O.K. – so rewind back to 2008 for a minute. I am in a limo with Raymond Herrera (Fear Factory), Billy Gould (Faith No More), Brooks Wackerman (Bad Religion) and James “Munky” Shaeffer (Korn) and we’re talking about all things music. James is working on his debut solo project and he tells me it’s called Fear and The Nervous System. I am completely stoked to hear how it’s all coming together and up to this point have assisted two of his other acts he’d signed to his label, Emotional Syphon Recordings.
In 2008, I thought it made complete sense that Munky would look to do something different. Korn wasn’t tied to any label. They made a sh*tload of money in their career and did a one-off deal with EMI that probably paid them a hell of a lot better than anything they earned off Sony for a single release. Quite honestly, I felt their creative well had run dry – being a fan from the beginning and having to suffer through See You On The Other Side, Unplugged and Untitled — I was about ready to write ‘em off. Then III came and my faith was restored. They still had it in ‘em. I blamed a lot of those two crappy studio albums on Baird though. Once the synths and electro crap came into play – it just wasn’t a good thing. I’m less than enamored for the “dubstep” project seeing a release in a few weeks.
The debut album, musically, is a tribute to Shaeffer’s father, who serves as the impetus to this sonic catharsis, of sorts. Recording, as is the nature when you’re in a multi-million dollar main act, along with Faith No More reuniting, had a stop-start dynamic to it that sidelined the project for three years. It started as a jam session and ultimately the musicians recorded their parts separately. One song would take a couple of weeks to fine tune and record and this lasted over several months.
In the winter of 2010, Steve Krolikowski of Repeater, was introduced to James via Ross Robinson who was recording both Repeater’s album and Korn’s III simultaneously. Leopold Ross and Zac Baird round out the musicians who make-up this motley crue. I’ve read Danny Lohner lent some production skills – you know, the guy you call when Charlie Clouser and Atticus Ross are busy…
Let me preface this by saying I didn’t know who Repeater was before today but, as any good reviewer should do, I researched. Repeater is an awesome band. I highly recommend checking them out. Krolikowski fits that band beautifully.
Such is not the case with Fear and The Nervous System. Listening to the two acts, you’ll completely understand why. If you read the interview with him over at www.fatns.com this lack of congruence is only exemplified to his answers that the chemistry “wasn’t instant”, and “it was super challenging.”
He is not an alternative metal singer and he is definitely not Jonathan Davis – but he tries. Way too hard. To some degree one tries not to fault him because the music, driven by Munky’s guitar, is very Korn sounding. But then there’s a whole nu metal vibe meets keys and programming thing going on. Brooks Wackerman, while a capable skinsman, seems completely out-of-place in parts. As if his tracks were literally recorded to tape and then they tried to layer the guitars and programming around it. It has the bad vibe of an aural scrapbook. Billy Gould’s playing is very much like the Prego/Ragu ad campaign “It’s In There” (somewhere). There were plenty of opportunities to bring his mix up during some of the atmospherics, but the guitars and programming take center stage, even in the quieter moments.
This album isn’t all bad – there are times when it sorta works. “Choking Victim,” the first single, is a decent, driving track with really shitty lyrics. “No Secrets” and “Beautiful Side” are two exceptional, radio-friendly tunes. “Ambien” is a respectable atmospheric outro where the whole thing seems to come together and guitars take a backseat to the other elements taking place within the song.
Too often, though, it devolves in this weird sort of Chinese Democracy sounding rag-tag mess that is nothing more than alterna-metal shlock-rock. Does the world really need this kind of output when we just got the good news that Disturbed was going on hiatus and that album that Limp Bizkit pooped out a few months ago has almost completely been “liquid plumber”ed out of our systems?
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