REVIEW: SLIPKNOT – “We Are Not Your Kind”
Let’s face it, Slipknot is important; love them or hate them, they are synonymous with metal for people not familiar with the genre and its zillion sub and microgenres. We are all kidding ourselves if we don’t know at least three people that got into metal through Slipknot, Korn, Linkin Park, System of a Down, Rammstein, or Limp Bizkit. Nu Metal is an important gateway genre for many to “better” metal and must be treated with the respect that the genre deserves, and the bands therein deserve that respect for their legacies themselves. That being said, is 2019’s We Are Not Your Kind up to snuff?
Slipknot has a rocky catalog; Iowa is a posthumous cult-classic, Vol. 3 The Subliminal Verses is hated on for its mainstream appeal by metal hipsters but is cited as the record that got many into Slipknot and metal, so make of that what you will; we can fight it all we want, but no other song will reach ultra hype of Duality. In contrast, All Hope is Gone was all over the place, yet had strong tracks and had Snuff which may be one of the most emotional songs Slipknot has ever written. After the passing of bassist (#2) Paul Gray and the tumultuous departure of drummer (principal percussionist?) (#1) Joey Jordison, I was personally not wowed by The Grey Chapter and largely overlooked it. At first spin, We Are Not Your Kind seems to be a logical continuation to the maturation and cementing of Slipknot’s sound, yet there are throwbacks to previous records that can be heard through the album.
We Are Not Your Kind opens with a stereotypical “instrumental” track, which I believe to be more of flex for the sampler (#5) Craig “133” Jones and (#0) Sid Wilson. It is not as riveting as 515 but is still creepy enough with its ghost-town arcade aesthetic. We are immediately treated to the first single Unsainted which is among the strongest tracks on We Are Not Your Kind with its catchy choir-infused chorus backed by (#8) Corey Taylor’s angsty croons. The guitar-driven tracks on the record are the heaviest and the high points of the record; Nero Forte has a mosh-starting thrashy riff that is a signal fire that guitarists (# 4) Jim Root and (#7) Mick Thompson can still bring the riffs. In the lead up to this record, Taylor boasted that We Are Not Your Kind would be heavier than or at least as heavy as Iowa, which is true only for short sections. Although, Red Flag is straight-up Iowa and is an absolute banger with its chugs and over-the-top sirens and screechy samples. The heavy sections on Nero Forte, Solway Firth, Red Flag, and Orphan are peak Slipknot and are so gratifying!
Slipknot does try its best to innovate within the constraints of the genre, and these are hit and miss over this record. The interlude tracks are certifiable misses, but Spiders has a vibe which makes you feel unclean and was an unexpected hit that grows on you, although it would have been better if it was just a wee bit shorter. They try that again in My Pain, a 7-minute lumbering mammoth, oppressive and claustrophobic, something Pitchfork readers and noise fans would adore.
Drummer (#?) Jay Weinberg is trying his best on We Are Not Your Kind yet (#1) Joey Jordison’s shoes are hard to fill. His style is more measured than Jordison’s yet maybe Slipknot needs more wacky drums to complement their wacky soundscapes. (#6) Shawn “Clown” Crahan hits his trash cans and percussion tools well, but in reality, who the heck knows what his role in the band is, other than directing creepy music videos and scaring the bejeezus out of everyone in their live performances. We Are Not Your Kind also marks the ugly feud and departure of (#3) Chris Fehn who joined Clown in his occasional banging of drums and other things. Vocalist Taylor is an absolute monster on this record, and his range is impeccable, and his talent must be recognized, even though his celebrity is scorned by many in the metal community. His lyrics occupy the duality of teenage angst in their literal content and simultaneous thematic intrigue. Smarter philosophers will distill more nuanced than most of us, but writing about personal struggles have strengthened Taylor’s approach on this record and it is immediately evident.
This is not a perfect record, however, and the lows on We Are Not Your Kind are pretty darn low! The filler tracks feel pointless and barely serve their purpose of being bookends or weak segues. Album opener Insert Coin invokes some feeling, but Death Because of Death and What’s Next are just downright silly. Birth of the Cruel is just bland, it keeps building up to something but eventually has no payoff. Critical Darling sounds like a Stone Sour B-side, although it is surprising that there are only one track and a few scattered sections on this record that taste like Stone Sour. A Liar’s Funeral tries so hard to be this record’s Vermillion or Snuff but doesn’t quite the hit the spot. In general, We Are Not Your Kind seems artificially bloated, and Slipknot tried to pack too much into a single record, probably in effort to showcase the various electronic and metal elements into a single magnum opus, but with almost every song being over six minutes long, listener fatigue is a severe issue while consuming this record. Notable exceptions to this are Orphan and Not Long for This World which are proggy enough for a longer song length to be an asset. Overall, we could have benefitted from some fat-trimming and producer-level editing, but it is an understandably complex process.
“We Are Not Your Kind” is not trying to reinvent the wheel, and is flawed, but in those flaws, Slipknot shows their humanity and sincerity, and that is present in all facets of the record. This record may be the one to breathe new life into the Slipknot brand and we should keep our eyes on the nine.