"Untouchables" Review

Untouchables [2002] Released: June 11, 2002
Recorded at: Conway Studio, Hollywood, California and The Village, Los Angeles, California
Band: Jonathan Davis (vocals); Munky, Head (guitar); Fieldy (bass); David (drums)
Producer: Michael Beinhorn

  "Here To Stay" won the 2003 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance.

  After THE UNTOUCHABLES, Korn can never again be accused of sounding like Limp Bizkit. Though in the past, they've often been lumped in with the likes of the Biz due to their penchant for mixing hip-hop and heavy metal, UNTOUCHABLES represents a step forward. Part of the reason may be the involvement of producer Michael Bienhorn, who old-timers will recall as a founding member of early-'80s avant rock/funk/jazz outfit Material. Whether its Bienhorn's influence or just the band's desire to progress (we're betting on a combo of both), the songs here are full of carefully delineated and sung melodies (though Jonathan Davis's sore throat from hell won't bring Frank Sinatra to mind any time soon). The attack of the guitars and drums is just as unrelenting as before, but the expanded song structures and grooves (somebody's been listening to early Killing Joke) will put the lie to all the naysayers who consigned these guys to the nu-metal scrapheap in the past.


  After a three-year break that included solo projects and soundtrack work, Korn's re-emergence in the summer of 2002 was met with great anticipation. The band delivered Untouchables, an album that shows the group building on its previous sound and emphasizing its strengths. The use of melody is more important than ever, allowing Jonathan Davis to utilize his wide palette of vocal tricks. His charismatic voice can now move from a clear-throated wail to a death metal growl with ease, lending the album a manic side that brings to mind King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime-era Faith No More. The only problem with Davis is his lyrics, which tend to fall into the "am I going crazy" trap that many of Korn's contemporaries perpetuate. This is a shame, because here he often avoids the social issues that he confronted on the first few releases. The band is far more experimental this time out, delivering Helmet-like ringing guitars that melt and morph into each other, a mix of Metallica-esque blastbeats and tight funk drumming from the constantly improving David Silveria, and memorable riffs that take the shape of dark sound structures and offer more than just a collection of chords. In fact, it is the last point where the album sets itself apart from most nü-metal offerings; Korn understands that the overall sound of hip-hop works because of the sonic stew that producers create through samples. The band does the same with instruments, cutting the chugging riffs of the past and replacing them with edgy soundscapes that are equally as menacing. There isn't even a rapped verse here, save for Davis' rhythmic scatting at moments, further distancing the band from the scene it helped create. But by cutting away some of the fat and finding new ways to deliver their trademark roar, the members of Korn manage to offer a strong and lean album that maintains their place as innovators in a genre with few leaders.



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