Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Korn - The Path Of Totality

As dubstep gradually attacks an increasingly more general public and moves ever-forward towards mainstream acceptance, much to the chagrin of “purists” (also known in some circles as “twats”), it was only a matter of time before it infiltrated the metal world in a way beyond simple remixes and the odd wub-wub in an Enter Shikari track. With that in mind, who could’ve guessed that Korn of all bands would be the first to the finish line? And not just with a one-off collaboration – a full length album marrying dubstep and metal in blasphemous matrimony? Considering the patchiness of Korn’s career (last year’s fantastic return to form with Korn III: Remember Who You Are not withstanding), you’d be forgiven for going into this album expecting utter ridiculousness. And not the good kind. And yet, equally, it makes total sense. Korn have always in their greatest moments operated in the low-bass-frequency that dubstep almost exclusively inhabits, and their patented grooving, staccato riffs that ultimately gave birth to nu-metal have often centred around that ballsack-swinging tempo that is so paramount to the “filthiest” dubstep drops in the world (let the record show that I have lost at least twenty-seven respect points for myself by making use of the utterly meaningless terminology dubstep fans shamelessly use to describe their beloved genre while still claiming to have perfectly functioning penises. And we wonder how the Tories got into power). On paper, this has more than enough potential to be fantastic. In practice? Let’s have a look then.

Before we delve in, a few things must first be made clear: a) This is not just Korn with a bit of wobble. It is a full on melding of two different sounds – b) Nothing else on this album is as strong as lead singles ‘Get Up!’ or ‘Narcissistic Cannibal’ – and c) You are probably going to be a little disheartened on first listen. I make the last point simply because the aforementioned singles had this pegged as one of my most anticipated releases for the whole year. When ‘Chaos Lives In Everything’ kicked into the open the album however, I couldn’t help but feel my heart sink a little. The authoritative Jonathan Davis that was showcased on those previously mentioned tracks is this time replaced with a slightly limp sounding 40 year old man self-indulgently whinging through some of the most adolescent lyrics you’ll hear in 2011, and while I recognise that Davis has never been the kind to offer insightful lyrical gems to live your life by, there’s something just a touch too tedious about this. Thankfully, ‘Kill Mercy Within’ and ‘My Wall’ pick things back up a little, fully opening up a new side to Korn that they have in all honesty been sorely needing for a good while now. It all just builds up to the impact of ‘Narcissistic Cannibal’, which is one of the best songs Korn have written in years, absolutely brimming with vocal hooks and a groove built for the clubs, whatever they are. Elsewhere, ‘Burn The Obedient’ and ‘Let’s Go’ are two massive highlights, the former an addictively twisted piece of electronic nu-metal that sounds like the kind of thing Gary Numan would come up with if he did a dubstep experiment of his own, the latter an example of the more restrained and atmospheric side to this album, with shades of Mike Patton and Trent Reznor weaving throughout. Unless you’ve been living in an opium den for the past few months, you’ll have probably heard ‘Get Up!’, which is the album’s call-to-arms anthem and undoubtedly a future Korn classic. It remains the strongest point of the album, and that chorus is going to sound larger than Davis’ belly itself when they hit the UK in 2012. The album is not without its fair share of chaff however. ‘Illuminati’ and third single ‘Sanctuary’ womble along with all the charisma and energy of Nelly The Elephant, and come across similar to how it felt to see Darth Vader in Revenge Of The Sith – looks like the blackest brother in the galaxy we’ve all come to adore, but don’t even try to be badass with a script as poor as this, mate. George “Flaccid” Lucas, I hope your scrotum one day gets stuck in a bear trap. Anywizzy...where was I? Ah yes. Despite the low points, the successes of this album vastly outweigh the failures, and Korn still manage to finish on a high yet moody note with the epic (the actual meaning, not the other word people to this day use to describe anything not even remotely epic ie. “this ciabatta is FUCKING EPIC”) ‘Bleeding Out’.

The problems with this album, while few, are undeniably evident. One is of course the consistency of quality, but the other more glaring problem is simply the lack of cohesiveness on show. Given that a total of seven different producers of the electronic world collaborated with Korn on the album, it often sounds muddled and confused, suggesting that had they perhaps stuck to one producer (love him or hate him, Skrillex is the obvious choice. The strongest tracks on this album are his. The boy’s got an ear, accept it) then the experiment would’ve gone much further. But that’s what you have to remind yourself going into this album: this is an experiment. And it is, for the most part, a very successful one, and Korn should be applauded for trying it if nothing else. They’ve struck the proverbial new ground and have, for better or worse, opened the floodgates for any band to dip their toes full on into the dubstep world. While granted this will give way to a veritable flood of mediocre bands making even more mediocre music than they already do, the hope is in all cases like this that we’ll be able to find the few pearls within the hoards of phlegm. Here’s the original pearl – hold it and its creators in high regard. Korn deserve your respect once again.

[7/10]

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