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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Korn

Issues

Review by Gary Hill

Korn is certainly a band that has not been lacking in the media coverage department. Many times this causes the more serious listener to overlook them. Doing so is not a wise decision, though, as the band truly have forged a sound all their own and are arguably one of the more creative of the nu-metal genre. Certainly one of their strengths lies in playing with the contrast between mellower passages and harder rocking segments. This sets them apart from many bands. Their overall sounds contains elements of Goth and bands like Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper, but transcends all their leanings. Issues is really a strong album by the group and should serves as a good introduction to the band. Do be warned, though, there is lyrically something here that could offend just about anyone. So, if you have thin skin regarding lyrics, you are well advised to stay away. However, if you enjoy good hard rocking tunes with a dark texture and some creativity, you should have "Issues".

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Dead
One thing you don't hear a lot of in music today is bagpipes. Well, Korn is doing their duty to change that. This is a short, oddly accessible vocal excursion accompanied by bagpipe sounds, and it is quite cool.
Falling Away From Me
One of the singles from the album, freaky sounding keys with percussive accents begin this one. After this intro plays through, a short rhythmic, hard-edged segment explodes out. The verse is set in the vein of the introduction, and interspersed with that harder-edged segment which serves as the basis for the chorus. This is another that is remarkably catchy considering just how off-kilter it is. It includes a bridge that feels very unusual in texture. This one is dark and quirky, but yet commercial - now that's a feat.
Trash
This one comes in rocking and quite dark, but then drops to whispery, slightly creepy vocals accompanied just by percussion and strange looped keyboard sounds. It explodes back up into hard-edged fury that works quite well. The chorus is very accessible, but dark. The lyrics to this one are definitely not for the easily offended, but this song is very strong and fairly complex as it works and reworks its verse sections. This is another winner on an album of winners.
4U
With a title that looks as though it could have been penned by Prince, make no mistake, this is definitely not. It begins atmospheric and weird, then moves to just keys and percussion in a slow, somewhat reflective vein. The vocals come in extremely processed, distorted and distant. The cut is very short and balladic with some overlying keyboard structures that feel Hawkwindish.
Beg For Me
Percussion begins this, then keyboard rhythm enters, and the track quickly flies into metallic fury. As the verse enters it is in a very stripped down format, but hard-edged jam forms the chorus. Alternating between those two modes, this has some severely heavy elements and a bridge based in a very pleasing and unusual rhythmic pattern. The composition gets rather powerful at times.
Make Me Bad
Another that begins dark and atmospheric, a cool riff heralds in what is one of the stronger, and certainly most accessible songs on the CD. This feels a lot like something from the first Nine Inch Nails album. It has a great mellow verse and some incredibly intense vocal work. The chorus rocks it out hard and with style.
It's Gonna Go Away
Another with a fairly sparse arrangement, this is rather weird, but definitely has style. There is not a lot of substance, but the brief piece has an intriguing texture and vocal arrangement.
Wake Up
Well, hammering in with a rapid-fire riff and thrash-like vocals, if this one didn't wake you up, you are probably dead. After the chorus based in the vein that started the piece, a verse enters that feels rather like a cross between techno and R & B/hip-hop.
Am I Going Crazy
Haunting and atmospheric, this one has just the slightest Alice Cooper leaning and might make you question your sanity if you listen to it enough. It is another short one.
Hey Daddy
This one has a cool groove through the verse, almost funky. A hard-edged rocking style makes up the chorus.
Somebody Someone
More techno-ish atmosphere starts this one, but the guitars quickly jump in breaking the quiet texture. The verse is in a rather funky and quite intriguing mode, but the chorus rocks out hard, even including hints of death metal. This one is definitely a candidate for most contrasting piece on the CD.
No Way
More atmosphere begins this one, but a bit psychotic in texture. As the guitar comes in, it rocks out the main themes from the intro, feeling even more psychotic. The verse is based more in sparser forms, but the chorus continually returns to rock out.
Let's Get This Party Started
This one has quite a cool texture and more of both the NIN and Cooperish stylings. This cut is a very strong and dark one that also seems to lean on the sounds of Marilyn Manson. The chorus is a bit cacophonous.
Wish You Could Be Me
This is a fast paced vocal excursion with percussion and effects providing the accompaniment. It is another short number.
Counting
This is a more riff-dominated rocker and has a fairly straightforward texture. It is the most mainstream track on the disc and, although, a good rocking cut, not quite up to the quality of the rest of the album.
Dirty
Drums and bass begin this one in an almost jazzy groove. The vocals bring in an otherworldly texture. This cut is quite off-kilter and odd, but works well. It is certainly one of the most creative cuts on the disc, and ends with a long period of white noise. There are probably better choices for album closer here, but there are also worse ones.
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