_See You On The Other Side_ is **Korn**, Jim, but not as we know it. Or to put it another way, it's Korn 2.0, and how you react to this album depends largely on whether you appreciate the results of the band's musical overhaul.
Korn were recently reduced to a quartet, when guitarist Brian 'Head' Welch quit at the beginning of the year. I don't know how much Welch brought the song writing department, but his departure seems to have prompted remaining members Jonathan Davis, James 'Munky' Shaffer, Reg 'Fieldy' Arvizu and David Silveria to rethink their game-plan. Enter former 12 Rounds percussionist and Nine Inch Nails knob-twiddler Atticus Ross and pop hit factory, The Matrix, who share co-writing credits on nearly all the new songs. Somewhere Ross Robinson is laughing his arse off.
Bringing in The Matrix is a move that's guaranteed to piss off as many fans as it is to intrigue others. After all, Lauren Christy, Graham Edwards & Scott Spock are better known for collaborating with the likes of Ricky Martin, Avril Lavigne and Britney Spears. Then again, Korn aren’t exactly strangers to Top 40 radio - the pugnacious catharsis offered by their earliest work was all but gone by the time Issues, was released – and besides, since their sound started to veer into schtick on Take A Look In The Mirror, God knows they could do with injecting some new blood.
See You On The Other Side lays mainstream spit'n polish on top of Korn's template, with the addition of some atmospherics that have always been threatening to make an appearance in their music. While the band’s usual staples are all accounted for – powerdrill guitar work, muddy funk grooves, tortured vocals – the majority of the new songs on Korn's seventh platter practically glisten with a Pro-Tools sheen.
Silveria’s drum work pounds and snaps on cue, and Fieldy’s bass is pressed far enough into the mix to eliminate the percussion of his slap technique. Ross’s production work is superslick, and he’s brought a bag of industrial-lite tricks and studio effects to a number of songs – the most obvious one being 'Open Up', which boasts a groovy industrial-lite click-track. Although Davis's lyrics lash out at the usual authority figures, he's lightened up enough to realize that listening to a millionaire complain for a full album can get grating, and so he let’s the sun shine through on a couple of tracks; most notably on the lead-off single, 'Twisted Transistor'.
The downside to See You On The Other Side is that it comes off overall as a brazenly calculated affair. The songwriting works hard on building melody lines and hooks while keeping enough of the band's core elements to avoid accusations of a complete departure. While the new 'industrial' direction of the band is being touted as 'groundbreaking' in the press releases, it isn't a million miles away from what Marilyn Manson's been doing with considerably more conviction and finesse for years.
So how do you judge Korn's new disc? Fans of their last two albums may appreciate what's on offer here; everyone else will find it about as appealing as eating their own earwax. You already know which of these two groups you belong to. Now move on.
4Nick Cowen's Score