*** General First Impression of the Album ***
Is this CD bad? No. Definitely not. It's Korn, so they pretty much earn two stars for that right off the bat. However, this album fails to do what it promises: return to Korn's roots. Is it more old-school-sounding than their untitled album? Yes. Is it better than their untitled album? In my opinion, no.
I guess it really all comes down to what kind of Korn fan you are. I've always preferred their trippy, experimental stuff. Don't get me wrong; I love heavy Korn. "Kill You" is one of my favorite songs, period. Sadly, that "pain and rage and fear" Jon felt is kind of missing. Or, at least, it's become harder for him to find original lyrics for those feelings. But can you really blame the guy?
The last track ends with Jon crying. While he could have been emotional enough for this to take place, the song definitely doesn't carry the same build-up that "Daddy" or "Kill You" did. Therefore, it's much easier to assume that the crying is artificial. I'm not saying it is, but I can't 100% believe that it isn't, either.
If you want to hear old-school Korn, you should really stick to the first two albums. Heck, wasn't "Take a Look in the Mirror" supposed to be Korn's return to form? Honestly, even though that album had some crappy tracks, it was heavier than this one.
"Korn III" has its share of fillers, too. The only songs that really stuck out to me are "Pop a Pill," "Let the Guilt Go," "The Past," and "Are You Ready to Live?" Even those tracks suffer from some unnecessary moments. Were they just trying to break the three-minute mark? Who knows?
The guitars are definitely not old-school Korn. You can't really accomplish that without Head, sorry to say. He and Munky have stated themselves that, when they played guitar together, it was as if one player were on the stage. They shared the same mind, it seemed. That is gone. Munky is an amazing guitarist, but he really shines in areas that were already explored on the untitled album and "See You on the Other Side." Just watch the Special Edition DVD and you'll see that Munky experimented a lot, used a lot of guitars that the band wouldn't have even considered in their early days. In my opinion, they should have only used the gear they carried back then.
Ray doesn't hurt the band at all. In fact, the few moments on this album where the drums had the spotlight were very nostalgic to me, and he wasn't even in the original line-up. I think part of Korn's problem now is that their songs have become crowded. On their older material, the drums would carry the song, with the guitars only coming in now and then. Head would play a riff; Munky would follow it. Eventually, they would come together and it would be breathtaking. Now, guitars permeate every song nearly all the way through. There's never a breather, never a moment to just hear the bass or feel the drums. At least it never felt that way to me.
However, Fieldy's bass is definitely more present than it has been on the last two albums, for those who were disappointed about that. And Jonathan's singing? Well, it's still good. But this album features his more modern sound. High-pitched, soft moments. Catchy choruses that you see coming. A few times he sings a bit more erratically, and that vaguely reminds me of the old stuff. But there's no scat, no bagpipes, none of that. And his voice has been noticeably higher in general since "Life is Peachy." I wonder why that is.
Anyway, this review has been a bit long-winded, but I wanted to share all of my thoughts for those who are interested. I'm sure many people will disagree with this review and bash me in the comments, and I'm sorry to those people. Korn is awesome, and I still love this CD. However, I would have loved it more if it weren't constantly marketed as a return to form. They should have just come out of left field and surprised us. Instead, "Korn III" is kind of underwhelming. I think they were having more fun on their last two albums, personally. At least it sounded that way.
*** Track-by-Track Analysis after Repeated Listens ***
This is an interesting introduction, and it flows nicely into "Oildale." However, it doesn't quite fit a Korn album, in my opinion, especially if they're going for that old-school sound. "Uber-Time" strikes me as something that could be on a Radiohead album, if it were a bit more polished. Is that a bad thing? Not really, but why call an album Korn III if it really sounds more like Korn VI? Definitely strikes me as more of an "Untouchables" move than a "Life is Peachy" one.
A good song, but nothing really amazing compared to what they've done before. The only noteworthy part is the bridge, where Jon gives us a sample of his once-characteristic erratic singing. Otherwise, the chorus gets old quick, and the song isn't anything too special, in my opinion. The end features some nice picking by Munky that isn't heard on the radio version. Again, this is nice, but not very characteristic of their old sound.
3. Pop a Pill
This track is probably the closest to sounding like old Korn. The riff is catchy as hell, as are the vocals. For some reason (probably Jon's stellar delivery during the verses) this track doesn't seem anywhere near as sing-songy as some of the others, though. The way Jon screams "Look at this!" is pretty incredible. There's some nice use of the drums, as well, and the bridge delivers.
4. Fear Is a Place to Live
Verse-wise, this song is kind of old-school sounding. Chorus-wise, this makes "See You on the Other Side" seem like "Life is Peachy." The guitars are almost psychedelic and the vocals are very poppy, not to mention that the chorus is repeated at least a thousand and three times. There are some cool sections toward the end where Jon screams, but the hook interrupts them again and again, which leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
5. Move On
This song isn't bad, but it's kind of hard to take seriously. The theme of the song is that Jon never takes the time to please himself; he's much too busy pleasing everyone else. That may be true, but is that really Korn-worthy material? The verses are kind of neat, but the chorus is, once again, hyper-catchy. This doesn't mean that I don't like it. On the contrary, it's very good. I'm only pointing out that this album has more in common with "Take a Look in the Mirror" than their '94 debut.
