Review Summary: The definition of "guilty pleasure", ultimately undermined by lazy songwriting
When Korn first announced they’d be making a dubstep album, the reaction they received was understandable. Fans cringed and tapped their heads in confusion. Non-fans looked on in amusement. Having only just released an album that attempted to return back to the aggressive and raw sound of the self-titled debut that preceded their increasingly stale noughties’ pop-metal, this was quite a U-turn. Ditching the idea of renaissance practically immediately was one thing, but what abomination would a bunch of all-but-washed-up middle aged ex-nu-metallers be able to make of a genre they seemed to know barely anything about? As far back as the first cave-bro who decided to try to mash together the worst aspects of these two genres like an 8 year old desperately trying to force the blue sides of two magnets to stick to each other, the hybrid ‘genre’ of metal and dubstep has always sucked. A band such as the likes of Korn obnoxiously and ignorantly jumping on into the bro-party as if to milk the unexpected commercial success of “Get Up!” or to condescendingly stuff ‘electro’
down their fans’ throats as if they were actually experts in the subject all along could surely only end in one more, unnecessary, catastrophe.
And yes, taken from the standpoint of anyone who wrote off this album from the start, or anyone who wants to take music seriously, it’s a calamity. The ‘blops’ and ‘wubs’ are exactly what you’d expect from the brostep producers the band decided to collaborate with, Jonathan Davis is still whining out the same melodramatic lyrics that he’s been churning out for well over a decade and once again their music is overproduced, glossy and formulaic.
But this album isn’t meant to be taken seriously. Of course The Path of Totality
was going to be formulaic. Of course it wasn’t going to be particularly artistic. Of course Korn knew nothing about the roots, history and ins-and-outs of the genre they were messing around with. But it doesn’t matter, because if you ignore your prejudices and presumptions and take it for what it is, it’s fun as hell. Lacing catchy vocal melodies with the metal-tinged ‘womps’ of producers such as Skrillex and Noisia has never been properly done before outside of remixes, and it gives a surprisingly fresh dimension to the stale pop-metal of Korn’s latter years. Because that’s all The Path of Totality
really is- a regular Korn pop-metal album infused with a shamelessly brash electronic flare. That’s all their music needed to make it relevant and interesting again. Songs such as “Chaos Lives In Everything”, lead single “Get Up!” and “Narcissistic Cannibal” are true dancefloor anthems and probably the best and most significant songs Korn have come out with in recent years. Filled with huge choruses, catchy melodies and aggressive electronic riffs that sure, aren’t anything especially imaginative, but that are still perfect in execution and fulfilling in their purpose; and that’s all that matters.
Where The Path of Totality does
fall down is due more to its actual songwriting than the electronic element. For every aforementioned song, there’s a filler track. A track devoid of the liveliness and power that others bubble with. A track that feels as if it were rushed and thrown together in order to beef the music up to a ‘full’ LP as soon as possible rather than a leave it as a small collection of successfully enjoyable experiments. “My Wall”, “Sanctuary”, and various others all adhere to the formula but with dull riffs and uninteresting hooks make no attempt to live up to the energy and sparkle of the others. It’s easy to forget, with all of the talk being around the electronic element, that it’s barely been a year since Korn III
, and The Path of Totality
consequently seems to be the result of a phase or a fad, stemming from Jonathan Davis, and it suffers because of it. Whereas The Path of Totality
could have been a small yet solid collection of energetic ‘dub-metal’ tunes, too much of it feels half-arsed and rushed. At its core, the songwriting is probably the weakest of any Korn album from the past years, relying too heavily on the novelty and on the guest producers to make the songs remain interesting at all. This novelty has seemingly blinded Korn, resulting in at least half the album being completely and utterly uninteresting. Since the songs collaborated with Skrillex, Feed Me and Kill The Noise are by far and away the best, this reliance is pretty obvious. Come the time when the party is over, The Path of Totality
will be outdated and irrelevant.
The Path of Totality
is therefore a mixed bag, containing a group of entertaining tracks that will delight many (albeit still infuriating some), but scattered with other underwhelming, hashed together and unnecessary tracks, stuffed with their own ‘bleeps’, ‘blops’ and melodies but doing nothing with them to excite or interest. Whether a phase, a mid-life crisis, a commercial cash-in or an honest drive to try something new, The Path of Totality
showcases Korn attempting to rebrand a sound that has been becoming progressively more predictable and irrelevant, but failing to put the required time and effort in to make it work like it should have.