Korn’s The Paradigm Shift is a Perfectly Harmless Pop Album
Tomorrow, Korn will release The Paradigm Shit, their first album with guitarist Brian “Head” Welch in however many years it’s been since their last album with guitarist Brian “Head” Welch. I only just got my promo copy, which, alas, does not really leave us enough time to get a proper review ready by tomorrow. So I thought I’d just suffer through this thing now and give you a kind of stream-of-consciousness review, sort of how I did for Korn III back in 2010.
I suspect many Korn fans will dismiss this evaluation outright, but Korn fans are, themselves, unqualified to engage in any sort of rational intellectual discourse, on account of somehow thinking Korn are a good band.
- “Prey for Me” — Although the bass is initially lower in the mix than it would have been thirteen years ago, this opens with what sounds like basically every Korn riff you’ve ever heard, and by the time the verse begins, the bass is back at the front. Like first single “Never Never,” the chorus is surprisingly poppy — in fact, very little of this sounds like a metal song. Jonathan Davis also seems to be going out of his way to set up jokes for assholes like me: “I’m just a shell of what I used to be!” he whines. Yeah, no shit.
- “Love & Meth” — This actually sounds like a bad ripoff of Korn, in no small part due to the overwhelming number of electronic elements — it’s like one of those late-90s bands that were trying to be both nu-metal and industrial. The chorus, once again, sounds like, with some very slight modifications, it could be a pop song that appears in the trailer for some terrible romantic drama based on some terrible Nicholas Sparks novel. I can just see Channing Gosling or whomever running through the rain and Rachel McHough or whatever her name is leaping into his arms and if I close my eyes and really concentrate, I can practically smell the vomit I just expelled onto the head of the person sitting in front of me.
- “What We Do” — I’m starting to think Edsel Dope wrote this whole album. There are some orchestral synths, which (I think) is new for Korn. There’s a part just after the two-minute mark where it sounds like the song is hiccuping — the band keeps playing one note over and over again while Davis cries out, in his highest falsetto, “WE DO! WE DO! WE DO!” It’s totally ridiculous, but it leads to this kinda slow, epic section that really doesn’t sound very much like Korn at all, and I actually — gasp! — like. Single horn earned!
- “Spike in My Veins” — I take it back, Edsel Dope only wrote half the album — the other half was written by Flyleaf. Really, this does not sound like Korn circa-1998 — maybe it’s the poppy nature of it, but I actually find this more tolerable (if not outright good) than the Korn of yore. And speaking of enjoyment: there’s a section about three minutes into this track where Davis starting making what I can only describe as the sounds of a scared goat. It’s easily the funniest part of the album thus far.
- “Mass Hysteria” — I keep spacing out during this song. I’ve actually made an effort to listen to it three times now, and I can’t not begin to daydream as it plays. I think that may be my psyche’s defense mechanism against a potentially traumatic experience.
- “Paranoid and Aroused” — Something about vocal melody Davis has created for this song makes it sound like a show tune with Korn music over it.
- “Never Never” — Oh right, this song. Y’know, if you pretend it’s, like, Pink or Katy Perry singing instead of Davis, it actually seems perfectly harmless (save for the Skrillex section, which is just totally horrible and ridiculous). That’s actually the kindest thing I can say about this record: it’s a perfectly harmless pop album. That may make it the crowning artistic achievement of Korn’s career.
- “Punishment Time” –In case you’re wondering, yes, Davis does utter the phrase “It’s punishment time!” in this song, so, y’know, poetry, y’all. The chorus once again sounds like it originated in a show tune. Do you think this album will inspire droves of Korn fans to go see The Phantom of the Opera?
- “Lullaby for a Sadist” — OH MY GOD IT’S A POWER BALLAD. KORN WROTE A POWER BALLAD. I’m rather heart broken to realize, however, that there’s no guitar solo. Instead, they build to the part where a guitar solo would go, and then Davis starts making those scared goat noises again.
- “Victimized” — See “Mass Hysteria.”
- “It’s All Wrong” — I feel like I’ve already heard this song, so I check my iTunes to see if I somehow backtracked by accident. Nope. It is entirely feasible that Korn only wrote half of one song and then their producer put it into whatever program and turned it into twelve songs.
- “Tell Me What You Want” –– Easily the worst song on the album; my mind can’t even rebel by starting to compile a grocery list, instead just screaming “DEAR CHRIST PLEASE TURN IT OFF WHATEVER I DID TO YOU I PROMISE I’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN!!!” It still only kinda sounds like Korn, but the general tone of it — adolescent drop-out upset that his girlfriend dumped him and started blowing the manager at Burger King “because he has a real future” — is totally reminiscent of the band in their heyday. It’s only three minutes long, but it’s an excruciating three minutes. I was contemplating giving this album another half-a-horn but based on this song alone I am now denying it that honor.
So that wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be, but it certainly wasn’t good. Buy it at your own peril.