Friday, March 16, 2012

Music Album Review: The Path of Totality by KoRn

"The Path of Totality" is a gamble - a big gamble. I think long term we'll recognise this bold move as a success.
“The Path of Totality" is KoRn's tenth album in their nineteen year career, quite a feat really as it results in roughly an album every two years. This album however is their most diverse album yet, as they do arguably what no mainstream metal artist has done before, and that's do a full music album combining the sounds of metal and dubstep. I spoke in length on dubstep and electronic music being used more emphatically in an article I wrote yesterday, and how metal as a genre overall is refusing to embrace this genre as a whole. You can read that article here. 

Back to the topic at hand, KoRn's brave move to make a full length album combining metal and dubstep is a pretty damn big deal. As I said no mainstream metal band have really done this before, and it's safe to say that this album has received mixed reviews due to the complete sound change from previous albums. Some have said this is possibly their best album to date, and are truly appreciating what Jonathan Davis and co. are doing here by pushing metal into new boundaries and combining new sounds to go with it. Other hardcore KoRn fans have called it the worst KoRn album ever created, going as far as to say the sound and direction is abysmal and that it's one of the worst albums of all time. What's my opinion? Here's my review. 

I thought I'd start this review properly by stating that I'm not the biggest fan of dubstep music in general. The sound is repetitive and it's basically drum and bass with a bit more wobble and grind. It's not my cup of tea. So to say that when I decided to review this album I chose it out of intrigue and had a lot of scepticism in my outlook on its sound. I do appreciate dubstep though and understand its place in music, and it's opening up a huge new window for new musicians to try and make music at home on their laptops and PCs, something that was never really considered a true form of music twenty or even ten years ago. This album is completely different to KoRn's other nine albums, it's safe to say. But Jonathan Davis' vocals are still as striking as they've always been, and you can still in some parts hear the phenomenal buzzing guitars that make KoRn one of the finest metal acts of the past twenty years. This isn't a heavy album though, the dubstep soothes the KoRn sound dramatically. Jonathan Davis says this is probably the "the most well-proportioned KoRn album of all time" and I have to say it's probably a true statement. There's some really cool tracks on here, some angry tracks and some mellower, sadder songs. It combines lyrically, all that makes KoRn one of those artists that teenagers and young adults associate with their lives as KoRn have always been one of the most emotional (not necessarily emo) metal bands out there. It's good that this album is so well-proportioned because it helps get over the initial shock of the style change musically. It was a good move. 

So what have we got on this album? Well one thing is for sure, is that this is actually quite a short album, at 11 tracks and less than 38 minutes long, it's KoRn's shortest album to date. There idea behind this album was that KoRn would make the music with electronic producers and then the dubstep artists would, well, 'dub' over the tracks with their sound. There's nine dubstep artists here and their work is pretty damn good if you like the general dubstep sound.  

The opening track, "Chaos Lives in Everything" which was remixed and finalised by Skrillex is a good choice to start this album with as it combines dubstep and KoRn's general sound well together. It doesn't take that many risks in comparison to what else is on this album, and it slowly soothes the listener into this experimental piece of music. Overall it's probably one of the best songs on the album as it does its job really well, but at the same time it's a good track to listen to, if you're open minded enough. The second track was produced by Noisia is called "Kill Mercy Within", and it's one of the mellower tracks. Once again I think it was a good choice to put this track early on as it still helps new listeners to get into this new sound, and Davis' vocals are exceptionally prominent in this track. 

The third track is one of my favourites, and it really kicks the dubstep gear-stick up a notch. "My Wall" was produced by Excision, and it really has some great wobble and pretty cool dubbing in there. Parts of dubstep I really like when done sparsely and the general dubstep sound in this track is definitely to my liking. The metal however severely lacks in this song, and it starts a common trend and criticism in this album. You see, if you take Jonathan Davis' vocals away from some of the songs on this album you pretty much have a dubstep album for the most part. Some of the songs you're really scratching your head and trying to figure out where the actual instruments are. It does make you think that it's "Jonathan Davis sings dubstep!" rather than KoRn and dubstep artists collaborating. Either way, "My Wall" is one of my favourite tracks on the album. 

