The Knot return with force.
Bleak and unhinged, spilling it's tormented guts everywhere. Full of ferocious riffs and gruesome heaviness. Immensely aggressive and pissed-off, defining a generation of heavy music. Pitch black in tone and sickening in composition. An instant classic, through and through. Okay, now that I'm done describing Slipknot's 1999 self-titled album - a hectic, brutal nu-metal release that holds up well now and which turned 20 this year - let's talk about The Nine's newly released album, 'We Are Not Your Kind.'
For in a weird, ironic way, 'We Are Not Your Kind,' is best defined by a line from 'All Out Life' - their 2018 single whose lyrics foreshadowed the title of this sixth LP - which reads: "new does not mean best." However, by that very same token, new doesn't also mean 'bad' or even 'average', as Slipknot avoid out-right disaster and even mediocrity on their strong returning effort.
At this point, a new Slipknot record is an event in of itself. Next to Tool's new album and maybe that next Korn record, it's not at all hyperbole to say that this is the most anticipated metal album of 2019. Ever since the five year gap between the solid 'Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses' (2003) and the often unfairly dismissed 'All Hope Is Gone' (2008), it was six years from the latter until '.5: The Gray Chapter' arrived. And now it's been another five years to get right here with 'We Are Not Your Kind.' Slipknot sure as shit ain't dropping new records every two to three years just to complete their recording contract, and that makes each new release it's own thing, for better or worse.
Each of their other five albums are monstrous reflections of where the band was at in their professional career and personal lives, and 'We Are Not Your Kind' is no different. A divorce in the life of Corey Taylor, a current American societal and political landscape that the band disagree with and lament, various line-up changes and recent band dramas - the list of varying degrees of tumult goes on and on for this Iowa metal act, despite them no longer in-fighting at recording sessions. And the music here reflects that in a compelling way. Slipknot are at their healthiest as a unit lately, so this album reflects Slipknot in good health, even with the band's enigmatic frontman pouring so much of his soul out into the twisted, demented thoughts that this record shares.
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'We Are Not Your Kind' could best be described as a Slipknot record. As it is very on-brand for Slipknot, following right on from the production and sound of 'The Gray Chapter' as one may expect. To the point where I could've just listed the genre as "Slipknot" and that would've sufficed. So while that's all true about this album, it's not lacking in purpose or drive; it's as heavy as it needs to be and is as disgusting as loyal fans would hope for; and while at times familiar, it has a few little surprises here and there too. As Slipknot really are pulling from many different eras of their past career here. There's the rapid-fire nu-metal yelling, hyper-angst, samples and vinyl scratching that wouldn't have gone amiss two decades ago. There's the primal 'Iowa'-esque riffs and equal levels of derangement and heaviness present. And there's the big choruses and triplet percussive layering that's straight out of the 'Vol. 3:' handbook - 'Nero Forte' defines all of this the greatest.
However, that's not to say that that's under-handed or anything of the sort. In fact, sometimes when Slipknot are playing up their tropes is when we get some awesome moments. For instance, 'Orphan' attacks with machine-gun firing double kicks, blasting cymbals, fast riffage, and one of the more tolerable, bouncy choruses found on the entire record. All as Corey Taylor loudly proclaims about the lonely hill that he will fight to the death upon. Elsewhere, 'Red Flag' slits your throat and fucks the wound raw with vile riffs, urgent electronics, brisk tempos, pinging snare work and hefty grooves, all as the band's Big Mouth unloads like a man who's lost it all being utterly possessed. Both are great songs, and while they're typical Slipknot through and through, it's proof that there's more than enough gas in the tank in this band's sound to this day.
This is a record where the focal parts fall on the shoulders of Corey, show-stealing drummer Jay Weinberg and the subtle-but-heavy lifting sample and electronic work of Sid Wilson and Craig Jones. As it's the weirder, darker, and more "experimental" moments that are where 'We Are Not Your Kind' shines brightest. The blast beats and breakdown on 'Unsainted' are savage, but the intro's choral section was a great touch of grandeur and something different. 'Insert Coin' is the album's short-lived intro piece that highlights the demented sonic vision that Sid and Craig bring to the band.
'A Liar's Funeral' switches between the fluttering intimacy and quiet acoustic beauty that Slipknot have drifted into since 'Vol 3.', but it merges it with a violent, brooding sound at certain intervals for an insane contrast before it explodes into pain and classic, weighty Slipknot aggression. It's caught between two worlds, between two different sounds of Slipknot, but it works well. 'Spiders' sounds like dread, like spiders crawling underneath your skin. What with it's spindling pianos, grumbling bass, repeated drum loops, and Corey's lyrical imagery of spiders marching, all building at a perfect pace as a wailing solo screeches and squelchy synths roam free. It's a Slipknot nightmare made real.
