When KORN released “Untouchables” in 2002 they quickly rebounded from the touring to release their next album, their sixth full length, in 2003 under the title “Take A Look In The Mirror”. Normally, it’s questionable when a band releases new material so quickly as it usually means one of two things a) it was rushed or b) the band had a shock of inspiration for musical direction. I’m going to lean towards the latter for this one.
Honestly, I didn’t know if I would ever give KORN more then just an occasional listen because their earlier material was always hit or miss with me. “Untouchables” changed that and now “Take A Look In The Mirror” perfected it. Many of KORN’s older fans will argue with me on this one, but I am going to have to say it: this is KORN’s best album so far. They took the darker direction of their previous album and they magnified it on all levels to create a monstrous Nu Metal beast that is their heaviest, angriest (not angstiest), and most accomplished album.
From the opening punch-in-the-face “Right Now”, one can see that KORN is done with the children’s games. The riffs are larger and heavier, the bass is even more prominent and abrasive (as if anyone thought that could actually happen), the drumming is more precise and thought-through, and Jonathon Davis is finally pissed instead of upset. This is the KORN I wanted to hear from day one.
“Take A Look In The Mirror” isn’t made up of all blood and broken bones though as it would seem from what I just said. Most of it is based in the idea of this dark and coarse music but the band still dabbles in the more Gothic tones still. The track “Everything I Know” still has Head’s signature melancholic guitar tones and Davis’ sorrowful crooning but its used in conjunction with some more extreme things – like heavier rhythms and even (gasp!) guttural roars from Davis. But this is just an example of how KORN uses extremities on the album. This album is full of these great leaps and twists in the music.
What really impressed me though is not that the band finally is pushing some new boundaries in their own music, but they are doing it all while writing very catchy music. The radio language dis-friendly “Ya’ll Want A Single” is one of the catchiest songs KORN has ever written and yet it’s one of their most seething tracks. It’s a tight rope that KORN balances beautifully.
Perhaps when I say that KORN perfected their style on this album I was jumping the gun a bit. There are a few issues I have with this album. One would be the ‘hidden track’ at the end of the album. After a significant amount of fast forwarding of silence, one is…treated…to a live rendition of METALLICA’s “One” performed by KORN. Although an interesting pick, KORN is really unable to perform the track and have to heavily edit the music for their style (like taking out most of the leads and solos). And it’s a live version…not a solid choice. Another issue is the track “Play Me” that features a guest rapper as the main part of the lyrics and I have to admit – I skip the track every time as it tends to irritate me.
Other than those though, I have to say I love this album. This is definitely KORN looking and sounding their best as they return to their heavier and more impactful roots with the darker tones. “Take A Look In The Mirror” surpasses their early catalog by leaps and bounds.
Songs to check out: “Ya’ll Want A Single”, “Right Now”, “Did My Time”.
(Online April 10, 2009)