Two memoirs about turning to God, from two members of Korn.

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April 1 2009 7:13 AM

Nü Testaments

Two memoirs about turning to God, from two members of Korn.

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Nü metal, as a genre, was far from irreligious. P.O.D. played powerhouse Christian rock. Godsmack liked to talk about Wicca. The darker bands were possessed, as if by a nightmare, by the idea of spiritual extinction: "Must not surrender my God to anyone," vowed Fear Factory's Burton Bell on Digimortal, "or this body will become CARRI-ON!!!" Korn's lyrics, while less poetic, were no less eloquent: "Sometimes I cannot take this place/ Sometimes it's my life I can't taste/ Sometimes I cannot feel my face/ You'll never see me fall from grace" ("Freak on a Leash"). Abjection, numbness ... how much of this stuff can you do before something gives? Head was the first to crack. Besieged by guilt about his young daughter (whom he was raising alone), exhausted by his addiction, he began to zigzag toward God: "Immediately after church, after raising my hand to accept Christ in my life for real this time, I went home, put on a movie for Jennea, and went into my master closet, opened the safe, and grabbed the best bag of meth I had in there. I snorted a line, then sat there on the floor, a rolled-up bill in my right hand, and prayed. ... Then I snorted another line." After a few nights of this the meth was all gone, but Jesus was still there.

Got the Life and Save Me From Myself are both ruggedly confessional in the best nü-metal manner; read them in tandem, and you get to know Korn quite well. The experiences they describe, though, are somewhat different. Head's conversion, between meth benders and saturations of divine love, was a precipitous inner event which he was then obliged to manifest outwardly: He became a new man. He left Korn, got himself baptized in the river Jordan, and—no joke—founded an orphanage in India. Fieldy's pilgrimage, begun in the wake of his father's death, seems to be more a matter of gradual and humble atonement for years of raging asshole-ism. Got the Life includes contrite, AA-style letters to each of his band mates. ("I know now that a physical beating would have healed better than the things I said to you.") He certainly gave them a hard time; early in the book, he and fellow Korn member James "Munky" Shaffer are pulled over in their pickup truck in L.A., and Shaffer is placed under arrest for an outstanding jaywalking ticket. "For whatever reason," Fieldy writes, "Munky was wearing a pair of my shoes that day. ... 'Take my shoes off,' I told him. 'I'm serious. I don't want you wearing my shoes to jail.' " The discalced Munky is duly handcuffed and hauled away, leaving Fieldy to be rebuked by the New Testament clarity of the episode's imagery—shoes, bare feet, prison.

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Korn is still operational, and Fieldy is still making that sticky, indelible sound with his bass. Head has released an album of post-Korn salvation rock; October of last year found him discussing it with Pat Robertson on the Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club. Head: "I went to church and I just felt something. And the guy was saying that Jesus was real, the pastor was just saying if you talk to him he'll start to take things out of your life that are hurting you. ... So I did drugs and I talked to Jesus." Robertson (chuckling, curious): "What did he say?"

James Parker is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.