The heavy sludge that you hear seeping out after the scatty high-hat slaps in the first track of this album, ‘Chaos lives in everything’, is certainly not something you would associate with the hard core nu metal sound of Korn. The hammering thwacks on the drums and the rolling guillotine sound of guitars that have accompanied the put-to-slow-boil vocals of frontman Jonathan ‘Better Dreads Than Dead’ Davis in songs like ‘Freak on a leash’ and ‘Here to stay’ are not here in Korn’s tenth studio album Path of Totality. Instead, we have Davis strapping his voice around massive pulses of boom and slippery trails of bass. The heaviness in this new Korn album comes from not the crunch-and-crack of drums and guitars but from a wrecking mission on the sampler machine — pylon-heavy basslines, snippety looped samples, repeating drum patterns. This is new nu metal with buttons to tweak.
Not all Korn aficionados seem to be happy with this new turn of sound in the California band. But this isn’t like Marilyn Manson going into folk music. All that Korn has done is utilised electronic phat sounds to layer their trademark gravity-crunching music. Take ‘Kill mercy within’. The song doesn’t quite stick in your head, but the swirling music that runs about in Brownian motion in the background is a strong glue when heard with all that rock solid metal bouncing in the foreground.
‘My wall’, with its death metal drone cutting through the ambient buzz like a sliver of molten iron through a knife, has the sense of an impending car crash. The dubstep brings to the image the notion of the car having fancy tyres.
In ‘Narcisstic cannibal’, we get a full-blown sonic demonstration of how the loops and Moogs and the bumpy bass pushes a Korn melody up to the surface. Davis sounds eerily like Placebo singer Brian Molko as he dives into the vortex of an electronica pool singing, “Sometimes, I hate, the life, I made/ Everything’s wrong every time/ Pushing on I can't escape/ Everything that comes my way/ Is haunting me taking its sweet time.” We have a dose of David Bowie-esque firmness of vocals in ‘Illuminati’, again, swimming on a raft made out of boom’n’bass.
Guitar pedals and console-buzz merge in ‘Sanctuary’, a stop-starting dronal choir that plays the perfect preparatory lesson for the tsunamic force of ‘Let’s go’ that follows. The heavy, heavy warhorse guitars provide a wall of sound that swamps over everything, including the pre- and post-chorus parts of the song. After ‘Let’s go’, it’s probably obvious that it’ll be ‘Get up!’ Here we are pummelled with a machine-wreck score worthy of top billing in a Transformers film soundtrack. This track shows off Korn’s biggest strength — their natural handling of hardcore with melodic lines, black-ribboned off with a hammer-pounding.
The Path of Totality shows a big band having the courage to try out new things with extremely decent effect. What Korn has done is sound fresh — and pretty good too — without changing their sound. How many folks can do that, eh, without sounding off the alarms?
Right. Let no one say that I don’t have a soft spot for the Brothers Gallagher. Post-Oasis, with brother-singer Liam docking into his (crappy) new band Beady Eye, it was just a matter of time when brother-songwriter-guitarist Noel would do his own thing. So we have Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and the band’s eponymous debut album.
One word for the record: waffle. Another word for the record: boring. The tunes, moving from Noel’s earlier fetish for the Beatles, are now more Paul McCartney-friendly. The opening track ‘Everybody’s on the run’ sounds a mutual fund TV ad. Some tracks — like ‘If I had a gun...’ — start off classic Oasis chords... and then go nowhere. ‘Dream on’ pounds out decent chords that show promise — until the song ends making us realise what’s missing: a swagger that can turn a decent pub tune into a fab pop song. And that’s what’s wonky with this album: it lacks that fur-trimmed, larceny-dripping voice of Liam. Best song: ‘(Stranded on) The wrong Beach’. If only Noel wasn’t singing it.