It would seem odd to anyone with as varied tastes as mine that I’m reviewing the second artist today on their 11th album. In this case, the little nu metal band from Bakersfield, CA that in essence started its very genre, is also into its 20th year together in recorded music.
Korn have made headlines recently by welcoming back one of it’s founding members – guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch. This makes for an interesting footnote in the review of the album then. A band that has seemingly struggled for the past eight years and four albums (not counting this one in front of us) in deciding what its identity and true fan base should be has taken back one of its own. By doing so it alters their very dynamic as a group of creative musicians again.
It would be a fair argument to say that the band’s best output came between the years 1994-2003 from their self titled debut through to 2003’s Take A Look In The Mirror (with the exception of 2002’s electronic-heavy Untouchables. Welch left in 2005 and the result has been anything short of complete system failure. I have never seen another band so negatively affected by the loss of a guitar player. Period.
The Paradigm Shift is exactly what it boasts. There are still electronic bursts and traces of dubstep – but they are merely that – flourishes and traces. Brought to the forefront is the very bread and butter that brought Korn to the masses…the very essence of Nu Metal. This is no more self evident than on a track a quarter of the way through the album entitled ‘Spike In My Veins.’ The track boasts a groovy bassline before a blast of electronica and aerated guitar and Davis’ swing-along vocals. The bridges of the track exemplify the two-guitar attack as James ‘Munky’ Shaeffer ramps up the main riff while Welch adds falsetto-like guitar tones along the top.
In fact – the album is nearly flawless as Korn albums go – save for a couple tracks (‘What We Do,’ and ‘It’s All Wrong,’). From the sinister guitar tones and bigger than life chorus that accentuate ‘Mass Hysteria,’ (think ‘Somebody Someone’ or ‘It’s On’) ; to the wah-wah and headbanging crunch that opens and carries ‘Paranoid and Aroused,’ to the calliope-like first promotional album offering,‘ Never, Never’ (which, in hindsight, works perfectly with the overall album flow).
I don’t remember the last time a guitarist so heavily influenced the output of an entire act, but the absence – and now the re-emergence of Brian ‘Head’ Welch – has definitely impacted the entire group for the better. This is quite simply one of Korn’s best offerings to date.