Korn – The Paradigm Shift

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By Bill Adams

Now nineteen years after the band began and about twelve since they started losing band members and succumbing to the individual members’ own ambition and egos, Korn has done the totally remarkable thing and bounced back. On The Paradigm Shift (the band’s eleventh album), Korn welcomes guitarist Brian “Head” Welch back to the fold, abandons a lot of the electronic accoutrements which had dogged every album the band released since 2002 and spontaneously revives the nu-metallic aggression within them all in one seemingly effortless step. Granted, the record isn’t perfect, but it’s at least a more solid and stronger effort than fans have seen from Korn in the last ten years.

From the moment “Prey For Me” blows The Paradigm Shift open, Korn returns with a force so strong that it is impossible to do anything other than listen as the record plays. Here, while he hasn’t started hardcore skatting as he used to do in the early days of the band, Jonathan Davis sounds energized and more muscular on the mike than he has in years (the mix isn’t overloaded with vocal overdubs either – it really sounds like Davis just pushing hard) and totally standing up to the perfectly renewed-sounding, two guitar assault that the band is packing. Those guitars are presented as thick as possible too; here right off the top, Korn proves (perhaps without meaning to) that Head really was an essential component of the band’s sound and, with him back in the mix, the results are just spontaneously better.

Longtime fans who had written the band off long ago will be thrilled to hear how strong the band is sounding again on “Prey For Me,” but they’ll become ecstatic when they learn that the band is easily able to keep the energy level of that song up as The Paradigm Shift continues. While some stray trails of electronic production assistance hang onto songs like “Love & Meth,” “Mass Hysteria,” “Paranoid and Aroused” and “Punishment Time,” those electronics consistently take a back seat to the unbridled metallic power that Korn was once hailed for early in its career and they’ve front-loaded onto The Paradigm Shift. It’s really surprising how easily how easily Korn is able to recapture the power and passion they once had, but when the band returns to a sardonic, kid’s singalong similar to the “knick-knack-paddywack” mania of “Shoots and Ladders” in the sinister counting of “Lullaby For A Sadist,” no longtime fan will feel anything but satisfaction as the record starts winding to a close – even though the energy levels do drop pretty quickly and dramatically toward the end.

“But is The Paradigm Shift a comeback or not?” plead the voices of fans who have felt cast aside by the band over the last few Korn records. Well, the answer is both yes and no. The Paradigm Shift absolutely lives up to its name in that the album sees Korn stop trying to be “artists” and just get back to what worked best for them. They’re rusty and a little out of practice at it, but The Paradigm Shift sees the band stepping back on the road facing the right direction. It sounds like they might be on their way here and album twelve might see the band back to being Korn at their best – as long as they don’t get distracted or diverted.

(Prospect Park/Caroline/Universal Music)

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.