It’s more than a little unusual for a band of Korn’s standing to have to approach an album at this point in their career – the Bakersfield legends’ 14th studio record – as the follow-up to a genuinely essential piece of work. But 2019’s The Nothing was a fantastic, if heartbreaking, record, detailing themes of loss, grief and depression in a manner as starkly effecting as anything the band had put their name to since 1994’s legend-creating self-titled debut. To add to the pot of pressures, this feasibly could be beloved bassist Fieldy’s last recorded outing with the band, with Korn confirming he had gone on hiatus from the group in November.
But Korn have never been a band afraid to change and adapt, and Requiem skilfully returns to the very essence of what Korn have been superb at for the last couple of decades into sharp focus. In a tight, taut, careering and propulsive nine songs over a mere 32 minutes, Korn remind their followers of what they do and how well they do it. Gone are the ambient, gothic or electronic experiments of The Nothing and 2011’s divisive The Path Of Totality. Instead, we get monolithically hulking grooves, mud-thick guitar riffs that hit like a steel toe-capped boot to the cranium and Jonathan Davis’s always recognisable crooned yelping turning on a sixpence to either a wounded wail or a deathly guttural growl.
Opener Forgotten is a case in point. This is classic simmer-and-explode Korn, with a spidery riff driving everything along. Jonathan’s clean chorus suckers onto your brain before a massive, table-flipping breakdown arrives and the band pummel their way to the finishing line. Yes, you’ve heard them do it many times before, but it’s still undeniably potent. And while on paper the idea of Korn just going back to doing more… well… more Korn, essentially, might not raise eyebrows and get pulses racing, the anthemic belting of Jonathan on the huge chorus of Start The Healing, the scratchy, grinding riff of Lost In The Grandeur and the half-time grind and pound of Helpless And Beaten all deliver real thrills.
If there were to be a criticism of the record, it’d be the lack of the really wild and wide dynamic range that Korn have shown they are capable of in the past. You could argue that this is somewhat negated by the fact that this is the shortest album of Korn’s career and, as such, it never causes your attention to wander. There’s certainly a lesson to other bands about getting in, getting everything off your chest and getting out on Requiem. Less is very much more in this instance. Ultimately, due to their return to more familiar terrain, this may prove to be something of a transitional album for the Bakersfield boys. Creative minds as restless as theirs will surely experiment again in the future but, for now, let’s enjoy Korn being Korn. Because, let’s be honest, no one does it better than they do.
Requiem is out February 4 via Loma Vista