Embrace “nothing” with Korn’s 13th studio album


IRVINE, CA – AUGUST 30, 2019 Singer Jonathan Davis, center, and bass player Reginald Arvizu, background, perform with Korn at the Five Point Amphitheatre in Irvine on August 30, 2019. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times/TNS)

William Becker, Staff Writer

Korn is an interesting blend of genres and might be the poster child for what we now know as nu-metal (if you do not know what nu-metal is, think Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Deftones, Slipknot and System of a Down to get an idea.) Since their self-titled debut in 1994, Korn has produced an odd blend of hip-hop beats, slap bass, blisteringly heavy seven-stringed guitars, growls and extremely emotional lyrics.  

Their lyrics always have sung out to the damaged, to outcasts, with songs like “Faget” focusing on lead singer Jonathan Davis’ experiences with being bullied as a child. Above everything else, Davis has pushed the trademark style of the band with his vocals and lyrics, showing off angst and vocal fry like none other. “Daddy,” off their first album, might have the honor of being the most disturbing song I have ever heard, in which Davis describes being sexually abused by a female family friend and his parents not believing him. If you do not know who Korn is, listen to “Daddy.” You will understand then.  

The music is dark, melancholic, and the lyrics are intensely emotional, channeling raw feeling from the music. Subtlety is not a factor with Korn, for better or worse.  

“The Nothing” is Korn’s thirteenth studio album and it comes from a dark place, to say the least, being released just over a year after Davis’ wife died of a drug overdose. This is immediately clear from the opening interlude, “The End Begins.” As the bagpipes and rolling drums come in, you can hear Davis whispering, “why did you leave me?/ now they are free!” Beneath his singing and as the song ends, you can hear him beginning to breakdown into a fit of tears, and honestly, that is where the album works the best: during the more cathartic and emotional moments. There are certain moments where the album explodes into a fit of death growls, crying, screaming and down-tuned riffs and these moments are heart-wrenching and rather difficult to listen to yet so powerful at the same town.  

The album seems to mainly falter in its choruses, which at first glance, are catchy and memorable, but after the single “You’ll Never Find Me,” they begin to feel rather repetitive and formulaic. On the track, the breakdown starting at 1:52 is rather memorable and the verses are standout moments. The same can be said for the following track, “The Darkness is Revealing,” but across the entire album, the songs are brought down by overproduced choruses that manage to take away from the songs.  

To offset that, the pre-choruses, verses and breakdowns are almost always very rewarding, with “Idiosyncrasy” being a prime example, as Davis chants through gritted death in the breakdown, “Running towards the light, I feel the fingers wrapped around my neck/ God is making fun of me/He’s laughing up there, I can see.”  

“Finally Free” might be the most beautiful track on the entire album and is one of the few times where the chorus does not bring down the rest of the song (notable exceptions being “Cold” and “Idiosyncrasy”). 

“The Ringmaster” and “H@rd3r” feature some interesting vocals in the verses and drum work that seems to pulse with the emotion of the verses. The breakdowns on both are the best moments of the songs, but again, they are brought down by the overproduced choruses that do not feel very genuine. “This Loss” is a fantastic conclusion, seeming to finally cut through the bleakness of the album in the bridge, as Davis sings of finally breaking away from the loss. The final interlude is also an interesting contrast to the first, with the lyrics being some of the best on the album. 

“Can You Hear Me” and “Gravity Of Discomfort” feel a little bit like filler here and are obvious low points for the album. The verses and breakdowns are some of the most powerful in Korn’s entire career, but if the choruses would be shed in favor of something that feels a little more meaningful and organic, the album would be a much more satisfying listen.