When I was first getting into metal during my mid-teens, buying CDs was still really popular. The cover of a CD would be a significant factor in drawing me towards new music or influencing my next album purchase.
Nowadays a good album cover is a bonus. With streaming and illegal downloading the primary way we consume and circulate music, it’s arguably not as necessary to create decent art alongside an album’s release. There’s a lot to be said for a cover that’s visually appealing, whilst adding an extra dimension to the overall product.
Korn – Self-titled, 1994, Sony Music Entertainment
Photographer: Stephen Stickler
I was only four when Korn released this groundbreaking debut, but after bangers like Freak On A Leash and Here To Stay drew me in as a teen, I backtracked to this release and subsequently discovered this image. It’s still one of my all-time favourite album covers.
Sinister, is the word that best sums it up.
The little girl is the centrepiece and it’s her who influences our whole perception of this image and the negative meaning that stems from it.
Here she is, in the park – a place normally associated with playing, children’s laughter and happiness. But this girl is alone. She’s not swinging and in fact appears to be frozen to the spot. She’s visibly disturbed by whatever faces her, screwing her face up and shielding her eyes from the sun’s glare. It’s jarring to see a child look so uncomfortable in this environment.
Of course, it quickly becomes apparent why this is, as soon as you notice the omnipotent presence casting the giant shadow beside her.
Like the girl attempting to gain clarity, we also know little about the shadow. It’s not just the figure’s anonymity that’s disconcerting. Is the figure really that tall? Or is the shadow warped? Why do their hands look like sharp objects or hooks? Why are they here and what do they want?
It’s obviously bad news. That is the dominant feeling.
I fear for the girl in the picture. It wasn’t until recently that I read that the girl is hanging in the other shadow, so confirming these dark interpretations. The cover has some evil connotations such child abduction and predatory behaviour.
Given the subject matter presented throughout the album, specifically frontman Jonathan Davis’ anger channelled from his own childhood experiences, the cover is undoubtedly an extension of these themes stemming from abuse and the corruption of innocence.
It’s a powerful image that induces anxiety. To me, the unknown identity of the shadow represents a universal, continual presence of evil among us. Figures that cause pain, suffering and who prey on the vulnerable. It shows an abuse of power and recognition for other young victims out there.