I'm quite curious to know what hardcore Korn fans think of the new single. Personally, I love Korn. It was one of the bands that set the stage for me to explore the realm of heavy metal, tracing it back decade by decade.
But here's the problem with the band's new single: As a Korn fan, I really don't like it. It's not because I had high expectations of what it is calling its new "sound" -- it's just because I have high expectations of the band. And it's because the single seems to really lack everything the band said it would have.
The new Korn album to be released October 8, The Paradigm Shift, is highly anticipated. Not only does it mark the return of Brian "Head" Welch, but it also is representative of Jonathan Davis' path to sobriety. But a path to totality? A shift in the paradigm? Not so much.
When I spoke to Munky (James Shaffer) this past spring, he was utterly ecstatic about Head's return to the band. His return kicked off after he went on stage with Korn at Carolina Rebellion. In fact, I interviewed Welch not too long thereafter. He said that he wasn't expecting the emotions he felt when he joined them onstage. I asked him why he thought there wouldn't be an upheaval of feelings. What did he really think he was going to feel when talking to or seeing them again?
"I don't know. Everyone's been doing their thing for like eight years. I was just . . . going to say hi, and then I started feeling all this emotion during the day. I was watching all these bands play, and started feeling emotional. It was like a family reunion. The crowd even . . . there were so many people that you make so happy with the music and I felt that again. And then when Korn asked me to play with them, I was just going to watch at the soundboard.
"I wanted to see Korn from an audience perspective. And then they asked me to be on stage five minutes before. I was standing on the stage by where I used to play, like by the speaker, thinking how crazy this was. Then after I played the song with them, people were just bawling. It was a wave of emotion. But that's what reconciliation does, you know? With all the crap we went through it was like a happy ending. Even in a bad big evil band like Korn there are happy endings!" [laughs]
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Naturally, we knew there was a distinct possibility that Head would be re-joining Korn, even with his band Love and Death. And with those types of emotions under their reunion, I was thinking that whatever album the band wrote together after all this time would be groundbreaking. Earth-shattering. Fucking annihilating. Especially since they band now has their original two-guitar sound again that shaped their early multi-platinum albums once again.
"I came here just wanting to do the old Korn vibe, but with a new twist," Welch told Rolling Stone recently.
"Me and Munky haven't been playing guitar together for eight years, so we came in just wanting to jam out with the bass player Fieldy [Reginald Arvizu] and Ray [Luzier], our drummer . . . The end product is a really good mix of old Korn mixed with some new elements. It's got a fresh new Korn 2013 sound. And the melodies, the lyrics and the choruses on these songs are at a new level. It's my favorite album by Korn."
That's saying a lot, especially since when I spoke with Welch a few months back, he had a different opinion of when it came to his favorite Korn album.
"I would have to say Follow the Leader. To me, that was when we were all together. Even when we were drinking together. We were all married, having babies, happy, writing the best that we wrote I think. There was no drama; it was just chill. I think about those good times with that record. After that, though . . . It's funny how the names kind of spoke to us at those times. Like with Issues; that's when all the crazy issues happened with all of us. Like three out of five of us got divorced. So, Follow The Leader was the biggest album to me, but the happiest as well."
Ironic, considering a writer recently said on ArtistDirect.com that Korn's upcoming album The Paradigm Shift will change the face of hard rock just as Follow the Leader did back in 1998.
But wouldn't you think that this "paradigm shift" would have been born out of the ashes of clarity? From what it sounds like, Davis has admitted that his writing of The Paradigm Shift was heavily affected by his own substance-abuse problems. He was detoxing, in county rehab, and most of the lyrics were crafted in his haze.
The whole writing process I was on autopilot," he told Rolling Stone. "It was weird -- I moved into the studio. I stayed there for four months, I only came home on weekends. I moved my boys in with me, so I had my kids with me the whole time. It was an interesting creative space," he says. "It was stream-of-consciousness -- so many songs I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about."
But if the single "Never Never" is indicative of what The Paradigm Shift is going to sound like, I'm not so sure I understand what the band is talking about. The song's slow, leaden beats roll into screeching electronics, right before launching into a pop-fused chorus. There's still some dubsteppy stuff going on, especially toward the middle of the track, and it isn't even heavy -- this single doesn't sound reminiscent of their breakthrough Follow the Leader at all. In fact, considering it's the band's first album with Head back in the band, you can barely hear guitar.
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As one of my friends said, at least with dubstep, they had the balls to go for it. Every album before that was heavy. But if this single is indicative of the entire album, it seems uninspired and flat. I'm just hoping that "Never Never" was chosen because it is catchy as hell, and that the rest of The Paradigm Shift will reveal itself to be much better.
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