Korn released their 13th studio album The Nothing in September 2019. It’s up there with the most sorrowful and misanthropic albums of the Bakersfield collective’s career.
Korn were one of the biggest bands of the 1990s, with albums like Life is Peachy, Follow the Leader and Issues helping to define the nu-metal genre.
The band faced some identity issues as they moved into the 21st century, however. Guitarist Brian “Head” Welch left the band in 2005. Korn pushed on, but they made some truly tangential stylistic decisions.
In the wake of Welch’s departure, frontman Jonathan Davis was eager to incorporate dubstep and drum and bass sounds. So, for 2011’s The Path of Totality Korn hauled in producers like Skrillez, Noisia and Excision. Reactions to album were mixed, but Davis stands by it – he recently called it one of his favourite Korn records on Amoeba’s ‘What’s In My Bag?’ series.
Welch returned in 2013 and Korn’s last couple of records have steered back towards the sound of their iconic early work. 2016’s The Serenity of Suffering was fully intended to be one of Korn’s heaviest albums to date. They made Serenity with in-demand metal producer Nick Raskulinecz and garnered some of the strongest reviews of their career.
The Nothing is spiritually aligned with The Serenity of Suffering, rekindling the dark and twisted atmosphere that brought Korn to the top of the nu metal pile in the late 1990s. However, despite Davis’ disconsolate lyrical content, The Nothing isn’t Korn’s heaviest work.
The album sees Korn flaunting their melodic capabilities, particularly on the singles ‘You’ll Never Find Me’ and ‘Cold’. It’s a ploy that paid off, with The Nothing receiving almost unanimous praise from critics. All Music gave the record 4.5 stars out of 5, saying that while Korn have always excelled at depicting pain, “with The Nothing, this is the most authentic it’s ever been.”
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But is The Nothing better than Follow the Leader, which brought us the nu metal staples ‘Got the Life’ and ‘Freak on a Leash’? Does it trump 1999’s more focused Issues? Or do you agree with Davis and prefer The Path of Totality?