Papa Roach - 'Crooked Teeth'

It's been an interesting few records for Papa Roach. 2012's The Connection ushered the band into a newer, more modern sound that combined their alternative rock and nu metal past with poppier tones and electronic. 2015 followed up with F.E.A.R., a dynamic album that saw electronics and rock blend with more sense of melody and energy.

They're on the brink of another record, due out in 2017, and it's continuing the trend. The band has shared 'Crooked Teeth,' the first track from the as-of-now unnamed album. The song builds off the band's alternative rock midlife and progresses into some new elements.

The dynamic of the song is what really stands out strongly above the rest. The song is introduced by a big powerchord and powerful drumming, leading into a high energy, angry verse on the brink of screaming from Jacoby Shaddix. The chorus sounds melodically and powerfully like something you'd hear from the alternative rock scene in the mid-2000s. The powerful drums drive the song throughout the track as Shaddix yells powerfully.

Electronica is still very much present; in fact, it's further developed on this track than the band has yet dabbled in. There's elements of trap music in the song, right at the beginning of the second verse: powerful drums and big guitars take a break so that a deep, bassy beat can instead fill in under Shaddix's paranoid delivery of "Caved in, hyperventilating... I feel my devil trying to creep back in." The song kicks back in with full force instrumentally to take the song out to the end.

'Crooked Teeth' is a pretty big track. It's somehow maturer than past efforts have been while still maintaining the band's core sounds. Their next record is shaping up to be a big one for the band. Papa Roach may finally be settling the score with their 'Last Resort' past and make it big with a whole new sound.

Rating: 80 / 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

Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory

The turn of the century marked big changes for the world, and for music. Evolution occurred right from the start, yet nu-metal was carrying over from the 90s to truly dominate the first few years of the 2000s. The most prolific band from that era was Linkin Park their brand of nu-metal fused with elements of electronica and hip-hop made Hybrid Theory one of the most important records of the 2000s, and, by extension, all time.

Hybrid Theory changed more than just music - it changed lives. From the angst ridden rebellion of the brutal bridge of 'One Step Closer' to the personal, scared feeling of 'Crawling', Linkin Park hit people in more ways than most were doing at the time. Most people will put it off as just another angsty album of that era, but they miss so much more. From start to finish, this album made its mark in history and in many people's hearts.

1) Papercut: Fans of the band will always cherish the opening drum beat and distorted synth in their hearts. Whether it be from the live scene or just a casual listen, the beginning of the song is perhaps as iconic as the album itself. Mike Shinoda's verses are riddled with paranoia as random harmonies and voices punch in and out in all directions, the thick, drop-tuned guitars providing dynamic throughout its play time. The band's elements all come together in the epic conclusion, Joe Hahn's scratches adding extra percussion on top of Chester Bennington's harmonious croons of "The sun goes down, I feel the light betray me" lines as he sings with the stronger chorus, concluding the song with one big "I can't stop what I'm feeling within / It's like the face inside is right / Beneath my skin!" 'Papercut' is a huge Linkin Park track and it's held in the hearts of the band's fans for a good reason - for many, it was the first track they would hear from the band as they edged into an album that would stay with them forever, unbeknownst to them. That's what makes "Papercut" the true introduction to Linkin Park. (96 / 100)

2) One Step Closer: The opening riff of the song is perhaps one of the most iconic riffs of the era, perhaps even as significant as Metallica's 'Enter Sandman' or Guns N' Roses' 'Sweet Child O' Mine'. Equally as iconic is the bridge of the song, the rebellious, yet all too relatable, unrelenting screams of Bennington's "Shut up when I'm talking to you!" This song is what really got into people's hearts - the early 2000s was a period of confusion for a lot of lost and angry teens. The song's anger gave them a funnel for their inner feelings, and as did much of the rest of the album. What makes this record all the more timeless is the fact that even today, the same anger is what countless people - including pubescent teens and adults alike - struggle with, and Linkin Park has always been able to provide a way to channel that. 'One Step Closer' was only one of the first examples of this. (92 / 100)

3) With You: "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Hahn!" The famous quote from live performances of this song made it one of the most memorable parts of the band's energy-filled live shows (shoutout LPLive!). While lacking the brutal "Come on!" scream from the intro of its Reanimation counterpart and live performances, 'With You' is still packed full of energy. It's this song that really brings out the elements of the band that weren't as obvious on previous tracks. The atmospheric, electronic verse flow sweetly under Shinoda's unstoppable flow and a hip-hop beat, transitioning perfectly into the heavy choruses with Bennington's raspy vocals. The song also highlights Mr. Hahn's contributions to the band (which have been sparse as of late) - his scratches may not be noticeable without focussing on them, but their purpose in carrying the percussion is perhaps just as important as the drums themselves. 'With You' is the perfect example of the band's electronica influences, as well as their talent in creating mind-boggingly amazing instrumentals. (98 / 100)

