Review Summary: A solid commercial metal album that has a lot to like about it
Following the release of their critically and commercially successful first two albums Slipknot endeavored to experiment a little more than they had done so far. Whilst songs such as "Left Behind" had shown the band attempting to break the mould it was on Volume 3 where they diversified their sound a little. What they created was a varied album with a few more straight forward songs similar to their old sound and a whole lot of different numbers. The album was applauded for its attempt to stray away from the path the band had beaten out for themselves but also criticised by die hard fans of their first two albums.
This is an album that was guaranteed to alienate some of the band's core fan base but in turn brought millions more flocking into their fold. It was renowned for the singles "Before I Forget", "Duality" and "Pulse Of The Maggots" which have since gone on to be set staples. It was also an album that had something for everybody. For fans of the band's earlier works; there are a number of heavy songs such as "The Blister Exists" and "The Nameless" but this is not where the fun stops with Volume 3. People who enjoy more experimental but still heavy sounds will enjoy "The Virus Of Life" and the band even threw in a couple of acoustic numbers to sweeten the deal for people who were intrigued by the more commercial sounds hinted at by the singles but still unsure.
The dual guitar assault on Volume 3 is a lot more prominent on this collection of songs than on previous albums. On their self-titled the two guitarists merely took a back seat to the drumming and chaotic vocals. This has changed a lot for their third studio album and it is here that the band really stepped their game up. The guitars are varied and jump between the heavy, aggressive Slipknot many enjoyed prior to this release to the softer more restrained sound in the blink of an eye. The riffs are not particularly intricate but Mick and James certainly upped the ante on tracks like "The Nameless" with quick flurries of notes spat out of your speakers. They also massively abuse pinched harmonics throughout this release although not to the same degree as they would go on to do on their latest studio release. It also makes for quite a nice effect to mix in some shrieking notes with a lot of down tuned riffing.
The rest of the members of the band also put in a strong performance on here. The drumming is fast and intense throughout so not a lot has changed in this department, and the band's custom percussionists are given their moments to shine such as during a military drumming interlude to "The Blister Exists". The vocal performance is not quite as strong as on the band's prior work but the clean vocals are a huge step up. From the customary Slipknot introductory track this album places a heavy focus on more melodic vocals with a heavier usage of clean singing. By the time this album was recorded Corey had grown enormously as a clean singer and can more than hold his own on this release. His screaming is considerably weaker on Volume 3 as the years of performing the throat-ripping screams of their first two albums had finally caught up with him. His harsh vocals on here are tolerable but detract a little from the overall intensity of the sound as it sounds like he is constantly straining to even maintain a scream.
The heavy songs on here are a mixed bag. They range from excellent ("The Blister Exists" is a heavy opener that packs a punch; "The Nameless" has some complicated guitar work and a nice soft-to-heavy dynamic) to relatively mediocre ("Pulse Of The Maggots" with its failed attempt at remaining catchy throughout; "Welcome" because it lacks any memorability). Of the more experimental numbers "Virus Of Life" is not a great track but has its redeeming features in the creepy but well written lyrics. The most interesting songs on here are the acoustic and fully clean songs. "Circle" is a beautiful number with a nice instrumental sound to it and some thought provoking lyrics; the same can also be said for fellow acoustic song "Danger Keep Away". The two "Vermilion" songs are among the best the band has produced to date. The first half of it is a song that jumps from the soft to heavy very fluidly with a great chorus and brilliant vocal performance. "Part 2" is a song featuring exclusively clean guitar work and is lyrically almost exactly the same. The real genius behind this is the way both songs give off different vibes, with the first feeling more angry than the mellow but depressing second half.
Voume 3 was a bold step into new territories for the band that did not come without any flaws. "Before I Forget" is among the band's most repetitive and bland numbers with a chorus that makes little sense lyrically and the riffs are lazy and clearly geared toward earning the band as much radio air time as possible. The guitar solos to this album also feel a little too forced as though they were shoe horned in for the sake of having solos. "Opium Of The People" in particular opens with some silly flashy guitar work that is just an excuse for the two guitarists to show off their new found proficiency on their instrument. The only solo on the album that actually has any merit is the one in the first "Vermilion" song which neither feels forced nor is it an attempt to shred as fast as the band can. "Duality" has some rather unnecessary rapped vocals in the verses that could not feel more disjointed when stacked up against the rest of the album. Also worth noting is that Corey deliberately shied away from swearing on Volume 3 but to little avail as his lyrics still feel rather ridiculous at times as is seen in "Welcome" and "Opium Of The People".
This was a solid release for a band that had to change at some point and would rather do it sooner than later. "The Nameless", "The Blister Exists", the two "Vermilion"'s and the two acoustic songs are among the best the band has written. The riffing is a little more intricate than before and the drumming is still as aggressive as ever and Corey's clean singing has massively improved. It has its fair share of problems but these were merely the growing pains for a more mature sound.