KoЯn – The Nothing
Released: September 13th, 2019
Jonathan Davis // lead vocals, bagpipes
James “Munky” Shaffer // guitars
Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu // bass guitar
Brian “Head” Welch // guitars
Ray Luzier // drums, percussion
Twenty five years since their ground breaking nu-metal self-titled album, Korn emerge from the studio for album thirteen, The Nothing. Where 2016’s The Serenity of Suffering saw the band return to a heavier, earlier sound and for the most part received glowing reviews, The Nothing steps sideways, offering a more emotive, lyrically in-depth experience for the listener.
This ‘experience’ unfortunately was born out of sadness. Vocalist, Jonathan Davis, tormented throughout his life from his childhood demons to depression to health scares to the more recent and tragic death of firstly his mother and then his estranged ex-wife, Deven. These demons that so frequently translate into Davis’ art form the basis for a supremely dark record, more so with its content rather than it’s delivery. As stated The Nothing is an experience. Davis apparently locked himself away in a studio and battled his emotions head on via his writing. Whilst at times a challenging listen, it is no doubt one of Korn’s better albums, dare we say the band’s best since 2002’s Untouchables.
Opener, ‘The End Begins’ is none too subtle with what lies ahead, as the bagpipe/drum combo battle amongst a trailing bass line before a crescendo of Davis’ sobbing into his microphone, pleading, “Why did you leave me?”, a clear reference to his ex-wife’s passing. The sadness and despair makes it an uneasy listen, but it’s something Davis and Korn haven’t shied away from in the past, and again, it works. In fact, fast forward to the concluding, ‘Surrender to Failure,’ Davis repeats his sobbing into the microphone, repeatedly stating, “I failed”. It’s intense listening.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The patent Korn ‘bounce’ with plucky Fieldy bass lines and those screechy guitar pedal effects are still abundant. Second track, ‘Cold’ and the following, ‘You’ll Never Find Me’, both full of those familiar Korn traits, the latter with a bellowing breakdown that’s sure to have the more Korn headbanging crew interested. You can place ‘The Ringmaster’ and catchy, ‘H@rd3r’ into that clump of songs too both delivering tasty choruses, killer bass lines and has Davis at his childish best. ‘H@rd3r’ goes one further too dropping an abstract breakdown, allowing the listener a peak into the mind of Davis and his harrowing thoughts.
The highlight from the album is ‘The Darkness is Revealing’, Davis again reaching into his depth of despair. You can feel his anguish, as if the album is capturing his five stages of grief. This track reveals a clearly angered emotion as the breakdown comes and Davis yells on repeat, “get the fuck out!” The almost death metal guttural vocals at times on this track and the following ‘Idiosyncrasy’ provide a nice juxtapose to the norm, especially when a similar ‘Got the Life’ feel on ‘Idiosyncrasy’ plays out, before that in turn folds into another Fieldy led breakdown evoking memories of their self-titled work from 1994.
The bargaining stage of grief comes with the track, ‘Can You Hear Me’, Davis submitting to his helplessness, “Can you hear me because I’m lost. I’ll never be the same again.” The pain is real, the backing soundtrack immense. As stated it’s not as heavy as Korn have been in the past, but there are elements here and there. When the breakdowns come, they are heavy. The ‘experience’, however is at times, overwhelming. Not so much for the enjoyment of the listener but you actually feel for Davis, it’s uncomfortable at times, though no doubt therapeutic for Davis.
It’s unfortunate that events in Jonathan Davis’ life lead to his best lyrics and his most emotive vocals. Nevertheless, The Nothing is a great album, but enjoy it as an experience first before plucking out its better tracks and adding to your Spotify playlists. Sometimes albums need to be enjoyed as a whole and this one deserves your full attention. You’ll headbang but you’ll want to hug Davis if you see him in the street and check if he’s okay.
KoЯn – The Nothing tracklisting
1. The End Begins
3. You’ll Never Find Me
4. The Darkness Is Revealing
6. The Seduction of Indulgence
7. Finally Free
8. Can You Hear Me
9. The Ringmaster
10. Gravity of Discomfort
12. This Loss
13. Surrender to Failure