Korn makes it known from the very first chords of the opener "Forgotten" that their nü-metal elder selves remember exactly who they are. Their 14th album wallops with the hallmarks of classic Korn, from the dual guitars rumbling with a massive low-end crunch and their shimmery, high-note-counterparts, to a metallic and groovy rhythm section. Its nine tracks groove hard and Jonathan Davis' vocal performance remains intensely introspective, of course with his signature beatboxing thrown in there.
Back to the opener – "Forgotten" slaps like a modern classic. It leers in with a tritone-based riff a bit similar in music theory to "Falling Away From Me," but with more of an off-kilter bounce, and enough character to stand on its own legs. Songs like "Forgotten" swing with that prime headbanging rhythm, which is a consistency notable through out the entire album.
"Don't feel bad for me," screams Jonathan Davis. "Now all that's left is forgotten."
"Let The Dark Do The Rest" kicks off with a thick, pulsating groove, highlighted by a delay pedal-drenched guitar lead. Its chorus shines with a really memorable vocal melody from Mr. Davis.
"You…make….me sick" bellows Davis on this one.
Requiem seems like an aggressive meditation on hurting, which isn't too shocking considering Korn is known to tackle their inner turmoil head on. This quality often separate them from other metal bands. But Requiem hits at a more visceral level. Davis even acknowledges, "I know this all sounds so cliché," in the track "Lost In The Grandeur." Yet, Requiem seems anything but contrived.
Classic records like Follow The Leader and Issues swarmed with a youthful, drug-fueled angst of twenty-something year-olds. Requiem, twenty-something years later, hits with a deeper weight. After all, Korn have dealt with some real heavy shit in their personal lives: the loss of loved ones, catching COVID on tour in 2021 multiple times, and their long-serving bassist Fieldy taking a break from the band after the recording of this album. I'm not sure if Requiem is a concept album, but the track list certainly reveals serious doom and gloom in line with everything that's happened to the band. Or at least titles like "Disconnect," "Lost and Beaten," "Penance To Sorrow," "Worst Is On Its Way," lend themselves to the idea that it's a concept.
Ultimately, Korn sees the other in adversity with a searing album as they take a look in the mirror,and explore their vulnerability. Songs like "Hopeless And Beaten" pummel with a sludgy power chord assault that wouldn't be out of place on a Crowbar record. It's got an especially harrowing mid-section, perhaps acting as a the dramatic turning point of this album, as it falls a bit past the midway point on track six. "My Confession" sounds like it could have been written 20 years ago, and I mean that in the best way. The guitars rattle off a claustrophobic barrage of squelchy tones and stress notes on this in a way only Korn can pull off with such moody style.
If there's any criticism for this album, it' mostly that the single "Start The Healing" sounds a hair formulaic. It's got the hooks, but the chorus struck a bit of a butt rock vibe, at least for this reviewer's tastes. However, its lyrics focus on the themes of dealing with pair with a touch of optimism, succeeding in letting the audience in on what the rest of the album has in store.
Another things –a quick word of praise for Jonathan Davis. This dude's pipes still deliver with plenty of bite. He sings, growls and yells throughout Requiem, but with enough clarity for one to discern the lyrics by ear, which is always appreciated. He even busts out his "MMMM DING-A DUH-DINGA" scat vocals on the closing track, "Worst Is On Its Way," serving as an exclamation point on this record, and a throwback to their hit "Freak On A Leash."
Overall, Requiem is another return to excellent form for Korn. Its nine tracks flow with crisp focus, and every song is in that sweet spot of around four minutes. Both casual Korn fans and nü-metal freaks should feel jazzed about this effort. Let the healing begin!