For many a moon, Korn have been treading water for me. When they first came out they were an innovate and important band, they were mixing stuff up and had some fantastic moments on their first batch of albums; then the fame really seemed to get to them, various members left and they drifted a bit aimlessly. Yeah they would have a few good songs, but generally the formula was a bit stale. Then they released 'The Path To Totality' - cleverly linked here to the blog - which I reviewed last time and my deity was that a turd of a record. The band had regressed lyrically and musically it was good in places but they were just fashion hoping instead of growing and learning which would have been the most obvious way to go, or to bone their collective craft a little more. When I finished listening to their last album I said I was done with Korn, but I have been asked to review their latest one and as it was released this year there is an outside possibility that it could make the end of year album of the year. Well, here we are now....am I entertained?
This time out the album only has one producer - Don Gilmore - and also sees the return of guitarist Brian "Head" Welch. What you also have here is the return of the more Nu-Metal sound which was their original bread and butter. Forced retreat or a solid piece of thinking; well let's find out. Now I will get this out of the way from the beginning: Jonathan Davies when releasing this album was coming out of rehab and was in his own words 'so fucked up from coming off all that medicine' and that the writing experience on this album was weird. But, he also was trying to be off the drugs, trying to look after his family and he was excited when writing the album. Starting off with "Prey For Me" you have Mr Davies being a tiny bit more positive and admitting his flaws instead of blaming them. Also, it has one of the best riffs from the band since "Here To Stay" from 'Untouchables'. The return to the more Nu-Metal sound with a hint of 80's synth is a massive improvement to their last few records (well, musically the last one was ok...but I digress). Following up is "Love & Meth" - the title seems to be a regression but the riff is really meaty and has weight behind it - I sort of feel sorry for Munky here yet I have to say that the return of Head has been a positive for the band with only two tracks gone on the album.
"What We Do" is next up and keeps the tempo running high, the energy here is important as they had been hit and miss over the last few albums. Lyrically it is bemoaning the way life can fall, but it is bearable so far and it is a little different to the usual issues that Mr Davies seems to want to sign about. It is not as good as they first two songs, but still not a bad track."Spike In My Veins" a wonderful little tale about comparing a relationship to drug addiction. It slows down the album but it not in a bad way; it is just not at the same manic place that the first three tracks are at. After this "Mass Hysteria" is an instant Korn classic, if this does not become a staple of their live set I will be very surprise. The strange thing about this album is that so far it does not feel like there has been any filler on the album, all the tracks have been of a high quality. "Paranoid And Aroused" is musically an incredible track, but Mr Davies lyrics are back on the self loathing and past issues that marred the last album. Granted it is not as poor as those lyrics, but you would have thought that he would have gotten the therapy he needed by now with the money he has; as he says in this song "this shit is degrading" - yes, yes it is and it is a shame as the riff and playing is incredible.
Next is the only single lifted so far from the album "Never Never" which is a strange choice of lead single. It dies have some of the dubstep flavours from the last album, but it is the good stuff from that record. Lyrically it is a contradiction and seems that the messed up nature of the vocalist is all consuming. Strangely it suits this track a lot more, but I cannot hide the fact that this is the album's poorest track by a country mile. "Punishment Time" with its synth and guitar opening is a power house of a track bring all versions of Korn together to make one almighty noise and is one of the highlights of the record. Even Davies cannot torpedo this one and he seems like he is on top form at time here. "Lullaby For A Sadist" is next which bring to mind the better moment of 'Life Is Peachy' and shines a light on Davies own twist sense of getting off on being a sadist. At least that is the impression that I came away with after the song. As this is the second weakest track it will probably be the next single and also reeks of filler. "Victimized" is next with bongos, a massive riff and some off the wall drumming, a real surprise on this album and a hidden gem here. Final track "It's All Wrong" which ends the album with another harsh and heavy riff just shows that the band have rediscovered some of the old mojo that made them important in the first place, also the Gary Numan-esque keyboards really help as well to end this album on a high.
So how well has the album performed? Well, it is a massive improvement to the last one, but so are the small parcels that come out of my cat Ochie (it is his picture that adores this blog looking at my old laptop). But that aside, this is one of the best Korn album's in a long time. It has the power that was missing and I have to say that the return of Head has done the band wonders; he works so well with everyone else that the game has been brought back up to a great level. Because it has a few filler tracks it does lose some marks, but it could have been so much worse. It is not the most original album and is not the same as when Machine Head released 'Through The Ashes Of Empires' but is it close. It may not be the album of the year, but it certainly the surprise of the year. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
7.5 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the Korn website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Here is the video of "Never Never"