I still remember seeing KORN for the first time when they were the opening act on a tour that included MEGADETH, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM, and FEAR FACTORY. At the time, much of the black-shirt crowd had no idea what to make of them. Their self-titled first album was fresh onto the record store racks, and I was pretty-much hooked. The combination of Korn’s bass-heavy rumble, Ross Robinson’s production skills, and a slight aura of mystery were enough to rope in listeners from the darkest corners of the musical spectrum – and well beyond – to catapult the band to mainstream stardom.
Then came the second album which sounded a hell of a lot like the first. While some dug it (myself included), the album was widely viewed as “more of the same” – thrown together and rushed out.
Fast-foward to the present, and we find Korn releasing KORN III: REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE, their first album for Roadrunner, and a record that seemingly discounts the six studio albums that came between LIFE IS PEACHY and KORN III. Gone are the days of musical exploration and multi-layered epics, replaced with a more raw, somewhat organic sound – and the return of Davis’ blue Adidas Track Suit. Reuniting with producer Ross Robinson and recorded as a four-piece with original members Jonathan Davis, Munky, and Fieldy joined by longtime touring drummer Ray Luzier, KORN III is an interesting piece to examine.
There are some elements to Korn’s recent behavior that have been bothering me ever since SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE. During live performances, Davis and Co. would often refer to themselves as a “three piece” or a “trio,” when in reality Korn cannot function as such. Calling yourselves a trio while standing in front of a full band’s worth of other musicians, masked and hiding in the shadows is not quite honest.
Many of the recent promotional photos still only feature Davis/Munky/Fieldy, with Luzier missing as if he’s still just another hired hand. In keeping with the KORN III title, it’s easy to see what they’re going for.
Musically, the album is aggressive, stripped-down, and fierce. While making a conscious effort to stay away from Pro-Tools and other studio trickery, in many ways the album sounds underproduced. Bottom line? The production doesn’t sound as good as that of Korn’s first two albums, but that doesn’t really hurt it.
Sadly, what does hurt the record is that the songwriting is also not up to par with those first two releases. The first single, “Oildale (Leave me alone)” is pretty standard fare, followed up by “Pop a Pill” which sounds like a mid-90’s b-side. By the time you hit the intro of “Move On” you think you’re hearing “Blind: Part II.”
Suprisingly, the second half of the album is by far the strongest. “Lead the Parade,” “Let the Guilt Go,” “Never Around,” and “Are You Ready to Live” are all solid cuts, and likely to become Korn staples.
It’s not a great album, but KORN III just might be a “grower” that will become better with age.
Rating: 3/5 Stars