Review Summary: The Paradigm Shift shows a reunited and reimagined Korn, and boasts some of their best and most inspired songwriting in almost a decade.
I never expected this to happen. The departure of Head in 2005 forced Korn to reinvent their sound, and they spent the past four albums trying new ideas to keep things fresh but they never truly recovered. The industrial effects of See You On The Other Side
were a different approach and worked well for a few tracks but ultimately couldn't salvage an entire album's worth of material. Stripping down to their nu-metal roots on Remember Who You Are
was refreshing but the material presented still couldn't touch their earlier efforts, and the electronic-tinged The Path of Totality
was certainly a huge risk, but the album had such a copy-paste feel to it and the two genres just didn't mix well. It was clear Korn really needed a change for their eleventh studio album, one that would really kickstart their engine again. Once they reconciled with Head and began writing a new album with him, it was clear they were on the path to doing something interesting.
The Paradigm Shift
is the first album Korn have made in years that sounds confident and inspired. The band are in their natural element here, with the songwriting being the best we have seen from them in a very long time. "Prey For Me" kicks off the album with a huge main riff that immediately signifies the return of Head before showcasing the excellent rhythm section of Ray Luzier and Fieldy. "Love and Meth", a song Head brought to the band, sounds like something straight out of his new band Love and Death's debut album, and the track explodes into what is arguably the best chorus on the album. "What We Do" is one of the fastest tracks the band has ever recorded and contains Davis' absolute best vocal performance on the album. In fact, nearly every track here as something about it that makes it stand out from the other, which is something that has been severely lacking in Korn's music as of late.
One of the problems about The Path of Totality
was that the usage of electronics became far too distracting, choking the guitars and bass while drummer Ray Luzier's talents were completely discarded in favor of electronic beats and programmed drums. On The Paradigm Shift
, the electronics are still present, but in a much more balanced state. Instead of overwhelming everything else, they are present in the background and weave in and out of the guitars. This is an effective way for the band to still keep some of the newer aspects of Totality
while also keeping the aspects of their signature guitar driven sound. A perfect example of this is "Spike In My Veins", a track in which Noisia create a thick blanket of electronics on top of the blazing seven string riffs that proves especially effective during the chorus.
With Head back in the band, the guitars have taken a major step up when compared to the past four Korn albums. While Munky is certainly a capable guitarist, something has always been missing from the guitars on nearly all the Korn albums that have been released since Head's departure. The way both of them flawlessly play off each other's riffs has always been an integral part of Korn's sound, and with that combination now back in full force The Paradigm Shift
boasts some of the best riffs in their entire discography. The Love and Death-esque track "Punishment Time" has some of the best riffs on the album, and it all comes together in one of the most furious endings to a track we've heard from the band since the 90's. Even the album closer "It's All Wrong" wouldn't sound nearly as powerful of a ending if it weren't for the huge main riff. The guitars are back in their role as the driving force of the bands sound, and The Paradigm Shift
benefits from it greatly.
The rest of the band have followed Munky and Head in terms of performance. Fieldy's bass lines are at their best here, with just enough of his signature slapping technique to where it doesn't get irritating, something that plagued previous releases. He naturally bounces back and forth off of the drums and guitars and puts himself back in a prominent role again. Drummer Ray Luzier proves once again that he is perfect fit for the band, with beats and fills David Silveria never seemed capable of. Even Jonathan Davis seems inspired here, with most of his vocals focusing on all of his register and mostly avoiding the whining that he sometimes tended to slip into in his past performances. His lyrics are still typical, but he is no longer trying too hard to sound like his pissed 90's self.
With the return of Head to the band, Korn have proved that they aren't down for the count just yet. Though a lot of people have lost faith in them over the years, especially when The Path of Totality
was released, the readmission of their guitarist has injected new life into the band. With all the members of the band growing as songwriters since 2005, especially Head, the album sounds like Korn but has a newfound edge to it. The Paradigm Shift
is bursting with energy and confidence, and shows a Korn with a flame we haven't seen since their glory days in the 90's. A pleasant surprise indeed.