Korn is a band that needs no introduction for any rock music fan. Founded in 1993 and hailing from California, they has become the most notable face for nu metal in the modern era. It is obvious that most fans prefer early work on their initial releases such as their self-titled debut, Follow the Leader, and Issues. However, Korn have proven to be incredibly potent by releasing other solid records like The Untouchables and Take a Look In the Mirror to show there was still life in the formula as nu metal faded to the wayside. Much like Metallica, Korn has a had a drastic shift in tone following the various lineup changes over their life span. When Brian “Head” Welch left the band in 2005, the harder direction disappeared into a more electronic approach. Incorporating remnants of dub step and synthetic influences have divided original fans while gaining a new and younger audience in the process. The Paradigm Shift displays a happy medium between both styles but not without it’s own set of problems.
Despite embracing electronics on the record, there is still a good sense of grooves that are textbook for old school Korn fans. The guitars are the loudest they have been in more than a decade, seemingly turning up the dials to get the edge they direly needed back. Brian Welch is the heart and soul of that original sound, and you can certainly see where he was missed in the past. The bass work is solid as always, adding the classic sound that makes Korn easy to pick up after just a few small notes. Jonathan Davis has done an incredible job of keeping his strong and menacing voice, even if the range is not quite as big as on the debut twenty years ago. The real disappointment comes in the lackluster drum work on the record; nothing really come off as special or interesting in any discernable fashion, getting washed out easily by fake electronic tones and better instrumentation everywhere else.
There are a decent handful of tracks that will please Korn fans of the old and new varieties. “Love & Meth” is the best single of the record by a mile, giving some old grooves another life while also having some electronic experimentation. The lyrics on the song are much deeper than anyone could expect, along with a guitar lead that is pretty from beginning to end. “Lullaby For a Sadist” is the darkest set of lyrics available here, giving off that edge that enamored mainstream audiences a decade ago. Jonathan Davis has a nasty delivery for the sadistic bars of dialogue, while guitars slowly creep into the song as a warning call. The best track is “Never Never” though. Thinking of Korn as a happy band is never on the forefront of most fans’ minds, but this is a legitimately hopeful song from the group. The electronic tones mix incredibly well with the heavy guitars and clean vocals, while the boisterous drums and a dub step mid-section rounds out the attack.
There are plenty of issues along the way though. Despite being the best Korn record in more than a decade, most of the songs are too poorly written or mixed to become memorable in any fashion. “Spike In My Veins” is an atrocious track, leaving the guitars in the dust for a weak chorus segment and annoying electronic samples. “The Game Is Over” and “Die Another Day” make it clear why both were passed on when the record hit printing. Neither song has much going for it, especially with how phony the electronics come off while the guitars just lay behind them as if they are not powerful enough to burst through.
The one true highlight of this special edition album is the live tracks that make up the closing additions to the track listing. This sequence of tracks including a mixture of covers, classics, and new favorites is like being treated to a short mini concert on the side. “Get Up!” and “Got The Life” are especially memorable and display just how skilled Davis and company are at controlling a crowd. Listening to the crowd erupt as “Another Brick In the Wall” is finished off is simply intoxicating and powerful.
Korn might never get back to a point where their output ever matches Issues or their famed debut album, but there is still a chance they can save a legacy and become an act worth following with equal attention. Despite my hatred for dub step as a musical entertainment form, Korn have implemented it well enough to become more than another face in the crowd. They are an ever evolving musical ball of fury, that can only be understood by their hardcore fans. Korn is probably okay with that, especially with the energy they are still putting out on the stage after 20 years of work.
1. Pray For Me
2. Love & Meth
3. What We Do
4. Spike In My Veins
5. Mass Hysteria
6. Paranoid and Aroused
7. Never Never
8. Punishment Time
9. Lullaby For a Sadist
11. It’s All Wrong
13. The Game Is Over
14. Die Another Day
15. Love & Meth (Live From London 2014)
16. Here To Stay (Live From London 2014)
17. Get Up (Live From Moscow 2014)
18. Never Never (Live From Moscow 2014)
19. Got The Life (Live From Denver 2014)
20. Another Brick In the Wall (Live From Denver 2014)