The Serenity of Suffering review by Korn

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  • Released: Oct 21, 2016
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.5 (43 votes)
Korn: The Serenity of Suffering
6

Sound — 8
The past several albums for Korn have shown a post-apex journey oscillating between continuing to wield the nu metal sound they helped shepherd into mainstream success back in the late nineties/early noughties, and trying to find the next innovative direction for their brand of metal. With creative complications during the making of 2007's "Korn II" resulted in an experimental album tumbling down from the success of the previous "See You on the Other Side," frontman Jonathan Davis sought to recapture the back-to-basics vibe of their early material in the minimally-produced nu metal output of 2010's "Korn III: Remember Who You Are." While the reception for that return was mixed, Korn promptly jumped back into the deep end of changing up their sound with 2011's "The Path of Totality," which attempted to be the definitive album to bridge the gap between rock music and the prevalent dubstep craze at the time, but given how much more presence the handful of dubstep producers (Skrillex, Excision, Kill The Noise, etc.) had compared to Korn itself, it felt more like the band piggybacking on current trends.

In the last few years, however, Korn have been swinging back to familiar territory with better momentum. After reuniting with founding guitarist Brian Welch, who had left the band after 2003's "Take a Look in the Mirror," 2013's "The Paradigm Shift" showed Korn once again bringing back their nu metal sound and combining it with hints of dubstep and pop characteristics they had dabbled with in the past few albums, making for a good hybrid of traits old and new.

Now on their twelfth album, "The Serenity of Suffering," Korn fully and confidently return to the nu metal sound of their prime. Primarily, the low tunings, thick distortion and ample guitar layering easily make it one of the heaviest sounding Korn records in a while, heard in the whomping bounce of "Take Me," the shrill-to-heavy swapping riff in "Everything Falls Apart," or the beefy breakdown in "Please Come for Me," though Welch and James Shaffer also show reservation in the contained but teeming tremolo strumming in "Next in Line," and the melodic riffing in the measurement-morphing "Die Yet Another Night."

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With that heavier guitar foundation and the riffs it wields calling back to the sound of "Untouchables," "The Serenity of Suffering" also makes a clear callback to the hip-hop influences that Korn weaved into their sound back in "Follow the Leader." Turntable scratching appears in "Insane," hip-hop beats carry "A Different World," and Davis brings back both a bit of rapping in "Next in Line" and the "Freak on a Leash"-style scat vocals in "Rotting in Vain." Reginald Arvizu's bass work unfortunately doesn't get to dazzle as imperatively as it did in those older records, though he still flexes his skills in "The Hating" and "Please Come for Me."

Lyrics — 8
Continuing to draw inspiration from past trials and tribulations, Davis's lyrics in "The Serenity of Suffering" specifically revolve around the theme of taking refuge in the familiarity of certain pain and despair (as the album title encapsulates). Davis's revelry in his own dysfunctional anger towards others in "Rotting in Vain" ("I wouldn't be angry if you just fucking cried / Your tears would arouse me, refreshing my supply") and the sadomasochistic "When You're Not There" ("I love the way you hurt me / I love that you don't care") is one he's invoked plenty times over in classic Korn material, but what resonates more are his moments that refer to his struggles with depression and addiction, given what Davis had been through in the last few years. First outlining the agony of dealing with such ("This cancer finds everything I hide / Living my life horrified" in "Insane"; "The terror grips me closely / And hope I get to die yet another night" in "Die Yet Another Night"), Davis details the dangerously seductive dependency that prescription drugs impose in order to ease that pain in "Take Me" ("I feel it dulling, I feel it helping / It's taking everything all up away from me"), but on the other hand, points out the solace that can be taken in a chaos he's grown comfortable to in his depression in "Black Is the Soul" ("Happiness is found in the darkest ways") and "Please Come for Me" ("The depression's ecstasy").

Overall Impression — 8
In Korn's back-and-forth between chasing sounds in new directions and going back to old glory, their re-appeal to their emblematic nu metal sound in "The Serenity of Suffering" does a better job in its throwback effort to the golden era of Korn, both sonically and symbolically, due to Welch being back in the group. And though the band merging back onto a path they've already mastered doesn't have them showing new tricks, the repaving of their classic style does better compared to their last nu metal refresh effort of "Korn III..."

