REVIEW: JONATHAN DAVIS – “Black Labyrinth”
Music is cathartic. It always has been. Time and time again its creation has served as a mitigation of pain for troubled souls, souls whose pain can extend far beyond the bounds of our comprehension. Through them, music can achieve something that borders on the miraculous. Indeed, it’s part of the reason fans listen, finding hope and a kindred spirit in certain songs and artists. Especially those artists prepared to open a vein and spill everything into their music, sharing it with whoever might need it.
Fewer artists have done this to the same degree as Jonathan Davis. Conveying an unvarnished honesty, the Korn frontman, renowned for his trademark vocal style, has garnered himself one of the largest legions of fans for delivering songs, and performances, so raw, so razor sharp that they flirt with the disturbing. Now J.D. is getting set to do it all again, releasing, what he considers, his masterpiece up to this point; his debut solo album ‘Black Labyrinth’.
With ‘Black Labyrinth’ Davis often rewrites the rule book and severs ties with a great deal of the connotations attached to his name. Indeed ‘Black Labyrinth’ skillfully, and at times ingeniously, executes songs featuring elements of New-Romantic, Goth and, of course, Rock and Metal, to name but a few. Consistently, it bleeds and blends aggressive tones with captivating melody in a way only Davis can. Leading single “What It Is” offers testament to this. A striking chorus resting next to a haunting, though uplifting piano immediately demonstrates the ever evolving capabilities of this eclectic songwriter.
This is seen again and again throughout ‘Black Labyrinth,’ perhaps never more so than within the hypnotic “Final Days.” Embodying the spirit of The Cure with guitar tones that feel borrowed from A Perfect Circle, “Final Days” is a triumph of exploration and expanding of ones scope. As is the standout “Your God,” which captures an exceptional vocal performance over a hooking riff that sounds borderline Indie. And it works too, without fault! If this somehow fails to beckon, the palpitate Gothic undertones of “The Secret” certainly won’t.
Often, Davis playfully employs elements of styles that, in theory, should not work together. In doing so he often strikes a fresh balance in ways we often don’t think of when we think of him. Like a beauty for the beast, or a splendidly crafted, dewy web as a home to the tyranny of the spider, throughout ‘Black Labyrinth’ such exceptional contrasts abound. “Basic Needs” is unarguably one of these examples. In just over six minutes, Davis emotes a tempering love song that pinches the heart where it hurts, but in the best way possible. Bridged with a surprising, yet alluring multi cultural mid section comprised of traditional percussive instruments from Japan, India and beyond, its power is immediately palpable. Further complimented by the fact that both here and throughout the record, the singer plays the majority of the instruments himself.
While retaining trademark ingredients, Jonathan Davis reaches new heights in his artistic journey with ‘Black Labyrinth.’ Heights that will disturb, delight and dazzle all those willing to surrender to a work soaked in confession yet enveloped in an undercurrent of positivity. While it may not be a masterpiece for all time, ‘Black Labyrinth’ is a raw, honest cry from the heart, filled with music made in Heaven, born of a night lost in Hell.