Album Review: KORN The Serenity of Suffering
With a twenty-six-year career and still moving forward, Korn’s The Serenity of Suffering makes for an incredible return to what made the band special. Whether we argue that Korn is considered a “metal” band, or want to complain how it helped establish nü-metal, what is important to note is that Korn helped bring heavy music more into the mainstream. They have played a significant role in helping to get more sounds and music out into the world and discovered. Looking back there is a nostalgia surrounding albums such as the self-titled and Issues; that heavy guitar pounding it out with a funk attitude and sporadic vocalization. The band was seeing a solid flow of good records for many years, that is up until the mixed reviews of Korn 3 and that thing that was The Path of Totality. The latter alone saw such a strong negative response that many started to lose hope for the band.
It wouldn’t be until the album after that the band would reunite with their original lead guitarist Brian “Head” Welch and release a pretty decent record in the form of The Paradigm Shift. Three years later we find ourselves here with the band’s twelfth release The Serenity of Suffering, and for all of you wondering if it really lives up to that hype as a return to form, the answer is… Yes! If anything this album truly captures the sounds and energy from previous records like Take a Look in the Mirror, See You on the Other Side, and Untouchables (with a small bit of Paradigm).
“Rotting In Vain” is the first time that the record begins to bring back that older vibe. There’s this creepy tip-toe effect until the guitar begins churning and the drums kick with an energy that will sure as hell cause some whiplash. There’s a great moment towards the end where Jonathan Davis does his little ape-shit vocal cries, and it just sounds glorious with the heavy beat and guitar.
“Black Is The Soul” begins with a heavier churn effect, but with a contrast of brightness coming from rhythm. There is a step back in traditional heavy sounds to make room for a hazy aura with the first real time we hear Davis do some singing. This shifts towards the end as the drum pattern flips to a more funky/hip-hop beat, the guitar returns to that thick churn, and Davis releases his roars. The song ends on that haze from the beginning, and this is really the beginning of when we start to notice how well the songs to come are balanced in their sounds.
“The Hating” also comes off with another subtle intro, but with more pronounced vocals and with a heavier guitar groove that kicks in. Here is where we see Davis balance out his vocal patterns as one moment he is laying down a hip-hop flow, to screams, to singing, back to hip-hop flow. While perhaps there are patterns repeated there and then through the album, the instrumentals and vocal patterns never become horribly repetitive. There is such a strong variety of sounds and energy going through each track that by the end of each song you already feel charged up for the next. Most of this terrific energy and style come from the guitar work and drumming.
“Everything Falls Apart” is a standout track for its excellent introduction for contrasting notes and beautiful vocals from Davis. Surrounded by a ghostly aura, there are moments where bright notes shimmer through, making the energy haunting. Towards the end (as if it were creeping up the whole time), the song kicks into a nightmare pumped beat-down. At the halfway point there has already been a strong demonstration over powerful and catchy composition and terrific balance in patterns and style.
“When You’re Not There" opens with a fierce drive in the drums. The electronic elements are more pronounced here (but are used sparingly, making them all the more effective). It is also important to note that of all the tracks on this album this song contains some of the most poetic lyrics. But that’s when we have to talk about the biggest negative for this album: Lyrics.
While vocal patterns and instrumentation are dynamic and used so well, there is nothing truly unique to find here lyrically overall. Sure, you’ll find a couple lines that really stand out to you and are relatable, but after four or five songs you’ve heard them all. Korn is one of those bands with niche lyrical themes, which is tough to blame on a band if that is what they wish to make their music about. That being said, it does take away from the wonderful variety in music heard thus far. Most noticeable as far as strong lyricism (along with the pre-mentioned “When You’re Not There”), “Black Is The Soul” and “Everything Falls Apart” stand out strong.
The Serenity of Suffering is perhaps one of (perhaps the most), catchiest album Korn has ever created. Is “catchy” what we really want to hear in the world of metal though? While we can sit here and argue whether or not Korn is metal (hell, some of them don’t even call themselves metal), they are still a heavy band. They are still a band that has produced solid work, been dragged through the mud, and in the past few years cleaned themselves off to return stronger. The Serenity of Suffering is an album that a Korn fan can truly appreciate. It contains powerful instrumentals that captures a variety of sounds and elements from across their career (even if it lacks lyrical energy). Love them or hate them, Korn has made a mark and proven their worth to stay in the game.
Stream the entire album here.