The Paradigm Shift – but for future records as well. However, this quality ends up burning out fast on The Path of Totality, given that the stylistic fusion ends up becoming a monotonous blend of sound, with songs blurring into one another.
The band’s newest album as of 2022 unfortunately involves similar issues like what Take a Look in the Mirror struggles with. Are we calling Requiem a bad record? Absolutely not. Again, the issues with this album are not that of quality, but of monotony. Albums prior to Requiem (i.e., The Paradigm Shift and The Serenity of Suffering) brought a tremendous boost in quality to Korn; qualities that not only represent all that Korn have done throughout their career, but qualities the band had continued to expand and experiment with throughout multiple releases. 2019’s The Nothing also was a strong record (more on that shortly), but Requiem finds itself treading familiar waters. The technicality, songwriting, and sonic flavor of the music comes across as a fusion of those previous three albums, which is cool – but ultimately, the record does little to stand out compared to other incredible Korn albums.
In a way, Issues feels like the album that should have came out after the band’s self-titled debut LP. Whereas Life Is Peachy feels much more like a straight-forward continuation in terms of song structure and style, Issues pulls from the sonic qualities that Korn established on that debut record, but also expands upon them, providing additional layers to the band’s use of melody and groove. But, as the band’s fourth studio album (coming after 1998’s Follow The Leader), it carries with it the great stylistic delivery and technical writing that would help to push the band’s artistry forward.
7. See You on the Other Side
There is a noticeable shift in production quality heard on See You on the Other Side. Whereas so many past Korn releases really embraced a gritty tone, this album sounds – “cleaner,” even more poppy in a way. As the band found themselves in some monotonous waters with 2002’s Untouchables and 2003’s Take a Look in the Mirror, See You on the Other Side makes for a welcoming shift; a shift that represents the band’s future approach to production tone.
6. The Nothing
As compared to relatively previous albums like The Paradigm Shift and The Serenity of Suffering, there is a slight stylistic shift that the band took on in The Nothing that is quite powerful. Specifically, while the band have played to this approach in the past, The Nothing offers an atmospheric tone that feels slower – with the atmospheric presence of several songs leaning deeper into melancholic auras. This in terms ends up providing an added emotional punch that elevates Korn singer Jonathan Davis‘ gut-wrenching delivery of poetic lyricism.
There is such a ferocious and kick-ass aggression to this debut that still holds up to this day. We acknowledge that it lacks the bite and vibrancy found in future Korn albums to come, but this record is such an important foundation to that of Korn’s material and artistry. While so much Korn music provides emotion through touches of atmosphere, electronic components, and Davis’ lyricism – the core element to Korn’s music is that of their aggressive presentation. The grit and abrasive nature that is present throughout all of the Korn albums began here and has never been forgotten. A stellar debut and a landmark record that forever changed the game of heavy music.
4. The Serenity of Suffering
The follow-up LP to the band’s 2013 album The Paradigm Shift, The Serenity of Suffering capitalizes on many of the great musical components that came out of that previous record. It treads similar ground in terms of sound and style, but it still displays a new Korn shining bright. The Serenity of Suffering balances ominous aggression and menacing atmosphere, the band weaving elements of metal, rock, and electronics together in stunning fashion.
3. Untitled album
Along with that of the self-titled debut LP, Korn’s Untitled album is a strong testament as to what makes modern Korn so great. As a record that was released in 2007, the Untitled album makes for an intriguing work in the Korn catalog, representing the band’s past material and what would come of their future work. It continues the approach of clean production that was heard on See You on the Other Side; that production works in favor of the band, as it aids in emphasizing the sonic and emotional weight of tracks, while still holding on to the band’s core sound of gritty nu metal. The poppy aspect of the Untitled album is something that the band would continue to embrace more and more with each record – to varying degrees of success.
2. Follow The Leader
One cannot deny the incredible work and talent that went into 1998’s Follow The Leader. In many ways, it is a record that very much defines who Korn is. Not just because of its selection of great Korn songs, but because it is more so a blend of what makes Korn a fantastic band. From the catchy and aggressive sounding presentation of instrumentation, to the plethora of intricate compositional structures that make up the record, to Davis’ dominating voice and lyrics – Follow The Leader is a Korn staple. Its level of technical proficiency and stylistic excellence also make it one of the most entertaining, heaviest, and stellar releases of its decade. Korn is a band that ended up not only establishing a whole new genre of heavy music, but it is because of alums like Follow The Leader that they would end up inspiring future generations of heavy metal bands.
But while Follow The Leader may be the beloved fan favorite (and even the record that Jonathan Davis recommends to newcomers of the band), it isn’t the record we feel sums up what Korn have become today (or what represents Korn’s growth the most). No, that Korn album would actually be…
1. The Paradigm Shift
At the time of its release, The Paradigm Shift made for a truly astounding comeback for the band. Prior to this album’s release, it seemed that there was an identity crisis of sorts taking place in Korn; one could tell that, over the course of previous records prior to this one, there were small pushes to expand upon their artistry. There were efforts made to embrace new sonic elements and try new things; we love to see bands take on new approaches, even if those efforts don’t shape out well.
The Paradigm Shift is when all those efforts came together though in excellent fashion – resulting in a work that hits as hard as past Korn albums, but also introduces new artistic layers to the band. Those layers come in the form of more dynamic songwriting and performances that aren’t super straight-forward (that go beyond the conventional approaches of the band’s past writing and performance), as well as a greater presence in electronic music (which this time around, works much more effectively).
When we think of what Korn is today, this is the album that stands as the prime example of modern Korn. This album takes the best parts of Follow The Leader, the Untitled album, the self-titled LP, and even the commendable effort put into The Path of Totality, and displays an evolved version of Korn. The band are still themselves – you can hear their sound from 1994 still at work – but they became something new and fascinating with The Paradigm Shift.
Do you agree with our Korn album ranking? How much do you agree or disagree with us? What do you think is the best Korn album?
Words by: Michael Pementel