Other times, things are all over the place, with the destructive, modulated penultimate cut 'Not Long For This World': rolling tom fills, de-tuned guitar motifs, and ghostly singing erupting into catchy Stone Sour-like choruses that could've been a banger off of 'Vol. 3' or 'All Hope Is Gone', complete with stomping guitar runs and a massive mid-section where things push-and-pull between eerie melodies and heavier, darker flourishes as all hell breaks loose. And at the tail end of the record, it's the reverse drums, eerie atmospherics and up-down dynamic ebb and flow of 'Solway Filth' - the bands best album closer next to 'All Hope Is Gone' - that's a major aspect about why that song is so fucking good. That, and Corey's detailed, defiant lyricism; by far one of the records greatest elements as he goes all, sounding authentically tortured.
Frustratingly, though, the brakes on this record's pacing slam down due to a handful of interludes that bloat matters. 'Death Because Of Death,' despite being only 81 seconds long, feels nauseating with Corey repeatedly singling "death because of death because of you." Later on, 'What's Next' is barely a minute long and should've been left on the cutting room floor. The worst offender here is the malformed, freaky nursery-rhyme vibe of 'My Pain', a nearly seven-minute song of wobbling low-end synths, tape real effects, drum machines, and whispering vocals that either wander around aimlessly or become too repetitive. It's trying to create a certain level of atmosphere but all it does is bore me half to death. Slipknot have of course done tracks like each of these examples before, but this is the least necessary that they've ever felt on a record of theirs, for the most part.
The only times that an interlude section here actually works comes first with 'Insert Coin'; the demented intro tune that evokes an old arcade machine but if it were opening a portal to a dissonant, distorted hell instead of the games' first level. (I also love the lyrical reprisal of the "I'm counting all the killers" line in both 'Insert Coin' and 'Solway Filth'; joining up the beginning and finale of this record.) The second moment comes in the form of the eerie, ringing-out sounds that complete the brooding alt-metal rant of 'Critical Darling', setting the scene for one of the albums gems, the aforementioned juggernaut of 'A Liar's Funeral.' (This is something that 'Not Long For This World' also achieves in how it transitions over into 'Solway Filth.')
Excluding the goddamn huge album standout 'Nero Forte', some of the choruses here are on the weaker side for 'We Are Not Your Kind.' Personally, I just cannot ever imagine myself belting out aloud at a Slipknot gig "never kill myself to save my soul" ('Unsainted') or "there can't be hell if there is no heaven" ('Critical Darling.') Because really, it's the super dark and chaotic bridge sections, those far heavier verses where the band are running full pelt with Corey's manic screaming, where these more typical Slipknot songs excel. And no truer is this the case then on 'Unsainted' and 'Critical Darling.'
Refrains aside, the riff department is definitely lacking a little bit. Sometimes it's fine, as with closer 'Solway Filth,' where the band get a solid 5-minute mileage out of the same riff. Other times, it's a little uninspired, as per 'Birth Of The Cruel.' The band themselves compared this new album to 'Iowa' a lot, and that comparison is definitely apt at times. Yet that record just had these brutal chugs that tapped into something so primal, but it's not 2001 anymore for metal or for this band. So now Mick Thomson and Jim Root are mostly just chugging away with few pinches and rarer solos, and that leaves me wanting somewhat.
While the acronym for 'We Are Not Your Kind' almost spells out "wank", this new album is anything but. For this is a solid return for Slipknot, one that'll keep the touring wheels moving and satiating young and old fans who craved that darker, heavier Knot reaching back into their lives. 'Not Long For This World,' 'Nero Forte,' 'Solway Filth,' 'Red Flag,' and 'Orphan' all show that age hasn't tamed or diminished the raging chaos and deep darkness that stirs within Slipknot's songwriting ability. It proves that two decades on from their scene-destroying debut album, they're still one of a kind, they're still maladjusted, they're still Slipknot. Yet 'A Liar's Funeral' and 'Spiders' also reinforce that the band's stranger, more obscure tendencies are disturbing and gripping in their own right.
Whilst somewhat bloated by skippable interludes that grind the flow to a halt, and with a couple mildly indifferent choruses and the occasionally far too on-brand Slipknot tune, this is still a strong release. And while not perfect, the good outweighs the confusing and lacklustre. There is no doubt in my mind that this is going to be a BIG record for not just heavy music in 2019, but for Slipknot and their legions of fans now that it's out in the wild. (No, as much as I love this band, I'm not calling them "maggots", that's cringe as fuck.) 'We Are Not Your Kind' reveals just how much of a one-in-a-million success story Slipknot were and still are to this day. This is a record that only time will be the final judge of, just like the previous five Slipknot records. So let's report back in five or six years when Slipknot release their next album, yeah?
Birth Of The Cruel
Death Because Of Death
A Liar's Funeral
Not Long For This World
'We Are Not Your Kind' is out now. ('All Out Life' is a bonus track on the Japanese version of the record, but why it's not featured on the normal edition of the album is beyond me.)