KORN's seventh studio album, "See You On The Other Side", comes after a tumultuous year in which the band parted with both its longtime label, Epic Records, and one of its founding members, guitarist Brian "Head" Welch, marking the first personnel change in the band's 11-year recording history. Seemingly determined to take these events as a springboard for further change, KORN shocked fans by announcing that it was writing and producing its new album with the Matrix, the pop composing and production team better known for evanescent pop blather like AVRIL LAVIGNE and countless others, but with no heavy rock to their credit. Did the reported advance the band received from new label Virgin — supposedly in the range of $20 million — bring pressure to deliver mainstream hits?Well, "See You On The Other Side" does featured the most polished songcraft and production of the band's career, although the band could hardly be accused of selling out its musical soul. There's plenty of heavy riffs on the album, although bassist Fieldy's trademark sound is noticeably low-profile. What the production does accomplish (with the help of Atticus Ross, who also helmed the board for six songs on the disc) is to stuff KORN's sound with so many effects and so much sonic trickery that the album has a curiously distant, mechanical sound. Some have already compared the sound to that of MARILYN MANSON, and several songs, like "10 Or A 2-Way" and "Throw Me Away", seem to have been lifted right off a MANSON demo. That same overproduced feel lingers over the entire album, especially on many of Jonathan Davis' vocals, which are heavily multi-tracked. Davis is clearly trying to stretch as a singer on this album, and does deliver a number of vocals that he has never done before, but all the special effects surrounding him keep him emotionally distant as well. For all the grandeur, however, and despite the stronger hooks of tunes like "Twisted Transistor" (with its insipid lyrics about a girl putting a radio between her legs to literally get off on the music), "Coming Undone" and "Souvenir", this is still KORN, and the band suffers from the same limitations it always has. Beats are often interchangeable, while Davis' lyrical vision tends to flip between self-pity and adolescent sex talk. Guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer handles the six-string load himself for the first time and generally performs admirably, while drummer David Silveria is a solid presence when he's not offset by electronic beats. There are also nods to the band's past with a smattering of bagpipes and scatting from Davis. As the end of the album approaches, songs begin to grow repetitive and one's attention starts to wander. Album closer "Tearjerker", a straight ballad that features Davis' most uncluttered vocal, also just wallows in the same misery that the singer has been using for song material forever. For all the help that KORN got making this album, "See You On The Other Side" doesn't take any profound leaps or bring the group to any interesting new places.
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