Review Summary: The Nothing sits on the wrong side of creativity and nostalgia.
It was bound to happen at some point this year, wasn’t it? As we approach the final quarter of 2019 and put an end to the decade, this year has not only proven to be a pretty staggering one for quality music, but an excellent send off for the ‘10s. In particular, some of this year’s biggest and best music has come from rock and metal; a resurgence that has seen music’s paradigm of popular music tipped on its head as we watch a band like Tool knock Taylor Swift off the top of the charts, or Rammstein selling out tickets for the biggest tour of their career in mere seconds. It contradicts the notion that these genres are dying out. But more to the point, these two bands in particular have managed to smash almost unbeatable odds by delivering albums that, at the very least, meet God-tier levels of expectation. Even bands that have been away for but a few years have come back into the fold with a ferocity that has caught me off guard. Yes, in hindsight, 2019’s quality output is certainly attributed to the old-timers of the scene, and it makes the year stand as one of the decade’s best for music.
So, where does that leave Korn? Well, the return of Brian “Head” Welch in 2013 did wonders for Korn’s, by then, flaccid career. The Paradigm Shift
and The Serenity of Suffering
both proved to be admirable returns to form that, at the very least, sent a spark of life back into the band’s sound. After listening to The Nothing
though, I’m still a little shell-shocked with how badly they’ve dropped the ball here. It’s a spectacle that not only sees Davis and co. dropping the ball, but watching as that same ball rolls off a cliff with Korn jumping after it. At the album’s core, The Nothing
is trying to tap into the band’s troubled roots. That’s essentially the theme being ran with here. You can’t get any more on the nose than “The End Begins”, which hears Davis whimpering and crying until the intro fades out, and “Cold” which seems to indicate the struggles he’s having with accepting the terrible past he had with his father. And look, there could well be an earnest offering being presented to its fans here, but it’s hard to overlooked the cynicism that it’s actually hearkening back to “Daddy” – coincidentally, one of the most infamously revered pieces from their catalogue. It’s the biggest problem with the entire record; it oozes a pseudo emotion that lingers throughout the album’s entire 45 minutes. From the corny recording roll at the end of “You’ll Never Find Me” that hears Davis yelling and knocking stuff over, to the theatrically exaggerated vocal performances that are littered throughout the album. It’s constantly trying to remind you that these guys are bringing the most emotive experience of their entire career.
Even if you were able to shun the overripe stage shows of Davis, by the halfway mark of the album, it’s hard to reason with the fact that the instrumentals and their compositions are recycled and completely flat. It’s humdrum writing: typical Korn chugs with the usual guitar leads they’ve written a thousand times before. However, considering that this is Korn in 2019 – their 13th album – it’s a record that tries to implement the wonky clean chorus of recent years with their “roots”. The biggest problem with The Nothing
is that it couples all of the band’s tired writing habits with their modern issues, only now, because they’re aiming at a sound from 20 years ago, it implements NU-metal rap breakdowns with tacky ruthlessness. With that said, the music is the saving grace, despite even that being completely uninspired. At the album’s best, it runs on average Korn riffs, but at 14 tracks there’s not a single moment that stands out as an artistic highlight. There’s daring moves on here, sure, but these segments fail horribly, also. “This Loss” literally backs up the stage play comment from earlier, stripping their NU-metal chugs down for a wall of vocal harmonies and scintillating electronics with bizarre results.
Overall, The Nothing
is a huge step back for the band. The Paradigm Shift
and The Serenity of Suffering
were far from perfect, but they rode a line that balanced a contemporary vision with their stapled characteristics. This tries dearly to be nostalgic yet fresh, but the finished product just comes across forced and derivative. I’ll give the album its credit, it’s consistent in tone and doesn’t fall off the rails like Take a Look in the Mirror
, but it should also be said that that consistency runs in between dull and bad.
FORMAT//EDITIONS: DIGITAL/̶/̶C̶D̶/̶/̶V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶/̶/̶T̶U̶M̶B̶L̶E̶R̶ ̶B̶U̶N̶D̶L̶E̶
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: N/A
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