Korn mixed with dubstep. Now let’s be completely honest here: you don’t have to tell me how terrible that sounds. On paper, this is probably one of the worst ideas I have ever heard. Korn is responsible for the nu-metal movement, which despite having a few standout artists quickly turned into a joke, while dubstep is quickly becoming the genre to hate. Yet frontman Jonathan Davis thinks it would be revolutionary to create this mixture, stating “I want to trail-blaze…I want to create art that’s different and not conform to what’s going on.”
So a band that revolutionized a genre is looking to start a whole new movement, one that Korn purists and dubstep diehards are sure to hate. But you know what happened when I listened to The Path of Totality? I liked it. I liked it a lot. It might not be the revolution that Korn was setting it up to be, but it is definitely an album that I would put on repeat.
Probably the best decision that Korn could have made in regards to this album is to work with respected dubstep artists, especially Grammy-nominated Skrillex and Noisia. Working with these producers gave the band the ability to meld their music into a storm of metal infused with mechanical wobbles and bass drops that could destroy a room. Songs like opener Chaos Lives In Everything show how the mixture will play out on the album, with Davis’ unique and instantly identifiable vocals menacing over the electronic background. It’s truly surprising to hear how well this style works with his voice, exposing Korn‘s vision for what they wanted with this album. When Davis lets loose with his full-bodied scream and Skrillex goes crazy on his end, you can’t help but smile.
Kill Mercy Within slows things down a little bit, showing the versatility that the band has gained with their introduction to dubstep, while My Wall relies on some juicy beats courtesy of Excision that have a heavier feel to them, creating an interesting hybrid that works really well. One of the major downsides of the album becomes really apparent on this song, though, as the lyrics on the album are quite weak. Lines such as “I put my wall up each day/You tear it down/I hide in my space/The space you found” aren’t even good enough to win a poetry slam at your local hipster coffee shop.
Luckily, songs like Narcissistic Cannibal and Illuminati make up for any shortcomings by showing what Korn can do when they hit their stride. Everything that could go right with this unholy combination does in these two songs. The wobbles feel heavy, the bass takes control over everything, and Davis sings his lungs out. Songs like these keep the album from feeling cheesy and gives the band the chance to shine and sound like they really enjoy what they’re doing.
However, the album does start to get monotonous when Burn the Obedient and Sanctuary roll around. These songs are still good, but it’s just that the novelty of the first few amazing songs has worn off and we know what to expect. The beats carry the verses, Davis croons over the chorus, and then we get a taste of insanity towards the end of the song as the electronic end of the music starts taking over. The middle of the album is pretty easy to skip over after an initial listen or two.
Even though the same can be said for the formulaic Let’s Go, the complete opposite is true for Get Up!, the first single released off the album earlier this year. Skrillex‘s contributions to the track can be felt in the absolute carnage that takes over during the bridges, with Davis shouting “Shut the f*** up/Get up!” over some of Skrillex‘s best work behind the boards. Davis’ vocals creep and crawl through the verses, slithering over the dark tones perfectly. Towards the end, they let the floodgates open and create chaos, making this one of the best songs on the album.
Korn made sure to save the best for last, as the final two songs are fantastic. Way Too Far features some more of Davis’ fearful barking over 12th Planet‘s slow but perfect production. Davis’ vocals soar over the chorus, and the breakdown in the second half of the song merits a listen. Although one of the slower songs on The Path of Totality, it is definitely one of the best.
Closer Bleeding Out is the strongest of the bunch, finally giving the rest of the band their chance to shine. Munky does what he does best as he creates Korn‘s signature heaviness on guitar, while drummer Ray Luzier frantically keeps the pace. Sadly, Fieldy‘s usually strong performance on bass is overshadowed on most of the record, and it’s especially tragic on such a strong track. Korn‘s final track is their strongest testament to how well their idea can work when they want it to.
So when the album ends, we are left with one of the most surprising releases of the year. It’s surprising because of the extreme change in sound that Korn has gone through. It’s surprising because of how much effort was put into such a strange idea. But most of all, it’s surprising because it is a good album. When a band that has been around for almost two decades can release ten CDs and still have something new to bring to the table, that is an amazing feat that deserves some admiration.
There will be plenty that hate The Path of Totality, whether they’re complete dubstep freaks or have been following Korn since the 90s. However, fans of either would be making a mistake in skipping over this album. A few inconsistent and sloppy songs hold this back from starting a revolution in music, but the good outweighs the bad for the most part. Although it’s far from the best release of the year, The Path of Totality definitely stands as the most surprising. And I mean that in the best way possible.
The Path of Totality was released on December 6th, 2011.