Middle-age malaise continues to plague Korn on their untitled eighth album, a plunge back into the dark dirges after a brief acoustic excursion on the spring 2007 placeholder MTV Unplugged. This is the true successor to the 2005 LP See You on the Other Side, where they jumped ship from Epic to Virgin and worked with the Matrix in an attempt to give the band an electronic makeover in the wake of the departure of Brian "Head" Welch, a move that didn't exactly endear them to their fans (maybe because along with the electronic flourishes came a lighter tone). Such frivolity is missing from the aggressively ugly Untitled, which immediately hits you over the head with spookiness, from the twisted malicious cartoon crows on the cover to the silly spectral carnival music that functions as an opening fanfare. That intro is an unwittingly goofy cliché, but so is Korn's roiling angst at this point, whether it materializes in their ominous minor-key grinds or in Jonathan Davis' lyrics. A virtual litany of ham-fisted histrionics ("God is gonna take me out," "It's a sickness in the gene pool," a chorus of "Killing/Killing/Killing"), those lyrics obscure any larger points Davis might (or might not) be trying to say, for it's the snatches of tortured prose that stand out, not his larger lyrical picture. Ironically, it's hard to deny that the bigger musical picture overwhelms the individual moments on Untitled, which is long on mood and short on gripping songs, or even memorable riffs. To a certain extent, this has always been true with Korn -- one of the signatures of alt-metal is that it's about sound rather than song -- but it's striking that even as the band adds some odd flourishes like vaguely Beatlesque Mellotron punctuating "Kiss," the songs blend together instead of standing apart. And even if they've retreated into darkness here, they haven't shaken the electronica fixation from See You on the Other Side -- although, admittedly, these flourishes aren't nearly as extreme as they would have been if they hadn't parted ways with the Matrix at the beginning of the project -- and this electronic bent is still apparent even if Untitled is a heavier record than its predecessor, thanks in part to the steady pulse of their partially borrowed rhythm section. Their regular drummer David Silveria has decided to sit this one out, so Korn have rotated Davis, Bad Religion's Brooks Wackerman, and Terry Bozzio (of all people) through the drummer's chair, giving the album just a shade too much professionalism in its rhythmic pulse. This, combined with layers of overdubbed baritone vocals and the elastic electronics that are meant to sound modern but wind up sounding like a relic from the mid-'90s, gives Untitled all the relevancy of an unrecorded bridge between Marilyn Manson's Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine