Korn - The Nothing - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Korn - The Nothing

by Zach Johnson Rating:6 Release Date:2019-09-13
Korn - The Nothing
Korn - The Nothing

Poor Korn.

Yes, that’s right.

At one point (a long time ago), they were truly an original, cathartic, compellingly twisted band that essentially spawned an entirely new subversive genre of heavy music in their wake.  With their explosive mix of dissonant/bouncy power chords, lurching/churning riffs, an incredibly groovy/funky rhythm section, and an authentically unstable/emotionally-damaged frontman in Jonathan Davis, their unique brand of alt-metal proved to be quite an invigorating cocktail of pure unbridled angst back in the day.

But unfortunately for Korn, that aforementioned new genre of music they accidentally birthed happened to be Nu-Metal, a much-maligned subset of alternative-metal chock full of derivative/mediocre bands that Korn will forever be associated with, or at least blamed for inspiring into existence.

Worse yet, as Korn’s creative embers and pioneering swagger faded out during The 00s (largely due to ridiculous levels of superstardom, fortune, addiction, etc.), they slowly started to sound more and more like all the other second-rate bands they indirectly helped create, which effectively solidified the weight of the Nu-Metal label firmly around their proverbial necks.

Now here we are in 2019, and on their new album The Nothing, we find Korn striving to be the very best Nu-Metal band they can be. And what does that mean exactly? Essentially, it means following a very familiar pattern that generally goes a lot like this: guitar-heavy intro/somewhat trite melodramatic lyrics with “eerie” guitar tinkering and riffs in the background/build-up for explosive heavy outburst/explosive heavy outburst happens/meandering and occasionally awkward and cringy radio-friendly “soaring” chorus/heavy jam to close things out/rinse and repeat, etc.

Suffice to say that, on the whole, Korn’s sound in 2019 is pretty formulaic/predictable, but having said that, they do execute the above formula very well on The Nothing. In fact, from a production standpoint, Korn have probably never sounded this crisp, sharp, and dare I say “polished” on record before. That said, in spite of Jonathan’s Davis’s propensity to deliver a clean radio-friendly chorus on most all of these songs, he also conjures up a significant amount of howling death-metal-esque vocals to boot, probably more so than on any of their prior records to date. Overall he hasn't sounded this disturbed/sinister on a record in a long time. Although it often sounds somewhat forced, it also does help keep most of these songs from sounding too sterile on the whole. And speaking of forced, there are times when Davis apparently digs deep enough emotionally to the point of briefly sobbing on the record (or on the cusp of sobbing), which is reminiscent of his authentically hysterical breakdowns from Korn’s first two albums (namely “Daddy”, “Kill You”). While it feels at least a little less believable to hear him do that on record in 2019 (sounds more like he’s playing a character from the past), considering he was dealing with the untimely death of his ex-wife during the recording of The Nothing, you probably have to give him the benefit of the doubt that his often tortured delivery is coming from a legitimately painful place here.

Whatever the case, the power and intensity of Korn’s music has always been a vehicle for Jonathan Davis to exorcise his emotional demons, and Head, Munky, and Fieldy do a more than a solid job delivering the goods on that front throughout The Nothing. They manage to cook up more than their fair share of tasty, razor-sharp riffs here, and Fieldy’s patented clangy/skeletal/thuggish bass is also prominent in the mix as usual. And while Ray Luzier is certainly a proficient drummer, he’s also more of a standard rock/metal drummer, so suffice to say he does not exactly accentuate Korn’s more rhythmic/funky tendencies, which unfortunately makes the band sound a bit more mechanical than they probably should. On the whole, though, he too turns in dutiful performance, for better or worse.

Overall, in spite of the fact that The Nothing basically finds Korn executing a tried and true formula that feels a little too streamlined/derivative in nature, objectively speaking, it’s hard to argue that they have not produced a quality product with The Nothing. But perhaps that’s the rub, for this old-school fan anyway, the fact that The Nothing generally sounds very much like a product, although I’m not sure what else one should expect from a band as successful as Korn 25 years into their career? At this stage in the game, they are a well established, professional rock band and still going strong by almost all measures, still packing stadiums/venues around the world and turning in fairly impressive sales numbers for a heavy band in 2019. Considering all of that, you kind of have to sit back and give credit where credit is due. It’s somewhat remarkable that Korn have stuck around this long, and are still able to deliver a quality album like The Nothing this late in their career. And while it’s true this album has a target audience (for lack of a better term) and likely will not lend them any new fans, it is a pretty good Korn album in 2019, for what that’s worth. Korn were never the most subtle or nuanced band in the world, but if you just want some powerful groove-metal delivered with Jonathan Davis’s patented bipolar flare, then chances are fans will be satisfied with what The Nothing has to offer.

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