Back in the day, Korn were leaders. Bringing the heavier brand of rap nuanced rock to the forefront, Korn have been cited as an inspiration by a number of bands over the years. A couple of years ago they came into some heavy criticism when they released The Path of Totality, an album that embraced the modern polyrythmic electronica colloquially known as Dubstep which has rapidly increased in popularity over the last few years. Some people saw it as evolution and adoption of modern musical styles. Others heard the customary ‘wub-wub’ and trashed it. I never heard the record, and so I can safely say that I bring no judgement into this review of The Paradigm Shift.
On first listen, I didn’t enjoy this album much. Honestly, by the end of the record I couldn’t wait for it to finish. If I hadn’t been reviewing it then I’d probably have turned it off and come back to it later on. It initially felt to me that the electronic infusions were more an attempt to slap some paint on rather than face the prospect that the underlying infrastructure doesn’t have the impact that it once did. Repeated listens do allay that somewhat, although I find that the digital additions do feel like additions rather than ever being core to a song. It’s a bit like a progression of having a DJ in a band I suppose, although it’s something Korn never had which makes it all the more obvious.
As the album progresses is becomes a bit Korn by the numbers which is largely enjoyable but not particularly memorable; I never walked away from it humming tunes. The dubstep influence is prominent but ranges from lazy fills to horrid rat-a-tat-fart-squelch noises in amongst the songs. Vocals are tired and aren’t engaging and lack the grit and passion of yesteryear. I find it particularly difficult to believe a 40 year old millionaire is having such a hard time with life, you know?
It’s not all about the dub though. The backbone of the album is, of course, metal. It has all the common features of the Korn sound but it feels to me that the mix has been messed around with to favour the electronica. Fieldy’s signature click-clack bass is often relegated down the mix and is nigh on unnoticeable when it used to be a familiar hook that said “Here come Korn and we’re fucking angry!”. The much vaunted return of guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch also doesn’t have any noticeable effect on the music. That said, there are some great hooks to be had, notably in the openings of ‘Prey For Me’ and ‘What We Do’. I also particularly enjoyed ‘Victimized’.
One low point needs highlighted though. ‘Never Never’ sounds like they’ve half-inched a Tiny Tempah song which is an inexcusable crime any way you look at it.
A paradigm shift is, as defined by the Collins World English dictionary, a radical change in underlying beliefs or theory. This album fails dramatically to reach the lofty goals alluded to in the album title. In the end, it’s not terrible, it’s just… “meh”. It’s directionless new age Korn. If you’ve been a long term fan and don’t mind the new electronics then you’ll probably like it, and if you enjoyed The Path of Totality then I can only assume The Paradigm Shift will go down well with you too.