My very first concert was a KoRn headlined bill – the infamous “Family Values Tour.” 12-year-old JBone rolled up to the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh for the first night of a loaded tour that featured founders and headliners KoRn, Limp Bizkit, Orgy, Staind, DMX and more, wearing a KoRn t-shirt and a backwards red Pirates hat. To say that night left an impression on me would be an understatement. My pre-teen self was in love with “A.D.I.D.A.S.” Follow the Leader really put the band on the map and was about a year old and the band was promoting Issues, the album that kept them on top and catapulted them to the mainstream.
After Issues, I fell out of touch with KoRn. I wasn’t nearly as into the next several releases and was off-put by some of the mainstream pandering that I perceived at the time. I really didn’t listen to KoRn too much between Issues and 2016’s The Serenity of Suffering. In that span, the band had a ton of mainstream hits and even released an album that had a very heavy EDM influence (and was produced by Skrillex). Brian “Head” Welch had returned to the band and they started back down a heavier path. Jonathan Davis’ signature voice still made the band unique, but The Serentiy of Suffering shed a lot of the gimmicks and brought back the raw energy I loved for years.
The Nothing may be the band’s most intense, complete album to date. There are a lot of elements embraced here that are classic KoRn. The bagpipes in the introduction of “The End Begins” is an obvious throwback to “Chutes and Ladders.” My favorite track is “The Darkness is Revealing,” pushing a heavy set of riffs that open up into a memorable chorus. The strongest moment of this song is the keyboard melody, a callback to a single note away from being the famous introduction to maybe the band’s most successful track, “Falling Away From Me.”
“Cold” starts off the record with a very distinct KoRn sound. If I didn’t know who it was, I would almost certainly recognize the band from the effects on the guitar punches in the intro. The bass work is phenomenal and J.D. shows off a new, more guttural heavy distorted vocal that is truly amazing when paired with his unique clean sound. “You’ll Never Find Me” was the lead single from this record. It plays off a lot of traditional KoRn elements, including the signature guitar effects and the creepy whisper/scream (and almost comes across as manic) that has provided multiple memorable moments for the band.
The most defining element about KoRn has always been their ability to push the envelope and come up with new sounds and is showcased on the current single “Can You Hear Me.” The song centers around a very distinct peaceful, echoed keyboard line, layered with progressively heavy guitar riffs blanketing over the serene sound that runs on loop throughout the track. “Idiosyncracy” is another track that almost plays in reverse. It starts with a strong riff and opens up to a half-time, clean, mellow verse before absolutely exploding into the chorus. The riff gives a tip of the hat to Pantera’s “A New Level.” Another unique stylistic song is “This Loss.” Heavy throughout, the track has an intense bridge that starts with a melody reminiscent of a merry-go-round and then descends into the new, guttural screams.
It’s nice to see a band I have loved for years pick back up where they left off and continue on this heavier journey. I respect the evolution and musical decisions the band has made along the way, including the exploratory albums that have paid dividends to their evolution, and make The Nothing stand out. New concepts, a darker scream and fun callbacks to the road that led KoRn to where they are highlight their heaviest and most complete album to date.