Korn's The Nothing recaptures the genuine darkness of their earlier works

Jonathan Davis exorcises his most ferocious demons yet in Korn's new album The Nothing

(Image: © Brian Ziff)

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Korn – The Nothing

(Image credit: Korn)

1. The End Begins
2. Cold
3. You'll Never Find Me
4. The Darkness Is Revealing
5. Idiosyncrasy
6. The Seduction of Indulgence
7. Finally Free
8. Can You Hear Me
9. The Ringmaster
10. Gravity of Discomfort
11. H@rd3r
12. This Loss
13. Surrender to Failure

FOR FANS OF: NIN, Deftones, Slipknot

Korn have made a career from exposing the chaos and darkness inside their collective psyche, but, even by their combustible standards, the last year has been unbelievably traumatic with the passing of Jonathan Davis’s wife, Deven, in August last year. 

Davis has never been one to hide his emotions, a quality that originally set his band apart from so many metal bands of the early 90s, but as their career has progressed Korn have managed to find a way to open up to other moods and themes – an evolution that’s sustained their longevity. 

But, with those events surely playing a part, in The Nothing we have another record that captures the pitch-black, often harrowing honesty of Korn’s early material. 

Although it might sound trite to say it, Davis can be proud of the way he has channelled himself to create a power-house of an album. 

From 90-second opener The End Begins, we’re left in no doubt that this album will be a traumatic experience, the intro consisting almost exclusively of haunting bagpipes and Jonathan screaming through inconsolable tears.

As the next few tracks prove, Davis has hugely developed as a vocalist, with both Cold and You’ll Never Find Me showcasing the brutal, death metal growl he has been perfecting alongside his trademark croon. At the end of the latter track we hear him breaking down in the studio, and the howls of pain feel undeniably real. 

The band have upped their game a few notches, too; Korn spend the first half of the album sounding discordant, tar-thick and laying down relentlessly suffocating grooves. 

Brian ‘Head’ Welch and James ‘Munky’ Shaffer’s guitars are tonally perfect, and Fieldy’s bass remains as bowel-loosening as ever, but it’s Ray Luzier who plays the blinder here; his kinetic way of utilising his entire kit propels Korn and confirms his place as this band’s definitive drummer.

Korn are far from a one-trick pony; there are electronic and industrialised throbs all over the creeping Can You Hear Me. It’s clear, though, that The Nothing is Davis’s album. 

Much of the explicit  gothic noir that infiltrates The Seduction Of Indulgence or the cold, post-punk opening of Finally Free feels like tricks that the vocalist tried out on last year’s solo album, Black Labyrinth, with the music mirroring his tour of his own personal demons. 

On the excellent Idiosyncrasy he screeches ‘God is making fun of me, he’s up there laughing, I can see’ though gritted teeth and you can feel every ounce of his pain surge through your body.

The Nothing is as powerful as this band have felt in a very long time. ‘For every good thing I do there is a price to pay’ he sings on closer Surrender To Failure, and only those with a heart of stone would struggle to empathise with him. 

Korn have been on a run of form over the last decade, but no one could have predicted that they would recapture that unique feeling of genuine darkness. 

Unfortunately it’s taken something deeply and tragically sad for that to happen, but Davis can take a crumb of solace that his catharsis here will almost certainly inspire many more people to fight their own demons once again.

The Nothing is out now, grab your copy 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.