4) Point Of Authority: Anyone who has heard this song can never forget Shinoda's opening verse. It's one of the songs on the album that features the last rapping, though ironically enough it contains one of the most recognizable verses on the record. There's something threatening in Shinoda's "Forfeit the game" delivery, and it's a threat that sticks with you. Bennington also delivers a memorable appearance - really listening to the choruses, you can hear a lot of depth in his half-screamed vocal. The texture and melody of his voice atop the thick beat truly create a certain power that can't be easily recreated. (96 / 100)

5) Crawling: "Crawling" is the song that won the band a GRAMMY award, and for good reason. It's composition in dark but melodic, beautiful yet full of alertness. It's the first in the band's line of singles that features an iconic synth-key intro ('Numb', 'Burn It Down', 'Until It's Gone' are also examples) as other synths start kicking in and the higher register powerchords that provide a reprieve from the thick lower-register guitars that dominated the album until this point. Chester's delivery of the chorus really made it clear that his voice was something different. The perfect amount of rasp combines with the perfect amount of melody and power to create something unique and epic. The song's premise resonated with thousands, if not millions, again playing to the fact that Linkin Park are able to relate to you no matter what the case. As easy as it is to make "Crawling in my skin, these wounds they will not heal" the subject of a meme, its those simple lines that could really make a difference for some, and that it did. (94 / 100)

6) Runaway: The song leads in with a watery synth and lo-fi guitar before bursting into a heavy bombardment. The song is admittedly one of the weaker songs on the record, but it still serves its purpose. The verses feature Chester singing melodically over the keyboard synths before his raspiness is channeled for the choruses. The bridge explodes with thick guitars and Chester's strong voice screams high above them. The song doesn't have much more to it, but many could identify with its title alone. The frustration of the recording of this track led to the creation of 'One Step Closer', so we have that to thank it for, if for nothing else, at least. (83 / 100)

7) By Myself: Perhaps more iconic than the grumbling intro riff itself is the staple 2003 live intro the band used during the touring for Meteora. 'By Myself' is characterized by its ominous synth verse instrumentals with Shinoda's rapping sounding paranoid and anger and Bennington's screams acting as precursors to the melodic "I can't hold on, it's all too much to take in... with thoughts of failure sinking in" lyrics of the choruses. The bridge creates a quiet tension with Shinoda's threatening whispers before the song kicks back in full force for one final hurrah. 'By Myself' showcases both the melodic and heavy aspects of the band in a similar yet familiar fashion as 'With You' - these elements coming to into fruition together are a signature part of what makes Linkin Park's sound so great. (95 / 1000)

8) In The End: This song needs to introduction or explanation. Everyone has heard 'In The End'. Whether they have learned the simple yet effective key intro to the song or use the chorus as a joke, 'In The End' is a universally known track. It's the song that put the band on the map, and for good reason. It opened up the band's sound to a poppier audience that wouldn't agree with the anger of 'One Step Closer', 'In The End' instead telling the tale of tragic love or struggle. The seamless flow of Shinoda in the verses as he and Bennington trade off to the chorus made this song an iconic track, and a prime example or rap rock. The song's beauty is magnified by the guitar harmonics used in the choruses thanks to Brad Delson; the blend of pretty and heavy really play to the tragedy of Chester's lyrics and voice. 'In The End', as many times as you've heard it before, is ultimately a big classic tune. (95 / 100)

9) A Place For My Head: If you're a fan of Linkin Park, you're a fan of 'A Place For My Head'. The song reigns as a massive fan-favorite in the live scene and is one of the band's signature jams. The Middle-Eastern tinged guitar riff that backs Shinoda's blasting lyrics in the verses ("I watch how the moon sits in the sky in the dark night / Shining with the light from the sun / The sun doesn't give light to the moon assuming / The moon's going to owe it one / It makes me think of how you act to me / You do favors and then rapidly / You just turn around and start asking me about things that you want back from me"). The chorus reigns huge with crushing guitars that support Chester's powerful voice above it, singing melodically. The bridge is where things get intense: Chester painfully whispers "You try to take the best of me, go away" as his anger builds before he explodes into a massive outburst of rage. The chorus reprises itself once more before the giant outro begins, featuring the band giving their all to end the song on an unforgettably massive ending. 'A Place For My Head' to this day remains one of the band's biggest tracks (even with the heavy tunes introduced in the band's latest The Hunting Party), and it has not lost its luster at all in the last sixteen years. (99 / 100)

10) Forgotten: There's no build up to this one - the threat of Linkin Park's dynamic duo of Bennington and Shinoda open to the track in a trade off before the verse kicks in. Shinoda tells a story of loneliness in his rapping, perhaps one of the earliest indications of Fort Minor without an exaggeration of hip-hop elements. The song's guitars are really interesting, changing throughout the entire track. There's the main opening riff that's reprised throughout the song, the peaceful, flowing guitar lines of the verses, and the melodic, almost groovy powerchords of the chorus. 'Forgotten' is an acquired taste on the album, but once you invite its charm to your mind you come to truly appreciate it. (92 / 100)

11) Cure For The Itch: The album's instrumental that gives Mr. Hahn a chance to shine. It showcases his scratching and sampling techniques, but there's really not much else to it. It's nice to see the album's most understated element get a chance to shine all on its own, but it just doesn't do it for me. The song builds with strings and the occasional Eastern-tinged piano line as drum samples and scratches see it through. Never underestimate Mr. Hahn. (60 / 100)

