Review Summary: The album where Slipknot grew up.
By far the most infamous release from Slipknot, Volume 3 The Subliminal Verses was released on May 25th 2004. This was the album that marked several departures from their aggressive, in-your-face brand of nu metal that made the band popular in the late 90’s and the early 2000s through both their self-titled debut and their sophomore album Iowa, the bands darkest album to date. This album marks a period of experimentation for the band, newly reformed after a long hiatus following Iowa, and is widely considered to be the low point of the band’s discography.
Following on from Iowa, the band’s line-up is completely unchanged, but much has changed. The band appear to have lost the genuine aggression that made albums such as the aforementioned Iowa so believable for what they were. In place of this are the depressing, haunting tunes fuelled by lyrics centring around disaffection, psychosis, loss of hope, and, of course, a song dedicated to the fans of the band, the Maggots.
Other changes are the much more technical guitar work on display here, featuring soloing, much harder-to-play riffs, and extended use of harmonics, the use of acoustic guitars on a few songs, and the change in vocal style from Corey Taylor, a factor I shall elaborate more upon later. Also, Corey has altered his lyrical style to not swear at all, which really is a first. Many people said he relied to much on the use of a certain four letter word, so he went for a completely clean style of lyrics on this album and it works to perfection. For now though, let us look at the music.
Musically, this album went in multiple directions. There are acoustic numbers such as Circle, there are the heavy songs in the vein of their past work in the form of The Blister Exists, and there are songs that do not fit into any form of categorisation whatsoever, such as The Nameless and The Virus Of Life. These songs are mainly hugely successful in what they hope to achieve, with one notable exception, which i shall get to later on in the review.
Straight from the get go, after an extended prologue track, we are gifted the first dose of the album, the extremely aggressive The Blister Exists. However, this song also displays the new experimental tendencies, first with the extremely melodic clean singing from Corey Taylor, and then with the long military drums section. In my opinion, this is the perfect song to display both the “old Slipknot” and the “new Slipknot”, as it all works, and flows together very well.
Another heavier highlight of the album would be Opium Of The People. This has a very nice guitar intro from Jim Root, before going into one of the heaviest cuts of the album, with some incredible guitar work throughout, and even some decent vocals from Corey Taylor once again. Could the listener ask for any more? This is one of the more straightforward Slipknot songs off the album, not messing around with experimentation very much, and it really does all come together fantastically.
The most experimental track on here, The Virus Of Life, is a rather weird number. It is by no means a bad song, but it really does mess with the listeners head. The lyrics are typical lyrics from Corey, a complete stalker’s anthem, but they are delivered far different to past albums. The level of effects added to his voice really make him sound completely evil, especially coupled with the aggressive whisper style he utilizes during the verses. The music is all over the place in a way that recalls the days of Tattered And Torn, although nowhere near that heavy, and far better written. Overall, this is a song that really does warrant a listen, if only to see how insane it really is.
Another of the more experimental songs is Danger-Keep Away. This song uses acoustic guitars, and some incredible clean vocals from Corey. This is one of my personal favourites this band has ever put out, as it all comes off sounding very emotional, but in a different way to other “emotional” Slipknot songs. This song instead sounds completely despairing, but with an aura of optimism in the vocal style of Corey Taylor, and it works to perfection. This is one of the better songs from the album, and certainly the best acoustic song the band has put out to date. To me, this song appears to be about someone who has wronged someone close to them, and no matter how much they try to hide it, it eats away at them. However, the beauty is that there are so many different possible interpretations of the lyrics to this song. It is a song that everyone could find a different meaning to if they looked, and I really do like this.
The one absolute mind *** on this album is the fact that there are two versions of Vermilion, one is heavy, the other is acoustic. The other difference is that the lyrics are slightly different, but it comes across as just a cheap way to get people to like it one way or another, be they fans of “old” Slipknot or “new” Slipknot. The first one is a fantastic tune, that really does stand out amongst this band’s body of work, whereas the second one is just a boring snore fest. I really have never had any time for Vermilion Pt 2, but some people really enjoy it. All the atmosphere that was found in the first one is gone from it, and it comes across feeling flat and empty to me. A shame, as the first one is a classic.
The single’s from this album were all fun, radio friendly tunes that are great to listen to every now and again, but quickly become boring, to the point of stagnancy. Before I Forget was a nice song, that got a lot of exposure through various video games and radio airplay, Duality was an interesting song, with decent rapped verses and an infectious chorus, The Nameless was an interesting song, especially for a guitarist, and the Vermilions and Blister Exists have already been mentioned. However, Before I Forget does not have enough going for it, Duality has that ridiculous line “All I Got Is Insane”, and The Nameless is just too long.
The instrumentals from the band on this album are their best to date. The drumming is crazy, and the bass is fun. The guitar work is the finest from the band, with some nice solo’s, that amazing intro to Opium Of The People, and the nice acoustic work found on some of the tracks. There are no moments that really sound too forced, such as the first part of the title track from All Hope Is Gone, where it was just an excuse to tremolo pick with blast beats, but the music retains a certain degree of intensity and technicality. It all flows well, and the album does not really lose and momentum, even during the weak song (Vermilion Part 2).
Vocally, it is apparent that Corey Taylor ruined his voice screaming from his throat with the intensity he did on Iowa and their Self-Titled album. His screams are very different on this album, but they lack none of the power that they once had, and are very nice to listen to. They do not border on ear rape in the vein of Oli Sykes from Bring Me The Horizon, who utilizes a similar style to this album. They are quite nice to listen to, and really add to the songs.
However, it is the clean vocals that steal the show here. From the melodic chorus to The Blister Exists, through the middle section of Before I Forget, through all of the acoustic songs, Corey Taylor really has managed to improve his cleans. They were not terrible in the past, as evidenced by songs such as Me Inside and Left Behind, but he really is a powerful singer on this album, who sings with real care and emotion. I absolutely adore his vocals on here.
This album really was a huge step forward for Slipknot, going from the boundless rage that worked so well on the previous albums, to a much more mature style of music. This was where the band grew up, and really started to come into their own. They experimented a lot and it worked. The only down side of this album is the pointless second part of Vermilion, and perhaps a few minor lyrical mishaps. This is an album that not a single song ever gets skipped when I listen to it, because it really is so consistent. 4.5/5