August 9, 2007

CD Review: Korn - Untitled

Korn is one of those bands that I will forever be an unapologetic fan of. They will never have the respect of metal fans, and nu-metal has pretty much run its course. where does that leave the boys in Korn? In a position to do some experimentation, the opportunity to continue tinkering with their sound and expand their horizons. Anyway, Their last album was last year's See You on the Other Side, which offered up some good cuts, but paled next to their earlier output. That was also the first release following the departure of guitarist Brian "Head" Welch. It also found the band experimenting with some more industrial-like touches. This latest release finds the band short yet another member, and taking deeper excursions into industrial and atmospheric mid-tempo numbers. The result is an album which is their best release in years.

After Welch left the group, the band soldiered forth, only to lose another member in drummer David Silveria. Officially, he is listed as being "on hiatus." I don't know the reasons for his departure, or if he will be returning. What his absence does mean, however is that the drum sound on this disk is considerably different than what has been offered up on their other albums. There is no drummer officially listed in the liner notes, as they are a threesome with a fill in on drums. I do know that Terry Bozzio (who played on the recent live acoustic release) appears on some of the tracks, and I know that Slipknot's Joey Jordison is filling in on their tour. I believe that Jonathan Davis fills in on the drums for some cuts.

Anyway, Untitled, as I have seen it listed, presumably to avoid confusion with their eponymous debut album, is a strong release that held my attention from start to finish. It continues the evolution that was hinted at on See You On the Other Side. There is a fusion of Korn's standard sensibilities with those of Nine Inch Nails. It is still distinctly Korn, but there is something more, something different, and something interesting. Jonathan Davis and company move further into the atmospheric side of music, keyboards, slowed tempos, and an overall darker feel. Add that NIN feel, mix in a little bit of Type O Negative's dark dirge sound, and you get this new look Korn. It is a sound that doesn't sound quite as mainstream as it has in the past, though it does still come complete with a couple of single ready tracks.

The funny thing is that I had no idea that this was coming. These guys have been quietly prolific since their arrival a dozen years ago. I was sitting there on a Sunday morning perusing the sale flyers, and what jumped out at me but a new Korn release. I was sold. I eagerly ripped those damn security stickers off the case and threw it in the player. I was greeted with "Intro," a dark circus tune that doesn't really offer anything to the album, but proves to be unsettling haunted house music that prepares us for the cut, "Starting Over."

The first true song finds Davis telling us "My time is over, God is going to take me out." Could this be a reaction to Head's discovery of faith? It may, or it may not, it is one of a few potential swipes at their former member. I would like to think that there are no hard feelings between the guys, and this just happens to be a coincidence. In the end, it makes little difference, as, musically, this is a good album.

The first single is "Evolution" which features the familiar Korn structure, although it feels a bit more sparse in its arrangement, and the underlying keyboards add a nice dimension. "Kiss" is a strong outing, a Korn epic of emotional pleading like they have never been before. It is even more sparsely arranged and just sounds great. This follows into the more aggressive, but still dirge-like paced, "Do What They Say."

"Love and Luxury" finds a return to a more old school Korn styled track, although it still has freshness to it. Also, keep an ear to the ground during "Innocent Bystander" and "Killing" which introduce some nicely detuned crunch. The latter featuring some nice growling from Davis. Untitled comes to a close with the dark lullaby "I Will Protect You," an interesting conglomeration of crunchy guitars, a lightly singing Davis, with swirling keyboards in the background.

I really like this album, it stands head and shoulders above their last few outings, and offers up some interesting new sounds for the band. Particularly, I love the drum sound throughout. It is very different from Silveria's sound and just brings a new dimension to the music. Still, at its heart this is still a Korn album, and based on that fact you will have to decide if this is for you. I will remain an unapologetic fan of the band until they betray my faith. It may tarnish my objectivity a touch, but this is a good album, and will stand near the top of their catalog.

Bottomline. Korn is in the process of reinventing themselves in the wake of their first lineup shakeup. It is a growing process as they seek to redefine themselves in an ever changing musical landscape. This is a very good step at moving forward, moreso than they have ever done in the past. Like them or not, give this album a try, you may be surprised by what you find.

Highly Recommended.


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