Untouchables

Korn have a problem. they devoted the first part of their life to making the most extreme music they could create. Then their sick little cult sound started connecting with more kindred souls than they ever knew existed, and the mainstream they rebelled against dedicated itself to taking their sound and watering it down. And now people blame Korn for every bad rap-metal band.No wonder the topic of nearly every Untouchables song remains abuse and retaliation. On the single "Thoughtless," Jonathan Davis sings a line that even today leaps out as an extraordinarily forbidden sentiment: "I wanna kill and rape you the way you raped me." Does he literally mean this? (Davis has gone on record as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.) Or is it a metaphor for his feelings about the music biz? Either way, the song has a tremendous topical power that's bound to be contemplated or misunderstood. Korn rarely identify the "you" they're constantly battling.The band also revels in musical ambiguities. Since 1999's Issues, the quintet has refined its brutality, making Untouchables simultaneously lighter and heavier. With his background in both trailblazing funk and hard art-rock, producer Michael Beinhorn helps Korn's vicious rhythm section pound harder while expanding the band's higher frequencies with electronics and symphonics, even as its famously down-tuned guitars buzz away. Nowhere are the contrasts more pronounced than on "Hollow Life," which flip-flops between twinkly verses and slow-burning choruses of enthrallingly peculiar chords and stranger harmonies. Staying sober has enabled Davis to achieve subtleties far beyond his old death-metal belch. A cornerstone of every recovery program is the act of forgiveness. Metal's most believably tormented soul since Axl Rose clearly isn't ready for that yet, and Davis' reluctance holds Korn back from evolving even further. He hints at a change of heart when singing, "I'm thinking of thanking all the fucked people." Unfortunately, the song is called "Make Believe."

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