Sound — 6
Chug-chug, wob-wob, squee squash squirm. For one reason or another the strange sounds will ring long in the ears of Korn fans. Was a dubstep album, produced by Skrillex, Noisia and others, a brave step taken in good faith or was it an unmitigated disaster? We may never know, because all the chatter here and elsewhere has moved to the subject of Brian "Head" Welch's return. As UG readers will know all too well, the guitarist quit in 2005 to follow the path of Christ and raise his child away from the sex, drugs and greasy dreadlocks that came as part of life with Korn. It was a messy break-up (and his hair didn't get much cleaner) but with his daughter all grown up he felt the time was right to come back into the fold. And so we have it - "The Paradigm Shift" is the first Korn album for ten years to feature its founding guitarist. Most will be relieved to hear that the dubstep experiment was just that, an experiment – "The Paradigm Shift" is a straightforward album of bumbling drop-tuned riffs and creepy atmospherics, just as Welch remembers it. Sadly, music has moved on in the 10 years since his last album and even in 2003 Korn were pushing their shelf-life, so the sounds are far from revelatory. Production is a major plus point, with a full metal arsenal filling the holes that Skrillex left in the mix and finally addressing the band's abusive relationship with snares. Electronic traces remain though, with "Never Never" and "Spike in My Veins" striking a particularly futuristic chord. "Prey for Me" makes good use of the meat and potatoes, a catchy chorus reinforced by hostile, elastic riffs.
Lyrics — 7
Jonathan Davis' trembling paranoia is an item of hard rock furniture. Often imitated (often, often imitated) but never fully replicated, he's been the cornerstone of Korn's identity through 20 years of other changes. His personal torment seems a little cliché these days, but he himself made it so by leading that strand of '90s counterculture. Every other word is "I" or "my," but like all the finest angst there's something greater being alluded to; on "The Paradigm Shift" it's the decline in public consciousness.
Overall Impression — 7
Korn fans will enjoy listening to a successful combination of their earliest successes and the redeeming features of their modern failures. Everyone else, it must be said, will be fairly nonplussed by "The Paradigm Shift," as it is neither a great triumph nor an amusing catastrophe. As nu metal continues to slide out of cultural consciousness and almost fully into the realm of diehards, one of its first and biggest stars is doing something right by serving the people who most want to listen. You won't need your mind changed by this.