Korn is a band from the rather remote Central Californian town of Bakersfield that formed in ’93, is now on their 13th album (released on Friday the 13th, of all days) and amazingly, in 26 years of existence, has had only one lineup change, the 2011 enlisting of still-active drummer Ray Luzier for the former David Silveria. Like a rock version of DMX, is a sense, they’re almost impossible to imagine being fake or “halfway” in any way and routinely approach a level of artistic directness and abrasiveness that can veer toward the “off-putting,” as an adjacent toggle to the “forceful” and “impacting.”
On The Nothing they seem to settle pretty comfortably on the latter pair there and find a heady leeway between all-out nu metal madness (“Cold”) and viable alt-rock singles (“Can You Hear Me”), most of the songs resting somewhere in between but always keeping you on your guard with constant forays into destruction of the norm.
Of equally astonishing value is the fact that this band is basically playing the exact same kind of music they did on their 1994 debut, which is basically an update on Metallica’s self-titled album set to relatively rhythmic drum beats like if Chad Wilk of Rage against the Machine went to Prince’s summer camp, or something along those lines. Right away on “Cold” they get into the gritty action, taking a slight page out of the Disturbed playbook for some rhythmic metal mayhem that sounds sort of like Michael Jackson’s Bad gone REALLY bad, with volume cranked and disposition pi**ed. The production on the part of Nick Raskulinecz is by and large a victory, with all of the sounds, whether it’s the snare drum, the Marshall stacks or of course vocalist Jonathan Davis’ predatory yowl, hitting that sort of register that’s indescribable and unmatchable, the work of real alternative music spawned in the ’90s and carried out through this day.
What saves this album from being a retro rerun of the Family Values Tour, though, is the inspired vocal fuse lit by Davis throughout and his gutty lyrics. On “The Darkness is Revealing,” another quality potential single, Davis gets down to brass tacks on his current position of relative vulnerability in life: “The darkness is revealing / The bittersweet reality / That this is the help I’m needing”. He’s got this whole arsenal too of vocal techniques which usually come to head in singing in these anthemic choruses, but can also take the form of rapping as well as this sort of controlled shrieking, even, which rears its ugly head on “Cold,” the album’s thick lead-in track that belts out this album’s identity with focused ferocity. With Korn listening in the late ’90s having been sort of a stigmatized, if interesting, expedition, and See You on the Other Side’s precarious habit of spotlighting Davis’ lyrical platitudes, The Nothing, with its instrumental yawl and strategic songwriting balance, makes a very strong case for choice Korn LP (lucky number 13, I guess).