Which one was your last favorite Korn album? Don’t tell me “Korn” or “Life Is Peachy” – although you might be right!! Mine was the 2005’s “See You on the Other Side” and it’s dark, sometimes industrial-tinged experimental metal flavor it’s still heavy and refreshing, edge-cutting after all these years. Last time they tried to ride the dubstep trend by bringing in some fancy producers as Skrillex, Noisia, Excision, etc and somehow “The Path of Totality” was too mainstream oriented and designed to be genuine. So, pretty curious what this time Korn it’s up to while they bring back original guitarist Brian “Head” Welch, for the first time since their 2003’s “Take a Look in the Mirror”. Still, “The Path of Totality” has sold 270,000 copies in the US, which anyway is a pretty decent number these days. Now Korn announced that they will return to their metallic-neurotic, darker roots.
The new album was produced by George Don Gilmore, best known for working with bands such as Temple Of The Dog, Pearl Jam (Ten), Lit (A Place In The Sun), Duran Duran (Astronaut), Linkin Park (Hybrid Theory, Meteora), Good Charlotte (Good Morning Revival, Cardiology), Bullet For My Valentine (Fever) and Hollywood Undead (American Tragedy) – and many more. He also working on the upcoming new Bullet For My Valentine and W.E.R.M. albums. Don Gilmore is definitively not a metal producer and obviously I was not expecting another album with the fury and heaviness of their debut in ’94. The answer of how Korn sound in 2013 came with the first single, “Never Never”, which was officially released on August 12, 2013.
This is a strange, but smoothly crafted mixture of pop and rock, something like Duran Duran meets Korn with a serious dose of subtle electronic layers and modern minimalism, but also incorporating their characteristic dark and heavy riffs. For keeping the line of evolution straight, their spirit of innovation intact, eventually creating a link between their albums, I would kept also some dubstep flavors, but not those fake, American dubstep s*its, but digging out some real, raw and bad a*s Brit dubstep influences, something aggressive and contorted as the things Subsource does. Just forget Skrillex and all the mediocre Skrillex wannabes!! The mainstream flavor is for followers, not for the leaders!!
So, from my point of view and for my expectations, “Never Never” was a promising introduction of the eleventh album by Korn.
01. Prey For Me
02. Love & Meth
03. What We Do
04. Spike In My Veins
05. Mass Hysteria
06. Paranoid And Aroused
07. Never Never
08. Punishment Time
09. Lullaby For A Sadist
11. It’s All Wrong
Jonathan Davis – lead vocals, bagpipes
Brian “Head” Welch – guitars
James “Munky” Shaffer – guitars
Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu – bass
Ray Luzier – drums, percussion
Zac Baird – keyboards, piano, backing vocals
Don Gilmore – production, mixing
Mark Kiczula – engineering, mixing, additional production
Tom Lord-Alge – mixing
Brad Blackwood at Euphonic Masters – mastering
Noisia – production and additional music (“Spike in My Veins”)
“Prey For Me” it’s a pretty brutal opening, almost unexpected, but then we realize this is Korn, not Skrillex and not Duran Duran. Although I like Duran Duran. The bass is pumping, the riffs are cutting through the speaker and Jonathan Davis singing more melodious, but still psycho enough to release some bloody screams too. The chorus is sticky, Korn are back and they are grinding!
“Love & Meth” is build upon the same aggressive and dark formula, strong and dark verses, more melodious and softer choruses. From the second verse their left the song more breathing space, create some tension by alternate heavy riffs with spacious, almost chill moments. Smart approach!
“What We Do” it’s an interesting mixture of up-beat dynamic and more rounded, soften guitar parts and electronic layers. There are some pretty exciting breakdowns and rhythmic solutions. Ray Luzier take his job pretty seriously and his play is refreshing and exciting throughout.
“Spike In My Veins” have a nice little wicked riff, but the sound it’s still less edgy, less heavy and the electronic textures and layers are getting some more space while Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu’s bass is like a path through the songs which keep things tight and tied-up. It’s still Korn, but another aspect of them from a different perspective. It have something from the industrial flavor of “See You on the Other Side”, but everything got a more pop flavored resonance. It’s interesting and surprisingly working very well!
“Mass Hysteria” bring back the dark contorted heavy Korn riffs. It’s a bridge back to the “Follow the Leader” (1998), “Issues” (1999) era Korn.
“Paranoid And Aroused” it’s a successful melange of brutal and dark moments with spacier and more experimental electronic moments. It’s the energy of the early Korn merged with the more subtle, polished recent sound.
“Never Never” it’s still the most efficient and memorable song of the album. The verses are kind of silly melodious, but absolutely sticky and the chorus is fluent, contagious. The song and the sound it’s the most “commercial”, most pop flavored, but definitively unforgettable and although the build-up is quite simple, the “solo” is a nice breakdown which bring up front the chorus even more. This is a really good song, although quite out from the classy Korn sound and style.
“Punishment Time” bring back the dark riffs, the tension and the more “conformist”, classy Korn sound while the chorus is again less intense and more melodious. The whole song got a more softer flavor after the first chorus which seems to be a pattern for most of the songs from the album. They kick in hard, then they get back a little bit. It’s a nice song with a beautiful, sensitive break. I just said sensitive? Well, it would not be possible back in ’94, isn’t it? Well, just as I write this down they just added a very brutal ending to the song! 😆
“Lullaby For A Sadist” it’s half between a pop flavored ballad and a dark, typical Korn contortion. The riffs are nicely build in into this almost dreamy construction and the song feels like a fairy-tale. Although the guitars are present, they are less edgy and aggressive as fans probably expecting, but this pop flavor sound surprisingly fits pretty well the band.
“Victimized” kicks out with some more powerful riffs, the verses are aggressive and dark while the chorus switch up to more melodious and it’s supported by synth pads. Nice mixture and efficient, although the chorus is less memorable that it supposed to be.
“It’s All Wrong” it’s a pretty classy Korn monster, dark and contorted, tensioned throughout, reaching back to their more metallic roots.
I like this album. Korn finally find their path and managed to make peace between their brutal roots and the chilling down tendencies, the more softer approach of these days. I think old and new fans will both will enjoy and appreciate this new album. It’s what I would call the healthy compromise, the balance which not affect creativity, but still bring an artist to the next level. And it will be pretty difficult to get further from here, but for now, let’s not worry about that and enjoy this album fully!
Buy it or steal it!!!