In July of this year, Korn re-released their eleventh studio album, The Paradigm Shift. Around that time, a fan site called KornRow held a contest where two winners would each receive an autographed copy of The Paradigm Shift: World Tour Edition. I should add that KornRow isn’t just some fan site, it’s actually a really good source of Korn-related news and discussion. Anyway, I entered the contest, not really thinking much of it… until I was announced as a winner. Usually I ignore contests, because I don’t expect to ever win. But on this particular occasion, I entered and won. Lucky me. A big thank you to Korn and KornRow!
I figure that since I like writing about Korn, and since the album is current, a review would be a cool thing to do. I meant to do this months ago, but held off due to uni life being what it is. But that’s over, at least for now. On with the review.
The Paradigm Shift: World Tour Edition is comprised of two discs: the first containing the standard studio album; the second containing some unreleased studio and live tracks.
Produced by Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Three Days Grace), the standard album by itself is a solid effort from the band. As fans have been aware for some time, The Paradigm Shift is Korn’s first album with founding guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch since their 2003 release, Take a Look in the Mirror. Head’s return definitely lit a fire under the band’s ambitions, allowing them to create a nicely balanced album. Their signature down-tuned sound has been spliced with their recent exploration in dubstep/EDM, only on this occasion, the electronics don’t overshadow the band’s unique blend of alternative metal.
Album opener ‘Prey for Me’ cleaves through you right from the get-go with its pounding rhythms, courtesy of the band’s musicians: Head and James ‘Munky’ Shaffer (guitars), Fieldy (bass) and Ray Luzier (drums). The level of intensity exhibited in this track is the kind you’d generally expect from Korn, paving the way for ‘Love & Meth’, one of the album’s heaviest tracks, which has quickly become a live favourite, up there with staples such as ‘Here to Stay’ and ‘Falling Away from Me’. From the moment Jonathan Davis sings ‘Give me a reason ’cause I’ve got nothing to gain,’ both band and fan alike are right at home. As a musician, Davis has aged well. He doesn’t overdo his vocals, nor does he hold back. Whether it be his singing in the verses, or harder vocals during the chorus, he knows exactly where and how to project his voice.
The tracks vary throughout the album, some being heavier than others, which I like. The real beauty of Korn lies not so much in their awesome heavier material, but their ability to mix things up and take liberties with their sound, all while maintaining their flare. I’ll admit I didn’t know what to make of first single ‘Never Never’ at first, but it’s really grown on me. It stands out from the album, similar to how ‘Kiss’ surprised me when I first heard it on 2007’s untitled album, or ‘Alone I Break’ on 2002’s Untouchables. The only difference this time is that ‘Never Never’ was, for many listeners, the first taste of The Paradigm Shift, as opposed to being a hidden gem in a larger body of work (although one could certainly view it as such). Maybe I just expected the first single to be something heavier. Furthermore, the song does a total one-eighty during the bridge. While the verses and chorus are mellow (in a Korn sense, at least), the bridge is a brutal onslaught of white noise, from the electronic and metal sides of the spectrum. By this point, the song is far from soft. It’s altogether unpredictable, and I’ve really grown to love it.
I warmed to ‘Spike in My Veins’ instantly, simply because I think it’s a perfect symbiosis of all things Korn, past and present. Originally written with Noisia as a JDevil track, the song represents a finer balance between the band’s traditional sound and their recent exploration of electronic music than on 2011’s The Path of Totality. The partly acoustic ‘Lullaby for a Sadist’ boasts eerily soft guitar work, with the vocals and instrumentation gradually building and building before launching into the song’s chorus. ‘It’s All Wrong’ is a solid album closer, one that has more in common with the Klayton-led Celldweller than anything resembling the Skrillex brand of dubstep/EDM.
The second disc, the ‘world tour’ part of this release, consists of three new studio tracks and six live tracks. The first track on this disc is ‘Hater’, which I discussed a few months ago. I still enjoy it. Simple, but with a pointed message: it’s up to us to validate ourselves; that putting too much focus into other people’s nonconstructive criticism gets in the way of enjoying life; the things we love and aspire to do and be. ‘The Game Is Over’ is another track that’s a bit out of left field. Again, electronic elements are positioned within the song, but in a way that reminds me more of bands like Orgy or Videodrone than any recent forms of electronic music. Head and Munky share in thick, overdriven riffs while the synths make up the song’s melodies. Ray’s drumming holds the song down nicely, as Fieldy’s bass has a pulsating feel throughout. All of this while Davis voices his defiance against an unnamed oppressor. Originally a bonus track on the Japanese deluxe edition of The Paradigm Shift, ‘Die Another Day’ has resurfaced for this tour edition. For a bonus track, this is brilliant, and should satisfy those looking for a downright heavy Korn track. Beginning with a mix of distorted guitar, electronics and Fieldy’s signature bass clicks, Davis sings of mounting pressures with the instrumentation bearing all the signs of a song about to explode like a misused pressure cooker. As Davis sings, ‘We have to fight and crawl, to die another day,’ he steers away from the elements of pressure and despair and looks at how one can move forward. Lyrically, this is the common thread in these three bonus studio tracks: how someone can turn a negative into a positive, to focus on their strengths and not be held down by life’s obstacles. Okay, that may have read like a horribly cliched greeting card saying, but the point still stands. These new tracks symbolise movement, as opposed to mulling over what we go through.
The six live tracks are a welcome addition. Longtime Korn fans will no doubt be familiar with the live sounds of ‘Here to Stay’, ‘Got the Life’ and ‘Another Brick in the Wall’. Those tracks alone are nothing new (an exception being a tasteful guitar solo at the beginning of ‘Another . . .’), but it’s the inclusion of the newer ‘Love & Meth’, ‘Never Never’ and ‘Get Up!’ – arguably more intense than their studio counterparts – that round out this compilation. Together, these live tracks form a tight little set.
As I said at the start of this article, I received The Paradigm Shift: World Tour Edition as a contest prize. It’s not a completely new release, it’s a deluxe edition of a pre-existing album, one that I already own. Would I have bought it myself if not for the contest? Is it even worth having another version of the album, let alone paying for it? I think these are important things to consider, because while I love Korn, I only buy albums if I know I’m going to listen to them. I could have gotten the album the easy way, by downloading it through a torrent like most people do these days. But I like having the album in my hands. I like looking at the album artwork (in this case, a tour photo diary of sorts). I like that I can have an album on a preservable medium, not just as files on a computer. I also like that the World Tour Edition‘s bonus content is practically an album’s worth of songs, more than just a couple of bonus tracks tacked on at the album’s end, so… yes, I would have eventually bought the album. I wouldn’t have rushed out to get it on its exact release date, but I would have bought it. As an overall package, it is rock solid, and I recommend it to fans both casual and hardcore.