Somehow wearing masks and having nine members works because Slipknot worked up the ranks to become the most prominent metal group in about 25 years. Mixing new found inspiration and going back to their roots, these Iowa natives crafted their best album to date, We Are Not Your Kind. This strange trip packs a punch in every sense of the word, the Knot has come back again, and they are taking back their throne.
Setting the ominous tone comes Insert Coin, a simple introduction into the band’s sixth album. Giving off 80s horror movie vibes creates a frightening mood for the rest of the album. Outside of the creepy noises and electronic background, the only lyric “I’m counting all the killers,” bookends the record as the final track Solway Firth has the same line, a perfect way for Corey Taylor to get across what he needs to say about a two year period of depression as a sober man.
Children can represent many things, one of which is something chilling. Unsainted takes that to a new level as it starts with a child choir that leads into a stripped-down chorus. The first single packs itself with vicious attacks during the verse and a scream-along chorus that rivals anything the nine members have created in the past.
Taylor compared this release to both Iowa and Vol. 3, and I see why the comparisons to their third effort got made with Birth of the Cruel. An anthemic piece that goes into unpredictable directions. This is the first piece of evidence that shows some of these songs transform from one beast to another.
One of the shortest tracks, Death Because of Death, might last just over a minute, but that does not take away the strength behind its punch. Tribal beats from the three percussionists and an electric backdrop set the tone. Taylor’s disturbing singing with equally haunting lyrics makes for an unsettling experience in an incredible way.
Nero Forte might hit closest to classic Slipknot while still feeling fresh. A hard-driving animal that is not the fastest, but undoubtedly rips anyone apart who gets in the way. Taylor shows off some of his fastest screams while his uncomfortably catchy clean vocals bring a balance of heaviness and melody.
Critical Darling kept me on my toes as it makes me never feel safe. The calm before the storm comes with Sid Wilson and Craig Jones laying out more electric magic before the rest of the group jumps in for a deceivingly heavy song. The pre-chorus builds up but not to an explosion, instead, it leads into one of the most beautifully melodic choruses in the band’s history. That build to something massive comes from an intimate bridge that dives into a heavy ending.
Transitioning from Critical Darling walks right into A Liar’s Funeral. An overall naked beginning with Jim Root’s softly playing guitar and Taylor giving out an emotional performance. Other members pop up for an aggressive chorus but mostly sit back until the epic climax as Taylor unleashes his agony in an impactful conclusion.
Taking it back to 2001 or 1999, Red Flag is one of the most violent, fastest, and heaviest songs to be found here. Old school thrash metal vibes sink in with the classic Knot aggression that put them on the map.
The only issue I have found comes from What’s Next, a filler track that does not transition into the next song. It would feel right if it could adequately blend into Spiders.
An introduction that should alert Michael Myers to the area quickly goes from Halloween to reminding me this is Slipknot. Catchy drumming from Jay Weinberg compliments Taylor’s equally catchy singing. Alessandro Venturella’s bass adds that extra thickness that felt needed for comfort while light guitar action sneaks in after the bassist. While everyone has a part to play, it is centered on Weinberg and Taylor for this weird atmospheric tune.
Distortion and pounding of drums begin Orphan, a heavy hitter that takes a while to get rolling, but when it does, it becomes relentless. The remarkable aspect of this track is not its ability to bash in heads; instead, it comes from a catchy chorus that retains that aggression.
A drawn-out introduction with spine-tingling whispers sets the tone for My Pain, a title that perfectly represents what I heard. Weinberg consistently tapping a cymbal, and Taylor’s intimate performance highlights this agony. A sense of danger similar to Critical Darling except for being one of the softest songs. While a lot of experiments were done, this is equally jaw-droppingly beautiful and unique.
Not Long for This World has an unconventional structure as it starts off reserved and quiet then takes a turn for something much more melodic and less haunting. The halfway mark takes another twist from the back and forth of its first verses and choruses as things get ferociously heavy. The chaos ensues into a dramatic conclusion.
Ending on a heavy note that matches the aggression from Red Flag or early material like People = Shit is Solway Firth, a complete bloodbath of raw emotion. Initially, I thought it felt wrong to end here, but knowing Taylor’s focus on his divorce makes this final track the perfect closer. An unrelenting attack that ends the conversation of the singer’s dramatic two-year depression.
Every member has plenty to offer unlike anything since Iowa, especially for Wilson and Jones who I always felt were underutilized in the past two releases. Bashing, yet technical percussive power from Weinberg, founding member Clown, and whoever ended up track the other side of drumming since Chris Fehn was booted. Meanwhile, Root and Mick Thomson slay it on guitar while tactically reeling themselves back on some songs like Spiders and A Liar’s Funeral.
Taylor delivers not only one of his best vocal performances with new techniques, but he has also written his best lyrics across every track. Tackling one subject made for the most powerful release in his career with the masked juggernaut.
Leading up to the release, I had a sour taste in my mouth as All Out Life, the first song that came out last year announcing the return of the mighty metalheads, would not be on the extensive tracklist. After listening, I realize it is best off since it would not fit the themes tackled here. Hopefully, a deluxe edition comes for the anthemic track to have a home.
We Are Not Your Kind stands has not only Slipknot’s best release, or even the best of the year, it stands above everything in over 15 years. It has one lousy spot with What’s Next, but with that 54-second bump out of 14 songs, I can hardly complain. A mix of old school Knot and many surprises shows the group is a force that nobody can takedown.
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Image via Roadrunner Records