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Associated Press/Photo by Mark Mainz

Brian's songs

Music | Soundtrack to Welch's autobiography plays well

Issue: "Four horsemen of the apocalypse," Oct. 4, 2008

Few bands did more during the 1990s to re-popularize heavy metal or to inspire outrage among conservatives than Korn. So when one of its founding members-the guitarist Brian Welch, aka Head-became a Christian and left the group in 2005, Korn fans and conservative culture watchers alike were curious to see what the effects of his newfound faith would be.

The first indication was Welch's 2007 autobiography, Save Me from Myself (expurgated and republished a year later as Washed by the Blood). The second is Welch's just-released solo album, also titled Save Me from Myself (Driven).

Skeptics prepared to condemn the album with faint praise ("The best soundtrack to an autobiography ever!") will find themselves pleasantly surprised. Not only does it add dimension to the autobiography's subtitle ("How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story"), but it also recalls Seeds of Change, the 1980 spiritual-rebirth album by the ex-Kansas member Kerry Livgren that, upon the publication of Livgren's identically titled book in 1983, also became a soundtrack to an autobiography.

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Welch's music, of course, is considerably different. As Livgren built upon his progressive-rock foundation, Welch builds upon Korn's. His singing occasionally morphs into throat-shredding shrieks, the minor-key settings of the songs gives them a dirge-like feel, and the guitars and drums may wound sensitive eardrums.

But just as Livgren's solo Christian progressive rock sounded better than his pagan work with Kansas, Welch's solo Christian metal sounds better than his pagan work with Korn. Even at their ugliest, the songs sound like-well, songs. Actual melodies emerge from the din, and most of the time one can understand the lyrics.

And the lyrics-with the possible exception of "Die Religion Die" (an expression of all-too-typical new-believer anti-nomianism)-are worth understanding.

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