In 1994 Korn were at the forefront of the Nu-Metal scene. The problem with being shackled to a genre with the signifier “Nu“ is that pretty soon Nu gets old, and then what’s left? So although Nu-Metal burned brightly for a while, it didn’t take too long before the bubble burst and as a result Korn, despite arguably being the progenitors of Nu-Metal, suffered somewhat from being tied to the genre.
With The Path Of Totality however, they’ve attempted to change tack considerably by recruiting a handful of Dubstep producers to augment their sound. As such, this is not a remix album, but rather a collaborative mixing of creative talents. While Nu-Metal was undoubtedly a new sound when Korn burst onto the scene, the cross pollination of dance and metal is not a particularly original idea. The Prodigy has been successfully marrying the two for some years now and Pendulum’s D&B metal juggernaut is equally impressive, even Gary Numan‘s had a go. Korn’s manoeuvre into Dubstep does have more than a faint whiff of opportunism to it. For example, Skrillex is currently one of the most sought after producers on the planet, and Korn have roped him in to produce three tracks here. Perhaps it says something about the position Korn find themselves in when it is the producers of The Path Of Totality that are drawing the attention rather than the band themselves.
It is entirely unsurprising that of all the songs contained on The Path Of Totality, it is the Skrillex tracks that stand out above all the others. It’s possible that this can be attributed to the producer’s history with the band (he was a fan in his youth apparently) and as such he understands what make Korn tick. More likely, his style (sometimes labelled as Brostep – a more hostile take on Dubstep) fits closely to Korn’s Passive-Aggressive-Ah-Fuck-It-Let’s-Settle-For-Aggressive approach. A case in point is the seething catch and release of Get Up which alternates between the anthemic and all out sonic attack. The electronic meltdown that lies at the heart of the song is wonderfully unhinged, and perhaps is the best representation of the project working to its full potential. Narcissistic Cannibal possesses rumbling bottom end, a propulsive beat and an enormous chorus that finds Jonathan Davis at perhaps his most tuneful. Opening the album is Chaos Lives In Everything which sets Korn’s stall out early with its concrete slab riffs, plenty of wobble, and typically disturbing lyrics.
Elsewhere, it is evident that although Korn have retained elements of their downtuned heavy sound, this is an album with an undeniable pop streak, as dark and moody as it might be. So while the Noisia produced Kill Mercy Within retains raw guitars and a roaring Davis spitting lyrics direct from the psychotherapist’s couch, there’s a killer beat and soaring electro tint that lends an almost euphoric edge. Noisia also provide one of the highlights of the album in the shape of Let’s Go with its low slung incessant groove and another belting chorus; it’s simply infectious. Even the grinding growl of Way Too Far (this time it’s 12th Planet on production duties) segues into an expansive Goth pop chorus.
Yet for all the successes, there are a few niggling doubts. Over the course of an album, irrespective of which producer is on board, the Dubstep pacing does become a little predictable. It also seems to provide too rigid a framework for the band to work within, meaning with no little irony that there’s little room for experimentation on this, one of Korn’s most experimental outings to date.
Even with these slight problems The Path Of Totality is overall quite an interesting and largely rewarding proposition. Whether it manages to please dubstep or Korn fans however is another matter.