18 comments sorted by best / new / date

    shor1969
    Best album since 2005. Very strong record with interestling melodies, really heavy sound, more pretty choruses (since SYOTOS, maybe) and for me awesome bridges. If you didn't like something - listen this record again and again, because this album is a kind of Untouchables, if it came out today. When Untouchables came out in 2002, many were also at a loss, but now praise, this will be the same. Critics warmly received album. I am very glad that the leak did not take place and they kept this album up to the last. Many thanks to the Korn guys, for more than 20 years to create something new within the same genre and able to surprise so far - well worth it. Even more thanx to Nick Raskulinecz - again he proved that he is one of the best producers of our time, because he produced such masterpieces as Diamond Eyes and Koi No Yokan (Deftones) + Once More Round The Sun (Mastodon). Once this day go down in history. p.s. sorry for my bad english, i'm from Belarus and just start learning this awesome language
    nicolasabat
    The guitar tone in this album is possibly their best and I think it has my favourite production of all their albums. The lyrics are getting a bit whiney now in some songs but overall it still works. Melodies and riffs on point. The breakdowns are 10/10 on every song that has one. As a Korn fan, I am very happy with this album.
    MetalRock4ever
    I thought this album was very strong. Much stronger than Paradigm Shift (even though that was a good album). It's good to hear that it wasn't a copy/paste album from their older works; they managed to incorporate their newer sound into the songs too.
    munkysquid
    I've played it to a few friends who aren't really into Korn. All of them said exactly the same thing - the guitars sound great, the songs flow well and it's easy to listen too. In my honest opinion it's not just a great Korn record, it's actually a good rock record...
    travislausch
    It's a good album. I don't know about "best one since [year]", because it's essentially The Paradigm Shift Part 2, though. I mean, sure, it doesn't have a track like "Never Never", but that album only had that one and the rest sounded pretty much the same as this. And then there was the hype about it being a "return to their debut album", which is laughable at best... But overall, it's a pretty good Korn album. Absolutely nothing inoffensive if you're a fan of the band and just want to hear them rocking out. It just doesn't offer anything more than that, that's all.
    bdyj
    Hey, man, no hate or anything, but saying that TSOS is essentially TPS 2 is not only a false statement, but also a huge underestimation.
    travislausch
    I dunno about that. I really didn't get the feeling the band did anything different with this album, literally except for not putting a song like "Never Never" on it. A lot of the guitar riffs and tones, and a lot of the vocal melodies and production seem very similar to the last album. But yeah, the biggest crime this album commits is hyping it up to be like the first album. That album had an aggression that even the heaviest bands out there right now have a hard time matching. Korn would have been better off just saying this album would be like a better evolution of the previous one. Don't get me wrong though. The Serenity Of Suffering is a good album. I found it rather bland and full of forced emotion, but for a band this far along in their career, this is probably one of the best efforts I've heard in a long time. I just don't think it's "the best since [some classic album of theirs]". They've done albums pretty much on par with this one since, like "Take A Look In The Mirror" and Korn III, which were also really good, raw, heavy Korn albums. Even "The Paradigm Shift" is a really good Korn album.
    travislausch
    As well, for a band 30 years into their career, I most certainly do not expect them to do a repeat of their first four albums. They're in completely different places in their lives and as artists now, so my opinion definitely isn't a reflection of a wish for them to return to some former glory. But when you work up that kind of hype and fail to deliver on it... doesn't look good on a band.
    Ristifer29
    I mostly agree with you. I don't think it comes down to it just being The Paradigm Shift, Pt. II. However, it does have a lot of the same elements. I think the fact that the production is quite different makes The Serenity Of Suffering sound different, while still being mostly the same kind of formula they explored on The Paradigm Shift. The Serenity Of Suffering does have a few moments of old Korn quirkiness, which I found to be missing from The Paradigm Shift for the most part. But, I'll still agree that it seems more like a solid continuation from The Paradigm Shift, rather than an effort that feels like old school Korn. But like you said, that's okay too. It's a nice, booming effort. It has much beefier production, but I think if songs like Punishment Time or Mass Hysteria (from TPS) had had production like this one, they'd be considered quite heavy too. So, it's a solid evolution from that album, but it doesn't really match the heaviness of the first few Korn albums.
    Lemorick
    Agreed. This is a great Korn album that will make long time fans happy (me included). It simple, heavy and has the groove that Korn fans apreciate. Nothing new, but still effective :p
    bdyj
    Clearly their best album since 2002. Korn and Life Is Peachy are not what this band is meant to be. It's that simple. Don't cry about it, haters. They had to make the first four albums in order to achieve what they are destined to be with Untouchabls. Like it or not, the true fans know what I'm talking about. Also if the band did take a longer break after Untouchables and did not rush Take A Look In The Mirror just to get on Ozzfest, The Serenity of Suffering would be the perfect 6th Korn album released in 2004! Overall great album! Giving less than 9 is funny.
    EntropicDiscord
    I wish they had gotten Ross Robinson to produce. Nick Raskulinecz is the M. Knight Shyamalan of production.
    Abacus11
    I was a fan of Korn's first 2 records but by the time Follow The Leader was released, I lost interest in the band. Over the next couple of decades I've given each album a quick listen and heard the occasional single but, to me, it sounded like Korn was on auto-pilot and writing the same 2-3 songs over and over and over again. With that said, The Serenity Of Suffering is the first Korn album since Life is Peachy that I actually listened to the whole way through and wanted to listen again. I don't love it but I don't hate it either. I think that this band, after many years of making really bland music (at least in my opinion) have finally gotten that initial fire back and made a solid record.