Music heightens the senses, conjures catharsis, and unlocks other levels of consciousness.
Just ask Korn frontman Jonathan Davis.
Throughout his storied career, he's unleashed his demons night after night on stage, sharing an escape with audiences of millions. However, Davis does something that he's never done before on his 2018 solo debut.
"This time, I'm pulling something out of the audience," he grins. "I've bared my soul for so fucking long I thought it'd be really cool to pull listeners in a different direction for once. I'm taking them out of that dark place and into somewhere that's spiritual, positive, and makes them really think! It's just art. I've changed lives with Korn, but I wanted to open minds with this shit."
The new music represents a natural step for the Bakersfield, CA singer, songwriter, composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. A true original, the overpowering figure he casts behind that H.R. Giger-made microphone remains just as iconic as his signature scream does. His output in Korn encompasses two GRAMMY® Award wins, worldwide sales of 40 million-plus, and countless sold out shows in nearly every corner of the globe. Throughout over 20 years in music, his presence coursed through film scores to popular video game franchises, and official remixes for the likes of Steve Aoki and more. Along the way, he lent his voice to tracks for everyone from Linkin Park to Tech N9ne.
Throughout this whirlwind, Davis quietly compiled ideas for what would become this solo effort beginning back in 2007. Writing and recording on the road, he personally played guitar, keys, and anything else he could get his hands on. Moreover, the music was primarily record live.
Numerous times, it felt like fans might experience this music, but it was never the right time.
That changes now.
"This is how fate would have it," he explains. "Deals would come and go. Then, we'd do a Korn record and a tour. There was no time for me to do this. All of the stars finally aligned. Velvet Hammer believed in it. Sumerian Records came to the fold. It's like an extension of where I was at on the Queen of the Damned shit mixed with rock, early goth, new romantic, and everything I love. It's going to take you on a journey."
That journey bears a resemblance to the Ganzfeld Experiment. Often studied in universities and replicated on YouTube, the parapsychology test involves a combination of a split ping pong ball, red light, and white noise that can spark natural hallucination without any drugs. Loosely inspiring the album's own trip, Davis breathes life into the role of "The Teacher," as if assuming his own tarot card.
"During the experiment, some people see shit, some people have out-of-body experiences, and some people think there's someone else in the room," he goes on. "To me, it shows there's something else out there other than religion, consumerism, and all of that. There's a level of enlightenment I want to achieve. With all of the bullshit going, everyone is stuck on their fucking cell phones. This takes us way out of that."
The music does as well. Siphoning his love for Dead Can Dance, Bauhaus, The Cure, and Andrew Lloyd Weber into a twisted pastiche, the songs comprise a tableau of divine darkness. On the lead single "What It Is," ominous piano keys bleed into a slow-burning verse before thick guitars snap towards an expansive and engaging refrain punctuated by his dynamic vocals.
"No matter how hard you try to fight bad things in your life, life will be what it is," he admits. "It's up to you to accept that, combat it, and move forward, or it's up to you to be in denial. Then, it becomes a thorn in your side until you finally deal with it. This is it. Just deal with it."
The six-minute "Basic Needs" tempers a hulking groove with a breakdown played live by percussive instruments from Japan, India, and beyond.
"It's a fucking love song about what I need to survive," states Davis. "I don't need fucking money, fame, or anyone to pat me on the back. Basic needs are all it takes."
As always, he makes a primal connection by doing what he does best in the end.
"I've always got to be different," he leaves off. "Once again, I'm doing something I haven't heard before. This is my swan song. It's my fucking masterpiece up to this point."
If that sounds familiar, it's just because Jonathan Davis once again rewrote the rule book.
- Rick Florino, January 2018