Requiem maintains Korn’s reliable floor, even as the record feels notably too safe.
A remarkably consistent band, all things considered, Korn is still with us in 2022, 14 albums deep, having never gone more than 3 years without releasing a project. At this point, the band remains pretty firmly in their lane, playing to a longstanding, devoted fanbase and a critical community based out of metal blogs and rock-centric magazines for several album cycles now (2011’s forward thinking, EDM-influenced The Path of Totality being their last notable shake-up). This more consistent, post-canonized version of Korn has persisted even up through the recent personal tragedies and tumult endured by band mastermind Jonathan Davis, who confronted fresh loss in ragged, ultra-confessional fashion on 2019’s The Nothing, and now again on the more refined Requiem. The Nothing was rather daring in the way it gave audiences uncomfortably direct access to Davis rather immediately in the wake of the untimely passing of his wife, Deven Davis, the opening track infamously concluding with the sounds of Jonathan’s unrestrained weeping.
A few years removed from that project, Requiem pulls back from such bold, emotional exclamations, maintaining a noticeable dour streak, but refocusing on sturdy songcraft. A compact, nine-song release that clocks in at a concise 32 minutes, Requiem was seemingly born from the wealth of time afforded by the Covid quarantine, in which they supposedly experimented and tweaked their aesthetic to considerable effect. But what appears on the final, released version of this album doesn’t really represent any sort of great strides in musicality or style for Korn; if anything, Requiem is surprisingly restrained, Davis still championing a deeply pessimistic worldview, but here at more of a remove, suggesting that perhaps these long, free-flowing Covid sessions more specifically shaped the project’s emotional register (after all, the vocalist/producer has long adamantly defined music-making as his therapy).
For as much as they’ve been derided over the years, Davis and the present-day members of Korn haven’t ever really lost sight of or misunderstood their music’s appeal, at worst slipping into redundancy. Requiem doesn’t contradict this pattern, a solid Korn album that effectively works the bands’ established sonic tricks, though with something of a diminished sense of imagination. Second track “Let the Dark Do the Rest” quickly falls into an easy hard rock melody that sounds more akin to the songwriting of a lesser Korn descendant like Shinedown, for instance, while closers “My Confession” and “Worst Is on Its Way” are more definitively creations of this band, but not totally distinguishable. The bulk of Requiem’s problems lie more in the latter camp than the former; that is, it often feels confident but overly safe, with Davis’ earnest, unashamed lyricism generally the highlight, retaining some of The Nothing’s bruising quality while (pleasantly) surprising with silly D&D-style imagery. It’s certainly not Korn’s most substantial project, but there remains a quality floor the reliable musicians never really dip under.
Published as part of Album Roundup — February 2022 | Part 2.