Certain bonds last forever. No matter what happens, they can't be bent, bruised, or broken. There's something indescribable that fastens them together, and the links only tighten with time.
The members of KORN built that kind of bond back in 1993 the first time that Jonathan Davis, James "Munky" Shaffer, Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu, and Brian "Head" Welch decided to make music as a unit. They shed blood, sweat, and tears in the studio and on stage, fashioning an undeniable, unsettling, and unique sound that would permanently alter the course of rock music. After six seminal albums, two Grammy Award wins, and countless sold out shows, Head left the group in 2004 to face down the demons of addiction on his own. KORN soldiered on, permanently adding drummer Ray Luzier to the fold in 2007 and releasing four more epic full-length releases, most recently 2011's groundbreaking dubstep-metal hybrid The Path of Totality.
Nevertheless, they kept the door open for the return of their brother. In 2012, a triumphant and tear-filled reunion happened on stage as the group headlined the Carolina Rebellion festival with Head reprising his legendary part on "Blind." The initial bond came back into focus, but it was time to change the game again. It was time for a Paradigm Shift
That brings us to KORN's eleventh studio album, THE PARADIGM SHIFT. With Head back in the fold, the group retreated to where it all beganBakersfield. Writing new music in a hometown rehearsal spot, everything immediately felt as if it was meant to be.
"We're all at the right place in our lives," admits Head. "That's the main reason I came back. There's nothing negative out here anymore. Things had really changed. Everybody has his head on straight. The opportunity to rejoin the band presented itself and I thought, 'I've know these guys for my whole life. Love is unconditional. The time to reconcile is right now.' Every sign was there for me. When I left, I rebuilt myself. The guys did as well. It's better than ever."
Jonathan agrees, "When he came back, it was really like he never left. We always wanted him to come back when he was ready and everything was right. Carolina Rebellion opened all of our eyes. I'm so happy. We were all ready to take the next step together and make our best record."
"This was a dream of mine all along," smiles Ray. "Ever since I joined, I wanted to have the privilege of playing behind the four original members. The magic between them is indisputable."
"Everybody had to go through his respective trials and tribulations to have a clear vision of what we really wanted as a band," Munky elaborates. "We wanted to have fun again. That's what we're doing. We have a renewed vitality. We're all dads. We think about tomorrow. That's something we didn't do ten years ago. We didn't care. We care about our health and our families. That's given us the perspective necessary to make the best music possible. That music is going to be around forever so we want to be proud of it."
Kicking off 2013, they holed up in the studio with producer Don Gilmore [Linkin Park, Three Days Grace] for the first time. Without any pretense or pandering, everybody clung to the collective goal of writing the record of his career thus far.
"It sounds like what we've always wanted to sound like," explains Fieldy. "We've been playing together for so many years now. We're inspiring ourselves to do something more challenging, but it's ultimately still Korn."
Part of that push came from Gilmore. The producer encouraged the musicians to focus on song craft. With that in mind, the group churned out some of its most hypnotic and heavy hooks ever.
"He took everything to another level," Ray goes on. "He's not just a producer. He's also a musician, and he really got down and dirty with the structures. It was instantaneous, and I feel like he brought the best out of us."
Jonathan chuckles, "Don's crazy. He pushed me in a nice way. He used some Jedi powers to move me in the right direction. It wasn't like pulling teeth. It was awesome. I can't say enough great things about him."
"I feel like he effectively pulled us out of our comfort zone," concurs Munky. "He encouraged us to try new harmonies and chord voicings. We arrived at this new vision of chaos as a result. This is where we're supposed to be today. It's no coincidence. We're supposed to have this moment and this album."
It feels meant to be on the likes of "Punishment Time," where foreboding guitars decay into a cinematically destructive bridge. Meanwhile, Jonathan's vampiric, vitriolic, and visceral snarl drives "Lullaby for a Sadist" through a clean guitar reprieve with a dose of theatrical panache. "Love & Meth" tempers teetering seven-string violence with a towering refrain. Then, there's the first single "Never Never." A slow hulking beat stomps into screeching electronics before bleeding out on a bouncy chorus evocative of the swooping prowess of "Got the Life" and "Freak on a Leash."
"It was an amazing night when we finished that song," the singer says. "It's a relationship song. You go through that shit and you get hurt so bad. Then you think, 'It's not worth it anymore. I'm not going to fucking love again.' You experience so many pressures to be a good dad, a good husband, a good lover, or whatever. Being in a relationship is a lot of work."
During recording, Jonathan and his young sons Zeppelin and Pirate moved into the studio. As dad recorded, the boys drew pictures and provided a whole lot of inspiration.
"I wanted to live and breathe it," affirms Jonathan. "Having my boys there was a part of the process for me. When I was a little kid, I used to watch my dad work in that same studio. It was trippy and full circle. I had my kids there now while I was doing my shit. It all had to line up for it to be what it was. We were camping out. It was like a big slumber party. I felt like a kid again. It really helped. I couldn't have done it without them."
In some ways, the title encapsulates the group's very ethos. "It's a shift in the way you look at things," explains Munky. "I saw a piece of art on the internet related to The PARADIGM SHIFT. It was a picture of a duck, but if you backed up, it looked like a rabbit. You can see different things from other angles. To me, it's a new of thinking. It's a shift in consciousness. It's shift in the band towards a positive direction. We're the same people. We have the same elements. We just have a better outlook on our music."
KORN have come a long way since their iconic self-titled debut, and they haven't stopped challenging themselves or heavy music. Why is that? It all goes back to that irreplaceable and inimitable bond.
"Our bond is at its tightest," concludes Head. "Munky, Fieldy, Ray, Jonathan, and I strengthen each other. It's incredible having my friends back in my life. The fans are amazing. This is all for them. We have a gift, and we're giving it to them. They're uplifted by what we do. That's the biggest thing. There's nothing better than that."
Jonathan leaves off, "These are my brothers. We're doing exactly what we want to do. Yeah, this is a new chapter. This is also fucking Korn." Rick Florino, June 2013