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Album Review: Korn’s The Nothing

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The Nothing, Korn’s thirteenth studio album, begins and ends with frontman Jonathan Davis sobbing. “Why did you leave me?” he asks before breaking down on the opening cut, “The End Begins,” and declares that “I failed you” on the record’s closer, “Surrender to Failure.” Although he never says her name, it’s safe to assume that Davis is addressing his wife, Devin, who died last year.

Jesus Heartbroken Christ, under what set of criteria are we to judge The Nothing as a work of art? It’s an expression of grief as much as it’s a collection of songs, and you’d have to be dead inside not to feel for Davis.

Suffice it to say, then, that The Nothing is, on the whole, solid. It has enough classic Kornisms to appease longtime fans (e.g., Fieldy’s rubber band bass, disco high hats, screechy guitar effects, vocal patterns that sound like nursery rhymes, etc.), but it’s different enough from vintage stuff to avoid making it feel like the band is stuck in a creative rut. Appropriately, given the subject matter, it’s on the less-heavy side by Korn standards. There’s a fairly clear formula at work here: almost every song starts out aggro, gets moodier and more melodic for the verse/chorus/verse chorus cycle, transitions into a mosh-worthy bridge, throws in one last chorus, and then concludes by repeating the aggro riff which kicked things off.

(And those bookend riffs can get pretty heavy, by the way; the one in “Idiosyncrasy,” for example, owes a clear debt to Pantera’s “A New Level.”)

That kind of predictability might bug some fans, but most probably won’t find it bothersome, ’cause Korn have embraced their inner pop songwriters here, gifting The Nothing with hooks for days. The choruses are oversized and will likely leave an immediate impression in the mind of the listener, with tracks like “The Darkness is Revealing,” “Finally Free,” “The Ringmaster,” and “H@rd3r” being amongst the catchiest songs of the band’s career.

Ultimately, The Nothing feels like it only represents one part of the emotional journey Davis will have to undergo while mourning the loss of his wife. When we abruptly lose a loved one, we’re robbed of our chance at closure, and the fact that the album begins as it ends demonstrates that Davis’ arc is not yet complete. It will be interesting to see where Korn go from here.

Korn’s The Nothing comes out Friday, September 13 on Roadrunner. You can listen to the single “Can You Hear Meat this link and pre-order the album here. Listen to our interview with Korn drummer Ray Luzier on The MetalSucks Podcast here.

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