Can I join in with the rest and coin a new sub-genre by calling this latest hate magnet of an album Kornstep? That sounds so korny, er, I mean corny. Wait, before y’all go “Oh, you’re just another one of those Korn-haters,” let me tell you that I actually did enjoy listening to this record. As agonizing as the prospect of dubstep-influenced nü-metal might sound at first, it actually makes some sense in hindsight if you can see past the blinding layer of prejudice fabricated by the legion of Korn haters out there. Herd mentality at work here, people.
What do I mean by that? Well, nü-metal started off being an electronic and hip-hop influenced sub-genre of metal to begin with (think Slipknot, Papa Roach, and early Linkin Park), so it isn’t exactly extremely blasphemous to be spicing it up with dubstep, a type of electronic dance music. See? Electronic. So what about the “dance” part? I know the idea of crossing a sub-genre of contemporary dance music with an already much-hated-by-traditional-metalheads sub-genre of metal is very new and questionable, but since Korn are pioneers of nü-metal and nü-metal is mostly about catchy beats and electronic sound samples, I honestly don’t see a completely non-existent link between their older style and contemporary dance music. I mean, old and funky Korn numbers like “Evolution” (off their debut and self-titled album) and “Freak on a Leash” (off of Follow the Leader) do make me feel like dancing, albeit in a very slow and stoning manner. So what’s wrong with finally taking the jump and crossing it with a genre that has generally been proven to get bodies movin’ and groovin’ at clubs? While I don’t see a future that involves Kornstep phasing out current dance music and being the ubiquitous soundtrack of clubs everywhere, since Jonathan Davis’s vocals will most probably be considered to be a little too harsh for typical club music, the formula does seem to work pretty well and coherently so far. Even if you don’t like this record, you have got to admit that it doesn’t sound like an experiment gone wrong, which was the case with the infamous Morbid Angel industrial-death metal crossover disaster from this year as well.
Vocalist Jonathan Davis has mellowed down considerably by utilizing his brand of mid-paced, melancholic clean singing more frequently than his trademark funky rapping, and while this is a welcome move on his part for injecting more soul and emotion into Korn’s music, it is a wee bit excessively done. It’s like he compromised a vital element of nü-metal by thinking that rapping’s role of creating a sense of “catchiness” can be completely taken over by the cornucopia of electronic beats and synth effects instead. The most clearly heard instances of rapping on this album are in the opening song “Chaos Lives in Everything (feat. Skrillex)”, and the two bonus tracks on the deluxe edition, “Fuels The Comedy (feat. Kill The Noise)” and “Tension (feat. Excision, Datsik and Downlink)”, which means less than ¼ of the album sounds like old Korn with all that dubstep-inspired electronic sound effects wizardry, and more than ¾ of the album sounds like old Korn gone alternative metal plus all that dubstep-inspired electronic sound effects wizardry.
The catchiest tracks of this surprisingly good genre-crossover experiment are “My Wall (feat. Excision and Downlink)”, “Narcissistic Cannibal (feat. Skrillex and Kill the Noise)”, “Burn the Obedient (feat. Noisia)” and “Get Up! (feat. Skrillex)”. While “My Wall (feat. Excision and Downlink)” and “Burn the Obedient (feat. Noisia)” bank on the reverberating bass and ear-pounding drum beats of dubstep to sound memorable, and “Get Up! (feat. Skrillex)” mainly depends on alternative metal-style clean singing to retrieve that lost strand of radio-friendly DNA in your ears’ genome map, it should be pointed out that “Narcissistic Cannibal (feat. Skrillex and Kill The Noise)” is the standout track amongst this group of standout tracks, as it is truly the best of both worlds — its combination of the infectiously beaty sound of dubstep with the attractive sound of alternative metal-styled choruses just makes it simply irresistible.
Kudos to Korn for disappointing me; I am actually glad that my initial expectations were, unexpectedly, not met. Cruising through this delightful experiment is like having my head encased in a plasma globe, and I sure as hell am enjoying all those sinful little zaps of mainstream appeal.