"Issues - CD1" Review

Issues - CD1 [1999] Released: November 16, 1999
Recorded at: Los Angeles Studio
Band: Jonathan Davis (vocals, bagpipes); Munky, Head (guitar); Fieldy (bass); David (drums)
Producer: Brendan O'Brien

  The music of Korn speaks to those on the fringes of society. The band's trademark hip-core has evolved into a more clearly defined but equally urgent musical vision. The band's sense of musical urgency and its ambition to make its mark on music is furthered with ISSUES.
"Beg for Me" is a track likely to incite the swirling pits at the band's legendary live shows. Showing that the group hasn't lost its down-to-earth sensibility, Korn invited fans to compete for the cover art of ISSUES, releasing versions featuring the winning piece as well as the efforts of three finalists. The emotional journey undergone by vocalist Johnathan Davis on tracks like "Hey Daddy" is truly strengthened by his movement away from his more abrasive vocal style and toward a more dominantly melodic approach. Davis digs more deeply into his tortured emotions on efforts such as "No Way," where he sings: "lately things aren't going my way / lately everything is gray / it feels like something / it feels like nothing." That hazy emotional landscape is what strikes a responsive chord with Korn fans and makes ISSUES a landmark album.


  Released in the fall of 1999, when Korn was in danger of being overshadowed by such protégés as Limp Bizkit, Issues reaffirms the group's status as alt-metal leaders, illustrating that the true difference between Korn and their imitators is their mastery of sound. Korn is about nothing if not sound. Sure, Jonathan Davis doesn't merely toss off lyrics but in the end, it doesn't matter since voice and the various words that float to the surface simply enhance the mood. Similarly, the band doesn't really have any distinguished riffs or hooks -- everything each member contributes adds to the overall sound -- so, casual listeners can be forgiven if they think the songs sound the same, since not only do the tracks bleed into one other, the individual songs have no discernible high points. Each cut rises from the same dark sonic murk, occasionally surging forward with volume, power and aggression. It's mood music -- songs don't matter, but the foreboding feeling and gloomy sounds do. To a certain extent, this has always been true of Korn albums, but it's particularly striking on Issues because they pull off a nifty trick of stripping their sound back to its bare essentials and expanding and rebuilding from that. They've decided to leave rap-metal to the likes of Limp Bizkit, since there is very little rapping or appropriation of hip-hop culture anywhere on Issues. By doing this, they have re-emphasized their skill as a band, and how they can find endless, often intriguing, variations on their core sound. Issues may not be the cathartic blast of anger their debut was, nor is it as adventurous as Follow the Leader, but it better showcases the sheer raw power of the band than either.



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