Korn finds new energy, rediscovers essence of early work on latest album
After 23 years, 12 albums, and record sales that surpass 35 million, Korn has experimented with numerous variations of the nu metal genre the Bakersfield, Calif., outfit pioneered in the early ‘90s. Following the release of 2013's The Paradigm Shift and latest album, The Serenity of Suffering, the Roadrunner Records recording artists have settled into what Rolling Stone calls an “uncomfortable comfort zone somewhere between their 1999 and their 2004, the era when ‘nu-metal’ blew up and fizzled and Korn was making music as ugly and imposing as they wanted.” What’s more, The Serenity of Suffering is heavier than The Paradigm Shift, according to RS, and it’s “possibly their heaviest album ever.”
The Serenity of Suffering marks Korn’s return to Roadrunner Records. The album was produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Deftones, Mastodon) and features a guest vocal performance from Slipknot’s Corey Taylor on the track ‘A Different World.’ Loudwire.com calls lead single ‘Rotting In Vain’ classic Korn, led by a “heavy groove and chaotic atmosphere” that “spirals into darker realms with Jonathan Davis’ tortured vocals.” ‘Rotting In Vain’ is currently No. 4 on both the Mediabase Active Rock airplay chart and Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs chart.
‘Rotting In Vain’ was written about being in that black place, being in situations that I don’t like in life—be it relationships, or feeling when you’re stuck and you’re just being abused or you don’t like where you’re at, and you just sit there and rot,” Davis tells Loudwire. “It takes you years and years to figure out how to claw your way out. That’s where ‘Rotting in Vain’ came from … That’s the vibe that inspired the song,” explains Davis.
The singer says the darkness stirs a “fight-or-flight reaction” that he draws on for inspiration in his daily battle of living with anxiety and depression. “I started thinking about where I came from on this record,” he reveals to The Guardian. However, Korn co-founder and guitarist Brian “Head” Welch states he doesn’t feel comfortable in a dark place. “I like to be happy,” the recovering addict tells the London daily.
Welch says The Serenity of Suffering is a more significant release than The Paradigm Shift. “We were focused more [on The Serenity of Suffering],” he admits. “We were like, ‘What’s Korn about?’ and it was always about the live shows—the intensity live. That’s what we tried to capture on this record, to have fun live shows.” Korn is coming off an appearance at Aftershock in Sacramento, Calif., and is preparing to embark on a series of concerts in the U.K. (Dec. 12-19). A European tour kicks off March 11 in Zurich.
Davis admits he encountered “terrible writer’s block” while working on the new album. “It was hard to do, trying to capture the love I had for heavier music,” he continues to The Guardian, which calls The Serenity of Suffering Korn’s “most intense release in a decade.” In working with Raskulinecz to “rediscover the band’s essence,” Welch says there’s a new energy in Korn that hasn’t been there for a while. Ironically, the band has found light in the darkness of The Serenity of Suffering. “It’s what we’ve done since 1993,” says Davis. “That’s just how we roll.”
Watch Korn in the official music video for ‘Rotting In Vain,’ the latest single from the pioneering nu metal band’s 12th studio album, The Serenity of Suffering.
As A Matter of Fact…
* Korn began as the Bakersfield, Calif., metal band LAPD, which included guitarists James “Munky” Shaffer and Brian “Head” Welch, bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu, and drummer David Silveria. The band released an album in 1993, but changed their name to Korn after recruiting lead singer Jonathan Davis.
* The Korn demo, Neidermayer's Mind, was recorded in 1993 with producer Ross Robinson (Deftones, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot).The band signed to Epic's Immortal imprint and issued their self-titled debut LP in late 1994. A relentless touring schedule opening for artists such as Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth, and Marilyn Manson helped the album climb the charts, eventually going gold on the back of hit single ‘Blind.’
* Korn’s combination of dark lyrical content, hip-hop influences, and “down-tuned guitar sludge” established the band as a forerunner of the nu metal movement. The group’s Grammy-nominated follow-up, Life Is Peachy, was a Top 5 hit in 1996, led by the singles ‘A.D.I.D.A.S’ and a cover of Ice Cube's ‘Wicked’ featuring Deftones’ frontman Chino Moreno.
* In 1998, Korn released Follow the Leader. As their biggest hit to date, the quintuple-platinum album debuted atop the Billboard 200 and spawned the alternative rock hit singles ‘Got The Life’ and ‘Freak On A Leash.’ Korn also won a Grammy for the ‘Freak On A Leash’ music video.
* Later in 1998, Korn kicked off the inaugural Family Values tour, featuring Limp Bizkit, rapper Ice Cube, German industrial metal band Rammstein, and Orgy. The latter was the first signees to Davis' Elementree Records. Follow the Leader eventually went quintuple platinum and sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.
* After appearing on the main stage at Woodstock '99, Korn returned to the top of the Billboard 200 with fourth studio effort, Issues, showcasing the Top 10 Alternative singles ‘Falling Away From Me’ and ‘Make Me Bad.’
* Korn took a brief hiatus and reunited in late 2001 to begin work on the Grammy-winning Untouchables. The album arrived in the summer of 2002, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and selling more than five million copies worldwide. Standout Alternative singles included ‘Here to Stay’ (No. 4) and ‘Thoughtless’ (No. 11).
* Co-founder and guitarist Welch left the band in 2005, but Korn continued on as a quartet, signing an expansive recording and development deal with Virgin. The next release was 2005’s See You on the Other Side, which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. The collection of hook-laden songs was co-written with the hit-making pop production team the Matrix (Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears).
* In 2010, Korn signed with Roadrunner Records and brought back producer Ross Robinson to record their ninth album, Korn III: Remember Who You Are. The following year found Korn expanding into electronica. EDM producers Skrillex and Noisia were brought in to infuse their heavy sound with pounding dubstep on the electronic-tinged, The Path of Totality.
* In May 2012, Welch guested with the band on a version of ‘Blind’ at a show in North Carolina. He rejoined the band in 2013 as most of the original lineup went back to the studio to work on Korn’s 11th studio album, The Paradigm Shift, which landed in the Top 10 of album charts in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany, and Austria.