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Saturday, January 22, 2011

CD Review: Korn - III: Remember Who You Are

Korn - III: Remember Who You Are
2010 Roadrunner Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Alright, so I'm a little late to the party with this review, but Bugs did warn me about that turn at Albuquerque, crikey...

Not that Korn needs mega press to sell themselves, still being one of the top live draws on the rock and metal scene today, there's nevertheless something a bit off in the way their latest album III: Remember Who You Are has been received. In general, journalists have welcomed this album with fine accolades and forgiveness for the confused miasma of what-the-hell that was the 2007 self-titled Korn. Still, don't you get the feeling this album came and went without the normal fanfare of a Korn release?

We're to assume at this point the numeration oddity behind III: Remember Who You Are is to thread the band's first self-titled album with the 2007 guerilla release and now this one, which happens to have a subtitle to it. Semantics. The most important facet to III: Remember Who You Are is to judge it on its merits. And yes, there are plenty of merits to this thing.

Certainly the good folks at Roadrunner are pleased to have one of the modern era's giants in their fold. You can almost picture the scene of the label's top brass, having already resurrected Dream Theater and Megadeth, then corraled Rob Zombie over, sitting in glee with the playbacks of "Oildale (Leave Me Alone)" and "Pop a Pill." Machine Head, Dez Fafara and Slipknot have been this label's bread and butter, but consider Korn their marmalade. Smack your lips if you like it.

If there's any bonding yarn of connection for Korn's purposes, who have been without Brian "Head" Welch a considerable amount of time now, it might be from Life is Peachy to Untouchables to Take a Look in the Mirror. Or rather, III: Remember Who You Are is an overview of those albums. There's hardly any commercial blow-ups on III: Remember Who You Are and without Head's presence, Korn has lost much of its dense projection. Still, James "Munky" Shaffer is a single-handed driving force, Reginald "Fieldy Snuts" Arvizu still packs a wallop with his bass vibratum (more like, he delivers one of his personal best performances on this album) and Jonathan Davis still sounds like a kid trapped inside a hedonist--a hedonist within a snapcase flash of giving himself up to the strait jacket.

III: Remember Who You Are isn't quite so much about the self-destructive case of the go-die blahs that has marked most of their albums as much as it is a rant session from a group of men who've grown up some. They've slipped out of their wicked transistor modes and gotten to business here. Not that See You On the Other Side isn't a fine album; in fact, much of it is damned addicting like most Korn albums, but this time, Korn sticks to what gels, which is groove after groove after meat-gnawing groove. God bless.

With new drummer Ray Luzier, Korn really connects with themselves on III: Remember Who You Are. In fact, with Luzier, they've gone on a crash diet of sorts. Take his hi-hat dance shimmy on "Fear is a Place to Live." While Davis growls and trembles over always getting "fucked in the end," Luzier dials the song a bobbing slide which carries only so long instead of dallying on for another stanza. If anything, Korn have gotten smarter with their music on this album. Untouchables has moments of greatness and Take a Look in the Mirror likewise, but each could've lost some their girth. Remember why Issues was such a good album? Despite having a long track list, for the most part, Issues' tunes catch flight then change course before getting too adrift in airspace. Like Issues, this album doesn't loft.

In a sense, Korn balances the expansions they tapped into with Untouchables and Take a Look in the Mirror and hold themselves in check with the, er, remembrance of why Life is Peachy is so killer. III: Remember Who You Are hardly carries anything from their grinding debut album, but it does get a finger on the pulse of why people were interested in them in the first place. Remiss of Head's fills, Korn has learned to adapt to their cruising weight and III: Remember Who You Are is more disciplined as a result. "Lead the Parade" could've been a cumbersome mess if recorded a few years back, but it delivers a raw stomp and then dips into a psychotic tiff, only just enough to make its point. In the past, we would've gotten another minute of wallowing and self-flogging. Not that Jonathan Davis doesn't belch and ralph his afflictions into this album; he just remembers other people are laying witness to them and he cuts his tirades down. Grasshopper learns well...

"Oildale (Leave Me Alone)" and "Pop a Pill" quickly re-establishes the pound and push drive of Korn at their best, while "Fear is a Place to Live," "Are You Ready to Live," "Hold All These Lines" and "Let the Guilt Go" keep the album on a near-perpetual jive. "Move On" could've been five-plus minutes of oh-woe-is-me, but Davis lets his demons free and lets his band handle the rest. The collective chops all of it down with more efficiency. "The Past" may bear an inherent reflection upon everything Korn has faced in their long career, but there's a strange meeting of Blue Oyster Cult and The Cure with a Korn stamp pressed to the tone of the song that makes it a compelling listen.

Korn may have shed some pounds from their titanic din, but the exchange is a settled sense of their personal ideal which happily, features much more fluid tempo. Korn are no longer MTV2 and MTV-X darlings (nobody in metal is at this point) and Follow the Leader is already referred to as a generation piece. Right now, Korn has matured and found a nice hidey hole with Roadrunner. Love 'em or hate 'em, just give 'em their due, because this band was instrumental in ushering metal back to favor in North America. They've had the life, they've done their time and now Korn just is. Or rather, they are.

Rating: ****

1 comment:

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