Korn The Paradigm Shift

2013 Prospect Park

Headed back home?

Korn - The Paradigm Shift


With “The Paradigm ShiftKorn are nearly “whole”—at least in the sense of being one member short of their founding lineup. Indeed, much has been made of original guitarist Brian “Head” Welch‘s return and his reignited synergy with fellow seven-stringer James “Munky” Shaffer.

But those expecting a step back to the downtuned, funky (and at times dated) nu metal aggression that Welch still freely pedals with Love & Death will be left disappointed. For as much as Welch‘s reinstatement has impacted the guitar work of the band, it doesn’t seem to have influenced the songwriting.

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Korn have taken some risky turns with their recent albums, including a flat attempt at returning to their roots (“Korn III: Remember Who You Are“) and a questionable dubstep cash-in (“The Path Of Totality“) that divided their fan base down the middle. “The Paradigm Shift” finds them once again straddling the line between adventurous reinvention and creative desperation.

A large part of this is the albums insistence to be constrained by methodical song structures. Nearly every track feels as though it was written for pop & rock radio formats, despite the bands best attempts to hide it. In turn you can predict the repetition of the choruses and bridges with an alarming degree of certainty. It’s this on-rails approach and the slick production of Don Gilmore—who has worked with pop-friendly heavyweights like Linkin Park & Avril Lavigne—that keeps the album too formulaic for its own good.

It’s hard to appreciate the heavier riffing and homage paid to the bands back catalogue (see Jonathan Davis‘ trademark growl on “What We Do” or the lingering “Follow The Leader” styled squelch of “Mass Hysteria“,) when the songs are so blatantly written to drive towards the ‘big’ chorus. The chief components are in place, be it Fieldy‘s clicky downtuned bass licks, Davis‘ emotional bluster or the enveloping atmospheric riffing; but it’s all neatly fit and folded into a package that might as well be factory sealed.

As the electronic laden first single “Never Never” showed, the band are still intent on endearing themselves to broader audiences. Unfortunately, that track isn’t a gateway drug or clever sleight of hand. The rest of the album travels a similar course—if not by its blatant hooks and lack of spontaneity—then at least in terms of a softer electronic aesthetic.

The boiling point of this commercial pandering would have to be the ballad “Lullaby For A Sadist“; which trudges the listener through a tacky lullaby styled chorus with a bit of tribal chanting tossed on for good measure. To compare it against the rawness and emotion found of the similar conceptual adaptation of “Shoots And Ladders” finds the the band a mere shadow of their former selves.

That “The Paradigm Shift” perpetually wrestles with this personality conflict is troubling. Crunchy riffs and serpentine rhythmic buildup are quickly bowled over by sappy choruses (“Punishment Time“); while an odd attempt at extra percussion (“Victimized“) sounds like a Pitchshifter throwaway.

On the outside “The Paradigm Shift” puts the band closer to their original 90’s heyday than they have been in years. But the traits only run skin deep. Instead the concessions made for rigid structuring and studio processing keep the album a rock radio sheep masquerading in nu metal clothing.