The Beatles did it. U2 do it. Madonna does it. Metallica do it. And while they not be quite as squillion-selling as those acts (though 25 million albums and counting isn’t bad), Korn also do it. What? Evolve with each album, that’s what, and in doing so build a consistently successful career, influence whole musical scenes and be a benchmark for others.
Notice that Korn’s seventh studio album is an “evolution” and not a “revolution”. For although they are now a slimmed down quartet; although they co-wrote over half of the album with pop producers The Matrix; and although Fieldy’s previously band-defining apocalyptic bass-lines have been submerged within the sound mix; See You On The Side is still and only could be Korn.
So what does being Korn mean? Firstly, it means you sound like no-one else though give it 18 months and half of America’s rock bands will be trying to copy them (remember “nu metal”?). Recent single Twisted Transistor is just the tip of the iceberg, with Politics, Hypocrites and Souvenir all showcasing the new Korn sound – banging dancefloor-shaking drums, still guttural, sledgehammer guitar riffs, and sinister but always memorable melodies.
Secondly, being Korn means throwing caution to the wind. They could have made an album varying the theme of the first four tracks but instead they dive into semi-industrial, gothic territory with the tribal 10 Or A 2-Way and the dark synth-inflected Throw Me Away and Love Song. It comes as no surprise when the CD booklet reveals that these were co-written with Nine Inch Nails collaborator Atticus Ross.
Thirdly, and crucially, being Korn means that the quality level is light years ahead of most bands. In addition to the aforementioned tracks, the stadium rock dynamics of Coming Undone; the huge, stuttering guitars in Getting Off and Liar; and the funky, heavy For No One (where the bass makes a welcome return to the fore) all do the business and tempt you to start a one-man mosh-pit in your own living room. Well, almost.
Finally, it’s only fair to say that no Korn album would be complete without having a couple of tracks that need skipping. In this instance, Open Up is slightly tiresome after the three similarly downbeat industrial numbers before it; while, in contrast to its name, album closer Tearjerker is more like a misguided, falsetto-led exercise in self-pity (“Well I wish there was someone to love me”).
Nevertheless, Korn have succeeded in bringing mainstream producers to inject freshness into their songs, without entering into a Faustian bargain and compromising their music. See You On The Other Side is the sound of a band forging ahead of its peers once again.