Don’t tell the guys in Korn you can’t go home again. As the title of the band’s next album — “Korn III: Remember Who You Are” — suggests, this project was all about getting back on a musical level to how it started.

To begin with, for the “Korn III” (which is actually the group’s ninth studio CD), the band reunited with Ross Robinson, who produced the first two Korn albums, a self-titled 1994 release and the 1996 CD “Life is Peachy.”

“He definitely helped revive our passion for this, for what we do,” guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer said in an early April phone interview. “He helped us to remember who we are. That’s the title of the album.”

Then the group decided to go back to basics in recording “Korn III.”

“We were tucked away in a little iso (isolation) room, all five of us,” Munky said. “That’s the band and including Ross (Robinson). So it was probably, I don’t know, a 12-by-12 room. And it gets hot and sweaty in there. That’s how it used to be when we were renting rehearsal space when we were 20. We didn’t have money then to have a big studio.”

Although the band used a computer program for editing, it also went old school with recording, using two-inch tape and no click track.

“To start a Pro Tools machine with a click track and to play to that, it just sucks the life out of it,” Munky said. “So with this record, it feels like it’s alive and breathing because the choruses, they’ll jump tempo a tiny bit. And there are time changes, there are tempo changes in the middle of the songs. And it gives us the freedom to give that push and pull between energies at certain points in the songs, dynamically, that I think a lot of music today is lacking.

“Everything is so gridded. And we did the same thing (on recent records). And that’s why it was like OK, it’s not feeling real. It feels fake. We need to get back to the real sound of Korn, take out all of these computers and get in a rehearsal room with a couple of amps and some drums and that’s it.”

Korn’s music has indeed evolved notably since its first two albums. On its third CD, 1998’s “Follow the Leader” and especially the 1999 release, “Issues,” the group’s sound moved in more of a straightforward melodic hard-rock vein.

The musical direction paid big dividends. While “Korn” and “Life is Peachy” were successful and put the band on the hard-rock map, “Follow the Leader” and “Issues” broke through in a big way, each topping 3 million copies sold. This elevated Korn into the upper ranks of hard-rock/modern metal bands.

Subsequent albums have been quite varied musically. On the 2002 CD, “Untouchables,” Korn went experimental, blending in electronic beats and effects with its guitar-based sound. The 2003 CD “Take a Look in the Mirror” represented a step back toward the kind of dark, churning metal that was at the center of the band’s first two albums.

The more melodic, hard-rock sound returned on the 2004 CD “See You On the Other Side,” while the band’s 2007 self-titled release took it in a darker, more serious musical direction.

The various musical shifts have been met with diminishing commercial returns, as sales of the four most recent albums have gradually fallen back to about 1 million copies each.

Of course, some of that decline can be attributed to downloading. As a live act, Korn has remained a legitimate arena headliner all along.

Still, with the varying musical flavors of the recent albums, it’s understandable that the members of Korn (Munky, singer Jonathan Davis, bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu and drummer Ray Luzier) would have felt it was time to reconnect with its musical roots.

Munky didn’t go into detail when asked to describe the sound of “Korn III,” but he hinted that the band recaptured the spirit of its early albums.

“I think musically it does sound more mature, but it has that raw energy of the first two (albums),” he said. “But you can tell that musically, as musicians, we’re better.”

“Korn III” won’t be released until summer, but the band isn’t waiting to begin touring. It headlines the Jagermeister tour, which runs through June 12, and will perform at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on Saturday. Local band Dead Season opens.

Korn toured last year as a four-piece, but has added a second guitarist and a keyboard player for this year’s touring.

“We have another guitarist and a keyboard just to fill in some of the re-creating the record, because there are a lot of melodies I did on those albums and kind of need to help and support (the songs),” Munky said. “It’s not too much and it’s enough, kind of a nice wall of sound.”


Alan Sculley is a freelance writer.


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