Korn The Path Of Totality(Roadrunner) Buy it from Insound
When presented with something like Korn's attempt at a 'dubstep' record I suppose the only appropriate response is to laugh, not least because its release has been accompanied with numerous lol-worthy statements from frontman Jonathan Davies. Admittedly, his claim that the band weren't interested in making “gay techno music” was the very definition of the Neanderthal knuckle dragging that typified the 'nu-metal' attitude, as was his take on the recession (" I wish everyone would shut the fuck up and have some fun. Every day I've got to hear about unemployment and people starving"), but his claims that the band had somehow managed to invent both nu metal and dubstep, as well as some completely new genre that he chose to call "future metal" (whatever that is), or his attacking his own fans for being "stuck in 1994? Absolutely hilarious; after all this is a band who found a fan-base solely by providing teenage boys with the opportunity to let off some steam, essentially being the aural equivalent of furious masturbation. Their only significant cultural contribution being that they've convinced some of those same boys that all you need to be in a successful band is angst, manky-looking dreadlocks and an over-reliance on drop D tuning.
Unfortunately, it's not so easy to laugh at The Path Of Totality if you actually have to listen to it, as Davies' endless whining, self-obsessed, baseless anger gets old spectacularly quickly. Even worse, his attitudes aren't just amusingly backward, or delivered with a total lack of finesse (Tension sees him make a very late stab at the title of worst lyric of the year with the lines "I'm terrified by emotionless faces/They're all around me I want to die/I'm fucking trippin' out seeing traces/Of murderers covered in lye") but arguably dangerous - if its not the spectacularly misguided approach to politics on Get Up or the about-as-deep-as-a-Dan Brown-novel Illuminati, its the rampant misogyny that runs unchecked through much of the album, most appallingly in Chaos Lives In Everything's "Gonna take you/Gonna break you/Gonna rape you, fuck you bitch". Of course I'm not suggesting that Korn are advocating sexual assault; it is a necessity that art can sometimes go to unsettling, even repugnant places, but it should be the artist's responsibility to find a reason to justify such indulgences and unfortunately Davies is too busy feeling sorry for himself to take any interest in that - the rest of the song, and indeed much of the album, reading merely like the rantings of the sexually repressed.
Fortunately, musically speaking The Path Of Totality is nowhere near as bad. Despite Korn hooking up with dubstep (but not really – more on that in a minute) artists seeming like the most laughably misguided idea since, well, Lou Reed decided to put a metal spin on some songs he wrote about a certain fin de siècle prostitute, actually, they blend in quite well together. Korn have always been rather interested in the low end of their records so the grinding basslines provided by their collaborators seem like a fairly natural fit.
It should also be said that the artists complement each other well as they are all both incredibly formulaic and as subtle as a brick to the face; Korn's idea of dubstep being not the adventurous, evocative sounds of Burial, Zomby, or Benga, but rather the brash, it must be said mostly American, off-shoot often referred to as 'brostep'. Without wanting to seem like too much of a possessive dick about it, I do question whether dubstep is, like punk, something that really only the British can pull off, as, like thirty years ago when the nation's disaffected youth took the germs of a genre from America and twisted it into something even more savage and raw, dubstep is essentially a corruption of the brightness of American R&B, refracted through the prism of British urban decay, something which Korn and the brosteppers haven't really managed to grasp. Consequently, while never embarrassing, nothing here has much in the way of depth (perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, the closest the album comes to subtlety is Bleeding Out, a collaboration with the British producer Feed Me, although it might just seem that way as they brought in a piano for the intro).
Perhaps the most upsetting thing about the album is that it confirms that, however odious the man and his image might be, Skrillex actually does possess some talent. Amidst the rather impersonal, functional selection of beats, his contributions do genuinely stand out; Narcissistic Cannibal with its rave-like sirens and grind-saw buzzing (which to be honest could describe pretty much every Skrillex track) and even some pretty decent vocals from Davies in its insistently melodic chorus, is actually a fairly adequate song. It might have even been a good one had it not been named 'Narcissistic Cannibal' and if it didn't feature the 40 year old millionaire Davies going on about how "Everything's wrong every time" (frankly, it's a bit rich of him to accuse his fans of being stuck in the past).
It would be wrong to say that The Path Of Totality is totally worthless as it pretty much sets out in what it aims to do: the low end's fine and angry teenagers will still be able to punch their bedroom walls or wank off to it if they are that way inclined (although they'd have to do so in a slightly frenetic, polyrhythmic, rather uncomfortable way). But it is samey, ugly and spectacularly stupid at the same time, and even more damningly, when compared to this year's other unlikely metal collaboration, it makes Lulu seem like the height of good taste.22 December, 2011 - 23:51 — Mark Davison