Surviving a shaky decade that produced a couple decent albums and few identity crises, Korn bring it back to basics on their 12th full-length, The Serenity of Suffering. It's both a reminder that Korn are the masters of this particular universe and also fiercely dedicated to its fans. Inasmuch as the Korn faithful are capable of fuzzy feelings, Serenity delivers goose bumps for those who have stuck with the band since the '90s. Diehards will notice that Jonathan Davis and the gang have brought things back to the Issues/Untouchables era -- especially on "Take Me" and "Everything Falls Apart" -- when Korn perfected the combination of nu-metal brutality, desperate vulnerability, and spook show creepiness (in fact, the Issues doll -- now wrapped in stitched-up skin with exposed ribs -- makes a prominent appearance on Serenity's album art). Without pandering to career-peak nostalgia, Korn deftly execute all the hallmarks that have come to define their sound. Davis' vocals are the best they've been in years, bringing back his feverish scatting on the apocalyptic "Rotting in Vain" and unleashing intensely visceral bellows on the bloodletting "The Hating" (his bagpipes, however, are unfortunately absent). Head and Munky's renewed guitar partnership also has its groove back, amplifying the disturbing atmospherics with unnerving effects and familiar riffs. Underneath it all, Fieldy, Ray Luzier and DJ C-Minus maintain that propulsive and elastic whiplash assault, like on the scratched-up "Next in Line" and "Black Is the Soul," which lurches through a minefield of percussion and dissonance. Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour) makes a marquee cameo on "A Different World," providing a brutal hardcore foil to Davis' damaged wail. Adding Taylor's fury over Korn's bludgeoning backdrop is as dangerous and unhinged as genre fans could imagine. Produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Marilyn Manson, Deftones, Evanescence), The Serenity of Suffering is a welcome return to a time when Korn were at the top of their game. It's one of their best albums, almost heart-warming in its cathartic familiarity.
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AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung