There was a time when their logo adorned countless hoodies; their name evoked images of teenagers embracing albums with parental advisory stickers proudly displayed upon their covers like a badge of honour. But Korn have been off most people’s radars for so long that even they appear to have forgotten what they used to sound like. Even the title of their new album, ‘The Paradigm Shift’, is a statement of intent. This is an album designed to make you forget that anything with a name as embarrassing as “Nu Metal” could ever have been a real genre.
‘The Paradigm Shift’ is probably the most straightforward heavy metal record Korn have ever produced. Its back to basics approach could be read as direct reaction to their previous album, an ill-judged foray into the world of dubstep which featured collaborations from Skrillex and other EDM acts.
Their new album features the kind of guitar work that wouldn’t feel out-of-place on a Metallica record, and even Korn’s trademark controversy-inviting lyrical profanity seems watered down. Not that any of this is a bad thing. This stripped back approach emphasises pure, unadulterated metal, and subtly shifts the focus away from the hip-hop influenced gimmickry of nu metal.
The return of guitarist Brian “Head” Welsh (who departed in 2005) sees Korn return to building their songs upon a base of down-tuned guitar riffs and pounding drum fills. While ‘The Paradigm Shift’ is missing much of the cross-genre experimentation that made Korn’s name in the first place, it makes up for this by being a solid and highly listenable hard rock/ heavy metal album.
Prey For Me is a typical headbanging metal number, whose less than catchy riffs get brushed under the rug by an anthemic chorus. Once the direction has been established, Love And Meth and Spike In My Veins follow complacently, with the odd tokenistic injection of screaming vocals or electronic scratching and sampling to keep the listener’s focus from wandering.
‘The Paradigm Shift’ finds it feet on well-trodden ground quickly, and settles in with utter resolution. It occupies a comfort zone like a cat beside an open fire. It gradually becomes clear that this isn’t an album that is going to push many boundaries as it makes its way conventionally through a series of fairly samey tracks like Mass Hysteria and Paranoid and Aroused. Never Never is about a far as the album dares venture in the iffy electronica direction, but even its precision engineered tone changes and polished sound effects are just dressing on a song based around the same driving drum beat that Black Sabbath were using forty years ago.
It’s hard to tell if the title of the album says more than the band intended, or is simply unintentionally ironic. This is indeed a shift in paradigms for Korn, but rather than moving into new territory they have slipped into archetypical example of contemporary heavy metal. It is a comfortable fit for Korn, and it results in an album that is highly listenable if a little unoriginal.
‘The Paradigm Shift’ is unlikely to draw either the adoration of young fans or the ire of parents that Korn once evoked. Maybe Korn, like their fan base, have finally grown up.