Korn – “The Paradigm Shift”


kornparadigmnewMarch 1995, and I’m waiting for NYHC heroes Sick of It All to take the stage in Chicago.  So far, I’ve lived through the many fights in the Orange 9mm set, and now am wondering what this second band is all about as a guy in an Adidas track suit comes out playing bagpipes.  More lights go up and I see the guitar players playing guitars near their ankles and then a really bizarre bass line kicks in.  Mind = blown.  I came for a hardcore show and what is this?  Strangest concert bill I can recall, and yes, Korn opened up for Sick of It All for a short stint right after their first album came out.  Needless to say the crowd was a bit confused as well. So, that didn’t turn me from hardcore to nu-metal, but I will say Korn held their own, even with that crowd.  The music and stage presence did draw in quite a few people.  I can still remember it 18 years later, so they did have an effect on me at least.  That being said, I was a hardcore kid and closet metal-head, so Korn never managed to find its way into my music collection except for a greatest hits album much later in life.   Fast forward a few years and seeing “Head” perform solo a couple of times at festivals and picking up his solo albums, really opened up my ears to that characteristic sound again.

According to Wikipedia, Korn is an American nu-metal band from Bakersfield, California, formed in 1993. Korn has sold over 35 million records worldwide and eleven of the band’s albums have reached the Billboard top ten, with eight becoming platinum or double platinum.  On the award side, the band has received two Grammys and two MTV Video Music Awards.  Quite a bit of success for sure.  The band’s third album, Life is Peachy, spawned hit songs “Freak on a Leash” and “Got the Life” and the constant video airplay really helped usher in their mainstream success, leading to their next album Follow the Leader being certified five-times platinum and selling nearly 10 million copies.  Success often brings with it problems and the band has seen its share over the years, most notably with the departure of Brian “Head” Welch in 2005 after battling drug addiction and becoming a Christian.  Over the years, many fans have lamented the departure of Head and rumors continued to ebb and flow around his return to the band.  In May of 2012, Head rejoined his band members onstage to perform “Blind”, marking his first performance with the band since 2005.  Following this performance, Head played a few more shows with the band and in May, Head confirmed that he had, in fact, rejoined the band and would be part of the band’s eleventh studio album, The Paradigm Shift.

From the very opening of “Prey for Me”, anyone who has heard Korn from back in the day can instantly recognize the sound.  There is no mistaking this for any other band.  As soon as the staccato riffing stops and that bass sound and creepy atmospheric guitar start along with Jonathan Davis’ recognizable voice, one can see how longtime faithful Korn fans will be pleased with this album.  The sound has matured, lost some of the raggedness and borderline insanity that characterized the early albums but still does have the underlying intensity as a base for their sound.

In what might be a clever move, the beginning of “Love & Meth” sounds like it could have come straight off the album by Brian “Head” Welch’s other band, Love & Death.  Again, we have somewhat of the typical Korn song formula going on.  A driving opening riff that breaks down into bass-driven sections for the verses only to have all the guitars come back in for the chorus sections.  What I can really appreciate in the verse sections is the atmosphere presented where Fieldy’s bass and the drums carry things and the guitars add some odd little riffs and fills here and there.  Perhaps as a sign of the maturity, many of the songs have chorus sections with almost soaring vocals from Jonathan Davis, which certainly showcases his abilities as a front man for the band.

“What We Do” starts out with a heavy, faster, more melodic riff that carries straight through the song, which is a good change from the previous songs.  Once again, Jonathan Davis’ vocals are all over the place with respect to style in this song.  From the soaring chorus-like sections to the commanding shouting in much of the verse sections, there is good variety in this song and throughout the album.

In a move that I’ve seen with some other bands recently, the first single released “Never Never” is actually one of the weaker songs on the album and the next track “Punishment Time” starts off with some distorted keyboard riffing until the guitars pick that up.  The song then goes a familiar route for Korn songs with the bass and drums carrying things through the verses to be joined by heavy guitars at the end of each verse, but the song has an interlude in the middle that turns weird and almost ballad-like.  That is just one of those songs that I don’t understand and it doesn’t work for me.

Thankfully, the somewhat quiet “Lullaby for a Sadist” changes things up a bit but still retains the weirdness.  The verse sections are primarily just keyboard and vocals with some guitars joining in but in a supporting role in contrast to other songs where it seems the vocals and guitar seem to battle for supremacy.  I guess this could be the power ballad of the album, if there is still such a thing.  After this slower, quieter interlude the album returns to finish with more roaring guitars and the characteristic Korn sound.

This is one of those albums that will tend to polarize listeners.  If you’ve never liked Korn, you will likely not be fond of this album.  On the other hand if you’ve ever liked Korn, you will find a lot to like in this album.  While it is a return to their old sound, it doesn’t necessarily sound dated.  Their sound has picked up some complexity over the years and this album represents a good blending of the old sound with the more recent.  Regardless of what anyone may claim, the return of “Head” to the band has led to a return to the “classic” Korn sound and the result is a very good album.

Rating: 8/10

1. Prey for Me
2. Love & Meth
3. What We Do
4. Spike in My Veins
5. Mass Hysteria
6. Paranoid and Aroused
7. Never Never
8. Punishment Time
9. Lullaby for a Sadist
10. Victimized
11. It’s All Wrong
12. Wish I Wasn’t Born Today (deluxe)
13. Tell Me What You Want (deluxe)

Band Members:
Jonathan Davis – Vocals
James “Munky” Shaffer – Guitar
Brian “Head” Welch – Guitar
Reginald “Fieldy”Arvizu – Bass
Ray Luzier – Drums

Record Label: Prospect Park Records, Oct. 2013

Weblinks: Website / Facebook / Twitter

Buy the album here:
Holland: First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission
USA: Metal Helm

Video for “Love & Meth”

Video for “Never Never


2 Replies to “Korn – “The Paradigm Shift””

  1. I enjoyed your review very much, however, I feel compelled to correct part of your article. Having been a fan of Korn since they toured with Ozzy in ’94, I’ve memorized just about ever song on every album. You mentioned “Peachy” and “F. the Leader, but incorrectly placed “Freak on a Leash” and “Got the Life” as being on “Peachy”. Not a simple mistake, since the airplay which gave them so much popularity came in ’98 and “Peachy” was released in ’96. Details like those are quite easy to research when writing reviews. Just something to consider before you write anything else. Thank you for your time.

  2. Thanks Rachel…I should have done better homework and not trusted just one site for the info. I usually know better than that. For me it is a fairly simple mistake as though I saw them as an opening band in ’95, they’re not one of my favorite bands, so I know a bunch of the songs over the years, but never really followed them. The background parts of the review are often the most challenging…especially when it’s something like folk metal from Poland sung in “old” Polish and no band sites are in English. Not the case here but you get the idea… Glad you enjoyed the rest…my goal is to try to make them useful as that is what I look for in a review!

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