Review Summary: Korn IV: Forgetting who you are
Are you ready??
Perhaps I’m being just a little bit too cynical here, but I’m a little bit flummoxed that this ended up being the album to follow what was so obviously designed as a “return to roots” release as Korn’s third self-titled album. And I can honestly look back on that album and at least acknowledge that Korn were trying to do something extraordinary with that one; and while the end result was nothing more than a muddied and stale affair, at least they seemed to be trying. Where they locked themselves in a room devoid of any studio trickery (read: pro tools) and attempted to kick-start the old engine by producing a stripped-down-to-the-bone rehash of their debut LP, you could tell that they really wanted to be that
band again, and not the one now more commonly associated as desperately trying to cling on to their 90’s nu-metal successes. And as if to reinforce that point more than the St. Anger
-like production, they even named it Remember Who You Are
, as if it was as much of a reminder for us as it was for them. So, if that was Korn remembering who they were, then what is The Path Of Totality
if not a response to the failed attempt at a walk down memory lane?
We’re beyond taking cheap shots at the whole American fascination with “brostep” now, but it’s in that fascination that this motley crew of middle-aged alt metallers has potentially found their much needed salvation. Because it’s that slightly disturbing love with this jockstrap-addled brand of dubstep that will ultimately ensure this album’s success, to the point where creating it would have been akin to shooting ducks in a barrel, there’s simply no challenge. And so when you realize that The Path Of Totality
is really nothing more than a slam dunk in the gambling stakes, we’re left with the rather obvious question as to why do this in the first place? Sure, Korn have played around with electronic music before (and they’re by no means the first “metal” group to embrace dance culture) but a whole album of new material indebted to a bastard strain of music that bears no resemblance whatsoever to its roots? A localized style of music that traded in garage for garbage?
If it was a question of relevancy, the act, more than the product itself, will surely be the group’s undoing if they had to turn to other stars to ensure their survival a little longer. Had their entire fan base turned on them to the point where seeking a new audience proved to be easier than potentially winning back the formerly devout? But if you ask Jonathan Davis he’ll be quick to inform you of the fact that Korn were, in fact, “dubstep before there was dubstep (!)”. Which begs the question as to why they actually needed to bring in any other artists to work on this album, but that’s a whole different story. And the supporting roster here reads (for the most part) as a who’s who of jockstep luminaries: the poster boy Skrillex was an obvious inclusion, as is Excision, Datsik & Downlink (the Rottun three). But then things get a little interesting: there’s 12th Planet, an artist who decided that after interviewing enough of the genre’s stars that he could pull it off just as well as them (he was wrong); and then there’s Feed Me, who seems to be doing everything in his power to destroy the credibility he built under his Spor moniker. But the biggest surprise is easily Noisia’s inclusion into the fray; a group who have only recently begun exploring the possibilities of dubstep after making critical waves within the world of drum & bass seems a little out of the ordinary given that they don’t need to make a name for themselves, so to see them so willing to jump aboard this sinking ship is more than a touch peculiar.
Now I know I’ve taken the long route to getting to the point here, because in listening to this album I’m unable to truly understand its existence (aside from the assured success this will have amongst the rowdy dubstep folk anyway) because The Path Of Totality
is a truly horrible album, built on a foundation of tired and overwrought stereotypes put together not by just a clueless band, but a bunch of equally confused artists who truly have no proper understanding of the genre they claim to be a part of.
It’s an album where each song tries to out-do each other like a terrible pissing contest, and whatever potential writing in the snow this album hoped to achieve, it simply ends up being bogged down by failing to truly explore the concept of experimentation, despite being purported as such. Every song follows the exact same pattern to an absolute tee, to the point where any potential character is meticulously stripped back until all we’re left with is a bunch of lifeless, quasi-industrial hybrid pieces, completely unrecognizable from the next. And you can tell that this album ached to be another gutter-soaked head-banger, but nothing on here smacks with the kind of “brutality” these producers are normally associated with. Again, these aren’t remixes, but two alternating components working side by side, and the end result is an awkward collision that fails to be heavy and yet is still too insistent to be mere background music.
So what we get is an album that ends up being about as revolutionary as a backwards R, where the only true contribution by the guest performers is an un-surprising amount of tedious bass wobbles that really only work as nothing more of a crutch for this “metal” band who have ended up in that most curious of time periods for a musical act, where they’re too young to retire but too old to continue playing the stuff that made them famous in the first place. And all judgmental bias aside regarding the state of affairs that is the dubstep scene in America, The Path Of Totality
is an album that doesn’t work because it tries to be something it’s not; no, it fails because of not just its terrible premise but its truly dreadful execution, to the point where you forget that this was put together by experts and start to compare it to the musical output of any idiot with a laptop. But I take solace in the fact that, with a little bit of luck, this might just be the final nail in the coffin for the crucified remains of “brostep”, and that after hearing this people might finally wise up and start to look at the unique history of a genre that is now being brought to its knees, only now by the most unlikeliest of suspects.