The fourth track on the album is also the second single released, and is "Narcissistic Cannibal", which charted higher in most countries than the first single despite, in my opinion, it being inferior to it. It's a lot mellower however, and once again is a good example where you can hear metal and dubstep in the track at the same time. Skrillex collaborates with another dubstep artist in Kill the Noise to produce this track and between them they get a good dubstep metal track, one that KoRn we're obviously proud enough of to release it as a single. It's not necessarily one of my favourite tracks but I understand it's appeal to a more general audience. Tracks five, six and seven are all decent in different ways, and combine dubstep and metal with mixed results. In track six, "Burn the Obedient", Jonathan Davis actually gets some old school 'nu-metal' rapping in there, so that's pretty cool. These songs aren't as good as some of the others but have nice efforts of attempting to combine the two genres together, even if they all have varying outcomes. 

Two of my favourite tracks on the album are tracks eight and nine. First we have "Let's Go" which gives Noisia another credit on his name in terms of production. This, for me, is probably style-wise, the most old-school KoRn sounding song on the album. Everything about the song, the rhythm, the lyrics, the rambling of "gotta get away, get-get-get away", the short and simple chorus, everything screams KoRn, apart from of course, the dubstep that's branded the track. It's a very good song, and probably the most appealing for KoRn purists. Track nine is the first single, "Get Up!" which was also produced by Skrillex. It's probably my favourite track on the album but once again I do often question the actual instruments in the track - are they there? Jonathan Davis screaming "shut the fuck up and get it up" is definitely a highlight of the track, as well as the awesome dubbing after the second chorus. It's just a good track, especially in this dubstep genre I'm very uneasy about. 

The last two tracks close the album up nicely for what is definitely an experimental offering by KoRn. We even get a bagpipe and dubstep solo at the end of the last track, "Bleeding Out" which was produced by Feed Me. What I can't really review is the two bonus tracks that I had on my album, which are "Fuels the Comedy" and "Tension", it's a shame these songs aren't actually featured on the album as I think they're two of the best songs on the CD. If you do decide to pick up "The Path of Totality" I'd recommend you get the copy with these tracks on as they're awesome. 

Overall this album is not for everyone. It really depends on a few things whether or not I'd recommend you get it. The first question really depends on how open you are to dubstep, to experimentation with the genre. If you want to hear something different, something that you've probably never heard before in metal, then get it. If you like KoRn and dubstep, chances are high you'll like this album, it's a great piece of work in my eyes. I really like listening to this album, despite not really liking dubstep overall. But if you're closed to the idea of dubstep, experimentation and anything that KoRn do that don't have their vintage sound, then this album simply isn't for you. There's a reason why this album has got a range of strongly negative to strongly positive reviews across the board. It's just simply like nothing metal has seen before. And you have to give great credit to KoRn for thinking outside of the box, for taking that bold step for metal as a genre that no other artist has done before, for mixing with dubstep. 

It's up to you and I to decide now if it's been a success. In my eyes I think it has. But one thing is more important than my opinion on this album, and your opinion on this album. What's more important is how this album will be perceived in the future. Will more metal bands take the plunge into fusing with dubstep? Is it going to be become the norm of the future? Or is it going to be reected, put to the scrapheap, and be listed on many top 10 lists of failures in the metal genre? No one knows for sure, if you like the sound or not, no one knows. But the future of metal, as I emphasise in my article here, is definitely heading in a very odd direction. "The Path of Totality" gives us a possible insight to what direction it may or may not be heading in.

Rating: ****1/4 stars
Stand out tracks: "Get Up!", "My Wall", "Let's Go"

Here's the music video for the first single, "Get Up!":
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