Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Korn "Untouchables" (2002)

Recently Ive had to revisit a particularly turbulent time in my youth and now I find myself having the perfect opportunity to talk about a record I've always wanted to get around too. Its my favorite Korn record and there was a period many years back where I couldn't listen to a song from it without being brought to tears. Fortunately I got past that and learned to embrace what had once been, allowing me to enjoy the record again. Obtaining Untouchables a while after its release, I only briefly knew of Freak On A Leash yet immediately bonded with every word Jonathan Davis was singing from his soul. I felt as if each word was everything I was going through. This was right around some of the most difficult lows Id go through and as a troubled kid trying to find themselves it offered a bitter escape and meaning.

My appreciation of this record is obviously testament to those moments, however till this day I still think this is JD's apex moment as a vocalist. His lyrics, as angst riddled and raw with pain they are, are delivered in the most soaring and soul wrenching performance. That pain and its meaning embellishes itself in the scaling heights of melody he inflects on his words, turning song after song into a truly moody and moving internal odyssey. The highs and lows, cleans and growls seem to twist and turn in an endless stream of deeply emotive singing. He frequently layers his voice to add an extra instrumental depth and the hooks, inflections and catchy-ness of it all is sublime, getting me to sing and feel it every time.

Behind him the band bottle up their most heavy and ambitious sound to date, taking their stomping sense of groove to a smothering wall of sound that has a thick tonal assault. The classic rumbling slap base of Fiedly quakes from bellow and Silveria batters his kit in tandem. Many of the songs have thudding stomps of syncopated guitar assault and the Monkey Head dynamic is disrupted as the oddball noises and creepy melodies that usually defined them get channeled into atmospheric avenue instead of the back and forth. Brilliant song writing lets the heavy gives way to rich passing of melody deployed with the help of electronic sounds too, sometimes at the same time but with less of their iconic duality. Its the perfect stage for JD to illuminate.

The album plays sweetly with no weak links, the heavy tracks are periodically broken up by the likes of Hollow Life, Hating and Alone I Breaking, deploying drum machines and hitting heavy from another angle with JD delivering more utterly sincere and heart breaking lyrics. This record barely lets up on the depressing mood but its truly therapeutic, voiced by a man battling with his inner demons head on. Untouchables finds one moment of absolute fun with the crude and enthralling Beat It Upright, a favorite. Thoughtless plays like an anthem for the trodden down and it all ends on gut wrenching high with No One's There. I could rattle on about each of the tracks distinctions for time but that is for you to discover!

Its quite sad to think critics hailed it Korn's worst album upon release. I can't comment without a heavy dose of bias but seventeen years later its still utterly engulfing and sometimes all to vivid as these songs take me back to that moment. I haven't forgotten a line of JD's words and I think for a record to be this potent after so long its got to have something more to offer. The bands first five albums are all gems, so hard to pick apart but artistically I think Jon's performance is what tips it for me. Never did he before or probably ever again give quite the scintillating performance like here.

Rating: 10/10