Sound — 8
Ross Robinson and Korn are often credited (or blamed, if you talk to elitists) for the explosion of bottom-heavy, bass-thudded nu metal that defined metal for much of the 90s, the early 00s and the Ozzfest side stages throughout those decades. Metal was essentially low-end with screaming over top and it was a polarizing period in the genre's history. Korn, however, have enjoyed one of the most successful careers of that era, simply because they didn't follow trends, even if they inadvertently created them. They return to producer Ross Robinson, who manned the boards for their first two platters, Korn and Life is Peachy, for Korn III: Remember Who You Are. Working with Robinson again and titling their album as such suggests that the band is returning to its roots, and to a degree, it is. There are no crossover songs like Got the Life or Twisted Transistor here; instead, Korn roll up their sleeves and stick their hands in the dirt. Korn III is a noisy record, complete with the requisite bass thwap of Fieldy, the steel-rubbing-steel, down-tuned, teeth-rattling buzz of riffs perpetrated by James Munky Shaffer and the absolutely ballistic drumming of one Ray Luzier, who fits the band so well, it's like he has been there from day one. Korn III has more in common with the band's first two albums than its most recent and most popular efforts, which looked more to pop radio and hip-hop guest appearances. Instead, Oildale (Leave Me Alone and Fear is a Place to Live, as well as Let the Guilt Go are aligned more with songs like Blind or Clown. But I'm not suggesting Korn have regressed; they merely keep one foot in each world one in the past, one in the future, and the balance it fearlessly. It's no simple task, but given Korn's two-decades of playing together, rampant fan base and the fact that they did revolutionize a genre whether you like it or not give them the ability to do so.
Lyrics — 8
Jonathan Davis has always had a nasal, emotive, emotionally unstable style, like a more on-the-ledge version of Mike Patton. Davis certainly spills the contents of his mind and heart onto the table like a Ally Sheedy dumping her handbag out in The Breakfast Club and he doesn't care who picks through the litter and debris. It's a brave way to do business, but he does it. He's not as disturbed as he was on the first two albums, but he's hanging out in the general vicinity. His lyrics still explore the darker depths and recesses of his mind, questioning himself and his decisions, and going boldly where he always has gone. The album does not come with a lyric sheet, but half the thrill of dissecting Korn lyrics is listening to Davis sing them and deciphering them from there in another layer of discovery.
Overall Impression — 8
Robinson and Korn's styles just fit and Robinson is known for extracting the best performances out of bands by throwing things at musicians and by asking the most difficult of lyrical questions when a signer is laying down his parts. He obviously had to do this in the studio for Korn III as the album is more emotionally resonant than anything the band has done since Issues. Korn could go through the motions at this point, since they've had all the success in the world, but instead of copping out, they continue to bear it all. Yes, there's the bass thwap, the low end guitars and Davis' bipolar vocal performance, which are hallmarks of the band's sound. But it feels new again.