12) Pushing Me Away: 'Pushing Me Away' is a ballad more in the vein of 'Crawling' than any other track, just in a prettier fashion. The guitar harmonics in the intro and verses are beautiful atop the electronic synth, and eventually the driven beat, give the song its character. It's not as heavy and unrelenting as many of the other tracks - like 'In The End', it sees peace in the verses then becomes bigger in the choruses. Chester's vocals sound pained and abused as he sings about being sacrificing everything for someone for it all to be taken for granted. The powerchords go higher up the guitar neck than much of the rest of the album, contrasting the thick rhythm guitar, ending the album on a different note than it began with 'Papercut'. 'Pushing Me Away' isn't about the heaviness; it highlights the band's songwriting abilities that may have been overlooked in other tracks. The album couldn't have ended in a more appropriate way (unless 'High Voltage' was kept on the backend - though 'Pushing' may still be the best way spiritually to end the record). (96 / 100)

Hybrid Theory was the album of a generation. Nothing quite like it had ever been done before - it seamlessly blended nu-metal, alternative rock, and electronic music all into one succinct sound. To this day, there are still bands who try to emulate the mastery of noise Linkin Park created on Hybrid Theory and still can't quite get there. This is an album that shaped music forever, setting it on a different courses and really brought metal to a more accessible scene. Its anger, pain, and fear gave countless people something to hold onto in times of confusion, and it has the same impact today that it did when it was released nearly sixteen years ago. Hybrid Theory is perhaps to most influential debut album to ever be released, and its importance will never be forgotten, because it will forever have a place in our hearts.

Favorite Tracks: A Place For My Head, With You, Papercut, Points Of Authority

Least Favorite Tracks: Cure For The Itch, Runaway

Rating: 95 / 100

Of Mice & Men - Cold World

If something in 2016 earns the privilege of being tagged as "nu metal", you know it's going to be a disaster. Of Mice & Men have done it. 2013's Restoring Force was a powerful and emotional record, full of anger and loss. You could feel its big moments bombarding you and you'd remember them vividly.

Their fourth album Cold World is not Restoring Force. It doesn't even sound like Of Mice & Men. It's a bunch of songs that bring to question where the line is drawn between "influenced by" and "copied from". It started with the lead single 'Pain' (see our review of it here), which basically ripped off the old sounds of Slipknot, probably so that they could appease the crowds of their opening slot with them. It only gets worse.

I've never heard an album where every song sounds like a carbon copy of a different artist. I'm really not sure what they were doing here. The album starts off with 'Game Of War', which is literally just a worse version of Puscifer's 'Grand Canyon'. It's an awful intro, too - it's four minutes long and incredibly underwhelming. 'Real' features Austin Carlile singing, which is cool, if it wasn't clearly trying to be a heavier version of Minutes To Midnight-era Linkin Park. Maybe the boys spent a little too much time with them on tour in 2014... There's also the complete mess of a Limp Bizkit song with 'Relentless'. It's the most nu-metal thing to be released since nu-metal died. That is not good.

To it's credit, it's not completely horrible. Just mostly. 'Like A Ghost', the one track on the album I can actually say has some substance. Aaron Pauley's singing in the verses are a bit odd (it sounds like he's trying to imitate Marilyn Manson), but Austin Carlile screams powerfully in the background as he sings, making those powerful accentuations that made a lot of the vocals on Restoring Force so great. It's the first energy with raw energy, too, but it's a bit too late. By the time you get to this song you've already lost hope in the album. At least the interlude '+' has nice strings.

When the band isn't copying another, the tracks are just painfully average. There is absolutely nothing special in songs like 'Down The Road' and 'Away'. They're boring. They don't even have the quality of another band for fans of that particular band to enjoy. The album ends on 'Transfigured', sounding like even they gave up on this record. Where is the soul of the album? What happened?

It doesn't feel right to assign blame to any band member; after all, an album has to be a team effort. But it's hard to ignore the overwhelming presence of Aaron Pauley on the album. It feels like he took this album over. It has his sweet singing parts that featured in a few tracks on Restoring Force (most of which were really great) and gives himself a part in almost every song. It feels less like an Of Mice & Men record and more like a demo CD of a solo Pauley record. His highlights on Restoring Force were so good because they were refreshments between brutal screaming and metal tracks. Now that he's in literally every song, it's hard to enjoy his voice, which is a true shame. Of Mice & Men has Austin Carlile for a reason, and it's not to make him sing. It's to let his screams make the music stronger and more vivid. Why silence him?

Cold World feels like a step in the wrong direction. It's hard to even call it an Of Mice & Men record - it sounds like Aaron Pauley featuring a backing band and a guest screamer sometimes. It's a sad and boring record. It's nu-metal moments don't help, either. Of Mice & Men had finally found their signature sound, and after building on it for a single album, they dropped it almost completely. The only response I have to this record is a question: why?

Favorite Track: Like A Ghost

Least Favorite Tracks: Relentless, Down The Road, Transfigured, Away

Rating: 52 / 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