Korn – The Path Of Totality

Having genuinely lived for unholy electronic offerings like this I think it’s only fitting that we treat the long threatened arrival of The Path Of Totality, better known as Korn’s dubstep rebirth record, with the consideration and thoughtful analysis which doubtfully went into its making but that it nonetheless so richly requires.

As with any such critique it’s important first to define the key terms to be discussed beginning with dubstep. Though we may know better than to refer to what Korn and their cadre of hired EDM guns are producing on The Path Of Totality as ‘dubstep’, the US nu-metal veterans clearly do not and even though this is essentially just a sludgy derivative of genre offshoot ‘brostep’, let’s just agree to bite the pillow and let them have the term for now. ‘kay?

That leads us to our next prickly definition; nu-metal. Many of us have been there and worn the backwards Yankees cap to prove it, and the memories of nu-metal that we haven’t suppressed recall a short-lived genre populated by aggressive white guys in camo pants appropriating bits of other genres to form their own kind of musical Frankenstein that blew up beyond the core community of frustrated outsiders.

Looking at the two genres of nu-metal and dubstep in such a way it becomes clear to see that a stylistic union was just a matter of time, money and conviction – all three of which Korn evidently have on their hands in their leaner years since the heady days of Follow The Leader, which broke them into the big time. As such, the group have assembled a crack team of production stars for The Path Of Totality with a who’s who of brostep beatmakers – Datsik, Excision and notable goon Skrillex – recruited to add their crunchy wubbs and wobbs to the signature Korn sound.

Opening as bombastically as possible with the classically titled Chaos Lives In Everything Korn bring in production poster boy Skrillex to add some routine complextro enhancements to the chuggy rape-opera that Korn have made their trade, with broken electronics and power riffs bashed up in a blender.

Things don’t let up from there with Kill Mercy Within enlisting the tried talents of Noisia for some surging electronic heaviness, Canadian hitter Downlink offering up uncontrollable bass pulses on top of the sneering Sanctuary, while Feed Me drops in to spruce the otherwise bland Bleeding Out up with some electronic thuds and admittedly interesting atmospheres.

If that all sounds like a case of these stodgy nu-metal relics being dressed up in new, far more fashionable outfits then that’s a pretty fair assessment of The Path Of Totality, made no clearer than on Narcissistic Cannibal (really) wherein Skrillex returns with Kill The Noise in tow to throw down a clamorous, stuttering electronic bed of sounds that refuses to remain still for more than three seconds at a time.

As gruesome as The Path Of Totality is (and it certainly is), its marriage of one historically maligned sound with another that is becoming increasingly so deserves credit for its total commitment to the cause of Korn going ‘full dubstep’, to paraphrase Tropic Thunder. Perhaps it is Korn frontman Jonathan Davis’ noted EDM pedigree or the obvious shared genealogy of nu-metal and dubstep but it seems almost rightly wrong for this record to exist.

What’s more, the heightened visibility of The Path Of Totality in the media over the last year – surely this is the most amount of shits given about Korn in a decade’s time – testifies to the power of dubstep in popular culture right now. That this so-believed ‘sound of now’ could enliven interest in even the most regrettable of nu-metal icons like Korn confirms the great levels of recognition for dance music in 2011, whether you like it or not. It could be thought that that is the ultimate goal of The Path Of Totality and more than likely the spirit with which it was made.

Of course, it’s going to be mocked, scorned and used as a punchline in arenas such as this, but neither Korn nor their newfound production friends seem to care too much about that. This one’s for the diehards of either style who’ll look back on The Path Of Totality in (I’m betting) less than four years and wonder what the fuck they were thinking, or better yet, the ones that won’t look back at all.

The Path of Totality is out now on Roadrunner Records.