Jonathan Davis – Black Labyrinth album review

Korn frontman Jonathan Davis brings his 80s past into new pastures for Black Labyrinth

Jonathan Davis Black Labyrinth album cover

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Black Labyrinth

Jonathan Davis – Black Labyrinth album cover

1. Underneath My Skin
2. Final Days
3. Everyone
4. Happiness
5. Your God
6. Walk On By
7. The Secret
8. Basic Needs
9. Medicate
10. Please Tell Me
11. What You Believe
12. Gender
13. What It Is

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He might be ‘the godfather of nu metal’ but Jonathan Davis has never shied away from his love of early-80s new romantic and post-punk bands. He’s also been keen to step outside of the boundaries of his day job to do everything from compose film scores to DJ dubstep over the years, so if there is any surprise in Black Labyrinth, it’s not that it exists, but that it has taken this long to arrive.

From the opening guitar lick of first track Underneath My Skin, which sounds more like Altered Images than anything remotely metal, it’s clear this is a real labour of love for Jonathan. Taking the darkly gothic and electronic elements of the music of his youth and adding his penchant for lyrical honesty, at various points the album details everything from mental health issues to battling against a dependency on prescribed drugs. It’s certainly a disorientating first listen. It is worth noting that, much like many of his contemporaries, the plush modern production techniques employed here mean that Black Labyrinth doesn’t ever sound completely like an 80s jukebox, but when Jonathan does get that perfect The Cure guitar tone on Medicate or the opening few minutes of Please Tell Me sounding like a cover of Duran Duran’s The Chauffeur, that’s when the album really soars. It’s not perfect; Basic Needs’ Eastern soundscape is fine but tests the patience at over six minutes, and when Jonathan sings ‘Can I wear your skin?’ on the Siouxsie And The Banshees-esque chime of Gender it gets a bit awkward. Ultimately, though, Jonathan Davis has such a distinctive tone it can only be one man, making this comparable to a modern version of Public Image Limited, where John Lydon’s personality was stamped large over an unrecognisable musical canvas. An oddity for Korn fans, possibly, but there’s much to admire here.

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.