Originally published in the Hindu Sunday Magazine in December 2011.
KoRn – The Path of Totality (2011) – Roadrunner records
What does the one band considered the choirmasters of Nu-metal do in a year that saw its contemporaries Limp Bizkit and Staind spring back to form? It ups the game, and reinvents its sound for the umpteenth time.
Korn has been no stranger to rough times and band members stepping in and out. Despite all that, Jonathan Davis, Munky (James Shaffer) and Fieldy (Reginald Arvizu) kept on. Usually, that meant pulling favours from friends to fill in on studio duties. Since last year’s album – ‘KoRn III: Remember Who You Are’ – drummer Ray Luzier became a permanent member.
But on their latest offering ‘The Path of Totality’, Davis says he wanted to “test the waters.” This involved inviting the biggest names in the wobbly world of Dubstep. Skrillex, Noisia, Feed Me, Excision, Downlink and 12th Planet were the DJs who got on board, and laid down the squelching, stifling digital sound to which Korn would riff out. They dive right in on the opening track ‘Chaos Lives in Everything’ with Skrillex (Sonny Moore) manning the console.
Filthy, grimy beats and warbled drops meet chaotic breakdowns in the lead singles ‘Get Up!’ and ‘Narcissistic Cannibal’, both of which feature Skrillex, who clearly emerges as a lucky charm for the band. The haphazardness about this album is when you hear heavily downtuned guitar riffs first on some tracks, and other tracks, there’s just a wail of synth with guitars nearly forgotten. Tracks such as ‘Illuminati’, ‘Sanctuary’ and ‘Kill Mercy Within’ pass with very little distinction.
‘Let’s Go’ and ‘Way Too Far’ are two worthier efforts however, with strong riffs from Munky and a structure that is immediately identifiable. Vocals still stay strong, from growls to croons to despairing cries. This is one aspect that will forever remain to be the band’s distinction. The closing track ‘Bleeding Out’ seems way too experimental for even Korn; as though Davis just remembered he was good at playing the bagpipes so he wanted it on a song.
This kind of mash-up does beg the question: How does the analogous rage of metal fit with the computerised chaos of dubstep? On hearing ‘the Path of Totality’, it’s almost safe to say the marriage isn’t all that great, although Korn do try to make it work to their best efforts. After all, there aren’t a lot of bands from two decades ago that are as keen as the California metallers to experiment at every given chance. Whether that sort of attitude converts to critical acclaim is a different matter all together.