Tech N9ne - The Storm

Tech N9ne may be a sort of meme in the hip-hop industry, but his new record The Storm may help him achieve more of a serious position as an artist, because, for the most part, it's a pretty solid record.

The Storm is a bumpy ride, but it has its promising moments. The record's start is fairly strong, 'Godspeed' opening up with some good ideas. The first verse is pretty funny, which doesn't really help solidify his position, but that's only a small fault. Much of the rest of the track actually goes pretty hard, filled with some drive and confidence. 'Need Jesus' featuring Stevie Stone and JL follows through, this one really bringing the best of Tech N9ne out. The flow has a Jamaican vibe to it, adding some color and taste to the track. The hook is dark both melodically and sonically. The song is overall just darker, and it pays off as Tech N9ne has a rock and metal past.

That past is referenced towards the end of the record in 'The Needle.' It's one of the two tracks that help bring the album back up from a low. There are plenty of name drops in this track, from Jimmy Kimmel to Slipknot and Deftones. This track is thankful, discussing the memorable moments of N9ne's career. It has a solid flow, too, really standing out from the rest of the record. The final track 'The Long Way' flows with some average pop hip-hop melodies, but the instrumental helps bring it all together, ringing sweetly and dramatically under the verses an chorus.

A lot of the record is unfortunately quite forgettable. There's not really a truly awful song on the record, but there's not much that stands out. Sandwiched between very solid tracks are many run-of-the-mill tracks that don't make any memorable mark while listening through it. There are tracks with promise, too, that don't quite live up to what they could. The most pristine example is 'Starting To Turn' featuring Jonathan Davis; Davis brings all the Korn vibes into play, creepy instrumental included. Tech N9ne sounds like he's back in his element to, being carried by the heavier instrumental. The song proceeds nicely, but after the first chorus, everything falls apart before coming to a very disappointing end. The brassy instrumental of 'I Get It Now' also feels like it could've been a lot more. There's nothing other than the brass elements making the song standout, which is really disappointing. There are songs that just feel uninspired, too. All that needs to be said for that is the lyric "I'm like the L in salmon / They can't hear me." It speaks for itself.

Tech N9ne has had a long career. It doesn't sound like he's quite ready to call it quits yet, though. The Storm has a lot going for it, and while it may be largely disappointing, there are promising moments. There's something. You can give it that much.

Favorite Tracks: The Needle, Need Jesus

Least Favorite Track: No Runnin To Ya Mama, Starting To Turn

Rating: 54 / 100

Korn - The Serenity Of Suffering

I'm sure the last thing you expected to see in 2016 was a nu metal revival. After the advent of Of Mice & Men's abysmal Cold World (read our review here), you'd figure that bands would've taken the memo that it wasn't going to work out. Korn may have proved that wrong, though.

Their twelfth record The Serenity Of Suffering is a return to their nu metal roots, the album cover even containing elements of their fourth record IssuesThe Serenity Of Suffering takes everything the band once was and combines those elements with what they are now, creating a familiar yet intense body that's new yet reminiscent of another time.

The trademarks of nu metal were the anger and riffs, and that's very much present on this record. Right from the start, you're faced with 'Insane,' destructively deep riffs with various levels of distortion hitting you hard along with Korn's signature creepiness and terrified vocals from Jonathan Davis. Davis' voice is as strong as ever, his ethereal, ominous timbre elevating songs like 'Everything Falls Apart' to unheard of levels of paranoia that other bands couldn't even hope of reaching. The verses are calm, but the choruses are frantic and panicked, begging the means of an end. The bridge is even more haunting, his spoken word sounding like chants as if become increasingly angered and possessed.

The band channels some other forms of nu metal here, too. Corey Taylor features on 'A Different World,' bringing the times back to early Slipknot. The tradeoffs between him and Davis are powerful and both vocals show off their prowess. Taylor's voice falls in the line between anger and calmness - both equally terrifying - as his poetic sense of melody and rage become one. His shouts above Davis' melodic singing in the final chorus give the song a big punch.

