Eagle Rock Entertainment // 2004 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // May 1st, 2008
"Are you ready?"
Infamous nü-metal pioneers Korn, loved and hated in equal measure, are captured live on Korn: Live at Montreux 2004 in a definitive performance that will confirm viewers' opinions of the band's music, whatever those may be.
Korn: Live at Montreux 2004 was filmed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland on July 5, 2004. This is one of the last shows filmed with the founding lineup of singer Jonathan Davis, guitarists James "Munky" Shaffer and Brian "Head" Welch, bassist Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu, and drummer David Silveria. Here are the songs Korn performs in concert:
* "Right Now"
* "Break Some Off"
* "Got the Life"
* "Here to Stay"
* "Falling Away From Me"
* "Shoots and Ladders"
* "Freak on a Leash"
* "Dead Bodies Everywhere"
* "Did My Time"
* "Another Brick in the Wall"
* "Somebody Someone"
* "Y'All Want a Single"
Live at Montreux is a bittersweet experience for Korn fans. Founding guitarist Welch quit the band only a few months after this show, renouncing his past and proclaiming himself a born-again Christian, so this DVD captures Korn's classic lineup just before its dissolution. Unfortunately, it's also filmed as the band was promoting Take a Look in the Mirror, the weakest album of their career up to that point. It's the one album of their classic era that actually fulfills the stereotype of Korn as a whiny rap-metal cliché. Nonetheless, while the presence of the generally weaker material from the new album (and a couple of fairly pointless covers) is something of a letdown, it's not enough to divert from what is, for fans as well as newcomers, probably the best representation of just how powerful and ferocious Korn at its best could be.
Such a representation is important because while it's hard to deny Korn's influence on the many metal acts that have emerged since the late '90s, records haven't always done the band's talents justice. Earlier Korn albums, especially its 1994 self-titled debut, suffered from thin production and gimmicky or inconsistent songs. But as Korn's career progressed, Korn's music evolved from a monstrous but crude funk-metal roar into a focused attack that cut brutally and efficiently. Korn hit an artistic peak with its fifth album, 2002's Untouchables, where clean production melded perfectly with concise songwriting into an unrelenting collection of epic, eerie soundscapes. Regrettably, Korn took a step backward with its next album, 2003's Mirror. It was advertised as a redefinition but was in fact a regression, a self-conscious attempt to recapture the style of Korn's earlier records. Once again, the production was anemic and the songwriting was patchy, hitting a nadir with "Y'All Want a Single," an awful piece of rock-star self-pity that was neither musically nor lyrically clever. Not surprisingly, fans began to move on to other artists, and sales of the album were weaker than usual.
It's also worth noting that by the time this concert was filmed, Korn was facing deeper problems than a commercially and critically disappointing album. By 2004, the rap-metal movement Korn had helped invent and popularize was in tatters. Rage Against the Machine had disbanded, Kid Rock was recording country duets with Sheryl Crow, and Limp Bizkit had deteriorated into a punchline, albeit one that was more sad than funny. The band was being surpassed by a younger breed of bands like Linkin Park, who had refined Korn's fusion of downtuned metallic riffs and hip-hop beats with high-tech electronic production, and Queens of the Stone Age, whose retro '70s stoner metal served as a direct backlash to Korn's more futuristic style. In many ways, Korn had become a band out of time, facing an uncertain future.
Under those circumstances, it would be understandable if the band gave a perfunctory performance. Instead, Korn is firing on all cylinders. The show kicks off with a stomping version of "Right Now," the first single from Mirror and probably the best of the new songs. The set list is pulled from all throughout the band's career up to that point. This actually serves the older material better. "Faget," from their first album, is a phenomenal song that, because it was poorly recorded, wound up coming off as ineffectual. Here, the band turns it into a thunderous tribal assault that finally captures the rage and impotence at its core. That's not to say that the more recent songs are neglected, as the band hammers out brutal versions of "Dead Bodies Everywhere," "Here to Stay," and "Falling Away from Me." The show's pace never lets up-there's no time for ballads, slow songs, or (thankfully) drum solos. Korn had been touring for almost a year at the time of this performance, so the band is playing with almost machine-like precision. An additional thrill comes from seeing the audience form a vicious mosh pit at the normally staid Montreux Jazz Festival, usually the province of artists like Quincy Jones and Herb Alpert. At least for this one night, though, Korn made the festival its own.
It's especially gratifying to watch Korn rule the stage like titans here, since this DVD in many ways may wind up as more of a last gasp than a resurgence. After Welch's acrimonious departure, the band fell further into decline. On subsequent albums, the band hired such producers as Southern Krunk master Lil' Jon, as well as the Matrix, the pop hitmeisters who perpetrated Avril Lavigne's "music." Korn went from setting trends, as they did in the '90s, to merely struggling to cash in on them. To make matters worse, Silveria recently left for a hiatus of unspecified length, meaning that only three of the five musicians seen here are still in the band. Korn is still around, but will probably never again recapture the magic and popularity of its peak. At least this DVD will serve to remind viewers of just how potent Korn in its prime could be.
The 1.78:1 transfer is flawless. There are two 5.1 mixes (as well as a stereo 2.0 mix) with differences between them. The DTS 5.1 mix is ear-splittingly loud, although Davis' vocals sometimes sound soft and echoey, especially at the beginning of the show. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is not as loud, but has a better balance between the vocals and music. There are no extras.
The song selection is sometimes frustrating. Yes, the band was there to promote new material, but "Y'All Want a Single" doesn't sound any better live than it did on disc. Moreover, the covers of Metallica's "One" and Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" are competently played, but are not going to make anyone forget the originals. It would have been better to hear more of Korn's original songs instead, such as "Thoughtless" or "Good God."
It's also fair to point out the deep, almost visceral, disdain that many old-school metal fans have for Korn and their ilk. Fans who grew up with '80s metal bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden have frequently proclaimed Korn's music too crude and unmelodic. It's true that Korn can be an acquired taste. Unlike previous metal bands, the musicians are not especially interested in pop hooks, guitar solos, or conventional song structures. The music is much more reliant on rhythm and tone than melody and composition. So while it's understandable that mainstream pop fans could be put off by it, even some metal fans claim that Korn has no musical chops or that all the songs sound identical. There are moments of more subtle musicality here: a dexterous bass and guitar duet between Arvizu and Shaffer at the beginning of "A.D.I.D.A.S.," the slinky guitar line that opens "Somebody Someone," the quieter moments of "Faget" and "Dead Bodies Everywhere." Nonetheless, the unremitting pace and relative lack of variation in tempos may confirm some viewers' opinions that Korn is one-dimensional.
Live at Montreux easily surpasses Korn's previous DVDs as its best concert recording. Korn Live (from 2002) was filmed at a rehearsal performance for the Untouchables tour, meaning it's not quite as representative as it could have been (and is padded with a superfluous second disc that artificially inflates its list price). Live on the Other Side was filmed during the first tour without Welch and is also not indicative of the band's abilities. Here, a band at its peak is matched with an enthusiastic audience (and a pristine DVD transfer); that combo makes this the definitive Korn DVD for both fans and newcomers alike.
Review content copyright © 2008 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Korn Site
* All-Music Guide: Korn