ALBUM REVIEW: Jonathan Davis – Black Labyrinth

Release Date: May 25th 2018
Label: Sumerian Records


A project ten years in the making, ‘Black Labyrinth’ is the first solo record from Korn frontman, Jonathan Davis. The record sees Davis take an eclectic range of influences and collaborators to form his debut release.

Opening with some Depeche Mode tinged synthwave, ‘Underneath My Skin’ sets the tone with delay guitars and throbbing square pads. Davis‘ unmistakable vocals tie the sparse instrumentation together, pushing the chorus into almost dream pop territory.

The expectancy the opener sets is quickly shattered with ‘Final Days, which takes a left turn towards Middle Eastern instrumentation with guest Shenkar handling violin duties alongside sitars and duduk percussion. Tied with lingering pads and Davis‘ vocals, it certainly doesn’t feel out of place within the record.

Its these influences and moments which are the strongest of the record, and also when Davis immerses himself in slightly industrial numbers too. The more synthwave based tracks such as ‘Please Tell Me’, whilst done in earnest, tend to meander and not hit the mark.

‘Happiness’ sees Davis in familiar territory, using gated guitars to add rhythm alongside sliding synths, with its energy eventually slamming towards a crashing chorus. The track showcases Davis‘b versatility as a vocalist; layered vocals boast low growls and falsetto notes, with the bridge holding focused scat singing reminiscent of ‘Twist’.

Bringing all of these elements together is ‘Basic Needs’; lingering ambient pads fight against distorted sub bass lines before samples swirl around the verse. Holding it all together is Davis‘ performance, with jumps between high and low vocals carrying you to the crunching chorus.

As the distorted guitars fade on the middle 8, sitars and tablas take the lead, and with a hypnotising melody and off set rhythms, the bridge takes a completely different direction. With the inclusion of distorted guitars and Ray Luzier‘s pounding drums, the track circles back to a triumphant chorus.

Album closer and lead single ‘What It Is’ sees acoustic guitars and a choppy piano take the lead, with rhythmic vocal patterns building to a heavy chorus. Amidst lurching bass lines, pitch shifted vocals and stabbing strings, Davis produces a conventional pop song to end his first solo outing.

Ambitious in its execution, the album does miss the mark at times, but when firing on all cylinders Davis produces moments of brilliance. With a voice inextricably tied to Korn, ‘Black Labyrinth’ fights its way out of a huge shadow to stand on its own.