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Metal bands' press photos seem to follow an
Metal bands' press photos seem to follow an unwritten rule forbidding their subjects to show even the hint of a smile. They are limited to stone faces, grimaces, or wide-mouthed ersatz screams. Korn'sMetal bands' press photos seem to follow an unwritten rule forbidding their subjects to show even the hint of a smile. They are limited to stone faces, grimaces, or wide-mouthed ersatz screams. Korn's publicity stills follow suit. The group's stock-in-trade is music full of disturbing, dark atmospherics and their photos look as menacing as the rest. Singer Jonathan Davis, who ripped his earlier lyrics and primal howlings from childhood horrors, exudes a demeanor that can even be called sedate. Yet something about Brian "Head" Welch's expression in the snapshots, taken during his tenure with Korn -- be it his heavy-lidded eyes or stiff jaw -- indicate his solemn mug wasn't just for show.
Welch's book title explains why. "Save Me From Myself" is a primer on the miserable rock star existence he led before he turned to Jesus, seemingly out of the blue, in 2005. After reading about the ferocious grip of his addictions (the usual assortment: money, speed, alcohol, pills, crystal meth, porn), you realize why the thought of people laughing at him for becoming a cliché paled in the face of trying to sober up.
The book is a total mea culpa; Welch is dutifully humble and shoulders the blame for shoddy behavior that includes fist fights with his ex-wife and getting high while at home with his young daughter, Jennea. He was using long before he joined Korn in 1993, trying to quell internal conflicts -- depression and insecurities -- that multiplied as the band's career escalated: his failing marriage, indecision over whether to quit the band because the lifestyle enabled his habits, misery at being a bad father. The decision to seek God followed an email from a concerned friend. The Bible verse contained in the email made Welch recall a memory from childhood about how moved he'd been when he tried to talk to Jesus. His transformation wasn't instant -- Welch brooded over it and kept snorting meth even as he called to the Lord for help -- but it has been permanent so far.
Beyond anecdotes demonstrating the band's bouts of substance abuse, Welch takes obvious pains not to point fingers at who did what too strongly. He's clearly not interested in airing dirty laundry, emphasizing that his indulgences were his own doing. Tiptoeing around topics like which guy bedded what girl on the road seems old-fashioned in the age of total disclosure, until you read how it backfired when he tried to play stud himself. (Apparently the groupies he attracted had issues rivaling his own.)
One refreshing piece of Welch's tale is that he doesn't claim life became perfect when he was saved. He has still drifted, trying to determine his path as he sought spiritual mentors, donated to charity, sued his band over money before making peace with them, battled another crippling depression and had a crisis of faith. He will also perk ears with his belief that "All of the man-made religion crap in this world has to die . . . All that prideful, controlling religious crap is what drives young people away from churches." That message might convince the rebel crowd that he's not a holy roller out to shove doctrines down their throat.
People could scoff that Welch's testimony is a sign that the drugs finally fried his brain and that instead of being a confused, drug-addicted rock star, he's a confused, cleaned-up Jesus freak. To each his own. As the rest of Korn declared once their emotions cooled, what matters is that Welch has survived. And as the photos of him in his book show, for the first time, he's smiling wide.