Review Summary: Korn said they remembered who they were, and now they prove it.
Although their ninth full length album’s title wanted you to think it, Korn hasn’t felt like themselves since Take A Look in the Mirror
came out a decade ago. After that album and the departure of Head, listeners were treated to a bizarre pop/nu metal hybrid, an experimental yet dull album, an attempt at returning to their roots, and a dubstep record. At that point, anyone who said Korn could possibly have another album that could live up to their pre-2003 work would have been laughed at. But then The Paradigm Shift
Jonathan Davis is at the top of his vocal game, here. His singing never falls into the whiny voice he has been known to use, and his harsh vocals have a punch to them again. Sometimes, however, there is an occasional unnecessary use of distortion on his harsh vocals. The most notable example of this can be found on “Love and Meth.” I can’t imagine why they used the effect, as it adds nothing and just makes it sound amateurish, like he wouldn’t be able to perform without the distortion.
Lyrically, the album has some of the band’s best moments (“Prey For Me” being the stand out). Mostly, though, it is standard Korn writing. By far the worst moments come in “Never, Never” and “Lullaby For A Sadist.” The former has a laughable Taylor Swift vibe to it, and the latter is simply poorly written. However, none of the lyrics come near the offensively bad “Getting Off” from See You on The Other Side
The return of Head reenergized the guitars, and they sound better than they have since his departure. The riffs hit hard, and some wouldn’t have felt out of place on Issues
(see “Paranoid and Aroused”). The production is also more lively than that of the previous albums, which helps the guitars stand out more. Fieldy is as good as always, although he is still pushed back in the mix like he was on the past few albums. He is audible, though, unlike on The Path To Totality
. The drum work is good, although
One of the biggest questions after The Path To Totality
was how much of an influence dubstep (or brostep, if you prefer) would be. Well, it’s still here, but generally it is kept from the forefront. Wobbles appear when and where they need to, the exception being the breakdown that appears on “Never, Never.” Davis produced most of the electronics, and shows that he has the basics down. Noisia’s contribution to “Spike in My Veins” stands out from the rest of the electronics mostly in the focus, not the quality.
Although the album does a great job of recapturing the spirit of Korn, it still has some issues (no pun intended). “Never, Never” is an abysmal track, trying to be more pop than the entire album co-written by The Matrix. Not only was it a misleading single, the song is completely out of place on the album. Its verses feel like a neutered rip-off of their hit “Evolution,” and the chorus reaches for heights that it cannot obtain. Korn simply does not have it in them to write a full on pop song.
Also far below expectations was “Lullaby for a Sadist.” It refuses to commit to being either atmospheric or heavy, and ends up losing any potential for menace that it had. The pre-chorus especially does not fit with the rest of the song, and when combined with poor lyrics the song is completely forgettable.
Another complaint is that they severely underuse their dual guitars. Most of the time they play the exact same parts, with one maybe using some effects. The few lead lines that can be found are processed so much that they may actually be synth, I’m not entirely sure.
In the end, this album is definitely a Korn album. Head’s return obviously gave them back the spirit that they very much needed for their next album. With The Paradigm Shift
, they have what can either stand as the beginning of a new era or, if they break up before releasing another album, a strong final chapter for the band. And while those who dislike the band will find nothing to sway their opinion, what more could a fan ask of them?