Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, but [a]Korn[/a], they’re from the Fiery Bottomless Pit Of No Escape. Listening to ‘Issues‘, you know exactly where they’re coming from. Their fourth album, destined for success among the big-shorted progeny of post-Columbine America and post-Zok Ball Britain, ‘Issues‘ is high on low self-esteem and heavy on rage.
Something of a concept album, it starts with ‘Dead‘, singer Jonathan Davis whispering, [I]”All I want in life is to be happy”[/I], as that staple rock combo of bagpipes and gospel harmonies trip-hop behind him, and ends with an interminable scree of static, a sure indicator of failure. In between, there’s lots of trying and crying and dying, lots of feeling like a whore, and lots of mentions of some nebulous, wicked [I]”You”[/I]. It’s punishing, and not in a remotely pleasant way, either.
In the years of Our Dark Lord Marilyn Manson, misery has become fun again -; “he’s behiiiind you!” terror and a spot of eyeshadow making alienation seem so much more glamorous. [a]Korn[/a], though, are still aficionados of self-help earnestness. They wear their hearts and livers on their sleeves, looming close to parody with lines as artless as, “Paranoia surrounds me/Everyone around me is out to get me”. You’d suspect them of pandering to bedroom angst were it not for the streamlined grimness, the unadorned gloom. Davis really comes over like a problem child, like in the gloopy therapy-speak of the title, he’s got issues. A former mortuary science student, you can’t help thinking a life of formaldehyde might have been the healthier option.
“Why do I have a conscience? All it does is fuck with me”, he mutters on the predatory prowl of ‘Trash’, before adding, “the little girls make me feel so goddamn exhilarated”. Manson wouldn’t dare stoop so low without a theatrical wink, but there’s no smirking here. Just relentless unhappiness.
Unfortunately, he’s not the only one with problems. The music is partly scuppered by the desperate quest of ‘alternative’ metal to be state of the art, all textures, samples, effects. The monstrous, mashed ‘Let’s Get The Party Started‘ and ‘Falling Away From Me‘ are nearly as great as Mazzer‘s ‘Cake And Sodomy‘, while ‘Wake Up‘ and ‘Hey Daddy‘ are pure lead and vitriol. Yet too much of the rest is grey rather than black, made faintly irritating by Davis‘ fluctuation between Satan-built-my-mountain-bike growl and lost-child-in-the-apocalyptic-wasteland operatics. Yes, we hear it has a lot of anger in it and yes, we (caring smile) take that on board. [a]Korn[/a] are in a state, sure. The art, though, is elsewhere.