The crown jewel of this album is 'Rotting In Vain.' The electronic intro builds creepily but won't prepare you for what's to come. We reviewed the song upon its release, but in the context of Suffering, it becomes a whole new beast. The electronics show the progression from The Path Of Totality's dubstep influences, replacing what could've been another spidery guitar line. The balance is perfect, heavy metal and electronica coming together in a fantastic way. Nothing can prepare you for how massive the riffs are. This song would be huge if it was released back in the early 2000s or late 1990s, because this is truly a nu metal epic.

Unfortunately, not is all good with the record. As is the problem with nu metal, the album becomes repetitive. There's only so much you can do with the formula of big riff into slowly intensifying verses and confident chorus. The riffs all sound the same in the second half, too. 'Next In Line' is a lesser version of the song that precedes it ('When You're Not There'). Nu metal needs innovation to become a different monster altogether - thus is the success of Linkin Park. The end of the record is exactly the reason nu metal died out - it became repetitive and there were not enough ways to combat it.

Despite it being repetitive, Korn has given the genre a solid footing for a revival. The new decade has offered a lot of potential for the genre. It's offspring post-hardcore may overshadow it in many ways, but nothing really dies forever. Take the power of The Serenity Of Suffering and put it into one or two songs, then find a way to build upon that for different songs and nu metal is back in action. Let's see if the flag can continue flying.

Favorite Tracks: Rotting In Vain, Everything Falls Apart

Least Favorite Tracks: Next In Line, Please Come For Me

Rating: 68 / 100

Korn - 'Rotting In Vain'

Korn has been through both the highs and lows of their career. Fans will remember the golden early era Korn, back when nu-metal was all the hype. Others will remember their experimental phase with contempt, especially their brief excursion with dubstep with The Path Of Totality. Since then, the band has slowly been honing their sound once more, and with another new album on the horizon, things are looking good with the new single 'Rotting In Vain'.

Progression is most easily seen when a band takes the elements that were loved of previous sounds and crafting something new, those ideas in mind while still finding a new direction to take. 'Rotting In Vain' isn't exactly progressive. Nothing necessarily new is found within the track, but it does take previous elements of Korn's music and builds a well-constructed jam.

I'm a sucker for when electronic music comes together with heavy music (thanks, Linkin Park). This is no Hybrid Theory, though; no band does that blend of heavy and electronica better than Linkin Park. The electronics in 'Rotting In Vain' are much more upfront and act as a replacement for, say, another guitar line (not to mention the guitars are drop tuned lower than a typical Linkin Park song). That being said, the melodies the electronics serve really add a lot of dimension to the song. The guitars wouldn't sound quite as immense as they do without them. It may not be the primary part of the song, but they definitely serve an important purpose.

It can't be unsaid that the riffs on this song are massive. The first riff that kicks in right after the intro buildup is immense. You can feel the earth shaking as if at a live show and the crowd jumps as this mental riff kicks in. The instrumental really kicks you in the face. The finally riff before the last chorus that is riddled with a phaser and the deep synth imitating it is perfect, too. The instrumental is a classic, epic alternative metal jam, electronics helping that come a little further. The vocal melodies support this too, though they do feel a little overdramatic. The growled vocals in the bridge could've been replaced by something a lot better, but it's Korn we're talking about here.

Speaking over overdramatic, take a look at that music video. The more I watch it, the more lost I feel. It doesn't seem to contain much meaning - just the band playing in an old, creepy house with a well-dressed man (played by Sons Of Anarchy actor Tommy Flanagan) doing some creepy things. It's one of those videos that piles in a lot of edginess in order to seem like it has meaning, where in reality they stuck Jonathan Davis in a bathtub with leaves and told him "pretend these leaves are hurting you."

Musically, Korn seems to getting back to that hold they had on metal they had in their prime. 'Rotting In Vain' feels fresh and big, still undeniably a Korn song but also feels new. With the new album The Serenity Of Suffering dropping in October, hopefully the album lives up to the hype this song has raised. If it does, we're in for a big one.

Rating: 85 / 100