Are you ready? Korn are back with a brand new album, “The Paradigm Shift.” Which is the follow up to 2011’s dubstep infused “The Path of Totality,” but even more notable it’s the first album in 10 years to feature guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch, the last of which was 2003’s “Take a look in the Mirror.” So one has to ask, after Head left, found god and released two solo albums, and Korn have released four albums of varying quality in their time apart, what does a Korn album with Head sound like in 2013?
Well, refreshingly, the easy answer is that it sounds like Korn, which is good, is it the return to form that many have been hoping for? Well not exactly, whilst it is a huge cut above “See you on the other side,” “Untitled” and the aforementioned “The Path of Totality,” it doesn’t quite give you the adrenaline rush that “Korn III: Remember who you are” did. That’s not to say that its a bad album, far from it, I think people may have just set their expectations a little high and the album doesn’t necessarily meet all of those expectations.
For me personally, I have enjoyed most of Korn‘s musical output over the last 10 years, and whilst listening to “The Paradigm Shift” I could hear little bits of everything in the mix. I would say that if anything the time apart and the freedom for both parties to experiment and grow has made for a more loose sounding album. This is an album that sounds like a band that is happy and feeling a little more playful, if that is the right word, yes there are some darker lyrics in there, but this isn’t 1994 anymore and most of the darkness that has surrounded this band over the years has been excised by now so it doesn’t really dwell in a deep emotional quagmire like previous releases have.
There is a somewhat polished nature to the album, a lot of melody which has almost become the band’s trademark in the latter half of their career, which makes the impact less visceral and raw. This is perfectly demonstrated on the album opener ‘Prey for me’ as well as on ‘Love and Meth’ and the catchy first single ‘Never, Never’, which really plays on the bands pop sensibilities. There are moments that are genuinely heavy and creepy in only the way Korn can be, where the band goes a little weird and twisted on ‘Mass Hysteria’, ‘Punishment Time’ and the brilliantly titled ‘Paranoid and Aroused’
After multiple listens, I have found a great amount to like with “The Paradigm Shift”, it’s a solid album. However, the main problems are that the album has arrived in a wave of hyperbole and praise due to the fact that Head has rejoined the band. Truth be told, if you didn’t know that you would never know, there is nothing on here that sounds drastically different to anything the band has done in his absence. There are no riffs or structures that you hear and go ‘that’s Head‘. I think if it wasn’t for the fact he had rejoined the band, the reception to the album would have been a lot more neutral. I think the reunion with Head currently works best in the live arena, where the fans have then chance to see him playing the older material again, but that may change in time.
As I said, it’s not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination, I just think it’s a bit safe and maybe the band will grow back into being with Head again. It will be more of a growing thing that will see the band take a few more steps in the right direction in the future, as Korn learn to be a fully fledged band again.