sat 20/07/2024

Korn, Brixton Academy | reviews, news & interviews

Korn, Brixton Academy

Korn, Brixton Academy

The Californian four-piece bring the dubstep... and a large sack of riffs

Korn giving us 'the evils'

To dubstep or not to dubstep, that was the question perplexing the nearly 5000 metalheads jammed into the Brixton Academy to see Korn.

The California four-piece made their name as purveyors of "nu metal" in the mid-Nineties (like old metal - but with funkier rhythms), and they’ve done extremely well, topping the album charts in the States and around the world. They have always reinforced their sound with funk and hip-hop stylings, but their latest album, The Path of Totality, their 10th, pushed unexpectedly far into the snarling world of dubstep (of the post-Skrillex variety).

Throughout the night I heard much debate between muscular, heavily tattooed men, weighing up “the old stuff” against Korn frontman Jonathan Davis’s desire to remain cutting edge. There was no conclusive opinion on the matter. An exchange in the Brixton Academy gentlemen’s toilets consisted of two very metal fellows standing at the urinals earnestly assessing dubstep. "I want to get my head round it,” said one. They were interrupted by a young black guy, a Brixton Academy barman, who said, “Nah, nah, dubstep was fine until the Americans came and ruined it. Did you know where dubstep started? South London.”

It sounds tightly crafted but mechanical and with no nuance. Why don’t they do something different for a bit?

Jonathan Davis may wish to quibble as he recently stated his band were “dubstep before there was dubstep”, a preposterous claim, but I can only admire the balls of Korn hitching their mega-heavy rock sound to the latest electronic bandwagon. It’s hardly an obvious commercial option, whatever opinions are on the results.

Before Korn appear, the gig could have been a rave, albeit a very pierced-up, Gothy one; walls of LEDs strobe the crowd as hooded support act Downlink’s laptop smashed us with super-tough bass-crunch and wob-wob-wob. There’s dancing and much less arms-folded “what’s-this-shit?” attitude than expected.

Korn amp up the rave visuals, and open with the giant funkin’ drum beat of “Predictable”, their rhythms rooted in the elastic interplay between drummer Ray Luzier and stocky, dreadlocked bass demon “Fieldy” Arvizu, who looks like a cartoon LA skate-metaller (indeed, an animated version of Korn once appeared on South Park). The former is dwarfed behind a gigantic sci-fi kit, a match for Davis’s trademark mic-stand, “The Bitch”, which he co-designed with HR Giger and which looks like a giant video-game handset. He cuts a svelte figure, skinnier than his associates in his casual black jumper top.

For “No Place to Hide” the lights go ultraviolet to reveal that Arvizu’s bass has bright-green fluorescent strings. The drummer does a robot dance at his stool. Someone is smoking weed next to me, both brave and foolhardy at a gig these days. Then the visuals hit again - it could be Sheffield's Gatecrasher club at it’s 1999 trancing peak. Except not, due to the riffs James “Munky” Shaffer is wrenching from his guitar, a juddering pummelling, and Davis is sneer-shouting and growling “Won’t you get the fuck out of my face NOOOW!” (“Good God” is the song.)

There is a second guitarist behind Arvizu. He seems to be trapped at the back of the stage, leaping about in the shadows, perhaps hoping for a little attention, and there’s a keyboard player who comes into his own as the show bursts into its dubstep section. The LEDs go madder and the crowd is up for the Skrillex-produced monsters “Chaos Lives in Everything” and especially “Get Up”, with a mass yelling of its chorus, “Shut the fuck up, get up”. There are more in a similar vein. Mostly though, despite all the effects and despite the gigantic electronic underlay, the death-metal riffing remains predominant, winding about Arvizu’s slappy basslines.

There are lots of women here, really dancing, clearly finding it sensuous and funky. It doesn’t sound that way to my ears. It sounds tightly crafted but mechanical and with no nuance. Why don’t they do something different for a bit? The people around me would probably say the same thing if they went to see the Chemical Brothers.

They play Pink Floyd’s 'Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)' and suddenly it all goes football terrace chant-along

Proper metal doesn’t give a fuck what theartsdesk thinks or indeed any other mainstream media. Metal bands, Korn amongst them, develop a relationship directly with their fans, touring hard, building it up, a ritualised angry sound imitative of personal rebellion, an outsider community, and Korn’s crew are livelier than most, a broad range of ages, from teens to fiftysomethings.

Korn move onto their best-known material and moshing explodes everywhere, women and (mostly) men throwing each other playfully about as the band tear into “Here to Stay” and “Freak on a Leash”.

Then they play Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” and suddenly it all goes football terrace chant-along. It’s turgid and the guitar solo tops it off. Korn wander off, only for Jonathan Davis to reappear playing the bagpipes. “There’s no need for that,” says my mate Neil. Yet it’s an appealingly surreal sight, a prog-rock touch beneath the bright-white LED panels. A military tattoo announces Korn are into their final run, kicking off with the nursery-rhyme catchy “Shoots and Ladders” and then into the Red Hot Chili Peppers-ish bounce of “Got the Life” with it’s exhortations that we should dance and get our “boogie on”. It’s a good effort but doesn't make me want to dance. Korn have added impressive bells'n'whistles to their sound and to their show, and deliver it with impeccable crowd-rousing energy, but at the core of it all most of their set remained curiously non-contagious.

Watch the video for "Get Up"


Despite all the effects and despite the gigantic electronic underlay, the metal riffing remains predominant


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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