Review: Korn’s Sterling + Intriguing ‘The Nothing’ Captures the Sound Of Grief
Turn off the lights. Just sit there. Listen, front to back.
Those are instructions from Korn vocalist and songwriter Jonathan Davis himself on how to approach the band’s 13th record, The Nothing. Settle in for a while, alone and in the dark. Occupy the same space Davis did when he wrote the record: the depths, the black, the void. That’s where The Nothing lives—under Death’s thumb. And that’s where Davis has been since he lost his wife, Deven Davis, in August of 2018.
The devastation of this tragedy can be felt acutely in the album opener, “The End Begins.” It’s a funeral dirge that ends not with guitars or drums but with sobbing, wailing and real sounds of despair, as Davis reveals in an interview with Loudwire.
Korn’s 13th record is the exact sound of the grieving process, which anyone who has lost someone close to them can understand. Each song documents the different stages and cycles of grief exactly as they came to Davis; they are snapshots of precise moments in time. Some songs, such as “Cold,” are forceful and rebellious, pushing back against pain and fate. Others, such as “The Darkness is Revealing,” are questioning and unsure. Each track — and the record as a whole — pulls and pushes like a tide. Small, quiet, contemplative moments get squashed by boisterous choruses and breakdowns on a dime, like tsunamis crashing on sand. There is a constant, tangible sense of disorientation and tension that is exceptionally authentic to loss.
One of the most powerful musical moments arrives at the climax of “Idiosyncrasy,” during which Davis shouts/screams, “God is making fun of me / He’s laughing out there / I can see.” He does this repeatedly, each time with a different inflection, growing angrier and more desperate.
There are many strong emotions present throughout The Nothing, but the only other sentiment that matches “Idiosyncrasy” in its extreme intensity is comprised of just two words: “I failed.” This phrase runs like a current from the beginning of the record until the very end with the closer “Surrender To Failure.” Breathing unsteadily, on the edge of tears, half speaking and half singing — this is how Davis ends the record. He and the listener are virtually in the same spot he was in at the beginning of the record; not much has changed. The feeling of failing a loved one prevails, only this time, we are left to sit with it. We get the feeling, though — or maybe this is wishful thinking — that the silence at the end of the song reveals a hint of acceptance, despite the overwhelming sense of defeat.
Korn fan or not, no one can deny that The Nothing is an extraordinarily emotional and well-written record. It beats out hundreds of bands’ second, third, or fourth records by a mile. There is absolutely no sense of sluggishness or lack of creativity even in this advanced stage in the band’s career. The Nothing proves that a band with true talent, ingenuity and intelligence can put forth just as sterling and intriguing an album 20-some-odd years down the road as they did when they first began.
The Nothing is out now via Roadrunner. Get your Korn concert tickets here.
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