With their eponymous debut album, Korn forever changed the face of heavy metal. Spearheading an entire sub-genre that would eventually become self-parodic. But Korn escaped the nu-metal implosion and have remained lords to the throne for legions of fans ever since. Over twenty-five years into an illustrious career, forty million albums sold worldwide, two Grammys and multiple world tours, everyone’s favourite freaks on a leash are let loose once more on their fourteenth studio album, ‘Requiem.’ Fuelled by a luxury Korn have not enjoyed since before most of their fan base was born: time. Time to experiment. Time to record using analog tape. Time to produce a record as tortured as it is hopeful.
A dystopian Los Angeles offered the ominous backdrop in which ‘Requiem’ was birthed. With forest fires illuminating the sky and crime rates on an upward trajectory, Korn cautiously migrated from their respective lockdowns into the studio. What came out is an introspective look at the men within, complemented by an extrospective narrative on the world that was falling apart outside their window. A world deserving of a requiem: a mass to honour the dead.
Despite the dejected view on the doorstep, ‘Requiem’ chooses to encourage survival as opposed to villainy or victimhood. Revealed in the albums leading track, “Start the Healing,” an unfettered exploration of what it means to be responsible for our own happiness. Ushered in by rhythmic stylings that echo “Coming Undone” from ‘See You on the Other Side’, “Start the Healing” is delightfully uncomfortable, offering a wide variety of vocal expressions and melodically melancholy riffing.
Korn have always thrived on extracting the darkness from their shadows and synthesising it into music. When they hit their stride, the result is harrowingly powerful. Standout tracks “Let the Dark do the Rest” and “Penance for Sorrow” find Korn at their contemporary creative best, with both songs crying out to be singles. Enormous, haunting anthems brought to life by choruses built for arenas, with performances by drummer, Ray Luzier, as dynamic as they are rooted in the bands core sound. Unfortunately, only half of the band’s rhythm section bring their best, with bassist, Fieldy, not having his finest hour, lacking his slap-scrape signature sound or anything that satisfies as a substitute. Recently announcing an indefinite sabbatical from the band to work through some personal struggles, Fieldy’s return to form is something we can all look forward to.
Throughout, ‘Requiem’ captures something of the refined brutality of ‘Untouchables,’ brought to life by guitarists James “Munky” Shaffer and Brian “Head” Welch. The pair making for either a vicious duo, in tracks such as “Lost in the Grandeur” and the doom metal influenced “Hopeless and Beaten”, or offering a beacon of preternatural, twinkling melody in songs like “Disconnect.” In range and depth, vocalist Jonathan Davis still evokes emotions like no other. Closing track “Worst Is on Its Way” momentarily feels misplaced until Davis injects his trademark scatting, immortalised on 1998’s ‘Freak on A Leash’, paving the way for a chaotic finish.
‘Requiem’ may take a moment for fans to digest, marking a shift in the Korn narrative. Serving up an outpouring of vulnerability that doesn’t stew in the serenity of suffering. Instead, it looks for ways forward. Becoming a temple of mantras built to break the mould. An ode to the road less travelled. Making ‘Requiem’ a brave, bold, and extremely important album in the Korn oeuvre.