Review Summary: All hope isn't gone after all
2019 was a hard year for Slipknot. The much publicized drama surrounding the firing of percussionist Chris Fehn after a nasty legal dispute, vocalist Corey Taylor's separation from wife Stephanie Luby, and harshest of all, the death of percussionist, art director, and founding member Shawn Crahan's daughter. The inevitable question of course, is how all that drama, tragedy, and death reflects in Slipknot's new album, their 6th, We Are Not Your Kind. Well in the months leading up to this album's release, Slipknot have promised to deliver their darkest and most experimental work yet, but can We Are Not Your Kind really live up to those promises and hype?
Right from the beginning, we're painted a bleak picture as the opening instrumental number, a Slipknot tradition at this point, builds ominous noise samples on top of itself as Taylor faintly sings "I'm counting all the killers" in the background. We then drop right into the lead single "Unsainted," which will likely stand as the most 'typical' Slipknot song on the record. The heavy verses into the huge melodic chorus style of songwriting has heen Slipknot's fortè since the success of older songs like "Wait and Bleed" and "Duality," yet the track does manage to throw in some light experimentation in the form of a children's choir during the chorus. Its a bit tacky, but it works for the most part.
The experimentation continues on many of the other songs with the track Nero Forte beginning as a very old school sounding Slipknot track, complete with bouncy riffs and Corey's quasi-rap barks before leading into a chorus with these very weird falsetto vocals. Elsewhere, "A Liar's Funeral" combines an acoustic introduction reminscent of Vol. 3 era Slipknot with a heavy, doom metal, lurch that feels like a logical successor to songs like "Skin Ticket" and "Gehenna". The song "Critical Darling" features an extended ambient bridge and outro that hasn't been attempted in a Slipknot song before and the band's strong songwriting makes it blend very well with the aggression of the rest of the track.
Where Slipknot really venture into the unknown, however, are on the extremely electronic driven, industrial tinged, "Spiders" and "My Pain," the former being a more radio friendly affair reminiscent of Marilyn Manson while the latter is much bleaker and more atmospheric. These two songs are guaranteed to be divisive given the radical departures from their typical sound on them, but praise really needs to be given to the band for trying something new, especially after the very middling and safe .5: The Gray Chapter. The extended use of electronics is felt on every song on the record, and you get a sense that both Sid and Craig had a much bigger part in sculpting the sound of We Are Not Your Kind than they have on previous records. Samples, keyboards, synths, and turntables are all very prominent on the album, giving another layer of texture and complimenting the generally dark moods of the album. The turntables especially are a really nice touch, especially considering how nearly absent they were on the previous couple albums.
Sadly, where the electronics are very prominent on this record, the percussion is less so. Jay Weinberg gives a very admirable performance, proving once again that he's worthy in succeeding his predecessor but the new percussionist, who's name is still unknown at the time of my writing this review, doesn't get such a chance. Perhaps it's him being buried album's mix, but the lack of custom percussion has been a real issue with the band on their last two albums and it's sad to see it continue here. The lyrics in the album seem to mostly center around Corey's relationship with his ex wife as well as general hardships he's faced the last few years and his relationship with the media. They do get very angsty and edgy at times, which is something you'd expect from Slipknot at this point, but also something I'd wish the band would mature a bit given their older ages and the generally more mature sound of the record.
We Are Not Your Kind isn't a perfect album, it suffers from some production issues and sillier lyrics as well as three ambient interlude songs which feel entirely unnecessary and cutting "All Out Life" from the final tracklist remains a questionable decision. Yet it proves that Slipknot still have a sense of creativity and are a relevant force in modern metal. The experimentation and strong songwriting make for an album not only stronger than their last effort, but one that could very well rank among the very best in their discography.