With a new label and smaller lineup, one of hard rock's titans signals a creative shift.
When Korn named its seventh studio album "See You on the Other Side," the band really meant it.
Guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer explains that the title is an offer for people to "come through the doorway with us, an invitation to the listener to accept the change that we felt we needed to make creatively."
That change, Munky says, was brought about by the departure of guitarist Brian "Head" Welch earlier this year, which put Korn into an emotional and professional tailspin. But remaining members Munky, Jonathan Davis, David Silveria and Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu are using their smaller lineup as an opportunity to reinvent their brand of metal.
"Twisted Transistor," the first single from the Dec. 6 release, gives a taste of that sound: lots of experimentation and atmospherics, with a bit of electronica and some industrial elements thrown in. The project continues the evolution of Korn's raw, anger-driven sound that became so evident on its heavily produced 2002 album "Untouchables."
Radio responded to the invite by jumping on the song, which is No. 7 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart and No. 12 on the Modern Rock tally. In fact, thanks to several remixes, "Twisted Transistor" is Korn's first charting single on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play list.
The seven-minute-plus video is also a big hit on MTV and other video channels, partially because of the comical appearances that Snoop Dogg, Lil Jon, Xzibit and David Banner make by masquerading as the members of Korn.
It has been a long time since Korn has hit the pavement this hard to push an album: The band traveled cross-country doing radio and in-store appearances, meet-and-greets and a handful of pre-album-release shows. When the band gave one such concert Nov. 29 at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, seven European contest winners and eight U.S. soldiers flew to the United States with the band to see the show. And when Korn returns to the road in February, it plans to stay out for a staggering two years.
Formerly on Immortal/Epic, Davis is excited about the partnership Korn forged with Virgin parent EMI, which invested $25 million in a unique revenue-sharing deal with the act. The investment earns the record company an estimated 30% stake in Korn's overall business, including record sales, touring, merchandise, publishing and licensing during the course of a two-album/two-tour deal.
"Traditional record deals are just real shady and basically are whoring bands out and paying for the mistakes [the labels] make" when other acts do not succeed, Davis says.
"We're partners in this business," he continues. "If they promote us, we win and they win."
But the deal does not come without its risks. EMI has inked a band whose sales have declined since its 1990s heyday. Korn's top-selling album, 1998's "Follow the Leader," moved 3.8 million units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Its last studio album, 2003's "Take a Look in the Mirror," sold 1.1 million.
While the band's 2006 tour itinerary has not yet been confirmed, a handful of December performances remain, all on radio-station sponsored holiday concert bills. Korn will be on hand Dec. 16 in Miami at the 93 Rock Christmas Khaos, Dec. 17 at San Antonio, Texas' 99.5 KISS Twisted Kissmas and Dec. 18 at KDGE's How the Edge Stole Christmas show in Grand Prairie, Texas.