Korn III: Remember Who You Are
UG Team, on july 20, 2010 7 of 8 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 8
Lyrics: 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. // 8
Overall Impression: 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. // 8
Korn III: Remember Who You Are
shmegface, on july 20, 2010 4 of 6 people found this review helpful
Sound: Sonically, the 9th album from the Bakersfield trio (plus Ray Luzier) is where the real Korn fan wants it to be. I personally thought See You on the Other Side and Untitled were a step forward in terms of musical complexity for the group, but obviously shied away from their traditional sound. Most people have interpreted the meaning of the album title as a reference to the third incarnation of the band. This may be true, however it also seems like this could have been the third record after Life Is Peachy. It has similar aggression and dynamics, but is definitely a step up in complexity and musicianship.
Korn 3 returns the group to where they started: no Pro Tools, just an 8-track. I feel, however, this reversion really shows the absence of Brian Welch. Munky really hasn't stepped up to the plate to recreate the original, authentic Korn sound. To be honest, it's obvious there's only one guitarist in this band. The intros and choruses on this album are true to their original sound, that being really heavy and catchy, usually a melodic companion for Jonathan's vocals. But with Head in the band there was that added spice' in the verses, usually a strange flanger or chorus effect, sometimes as simple as feedback. To me, these sometimes eerie sounds added to Korn's uniqueness. In the previous two records, Munky's parts were complimented by the presence of synth and keyboard parts. Some of the verses in Korn 3 have no guitar. Enough said.
Percussively, Korn 3 is spot on. Ray Luzier has shown his chops as a drummer and in my opinion more than filled David Silveria's shoes in recreating the earlier Korn sound. That said, he is a different drummer with a differing stylistic approach than David, Terry Bozio or Brooks Wackerman (the latter two contributed to Untitled). His drumming on this record is definitely more improvisational than the early Korn records (this may be contributed by the size of his kit!). I also believe Fieldy's contributions should be listed here, as they are more perscussive than dynamic. I'm not sure what tuning Fieldy uses, but for all intensive purposes, it could be different on every song and no one would be able to tell. He's back to his old game, slapping and working in unison with Ray. This has been his place in the early Korn records and is a big reason this record sounds old school. Long-time Korn fans will definitely appreciate his playing on Korn 3. // 9
Lyrics: During the first couple of listens of this album, what stood out to me was the lack of creativity in Jonathan's lyrics. It was painful. In the couple of reviews that I've read of Korn 3, this is the reviewer's major gripe. But they obviously weren't Korn fans and willing to give the record another listen. I find that most Korn records require a few listens to uncover the intricacies of the songs, and this one is no different. I pushed through and listened to the remainder of the album. Then I listened to it another time. Then a couple more times. By this time, the quality of lyrics (or lack thereof) wasn't such a snag. What did start to stand out was Jonathan's delivery. While there is not as much screaming as the early records, his voice is top-notch here. Ross Robinson has obviously instilled the kind of aggression that was present in Jonathan's performances in the first two records. It has been well documented that the recording/therapy sessions that Ross and Jon endured were pure hell. That hell has been thrown straight on to tape, and you can definitely hear it. However, listeners who couldn't stand Jon's voice before aren't going to be done any favours here. // 7
Overall Impression: Overall, Korn 3 is a welcome return to grace for the trio and newly appointed Ray. Most have been calling for Korn to throw it away for a long time, especially since Take A Look In The Mirror and subsequent departure of Head. I started to write about the more memorable songs on the record, but after playing them through, all of them had something unique about it that stood out. It's definitely been a while since this has been the case with a Korn record. Oildale was a great choice for the first song, but there are a number of others that could follow up. Lead the Parade has a bridge section that sounds almost schizophrenic and a chorus that wouldn't sound out of place on Untouchables. Are You Ready to Live has a nice fast riff that sounds Right Now-esque. This record is a great platform for the band to discover what this incarnation of the Korn line-up can bring. From the live performances I've seen in recent months, the members seem reinvigorated, and I'm sure it has something to do with the release of this record and getting back to their roots. If you've followed Korn up until now, you'll buy this record anyway. If you're one of those fans that hasn't bought and album since TALITM-Untitled, you should hear Korn this time around. They're back. // 8