NEW YORK Hard-rock heavyweights Korn recruited the services of a choir and police bagpipe band in debuting their new rapless but moody album Monday night at the storied Apollo Theatre in Harlem.
Accompanied by an eight-member choir and, briefly, by a 13-piece New York City Police Department Celtic band, Korn blasted, in running order, through the 16 songs that make up their fourth album, Issues, which was released Nov. 16. Singer Jonathan Davis, dressed in a Scottish kilt, looked delirious at times as he sang his lyrics for the crowd of about 1,400.
Missing were the hip-hop collaborations and mellower grooves of the band's previous album, Follow the Leader. That disc established Korn as one of rock's most popular acts. The Apollo Theatre show was broadcast on U.S. and international radio stations.
"The album right before this, it was much more hip-hop," 16-year-old Patrick Sines of Brooklyn, N.Y., said. "This one, it's like I sense the agony. The music is intense."
The stage at the Apollo, a legendary venue known as a premier rhythm & blues showcase for rising and established stars, was decorated with candelabra, creating a mood like something out of a horror flick. Colored lights navy blue, purple, green, burnt orange surrounded a backdrop of two red Oriental rugs and a small red sofa. The stage also featured several lava lamps.
Korn's new music touched on agony and anger. There were eerie, haunted-house guitar sounds and quiet wails on the verses and crashing metal riffs and screams on the choruses. Several songs, including "4 U," "It's Gonna Go Away" and "Am I Going Crazy," found Davis alone onstage, backed only by Gothic, trip-hop beats and his choir.
The performance opened with "Dead," backed only by bagpipes and vocals. Davis led the Celtic band as it romped through the droning but uptempo number.
From there, Davis' bandmates bassist Reg "Fieldy" Arvizu, guitarists Munky and Head and drummer David Silveria emerged from the darkness at the rear of the stage. With Arvizu leading the charge, the band next played the first Issues single, the thrashing "Falling Away From Me" (RealAudio excerpt). Arvizu, dressed in a blue plaid shirt, a white derby and a large gold chain, spun in place and rocked wildly as the song progressed.
On a few songs, the album uses electronic drum effects, which Silveria re-created during the concert. Munky and Head, as is their custom, alternated between minimal fuzz and chimes and thick, loud guitar licks.
The night's clear star, though, was Davis, who at times seemed to find a spiritual connection with impassioned Who frontman, Roger Daltrey. As Daltrey often does, Davis moved and contorted his face as he sang. He jumped around and at points lost himself in the music. He even tipped his head back to scream into the microphone, a Daltrey trademark.
The band's new lyrics are as provocative as they are evocative, and Davis delivered them mostly with conviction. "Your feelings I can't help but break them/ I'm sorry I don't feel the same/ My heart inside is constantly hating/ I'm sorry I just throw you away," he sang on "Trash" (RealAudio excerpt), the album's third song. "Sometimes I wish I could be strong like you," Davis shouted out 10 songs later on the ironic "Let's Get This Party Started" (RealAudio excerpt).
The attending fans overwhelmingly white in a venue known for its African-American performers danced with Davis, often jumping and rocking in unison. The fans stayed in their seats for 10 minutes after the band closed with "Dirty," convinced an encore would come.
It never did. But no one seemed to complain.
Several fans said Issues marks a return to the band's affinity for murky heavy metal and often-indecipherable, angry vocals, which they used on their first two albums, the 1995 self-titled debut and 1996's Life Is Peachy.
Neither Davis nor the other bandmembers acknowledged the crowd during their performance, but they waved to the audience as they walked offstage.
"It was very sludgy, a lot slower. But it was slammin'," Amy Sciaretto, 24, of New Jersey said.
"It had a spiritual feeling to it, especially with the candles," said Beth Litwak, a 15-year-old fan from Rockland County, N.Y.
Manhattan resident Jennifer Vinnick, 26, said she was expecting a much heavier sound. But she admired the band's creativity, she added.
"They deviate from the typical hardcore band," she said. "They make it their own thing."