No offense to Korn fans, but it wasn't until about 30 minutes into 'Live at Montreux' that I realized the band was still an active group that had recorded relevant material since 1998's "Freak on a Leash." Of all the "nu-metal" acts that were the rage on rock radio in the late '90s (save perhaps for Limp Bizkit), Korn has probably suffered the worst in terms declining sales and critical cred. Brash and cutting edge just a decade ago, most of Korn's catalog now sounds ready for the Nice Price bargain bin at your local record store.
'Live at Montreux' was recorded during a stop on the band's 2004 tour in support of its then-latest album, "Take a Look in the Mirror," though by that point few seemed to care much about the new material. As well-evidenced by the setlist (with the older numbers getting the biggest applause), 'Live at Montreux' is probably not the best period of the band's career to document. Though they've had a decent sales resurgence with a couple of their most recent albums (and a few personnel changes), 'Live in Montreux' unfortunately finds the band in a bit of a fallow period.
If their best chart-hogging days were behind them, however, the band doesn't show it in 'Montreux.' Though I always found the nu-metal genre just a bit suspect (as it combines some of the worst aspects of hair metal, Marilyn Manson, and white-boy suburban rap), Korn spits out all the rock star posing and cliched rock moves with entertaining aplomb. Singer Jonathan Davis squeals, howls and grimaces with the kind of sincerity that even Eddie Vedder would envy. The band is also quite capable, particularly future born-again guitarist Brian "Head" Welch's dynamic riffing ('Live at Montreux' documents one of his last performances with the group), and drummer David Silveria, who pounds the skins like some sort of demented human version of Animal from The Muppets.
Visually, Korn offers a spectacle on par with most bands of its ilk, with lots of spinning varilites and a typical nu-metal stageset. It's fun, and Davis prowls around the platforms, inciting the audience for sing-alongs and chants which keep the pace up. The only problem with 'Live in Montreux' is that the sameness of the material eventually causes the interest level to lag. Most of the newer songs from 'Take a Look in the Mirror' lack the memorable hooks and chorus of their earlier tunes (such as "Freak on Leash" and "Got the Life"), while their popular cover of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" feels too calculated. Zac Baird's innovative keyboard flourishes are also often relegated beneath the bombast, which suggests the band is capable of broadening their musical horizons if only they were a bit more adventurous.
Still, 'Live at Montreux' is certainly bound to please Korn fans. The album the show supports may be one of the band's weakest, but the performance is up to snuff. I'd still suggest checking out one of the band's other home video releases (particularly the upcoming 'Live on the Other Side' Blu-ray, which comes from a 2006 tour and has a better setlist), but 'Live at Montreux' still provides enough of what the band does best to earn a recommend.
The 16-strong tracklist includes: 01. Right Now / 02. Break Some Off / 03. Got The Life / 04. Here To Stay / 05. Falling Away From Me / 06. Blind / 07. Shoots And Ladders / 08. One / 09. Freak On A Leash / 10. A.D.I.D.A.S. / 11. Dead Bodies Everywhere / 12. Did My Time / 13. Another Brick In The Wall / 14. F***t / 15. Somebody Someone / 16. Y'All Want A Single
Eagle Rock brings 'Korn: Live at Montreux' to Blu-ray in a 1080i/AVC MPEG-4 encode (though the standard DVD was framed at 1.66:1, this Blu-ray appears to be 1.78:1, with my set's overscan set at 3 percent). It's a fine enough transfer, though don't expect a new demo disc.
Shot in a straightforward manner and captured entirely with HD cameras, video tends to be on the overly-contrasted side. Whites are sometimes a tad hot when the lights flare, while black crush is also slightly steep for my taste. Colors also veer towards the oversaturated, with some noise on the heaviest hues. The transfer is sharp and there is a solid amount of depth, though I've certainly seen better-photographed and more detailed live concert presentations. The encode is up to snuff, with no major artifacts, though I did notice some noise and blocking on very fast-cut shots.
Three audio options are provided, all in English: DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (both 48kHz/16-bit), and PCM 2.0 Stereo (2.3mbps). All three mixes are perfectly fine, with little real differences between them.
As readers of my past music reviews know, I'm not always a huge fan of 5.1 remixes of live concerts, because the rear channels are always stuck with fake-sounding pseudo-surround effects. 'Live at Montreux' is no exception, with the two 5.1 options both featuring a bit of crowd noise and some echo and that's about it. Dynamics-wise, all three handle the source adequately. I found low bass a bit too boomy on the PCM, and slightly more muddy on the TrueHD and DTS-MA. In any case, it could have been tighter and more distinct. Frequency response is also good if not superlative. There is clarity and distinctness to individual instruments, though the front soundstage is flatter than the absolute best Blu-ray music releases I've heard. Korn is not known for their great vocals, and the harsh screams/growls are delivered here with punch if again a bit overpowered by the rest of the mix. No matter which audio option you choose here, you'll get good-but-not-great audio.
Unusual even for a music release, there are zippo extras here -- not even a discography.
'Korn: Live at Montreux' is exactly what its title promises -- a direct filming of the band's 2004 stop at the famous music festival. That will be good enough for fans, but the merely curious are better off checking out one of the band's other video releases. This Blu-ray is likewise solid if unexceptional, with good (but not great) video and audio, and absolutely zero supplements. 'Live at Montreux' is for Korn fans only.