Before Korn released Follow The Leader in 1998, nu-metal hadn’t really had that “hit” album quite yet. Linkin Park was still getting rejected by every label under the sun, Deftones were just starting to emerge with the previous year’s Around The Fur, and bands like P.O.D. and Slipknot were still a year away from catching their big breaks.
Follow The Leader was all it took to open the metaphorical floodgates, though. While Korn’s 1994 debut album basically invented the genre, it took a while for nu-metal as a whole to reach a wider audience. Korn’s sophomore album, Life Is Peachy, was even more successful out of the gate – selling just over 100k first-week copies in 1996 – but outside of Sepultura’s Roots and somewhat notable early albums from Mushroomhead and Incubus, the genre wasn’t quite ready to take off yet.
Of course, all you have to do is listen to “Freak On A Leash” or “Got The Life” – arguably the band’s two biggest hits – to know that 1998 was Korn’s time to garner a huge fanbase. In fact, Follow The Leader sold more than 2.5 times the number of albums that its predecessor did in its first week of release, and that year’s Family Values Tour, which the band launched themselves, also gave some relatively unknown (at the time) bands some major opportunities. Perhaps you’ve heard of Incubus, Rammstein, Limp Bizkit, Orgy, and even hip-hop legend Ice Cube. The ’90s were a wild time.
Follow The Leader was about more than danceable (!!!) and energetic rap-metal tracks, though. In fact, the album’s hip-hop influence shows better than the band’s previous work – funk and hip-hop rhythms are more prevalent than ever before, and guests like Ice Cube on “Children Of The Korn” and “Cameltosis” (which features Tre Hardson from criminally underrated alternative hip-hop group The Pharcyde) added even more authenticity to what Korn was trying to accomplish.
The album also isn’t just about its singles. “Reclaim My Place” is a notable track for its interesting guitar effects and its mid-song breakdown that comes with little warning, and “B.B.K.” (two guesses as to what that acronym stands for) revels in Jonathan Davis’s unique scat vocal style, which appears throughout the album.
But wait, there’s more! “Dead Bodies Everywhere” is one of Korn’s most unsettling tracks to date. While it’s certainly rhythmically catchy with a nice guitar crunch, its sinister industrial edge adds a new dimension to the album as a whole. Meanwhile, you also have a track like “Seed” that, while almost 6 minutes long, is ultra catchy and rhythmic with crunchy guitar riffs. Korn standard, sure, but this is the record where they really honed that style in.
The album, which eventually sold over five million copies in the USA alone, no doubt provided the springboard to Korn’s global success. With the band’s music videos getting retired by MTV’s TRL and rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest stars in music at the time, Follow The Leader was arguably the apex of the band’s popularity – and a harbinger of things to come in the next few years. Korn’s most successful album, Follow The Leader isn’t just a nostalgic trip down memory lane – it paved the way for many popular acts to follow.