Review Summary: An album the Maggots deserve.
Slipknot has had a lot to contend with in 2019, having lost yet another one of its original members due to internal dramas. With that, when you sit back and analyse the places this band has gone to in the last 10 years, it’s amazing to think We Are Not Your Kind
even exists. I mean, arguably, this band ran out of steam as far back as All Hope is Gone
– an unfocused, bland and, at times, muddled record that saw fame and fortune getting the better of this nonet. However, when you consider the death of their primary songwriter, Paul Gray, and the firing of their original drummer, Joey Jordison, it left a lot of balls up in the air for .5: The Gray Chapter
’s imminent release.
Like All Hope is Gone
, .5: The Gray Chapter
suffers from the same experimentally confused and flaccid songwriting its former pertained, the only distinction between the two being that age is far less forgiving of .5: The Gray Chapter
as the years press on. It also has to be said that with our modern-day Slipknot, I sit dangerously close to a sentiment that could effuse a narrow-minded point-of-view, but I’m going to say it anyway: there’s been a budding complacency that’s been eroding the last 10 years of Slipknot’s output. From choppy songwriting, to Corey’s detrimental vocal performances, the band has lost sight of its fundamental values. This band isn’t Kiss; in their early days, these guys were intent on feeding on their own self-destruction until their inevitable demise. The irony here is that the demise part never happened, and over time their feral sensibilities have turned domesticated: a corporate brand name used to sell big-festival tickets, all the while dimming the white-hot, emotive intensity of their early days because of complacency and age.
And age plays a big part in this kind of music; it can sometimes be the difference between a good album and a great one. The band’s bedrock has always centred on anger and sincerity, and it’s something Corey has failed to convincingly deliver on since Paul Gray’s death, thus making an album like .5: The Gray Chapter
a completely futile farce. The saving grace of their last record was that, potentially, its successor could be instrumentally interesting and superior – assuming it was going to be written collaboratively. Jay Weinberg was a perfectly organic replacement to Joey, and he showed massive potential and engagement behind Slipknot’s fifth effort. So, while I don’t look at .5: The Gray Chapter
very favourably, the record still presents itself as an optimistic stepping stone for better artistic ventures. Which, for the most part, We Are Not Your Kind
We Are Not Your Kind
is not a perfect album by any means, there’s still a lot of niggling baggage being carried over from 2014’s misfire, but with that being said, this is a much more attentive album which manages to firmly grasp onto a consistent tone for the duration of its stay. There’s an ominous cloud that hangs over We Are Not Your Kind
’s tracks, and it makes the record gel together more organically because of it – largely supported by the intermittent ambient sections that spring up from time to time, just to let the album breath and form its own world. Songs are handled more skilfully this time around and don’t present the same jarring juxtaposed-tonal-meshing that plagued the album’s predecessor – at least not to anywhere near the same degree. Without giving the usual spiel of a band promoting an album that’s hearkening back to their roots, this actually delivers on that count here. Compositionally, the album sits right in the middle of Iowa
and Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses
, whilst ensuring it implements some of the more modern Slipknot traits to give the record a more distinguished presence. The band has learnt from their sloppy mistakes, cutting out a lot of the Stone Sour-esque writing in favour of a more authentic Slipknot sound. This is easily the heaviest album they’ve made since Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses
, and it rarely lets up from the pounding, metallic percussion, frantically complex drums and dense guitar work.
With that being said, my biggest praises have to go to Corey, though. After a number of years being the burden to a lot of Slipknot’s songs, he’s managed to rein in all of his worst habits. Taylor now walks on the frontlines using his signature nu-metal harsh-rap/shouting, placing infectious hooks and clean vocal work where applicable and with strategic planning. Like the early days of the band, radio-hooks have always been an important part of their sound, but they’ve never been a complete focal point. The biggest problem with latter day albums is the incessant lean on their Stone Sour-approach-to-writing. Here, that mantra is gone and choruses to tracks like “Unsainted” and “Nero Forte” aren’t distracting – they feel earned, rather than shoehorned in for the sake of accessibility. Lyrics sound more mature as well and don’t stoop to the level of common denominator like the infamously awful “Custer”. The frontman’s handling on these tracks is tasteful and relatively low-key, but it also presents an obvious elevation in how he’s tackling things in the band these days.
This is easily the best album Slipknot has produced in 15 years, there’s no disputing that, however, there are two weighty problems that surface with repeated listens: the album’s length, and the homogenised stomping rhythm. Both are technically married to each other, because if the record wasn’t so long the classic stomping rhythm wouldn’t be as much of an issue. By the last quarter of the album though, I felt a little fatigued with the way We Are Not Your Kind
was sticking to some of the same patterns. There’s not a bad song here, but there are moments on “Orphan” or “Solway Firth” where I started to feel the pinch; the unshakable feeling some of the payoff wasn’t quite there by the time it had ended. If they’d condensed or cut a couple of tracks, I feel the band would have struck a home run. In addition, another less severe con is the symphonic elements that creep up here and there. The choir in “Unsainted” is simply cringe-worthy, distracting and incompatible with the track’s mainstay metallic scorn. This inspiration enters the fray elsewhere at times, but it’s a little less on the nose and far less obnoxious, albeit damaging nonetheless.
Overall though, it’s been a good year for old-school metal bands, and this album has turned out to be a surprisingly welcoming addition to the list. Sure, We Are Not Your Kind
is a little bloated and it occasionally stubs its toe on trying to be grandiose, but their determined focus on making this sound like Slipknot is wildly successful. The level of experimentation is a positive draw as well, going all-out weird with moody instrumentals and strange electronic ambiances, and having them applied pretty impressively to the hard-hitters of the album guarantees its persistent tone. Most importantly – even with its ambitious side occasionally rearing its head – this is grounded, back-to-basics writing that becomes the breath of fresh air for the album. This is the record the band should have come back with post Paul Gray’s death; it has all the hallmarks of what made Slipknot great in the first place, but it contains a lot of the good elements that came from .5: The Gray Chapter
PACKAGING: Standard jewel case.
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://slipknot1.lnk.to/wanyk/