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Korn - unplugged

2007-04-23 12:09
Don’t get too excited. Korn’s MTV Unplugged release is a product of the same line of thought that brought rock fans the now ubiquitous Nirvana Unplugged in New York (1994) and that thought is echoed in this album, from the cover art to the stripped down acoustics and vocals.

But whereas stripped down acoustics offered a fresh, beautiful take of Nirvana’s grunge sound, it’s not immediately clear whether it works here. The best-selling metal band of the last 15 years, with 30 million records sold worldwide, Korn is synonymous with high-voltage metal: a pure wall of sound crashing upon the hearer, brilliantly offset by lead singer Jonathan Davis’s disturbed aggression. Strip that away and you may wonder what’s left.

Vacillating between the hard sound they know so well and trying to tame it down to suit the new setting, Davis admits on the last track that they’re not used to the acoustic style.

But they still do well. Staged at MTV's studios in Times Square, Korn enjoys the addition of four celli, two basses, a saw player, a glass harmonica player, choir bells, and a six person Japanese taiko ensemble. The heavy distortion is replaced by intricate guitar riffs that maintain the tension necessary to Korn’s sound.

Amy Lee adds her haunting voice to “Freak on a Leash”, and the strange combination of The Cure’s sound with Korn works on “Make Me Bad/In Between Days” thanks to some experimental mixing.

Davis’ cover of Radiohead’s famed teen angst anthem, “Creep”, is disappointing. While confessing the song got him through school, he fails to add anything new to it. But he’s toned down version of “Falling Away From Me” and “Twisted Transistor” will stay with you for days, and he harnesses the aggressive energy of these songs into a more subtle yet still powerful expression.

Korn purists may take issue with the geared down versions of the songs. That said, the album, which was performed to an exclusive audience of 50, grows on one, and may prove to be a more palatable entry point for newcomers to this undoubtedly brilliant band’s music. The rest of us will have to wait for their 8th studio album, due for release in July.

- Verashni Pillay
The latest offering from Nu Metal’s poster boys is bound to get fans foaming at the mouth just from its description: an unplugged album of previous hits from a band known for their charged live performances, featuring guest appearances from the likes of The Cure and Amy Lee of Evanescence.


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