I’m not too cool to admit that in 1994/1995, I listened to and really like Korn. While bands like Fear Factory would get the nod for creating nu-metal, Korn’s self-titled took the genre to a whole new level and essentially became the bar that every act that followed tried to achieve. After 1998’s mega-hit, Follow The Leader, the act grew tiresome for me. The childish lyrics and elementary style song writing had run its course. By the time 1999’s Issues came out, the relationship between me and the fivesome from Bakersfield, CA was completely over. Now 15 years later, I was handed Korn’s newest record, The Paradigm Shift, which came out last year. I was given it with the notion of “hey. Check it out. If you like it, you like it. If not, no biggy” by a friend that likes what he likes. It wasn’t fair to me that I honestly listened to the entire record and didn’t give myself the opportunity to write about it. The torture would have been in vain.

I guess The Paradigm Shift was Korn’s attempt at relevancy. What I noticed almost immediately is that there is very little of the Korn that I remembered. While that in itself is a positive step, it doesn’t necessarily go in the right direction. If you removed Jonathan Davis’ signature whiney vocals and the one riff per song that is in vain of sound Korn made famous, you have nothing different than every other band that is big on modern rock radio. With a new found sense of melody, the band has definitely shown there has been maturity in song writing and even Davis has found way to vary his lead vocals and his own backing vocals to create somewhat effective vocal harmonies throughout the album. The low-tuning is gone and the twangy bass isn’t nearly as prominent as earlier records. There is even a near pop-like single in the track Never, Never that makes an appearance. After only hearing, maybe, 4 songs in the last decade, this is a much different Korn record than I anticipated.

Although there is a new direction in song writing, I can necessarily say this is exactly an improvement. This is still a bad record. Calling this a nu-metal record wouldn’t be fair but it is still the same old cookie cutter bullshit that makes radio rock unlistenable. Even though Davis is 43 years old, he’s barely progressed as a lyricist. Even though there has always been an underlining story to his child level vocabulary filled words, he still is using that same approach to song writing. At 43 you should not be talking about how “sadistic”, “insane”, “crazy”, or “demented” you are. It’s one thing to include those adjectives in death metal, it’s another to try to pawn them off as being serious. Listening to the lyrics in the track Lullaby Of A Sadist, which is not too far off from the use nursery rhymes in Shoots & Ladders, was one of the most painful musical experiences I’ve had in a very long time. The band tried to grow, Davis apparently didn’t get that memo.

Even with the return of original member, Brian “Head” Welch, after an 8 year hiatus, Korn still isn’t doing things that I would say win over legions of new fans and they certainly didn’t do anything to bring back an old fan like myself. According to the information I was able to pull on this record, it sold 46,000 copies in its first week and is being labeled the best Korn record since Untouchables (that’s an album?). If that is the case then it’s unfortunate to know that there is still a big audience out there that doesn’t like to challenge themselves at all with music and that Korn has a ton of even worse records out there that I have the pleasure of knowing I have never heard. 20 years in the game, and although they were your favorite band in middle school, Korn is still as awful is as they have always been.