Perhaps I tend to be living in the past, but with every KORN release I tend to get excited. And honestly, looking back at their discography I can actually say that I have thoroughly enjoyed very few of their albums in their entirety but I still tend to get excited to hear something new from these Nu Metallers. I’m starting to believe that this excitement for new albums and music from the band is one of the reasons that I have been disappointed with so much of their new material. Their latest effort, “Untitled” doesn’t disappoint in the disappointment department either.
Quite frankly, though, this album simply must have been mislabeled, because it doesn’t sound like KORN for the majority of the album. Where I have come to expect catchy and heavy riff oriented music from the band, “Untitled” seems to have almost none of that. The music that is included on this disc is by far the most experimental and atmospheric in the band’s career. Although I am all for a band pushing themselves musically in new directions, there are far too many problems with this disc to call this experiment a ‘success’.
I must mention that I find it somewhat hilarious that the band decided to not name this album. According to an interview with Jonathan Davis (vocals) about the choice to not name it, he has said: “We didn't want to label this album. It has no boundaries. It has no limits and why not just let our fans call it whatever they wanna call it?". For some reason this feels more like a cop out to developing a great title then it is a respectable choice. Either way you feel about it, I shall still only refer to this release as “Untitled” as it tends to be the most used title to refer to it.
After listening to the album a good 10 to 12 times (about four times more then I tend to listen to something during my review period) I still have so many mixed emotions about the music included. The album tends to garner some good energy towards the end with most of the more memorable songs being end heavy, but even those songs feel like b-sides from some of the other bands album as they don’t have a consistency with KORN. In fact, this album tends to lack a consistency of direction for most of the music. Although all of the songs are grounded in building atmosphere and taking the band in a new direction, it feels as though each song tends to move in a new way instead of working together in cohesion.
A few songs do work (as I said those even seem weak compared to KORN’s catalog) and those songs are the ones that tend to use a bit more structuring to the songs like “Killing” or “Ever Be”. And it’s the lack of structure that undermines some of the other songs that tended to have more potential. I’m not sure if the band is feeling a bit lost due to the departure of David Silveria from behind the kit (their second line-up change in a row from originating members) and using three drummers to replace his playing on the album. Thusly, the drums tend to be far too eclectic and pulled back to counteract the structuring issue. KORN also pulled away from the heavier riffs that helped structure their music and tended to focus more with melodies and (gulp) keyboards. Yeah that’s right, the band hired Zac Baird to be a session studio and touring member as a keyboardist and synthesizer (which they use heavily on this album). I feel bad for Mr. Baird as he is one of the main focuses on “Untitled” and is not even a full member of the band and that just frustrates me for some reason.
This next point about “Untitled” is perhaps the overall capping comment I have to make about this disappointing release. This album shouldn’t be under the KORN moniker. It does not feel like KORN and its experimental feeling and focus makes it feel almost as far from KORN as possible. What this should have been released as, is perhaps a Jonathan Davis solo effort. Why you may ask? It is because with all of the changes that the band has made through its music the only really consistent element would be the vocalist and his unique set of pipes. His performance on this album is not heavy at all (even though he does do some good screaming occasionally) and with a focus on his melodic parts and range, it makes “Untitled” sound like a solo effort. Not to mention, with the added focus of keyboards and the taken back element of the ‘band’, this just simply feels like “The Jonathan Davis Show” instead of KORN musically.
This album is just a massive disappointment from a band that, even without consistency, unusually puts out at least a handful of great songs on a record. This does not feel like KORN nor does it live up to the band’s reputation. Had this been released as a solo effort under Jonathan Davis then I could guarantee another 4 points added to the score but as is it doesn’t make the cut. Too far from what makes KORN a fun listen, “Untitled” is just too unfocused, experimental, and ‘lost’ to be what a truly great Nu Metal album. KORN gets an A for effort and trying something new but the full content is just unfilling.
Songs to check out: “Ever Be”, “Killing”, “Evolution”.
(Online January 22, 2009)