6. Lead the Parade
I really don't like this song. Just because you sing like a madman in the pre-chorus doesn't mean that this is old-school Korn, Jon. The intro guitar riffs are dull and dry (a la "Take a Look in the Mirror"). The verse guitars bring Green Day to mind more than anything else. I'm not saying this as an insult; I mean it wholeheartedly. The way the guitars are strummed and the pedal effect that Munky is using seriously reminds me of Green Day. On the special edition DVD, you can clearly see him using a standard six-string guitar (looks like a Fender) to accomplish the sound. Since when did Korn abandon the seven-string Ibanez, eh? There is a somewhat cool bridge in which the drums come forward. That part, more than almost any other section of the album, makes me think of the old Korn, mostly because the guitars aren't being constantly shoved down my throat. Otherwise, the song is really odd, in my opinion.
7. Let the Guilt Go
This song is cool, overall. The first verse comes in with a punch and doesn't let up. The pre-chorus is dark and simple: "Let the guilt go. Let the guilt go." The chorus is catchy but great. Seems to me that this song could have been ripped from "Follow the Leader," apart from the interesting break-down in the bridge section. My favorite part of this album might be when Jon sings of "constantly thinking, and thinking, and thinking." That's where it's at.
8. The Past
This song is nothing like '94 Korn, but I love it. It might be my favorite on the album. "Follow the Leader" guitars start the track off, and I can't complain about that. The main riff of this song is very catchy without sacrificing any heaviness. I'm probably going to catch some flack for this, but the verse guitars remind me of (in a good way) Limp Bizkit. And when I say that, I'm talking Wes Borland's best work, during the "Significant Other" era. This comparison may also be coming to mind because of Jon's vocal delivery during the verses. It's not quite singing, but it's not quite rapping, either. It's somewhere in-between. Think LB's "Rearranged" and you might see what I mean. Personally, I love that quality to this song, and the chorus is great, too. "Can't you see the pain in my eyes? Can't you see the betrayal in disguise? I can't live with all your lies again. I can't trust anything, even you, my friend."
9. Never Around
I'm not a big fan of this song apart from the opening guitars and the pre-chorus. "The lying, the cheating, the hellish nights alone while I am weeping..." Awesome stuff. Then, the chorus comes. "Let go, and I will truly be free. Just let go, and I'll release the disease." What? Not only is this catchy to the point of frustration, but the lyrics come across as over-simplistic. The song loses me there.
10. Are You Ready to Live?
Though this is yet another song about Jon's people pleasing tendencies, I can't help but like it. The verses are great. We finally get to hear some whispery vocals from Jon again. It's been too long. The chorus, though catchy, is delivered with a vocal force that lends strong credibility. Plus, the lyrics are great in comparison to most of the other tracks on this album. What really makes this song stick out, however, is its unpredictability. A soft, beautiful bridge comes out of nowhere (twice!) and Jon delivers some of his best vocals. "Are you ready to live? Are you ready to die? All I do is give. Am I wasting my time?" You can feel Jon's emotion while he sings this part in particular, which is why he probably broke down while performing this song during the Encounter concert. The verses, too, are intricate and interesting. The guitars come and go; the drums go in some unexpected directions. Overall, a great song.
11. Holding All These Lies
In my opinion, this is a very disappointing song to end the album on. "Are You Ready to Live?" is, in my opinion, much more emotional, if it weren't for Jon's crying at the end of this song. When you really think about it, though, the crying is a bit convenient. Jon hasn't cried since the end of the last Ross Robinson produced album. And now, years later, he cries at the end of... his next Ross Robinson produced album? Come on, now. The lyrics are very good, overall, and the vocal delivery is fine. However, I just can't really get into this song. The chorus pulls me out a little. The verses seem to build to an explosion of rage, but the rage never comes. The chorus is just as simple as anything else on the record and offers no real emotional content. In fact, the best part of the song is a semi-solo from Munky towards the end. Jon does scream a little during the finale, but it's actually tamer than the rest on Korn III, so why the sudden outburst? Sure, it's possible, but it's hard for me to buy it. Sorry, Jon.
12. Trapped Underneath the Stairs (special edition)
Wow. Why isn't this on the regular version? This is the only song with guitars that REALLY do call to mind the first two albums. They sound almost like turntable scratching, just like the good ol' days. The chorus is, again, a little too catchy, but it's awesome nonetheless. Plus, Jon delivers the line, "Remember who you are." Seems to me that this song should have started the album off. It would have made a much better single than "Oildale," too. What's with you, Korn? This one deserved a place among the others. It's certainly one of my favorites.
13. People Pleaser (special edition)
Okay, okay. We get it, Jon. You spend all your time pleasing everyone else. Perhaps the recurring theme is why this song was left off the album. However, it still rocks. The guitars are dark and heavy, with high notes coming in now and then that remind me of "Follow the Leader" all the way. The vocal delivery in the verses is incredible and certainly calls to mind the early days. In fact, the two b-sides are more old-school-sounding than anything on the ACTUAL album. What's the deal? I think they could have released just those two songs on an EP named "Korn III" and called it a day.
14. Blind [live] (special edition)
It's "Blind." But live. Nothing special.
So there you have it. My long-winded but thorough analysis of Korn's latest album. I hope that it has been helpful or interesting in some way. I know that I have badmouthed some of the band's work on this release, but I am still a huge fan and will buy their next album the day it comes out. I just want them to find their way back to pure originality. I'm not sure how they're going to get there, but I think they were closer to the path with "Untitled." Regardless, this album is more fun (in some ways) than "Untitled" and definitely worth a listen if you've followed the band in the past. If you're a newcomer who liked "Oildale," then this is certainly worth your money, as that song was one of the least memorable on the album. Enjoy.