In a back catalogue of traumatic records, Korn’s last album, 2019’s ‘The Nothing’, was their darkest yet. Prior to the writing and recording sessions, vocalist and lyricist Jonathan Davis lost his mother, followed six months later by his ex-wife Deven. With his life in a tailspin, he poured every drop his grief into the album in a futile attempt to process the un-processable – by the end of the opening track, he could be heard weeping inconsolably in the vocal booth.
On the nu-metal veterans’ new record, he’s turned a corner. What always set Korn apart from the many, many bands who tried to emulate their down-tuned, seminal sound was Davis’ willingness to put his emotions out there, chronicling the abuse and turbulence of his own upbringing over sludgy, twisted guitars. The title of ‘Requiem’’s first single, ‘Start The Healing’, was the first indication of a more positive outlook this time around. Indeed, Davis recently told NME: “I’m in a better place mentally than I’ve ever been, where I’m not in a constant state of fucking fear or anxiety or depression.” The result is an album that, for the first time in the band’s 29-year career, brims with hope.
According to guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch, Korn were going for a more hopeful, “lighter feel”, and that shows in the music – on best and brightest track, ‘Let The Dark Do The Rest’, the band’s trademark riffs give way to a melodic, dreamy bridge that’s positively pretty by their standards. Amid the newfound space, Davis sings, “I just want to see what the future holds” like a man who’s had the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders. 14 records of trying to explain life’s crueller injustices have been succeeded by acceptance and, with it, a sense of peace.
That said, Davis admits fears that his newfound happiness may be stripped away at any moment. On ‘Lost In The Grandeur’, that dread is ever-present. Buried beneath the click and clack of Reginald ‘Fieldy’ Arvizu’s bass, his vocals gurgle and murmur, only distinguishable with headphones, symbolising the niggles of doubt in his head. By closer ‘Worst Is On It’s Way’, fear is once again breathing down Davis’ neck: “I feel it coursing through the inside / I hear it breathing and I realise…”
As such, it would be a push to call this Korn’s first ‘happy’ album. More accurately, ‘Requiem’ has brought something new to a discography that, until now, has been an exploration of human suffering. It’s led to the band’s most nuanced record to date.
Release date: February 4
Record label: Loma Vista Recordings