More about: Slipknot
Few releases are as eagerly anticipated as a new Slipknot album; as a band whose demographic spans everyone from your Dad to teenage girls just discovering the joys of black eyeliner, they have a lot of fingers in a lot of different pies.
80 fingers to be precise, after the recent acrimonious departure of long-time percussionist Chris Fehn. The build up to the band’s sixth full-length release, We Are Not Your Kind, has seen the remaining eight members plagued with both tragedy and mystery, following founding member Shawn Crahan’s 22-year-old daughter unexpectedly passing away in May, a lawsuit initiated by the estranged Chris and refusal to divulge any details about his mysterious replacement. At times the metal behemoths have struggled to land on their feet, with their two most recent albums All Hope is Gone and The Gray Chapter falling just short of the iconic status the first three records brought them, ejecting them into the realms of America’s most unlikely household names.
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But We Are Not Your Kind is a quintessential maggot war-cry, laden with heartfelt anger, a return to stronger nu metal influences and most interestingly, a much softer side to the Iowa-metallers at times. Nestled among some of the heaviest material since their eponymous debut, there are moments of crystal clarity, bursts of respite from a mammoth whirlwind of impassioned mechanical thrash. Opening soundscape ‘Insert Coin’ buzzes slowly into life, setting the tone for the methodical, deliberate pacing of the hour-long album. In the same vein as previous opening tracks ‘(515)’, ‘.exeute.’ and ‘XIX’, industrial noises gradually build to the jarring, choral opening of lead single ‘Unsainted’.
‘Unsainted’ is a welcome amalgamation of old and new, a glimmer of hope at Corey Taylor’s promise that the album would be “Iowa levels of heavy”, but simultaneously a cleanly produced, melodic venture. It’s a microcosm of the unbreakable Slipknot formula, a metal-by-numbers, if you will. Sinister intro, harsh, guttural guitar and a festival headline-ready anthemic chorus melt into lyrics like “You've killed the saint in me, how dare you martyr me?”. Next track, ‘Birth of the Cruel’, sees Jim Root’s twisted melodic groove in all its glory under Jonathan Davis-esque snarls from Corey, ushered out by Sid Wilson’s distinctive jilted turn tabling. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s a vital piece of a concept much bigger and more ambitious.
Fourth track ‘Death Because of Death’ hints at the more conceptual side of the album, taking time out of the high-octane energy to meticulously layer ominous synths, primal percussion and clean harmonies into a 1:21 sonic palette cleanser. What it lacks in excitement it makes up for in intricacy and subtlety.
‘Nero Forte’, a title which means ‘strong black’ in Italian, is heavy by name, heavy by nature. A filthy scream of “Watch this” leads us into the closest thing Slipknot have done to rock-rap in years, the frantic guitar intro heightened by meaty percussion and a venture into falsetto from Corey. The verses are spat with all the fervent anger and fury that the band are oh-so-beloved for, stirring up visions of 1999 Slipknot stood menacingly in a children’s play park, posing for the the bleached-out images that would go on to define them as the poster boys of Daily Mail scaremongering and parents’ worst enemies.
Standing at 6:26 of pure juggernaut, ‘Critical Darling’ is the longest track on the album. The chorus feels like an ode to the ‘All Hope is Gone’ era, but the verses hark back to the days when both Paul Gray and Joey Jordison had strong creative licence with the band’s sound, a writing and performing combination that came to define and hone who Slipknot really are. For the first time since before Paul’s untimely death, the surrounding sadness that burdened Corey’s vocals has parted ways to make room for the tangible wrath that had become the missing link, and ‘Critical Darling’ really brings it to fruition.
If you’re familiar with 2008’s ’Til’ We Die’, you’ve essentially heard ‘Liar’s Funeral’. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree with this one, a welcomingly familiar sounding track tinged with almost Marilyn Manson style interludes. Screams of “liar” sound anguished, conveying a powerful sense of pain in just one word. Again the song reflects the careful pacing of the album, focusing on slow, lumbering percussion and foregoing the heaviness they could have so easily settled for.
‘Red Flag’ is a beautiful, dirty return to form; it’s sexy, it’s blindingly fast, unforgivingly heavy. The sheer affliction of it evokes the principal of the recent mask debate, in which Corey responded to widespread criticism of his controversial new mask, saying “People have a very strong opinion either way about how that mask looks and whatnot. To me, that was the best thing about it. It's supposed to cause a discussion. It's supposed to make you make a decision, and that's what I described to Tom, like, 'I want this to look like something that was made for me, not for anybody else.’” They’re not here to please, they’ve always been here to shock and work against the grain.
After another short, experimental interlude appropriately dubbed ‘What’s Next’, the most bizarre and unconventional offering of the tracklist rears its unexpected head in the form of ‘Spiders’. Oscillating ambient noises, off-key whirring and soft vocals make for an uncomfortable four minutes so tame it would sound out of place even on a Stone Sour album.
What ‘Spiders’ does, however, is serve as a reminder that Slipknot are anything but stale. Despite masses of fans pining for an early 2000s sound, the band know they can’t take a definite step backwards - they knew what worked for them in 1999 and they know what works for them in 2019; it’s a curious, spine-chilling experiment cautiously placed among safer tracks.
With just four tracks left to go, ‘Orphan’ disperses the tension, erupting into a frenetic climax of wild drums and more confrontational, aggressive vocals before once again being pierced by the eerie, celestial ‘My Pain’, a song rooted in horror movie-style bell ringing and a slow approaching, excruciating buzz of white noise.
The final non-single of the album, ‘Not Long For This World’, could have been just that - a single. Corey’s new non-smoker vocals in the clean sections sound strong, the chorus soars in a way that you can already hear live, screamed back by thousands of antagonised maggots and jagged remixing from Sid shatters the outro of the song into a thousand tiny shatters of sonic glass.
Finally, the wedge propping up the latter end of the album is ambiguously named ‘Solway Firth’, the second single released from the album and the name of part of the border between England and Scotland. It concludes the album the same way we began the journey, with Corey musing ‘I’m counting all the killers..’ In a sharp, southern drawl. The feral beast brings the album to a definitive close, completely assured of everything that came before it.
‘Solway Firth’ is the final nail in the coffin that We Are Not Your Kind is an extended olive branch to fans lost along the way, an accessible gateway to those uninitiated and a valued gem atop a heavily bejewelled crown for die-hard fans.
Long Live The Knot.
We Are Not Your Kind is released on 9 August 2019 via Roadrunner Records.
More about: Slipknot