Slipknot — We Are Not Your Kind
Five years after the release of .5: The Gray Chapter (review), Slipknot issue their sixth full-length album, featuring yet change to the line-up. Where the last album marked the first without original members Joey Jordison and Paul Gray. We Are Not Your Kind comes after the band split with percussionist Chris Fehn following a dispute over the band's financial arrangements. The remaining 8 members of the band would go on to write this album without Fehn, and have enlisted a replacement percussionist for touring purposes. I gave the previous record a good review but, in hindsight the material did not have the long-term appeal or depth of the rest of the band's discography. Would the loss of another founding member diminish the band even further? The answer to that is a definitive "no."
Following a short, ambient intro track titled "Insert Coin," the album truly starts with lead single "Unsainted." The track is Slipknot doing what they do best: combine heavy grooves with vocals that shift between abrasive fury and pop melodicism. "Unsainted" is a really strong opener, and one of the band's best singles in a long time — a blend of typically manic vocals, bolstered by a powerful choral section in the chorus. The rest of the record maintains a similar level of quality, and none of the full tracks feel like filler material. There are a couple of ambient segue tracks ("Death Because Of Death" and "What's Next"), and "My Pain" is a similar, 6 minute, mostly instrumental — aside from some pseudo-chanted vocals — breather near the end of the record. As a piece of sound design it's pretty cool, but it's also the only part of the album that I'd argue could be skipped on repeat listens. Although, to be fair, it does help the pacing of the record quite a bit — letting up on the gas pedal before the aggression gets gratuitous and loses its weight.
Sonically, We Are Not Your Kind is a whole lot of ear candy. The production on this album is superb, and the songs are a lot more dense and layered than previous efforts. The engineering on the drums — and the performances themselves — in particular is worthy of special mention as well as the additional percussion that fleshes out the rhythm tracks. The guitar tones are chunky and crushing, and the bass is very prominent in the mix as well, adding additional weight to the material. While a lot of of Slipknot's material doesn't sound like it requires an enssemble of 9 musicians, you get the odd track that is the exception to this. "Spiders," probably my favourite cut on the album, is a great example of the band leveraging its vast ranks. The track features the core instrumental and layers on more and more elements as it progresses, giving the song an incredibly creepy vibe over and above its Halloween theme-inspired piano lines and peculiar 7/8 time signature.
There are a few minor nitpicks; the lyrical content is no different than any other Slipknot record, focusing on themes of angst, alienation and rage. There are a strong Korn vibe on a few cuts — to the degree that the instrumental parts of "Birth Of The Cruel" and even some of "Spiders." I don't think it's as prevalent as some have said, but any time you have a deep, bass-heavy sound anywhere in the vicinity of the alt-metal genre, the comparison is bound to be made. While I don't have any issue with them, the interludes could be cut without anyone complaining — although I still argue they help make We Are Not Your Kind sound more dynamic as a whole. The band's Stone Sour influences are largely absent, save for the acoustic / eletric guitar mix in "A Liar's Funeral," which is a big positive — if I want the more traditional alt-rock style of Stone Sour, I will listen to them instead.
The whole album is very well paced, the songs are their own distinct pieces, and nothing feels belaboured or overdone. Even on the band's first 2 initial releases, the relentless aggression often felt excessive and overboard by the end of those records. We Are Not Your Kind doses the melody and brutality in just the right amounts, avoiding that pitfall. The album runs 63 minutes and has very little downtime; if you cut the interludes, you're still left with 59 minutes of solid music. You get the typical Slipknot rage that builds throughout the opening verses, climaxing in all-out fury; there are also flourishes of melody and calm, and even a strong acoustic presence on "A Liar's Funeral." This album is the band bringing the totality of their sonic arsenal to bear and the results are fantastic. This is a group at the very peak of their song writing game and We Are Not Your Kind is arguably one of the year's best metal records.
This record won't convert anyone who already does not like Slipknot, but it's a great album for existing fans and anyone curious about the band and has never taken the plunge.
Back when I was buying my copies of their self-titled debut and Iowa, I really didn't think I would still be talking about Slipknot 20 years later — at least not in the present tense. Not only is We Are Not Your Kind a really strong album, it's arguably the band's best work to date. Not only do they retain the seething anger of their younger days, they expertly blend it with vastly improved song writing skills honed over the last 2 decades. Feet still firmly planted in the alt-metal genre, Slipknot continue to produce compelling new material. Both a new high watermark for the band's creativity, and also one of the best metal albums of 2019.
Release date: August 9th, 2019
Record label: Roadrunner Records
Corey Taylor — lead vocals
Jim Root — lead and rhythm guitar
Mick Thompson — lead and rhythm guitar
Alessandro Venturella — bass
Jay Weinberg — drums
Shawn Crahan — percussion, backing vocals
Craig Jones — samples, keyboards
Sid Wilson — turntables, keyboards
Angel City Chorale — choral performance (track 2)
Kat Primetau — additional vocals (track 4)
- Insert Coin
- Birth Of The Cruel
- Death Because Of Death
- Nero Forte
- Critical Darling
- A Liar's Funeral
- Red Flag
- What's Next
- My Pain
- Not Long For This World
- Solway Firth
Published: August 14th, 2019.