Before I kick this review into high gear, I would like to share a little theory with you: Musicians always work better when a clear and present narrative behind them; be it a personal time in their lives or whether the rivers of creativity flows that well for them, musicians always need something to sink their teeth into for the best possible outcome.
2018 was a relatively normal year for KoRn’s front-man, Jonathan Davis. Riding high on his Goth opera solo effort ‘Black Labyrinth‘, with the promise of a new KoRn album after that touring cycle, things were fairly happy in his camp. That was until late last year when his wife Devin, tragically passed away leaving Davis to not only combat his new found loss but the full time ownership of the couples two children, Pirate and Zeppelin.
With much darkness to contend with, no one could have been angry if the front-man decided to hoist anchor and live out the rest of his days as a full time parent to his two younger children. However, KoRn fans will tell you, Jonathan Davis and tragedy are strange, yet necessary bedfellows. With this in mind the godfathers of Nu-Metal had all the ammo they could have ever needed and honed it into their thirteenth studio effort ‘The Nothing‘ an album saturated with some of KoRn’s darkest lyrics fans have not seen in a very long time and yet at the same time, works as a cathartic approach to the themes of love, loss, light and dark.
Album opener ‘The End Begins‘ sets the tone of this album perfectly, greeted with funeral bagpipes and a sobbing Jonathan Davis, giving you instant cognition that this album is not for those who love bunnies, long beach walks and flowers. Instantly we are thrown head first into the schizophrenic, no hold barred ‘Cold‘ that has Davis and his fellow horseman of Head, Munky, Feildy and Ray leading the charge and tearing through songs such as lead single ‘You’ll Never Find Me‘ and ‘Idiosyncrasy‘ with little to no remorse of the listeners own sanity.
One such highlight comes with ‘The Darkness is Revealing‘ a track that lulls one into a false sense of security, with Davis almost lullaby vocal tones. Combined with Head and Munky’s distinct rumbling guitars it sets the listener up to an unforgettable bridge that has all instruments sound like they are going through a high speed car crash and Davis spitting lyrics at break neck speed and covering nearly every vocal range the singer can muster, reminiscent of the nursery rhyme vomiting ‘Shoots & Ladders‘ back in 1994.
That doesn’t mean to say that the album comes without its experimental moments, though short ‘The Seduction of Indulgence‘ at the album’s mid-point finds the tribal and gothic mixed with the sadomasochistic lyrical overtones a strange delight to listen too. The midway point of ‘The Nothing’ shows off the KoRn that likes to experiment and show a more reflective emotional side. ‘Finally Free‘ and ‘Can You Hear Me‘ may have its aggressive moments with its musical arrangements, but serves perfectly as a chance for one to catch their breath, before we are dragged through the muddy discomforts of ‘The Ringmaster‘ and ‘H@rd3r‘.
‘This Loss‘ is clearly is directed at the loss of Davis’ wife. While other songs flirt with the subject matter and this is not the heaviest track on the album, ‘This Loss’ coupled with its chugging guitars and gospel inspired bridge is the song that rips the plaster off the the deep mental cut of the frontman; allowing us to watch from afar one mans journey of loss, but also the rebuilding of his character.
All that is left is the two minute ‘Surrender To Failure‘ that is purposely designed to end ‘The Nothing’ with a sympathetic whimper and that right there is probably the out there and alien ingredient to this album; KoRn fans may be used to the fabulous Bakersfeild boys ending their albums on a bang, but with the haunting cries of Jonathan almost muttering to himself “I have failed“, this leaves a bigger impact to the listener that previous KoRn album closers in recent years.
‘The Nothing’ may not be KoRn at their most experimental and for older fans, it’s all very familiar. However, KoRn’s thirteenth studio effort is brimming with the psychotic angry energy that put the band on the map twenty-five years ago and lyrically is one of KoRn’s better albums since ‘Untouchables‘. It’s thirteen songs of one mans grieving process that is going to get everyone throwing fists and slamming bodies in mosh pits across the globe for the foreseeable future. Old and new KoRn fans are going to find something to this album to cling onto, especially if they are dealing with that similar unique sadness the death of a loved one provides.