’s latest album, Korn III – Remember Who You Are
, represents an attempt on the alt-metal
band’s part to recapture the ferocity of their early records. But while no one could question the intensity of Remember Who You Are
’s aggression, this Southern California quartet struggle to consistently wring arresting music from their angst. Consequently, Korn can’t help but feel like a band that are creatively spinning their wheels.
A Return to '90s-Style Alt-Metal
When Korn emerged in the mid-‘90s, they helped usher in the nu-metal movement that, alongside similar groups like Limp Bizkit
, balanced the fury of metal with an experimental edge that sometimes made room for hip-hop influences. With his dreadlocks and anguished vocals, frontman Jonathan Davis created nightmare scenarios that incorporated childhood imagery and family dysfunction into his lyrics. But as alt-metal began to lose its commercial clout at the start of the 21st century, Korn tried to adjust to the changing musical climate by tinkering with their sound. (In addition, founding guitarist Brian “Head” Welch left the group before the release of their 2005 album, See You on the Other Side
.) Remember Who You Are
is the group’s first album in three years, a long time between records for this band. And after years of flirting with pop hooks and atmospheric production, the new album feels very much like Korn trying to get back to the dark, bare-bones basics of albums like Korn
and Life Is Peachy
. As part of that return to their roots, Korn brought back producer Ross Robinson, who oversaw those two earlier records, to work on the new disc.
Angry, but Not Cathartic
But while Remember Who You Are announces itself as a more primal, immediate album, the heavy storm clouds hovering over these songs don’t often enough explode in compelling and exciting ways. Rather, the tracks often clash and clatter without pronounced hooks to guide the songs forward. It’s hard not to interpret the album’s lack of an overt pop sheen as the band’s way of proving how old-school metal they are after years of swimming in the mainstream rock waters. But even when Korn latch onto a gripping riff, like the one that kick-starts “Move On,” the band soon lose momentum, lapsing into alt-metal clichés. If you’re going to name an album Remember Who You Are, it’s clear that the title’s message applies to yourself as much as it does anyone else. And yet the album’s most noticeable problem is that Korn seem to have trouble remembering precisely what made them so singular in their heyday.
Jonathan Davis Can't Scare You Anymore
Where once Davis had an ability to be a genuinely unnerving frontman with his combination of shrieks, growls and falsetto singing, on Remember Who You Are he seems to be a bit of a parody of his old commanding self. Whether it’s the pseudo-creepy chants of “Are you ready to live?/Are you ready to die?” on “Are You Ready to Live?” or the maniacal laughing on “Never Around,” Davis tries very hard to haunt your dreams, but by now his vocal tricks have become familiar. As for the album’s lyrical themes, Davis sings about angst, desire and misery, but he rarely succeeds in translating his pain into universal sentiments. He sounds like the Jonathan Davis of old, but perhaps that’s part of the problem – 16 years after Korn’s debut, he doesn’t seem to have evolved or grown in any interesting way.
A Lack of Inspiration
Despite its shortcomings, Remember Who You Are
has an impressively raging spirit that makes it hard to dismiss the album outright. The lead single “Oildale (Leave Me Alone)” contains some of the twitchy anxiety of past Korn hits, while “Let the Guilt Go” boasts a catchy chorus. But too often the album feels like disconnected bits and pieces of inspired songwriting that fail to connect into satisfying tracks. Remember Who You Are
seeks to return Korn to their 1990s glory days, but the album can’t quite recreate a period in which the band’s fright-rock was startlingly new. Now that they’ve remembered who they are, they have to decide where to go from here.
'Korn III – Remember Who You Are' – Best Tracks:
“Oildale (Leave Me Alone)” (Purchase/Download
“Let the Guilt Go” (Purchase/Download
“The Past” (Purchase/Download
“Pop a Pill” (Purchase/Download
“Move On” (Purchase/Download
Release date – July 13, 2010
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publicist. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.