The 13th studio album from Bakersfield California Nu-Metal pioneers KoRn titled “The Nothing” was produced by Nick Raskulinecz who handled the role for 2016’s “The House of Suffering” as well as albums from Trivium and Deftones. Said to have been inspired by the villain from “The Neverending Story”, a Supernatural force of destruction spawned from disillusionment and disbelief with the ability to erase anything it touches and giving its name to the album title. A raw and at times highly emotional album it marks the end of a year which has seen the death of frontman Jonathan Davis wife Deven Davis and his mother, which is reflected in the lyrics at times as well in a tearful breakdown from Davis himself which appears at the end of opening cut “The End Begins” and has been purposefully left in.
There is no doubt that KoRn have been a band that influenced a generation of bands as pioneers of the Nu-Metal era with more people than you can shake a stick at citing them as an influence. For many Metal Heads, they have also been a gateway band that lead them to Metalcore and even Deathcore over the years. Some have even credited them with inspiring the current Nu-Metalcore movement. They’ve also been through more than their fair share of ups and downs and you could draw comparisons with Metallica in that while their first three or four albums are considered classics from start to finish, since then each album has has pieces of quality while not quite living up to the previous material. Many blamed the departure of guitarist Brian “Head” Welsh from the band and them not replacing him as part of the cause. Many thought that 2010 would be the year with the band working with Producer Ross Robinson for the first time since 1996’s “Life Is Peachy” and also being joined by drummer Ray Luzier for the first time. By the end Robinson said that the band simply weren’t the people they were 14 years ago. In “The Nothing”, KoRn are releasing the bands third album since Welsh’s return to the fold.
The introspective lyrics about negative thoughts and feelings have always been part of the cathartic writings of KoRn so that being a big part of the album is a given, especially with the year that Jonathan Davis has had. That doesn’t however prepare you for the new found depth to the vocal delivery a Davis delivers some of the best vocals we’ve heard from him since 1996. The pain has always been in his heart but this time he uses it to convey the lyrics in with that extra weight in unclean vocals and that is especially prevalent on the likes of “Cold” and “You’ll Never Find Me”. Effectively the album is a view into the unravellings of the human mind in grief after the passing of a loved one, emotionally exhausting and psychologically relentless. There are however a few moments of fun with a classic nursery rhyme pattern at one point. In the drums and percussion department Ray Luzier has has always been seen as second to David Silveria by long time fans but after 9 years on the stool, he should be given great credit for his exceptional performance throughout the record. He may not have previously injected as much of the KoRn feel to the drum sound, but here he has it down to the perfection, even the evil disco high hats.
The signature click-y sound of Fieldy’s bass with its loose strings hitting the fretboard hasn’t always been at the heart of the sound but with “The Nothing” it’s back in force. There are a number of small guitar breaks where the bass bleeds through in a nostalgic throwback to the earlier sound pointing to a mixing carried out by Josh Wilbur that understands what comprises the bands sound. Guitars wise, the trademark stylings and interplay between Munky and Head are well and truly back, the eerie haunting leads, pause break rythmic riffs and cleaver plays in silence are all present. While the earlier tracks like “Cold” and “You’ll Never Find Me” point at the bands first three albums for their guitar styling, later on songs like “H@rd3r” and “Idiosyncrasy” move things on a couple of steps into some of the swirling dark moods of Scar The Martyr while the later also borrows from “A New Level” by Pantera. There are also new elements, programming from Jules Venturini, Nathan Davis and Tiago Nuñez appears at various points, often buried in the mix and there is even an achingly beautiful and dark Nine Inch Nails inspired piano part in the low of “Surrender To Failure”, which is as sobering as they come.
In the song writing department there is a clear formula and structure with little deviations. Aggressive starts, dark swirling moods and melodic chorus parts that mean each track has heads bobbing as well as voices singing along. Some of those choruses are a bit over long but then that has been an issue for a while. The use of pop music patterns means that the album has a catchiness that’s been absent at times in their career as well as hooks in spades. What we are left with is the most consistent KoRn album outside of the first four [7.5/10]
“The Nothing” by KoRn is out now via Roadrunner Records