The Rickety Old Shack

Korn — The Nothing

album cover

Well, it's 2019 and somehow we've ended up in a reality where artists like Tool are dropping some of their least compelling work (review), while stalwarts of the bygone nu metal era, Slipknot (review) and Korn are resurgent. Truly we are living in the strangest of times...

As someone who was in high school when Korn burst onto the scene, my relationship with the band has been largely one of indifference. The first 3 records the band dropped were genre-defining, hugely popular and inescapable at the time. Even before Limp Bizkit exploded onto the scene, ushering in the rap-rock era, Korn — who were ultimately responsible for inflicting Fred Durst upon the world — were inspiring a whole generation of angsty youth to don tracksuits and jump the fuck up.

Initially, I really could not stand Korn. This was due to a combination of factors: so many people I utterly loathed were huge fans and I really did not care for "Got The Life" or "Freak On A Leash," which were their biggest singles at the time I became aware of them. I ended up changing my mind and Korn and Life Is Peachy ended up winning me over. I still, to this day, don't like much of Follow The Leader. The last albums I paid attention to were Issues and Untouchables, the latter of which left almost no impression on me.

For the next 16 years or so, I managed to stay largely oblivious to whatever Korn were doing. I knew they parted ways — and eventually patched things up — with founding guitarist Brian Welch, and replaced drummer David Silvera with Ray Luzier. Along the way the band's output remained steady, dropping albums on a consistent basis. I have no memory of any of them, save for a very ... brave collaboration with Skrillex which fused the worst of dubstep with the least interesting aspects of Korn. (Part marks can be awarded for trying something new, I suppose. Nuts and gum, together at last!)

I was all set to remain ignorant to this latest Korn record, but the lead singles garnered a lot of praise from sources I respect. As such, I had to hear the new material for myself. And, well, I was pleasantly surprised! "You'll Never Find Me" had all the hallmarks one associates with Korn, the low guitars, jangling bass and trademark Jonathan Davis vocal style, but it sounded fresh and reinvigorated. I'll be honest, I wanted to dislike it — I mean, it's 2019, nu metal is dead man — but I was enthused and ended up with my curiosity for the full album piqued.

Now, a few months after The Nothing was released, my state of surprise remains. I know a lot has happened between 2002 and now, but I did not expect Korn to still have the capacity to put out quality tunes. Over 20 years into a career, it's hard for any band to keep things fresh and yet somehow Korn have managed just that. The Nothing is a slim, trim, 44 minutes of modern metal, packed with banger after banger and a couple of interludes that don't feel out-of-place either.

Sonically, this is very much a standard issue Korn album, there are no curveballs waiting to assail the listener. No, this is a band that understands their niche but is still able to write fresh material even if there is an overwhelming feeling of familiarity to it. Jonathan Davis has added some additional nuance to his vocals, even managing add some respectable singing to "Cold" and other cuts, when he's not sticking to his typically agonised, tormented delivery.

The most enjoyable aspect of The Nothing is that it sounds extremely familiar without being redundant. Korn don't flex any new muscles on this record, but they demonstrate a veteran proficiency with their song writing; they hit all the marks without feeling rehashed or belaboured. The whole of 2019 has been a great year for music, but this album is one of the most shocking — and ultimately pleasant — surprises. I didn't expect Korn to last this long, never mind continue to thrive as a successful mainstream metal band. That said, I am glad to be wrong. The Nothing is excellent, and has a lot to offer existing fans and those of us who fell off over the years.

Summary

Despite issuing their 13th studio album, Korn sound more focused and sharper than ever. The Nothing is an impressive offering from one of the pioneers of the oft maligned nu metal genre, and proof there is still a lot of life left in the band. 45 minutes of crushing, aggressive — and, at times, melancholic — metal that should satisfy the band's legion of fans and reinvigorate those who lost interest over the years. I found myself re-listening to the record a lot more than I expected.

Album Information

Release date: September 13th, 2019
Record label: Roadrunner Records

Jonathan Davis — vocals, bagpipes
James Shaffer — guitar
Brian Welch — guitar
Reginald Arvizu — bass
Ray Luzier — drums

Track Listing

  1. The End Begins
  2. Cold
  3. You'll Never Find Me
  4. The Darkness Is Revealing
  5. Idiosyncrasy
  6. The Seduction Of Indulgence
  7. Finally Free
  8. Can You Hear Me
  9. The Ringmaster
  10. Gravity Discomfort
  11. H@rd3r
  12. This Loss
  13. Surrender To Failure

Link: kornofficial.com

—by Derek

Published: December 5th, 2019.