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Korn, Downlink, J Devil - Mandela Hall, Belfast

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ATL | 16:45 UK time, Monday, 2 April 2012

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Korn, Downlink, J Devil
Mandela Hall, Belfast
31st March 2012

The Mandela Hall is a relatively intimate setting for nu-metal pioneers Korn and it's no surprise that tonight's show sold out weeks ago. The mixture of young, old, metalheads and glow-stick wielders is a little more surprising but Korn are in transition; their latest release, The Path of Totality, is an experimental hybrid featuring the traditional Korn-sound spliced with the unmistakable woob-woob-woob's of the Dubstep monster. The record features production by Dubstep king, Skrillex, as well as Downlink, who just so happens to be one of tonight's support acts.

But first we're treated to the sounds of  J Devil - Jonathan Davis' dubstep DJ alter-ego. The stage is in darkness as J Devil slinks on to a curious sound-bite telling us that Barack Obama means lightning in Hebrew, and therefore is in fact the devil. It's debatable logic but the crowd lap it up nonetheless; antiestablishmentarianism is very metal..

It's not long before the darkness is shattered with a blistering lights show, the stage set up looks like lightning blasting its way through a city skyline before transforming into waves of colour. It's hugely impressive. Davis' set features all the trademark dub-step noises, some spooky biblical imagery including a "power of Christ compels me!" sample looped while Davis imitates the crucifixion. There's a real industrial vibe which gives his take on dubstep a unique twist but it sort of seems like he's simply pressing play on his decks then going to throw some shapes. The light show's impressive, the tunes work and Davis knows how to work a crowd - getting them to chant and clap on demand - but as far as the live show goes - it's less live and more of a show.

Downlink has the unenviable task of entertaining the Korn-hungry masses while sandwiched between J Devil and the main event. It's a more jungle and drum'n'bass heavy dub set which would work well under normal circumstances but unfortunately tonight, Downlink becomes a pit-stop for a quick pint and pee before the headliners. Even a quick-shout out to his friend Skrillex receives a lukewarm response - tonight is all about Korn.

Entirely dressed in black, three out of four dreadlocked, Korn have nailed the satanic merman look. Kicking things off with some lesser known tracks from their first two albums (including Predictable and Lies) before a brief pause while the setup's readjusted in preparation for the re-emergence of the dubstep juggernaut - a selection of songs from new album The Path of Totality - despite their experimental nature, work brilliantly in the live setting. Davis' vocals are note perfect, which considering the variance of noises he's laid on record, is mighty impressive.

The lights go out while Fieldy bashes out a bass solo with his glow-in-the-dark strings to an approving pop from the crowd - only matched whenever the classics get an airing - 'Here To Stay', 'Freak On A Leash' then 'Falling Away From Me' one after the other as Korn knock it out of the park, hit after hit after hit. Things take a little bit of a diversion next as we're treated to a cover of Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick In The Wall'. The aging rockers in the crowd appreciate it while the glow-stickers are clambering to put their tops back on.

At this point, Korn exit stage right before returning moments later for their encore. Davis comes out with the bag-pipes for 'Shoots and Ladders' before transitioning into a semi-rendition of Metallica's 'One' which is met with roars of approval. They finish off the encore with 'Got The Life' and 'Blind'. Just like that, Davis and co slither off stage leaving the Mandela Hall a sweaty mess of bodies and smiling faces. Korn may be veering off into experimental territory which could alienate old-school fans but there's no denying that as a live act, they still absolutely nail it.

Michael Wilson


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