I've been a Korn fan since Life Is Peachy, well over a decade ago. Since that album, they've never been as aggressive, and have opted for multi-layered sound effects to enhance the atmospheric element of their music. That approach worked fairly well on their first three (largely underrated) albums of the millenium, but fell apart on 2007's untitled album.
So, I was glad to see their new album billed as Korn III - Remember Who You Are and the band's return to the producer from their first two records. It's a statement that they were going to ignore everything that happened from 1998's Follow the Leader on, and get back to their more metal-oriented roots.
Well, in some ways it delivers on that promise, and in others it doesn't. It is certainly stripped of all the artificial atmospherics and layered vocals, resulting in a more raw sound. But the music-writing is still definite new-millenium material. The only time they really hint at the sound of their debut is a few moments during the intro of "Lead the Parade".
It also becomes apparent early on that all the sound effects were an effective crutch, now that they're a guitar player short.
Despite those disappointments, this is still a vast improvement over their last release. After an intro, it starts out with some great grooves on "Oildale" (a highlight of the album) and the start to "Pop a Pill" before experimenting with some minimalist structures, a tactic which ends up relying too much on Jonathan Davis's unaided voice to work. "Fear Is a Place To Live" and "Move On" are uninteresting.
After "Lead the Parade" the album finally really gets going with "Let the Guilt Go", which sounds like a stripped-down version of an Untouchables track.
More grooves and some excellent bass-playing follow on "The Past" and "Never Around"; I never realized how important Fieldy is to the success of this band. "Are You Ready To Live?" reminds us why the judicious injection of hip hop into metal sometimes works (with stress on judicious), and "Holding All These Lies" is a classic emotional closer in their long tradition.
So, if you followed all that, it starts off with a good track, drags on for a few, and then picks up again halfway through to finish fairly strong.
The Verdict: While not what they seemed to promise, Korn III is a vast improvement over the untitled album and a step in the right direction. The next step is to get a second guitar player (or at least a session musician) so this approach will work better next time. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.