Twenty years after the release of their debut self-titled album, Iowan metal giants Slipknot have stuck (nine) middle fingers up to the haters and proven that decades of relentless tours, lineup changes, deaths and a decline in the popularity of rock and metal music has far from defeated them. Their sixth studio album ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ is their best music in a long, long time and has deservedly secured the number 1 spot in the UK charts this week.
It hasn’t been an easy journey for Slipknot. Their lack of preparedness for a speedy rise to fame following the popularity of their debut album in 1999 led to a particularly dark period for the band and raised questions over how long they could continue. The silver lining, on a professional level rather than a personal one, was critical acclaim the band received for their heaviest album and biggest ‘fuck you’ to the industry with second album Iowa in 2001, but personal issues lingered and ‘chemical imbalances’ continued to riddle the band during the release of Vol. 3 The Subliminal Verses and All Hope Is Gone. Everything changed in 2010 when bassist and founding member Paul Gray died of an overdose. The devastating news crushed the band and forced them to stop taking their fortune for granted and reassess their approach to music. Certainty over Slipknot’s future thinned out in the years following Gray’s death as the band took time out to heal and a mysterious falling-out led to drummer Joey Jordison leaving in 2013, but the band returned with a tribute to Paul in 2014 with .5 The Gray Chapter.
Fast forward to the present day and with new masks, new members and new music Slipknot really are at the top of their game again. Clown and Corey have both said in recent interviews that the chemistry and vibe in the Slipknot camp is the best it’s been for a while, the new members have settled into the family well, and for WANYK they made the decision to not stick to label timelines and instead spend as long as they needed to to make sure the album was perfect.
The first taste of new music was came on Halloween last year with the release of All Out Life, a strong, fast-paced track that gave fans a lot of hope for the album. Seven months later we were then treated to Unsainted, another anthemic song that will undoubtedly slot itself nicely into Slipknot’s setlist as a permanent fixture. So far, so good. Rumours of the album being ‘Iowa levels of heavy’ unsurprisingly confused die-hard fans after the first two singles, but what came next threw every criticism out the window. Solway Firth is a relentless heavy metal beast that gets the heart pumping and reminds fans that the fire still burns inside the creative minds of Slipknot.
After the release of three solid singles the hype for the album was gaining a lot of momentum, and on Friday 9th August ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ finally arrived! I mentioned in my mid-year review that this album needs to be listened to in one sitting from start to finish to be fully appreciated, and I stand by that. I have listened to WANYK about a dozen times now, and I find myself just wanting to listen to it in its entirety every time. I don’t think I can go quite as far as Clown and say that it’s a masterpiece, but for the first time in a long time my expectations of a new album have been exceeded.
The atmospheric interludes and Clown’s artistic vision for the album shines throughout and ties all the songs together like a story, giving the album a uniqueness like no other metal record. My favourite tracks on this album are the classic Slipknot-sounding tracks :Nero Forte, Unsainted, Solway Firth, Red Flag, Orphan. All of these tracks are in-your-face, angry and fast, but what I really admire are the experimental moments of the album. Slipknot haven’t been afraid to try something new in the past and there are two tracks in particular which fall within this category – Spiders and My Pain. It took me a little while to get into them, but the more I listen to them the more I begin to appreciate their distinction from the rest of the album.
The two stand out performances on this album for me are lead singer Corey Taylor and drummer Jay Weinberg. Corey has recently gone through a divorce and he writes about this on a few tracks, so this is a very personal album for him and you can really hear the heartbreak in his voice and lyrics. He also quit smoking since at the end of the Gray Chapter cycle, which has resulted in dramatically improved vocals. His screams on WANYK are reminiscent of the Iowa era and compliment the aggressiveness of the album perfectly. Jay Weinberg joined Slipknot in 2014 following the departure of founding member Joey Jordison and he had big shoes to fill. Being the son of Max Weinberg, long-time drummer of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Jay has been brought up with an understanding of the touring life and is no novice to the music industry. Jay has also been a fan of Slipknot since he was a kid (there used to be a great clip on YouTube of a young Jay and his Dad backstage at a Slipknot concert meeting the band) and it’s easy to tell from the live videos that Jay is having the time of his life and really living his dream being the Slipknot drummer. He’s doing a fantastic job of it too. The double bass drumming on Solway Firth is outstanding and a particular highlight!
In my opinion there’s only really one thing missing from WANYK. All Out Life. The decision not to include this song on the album I feel was bizarre. It’s a brilliant song that not only provided inspiration for the title of the new album but introduced fans to the new era of Slipknot with a bang. It doesn’t sound like a ‘bonus track’ or a B-side, it 100% deserves to be on the album. Clown explained in Spotify’s ‘Metal Talks’ that All Out Life was left out because it would have resulted in one of the other tracks on the album being left out. All Out Life was already finished and out in the world, so if it had been included on the album an unfinished track may never have been mixed, mastered and eventually released. Fans have the option of listening to the album and All Out Life. I can understand the thinking behind this, but as someone who is likely to buy WANYK on vinyl, All Out Life’s absence will be noticed. I also think there are a couple of tracks that could have stepped aside for All Out Life…
With or without All Out Life, WANYK is as close to a masterpiece as Slipknot have gotten to since Iowa. It’s heavy, fast, experimental, atmospheric, meaningful, and feels like a classic Slipknot album. All Hope Is Gone and .5 The Gray Chapter weren’t bad albums by any means, but they felt more hard rock than they did metal and as a result less Slipknot. More Stone Sour than Slipknot, perhaps. We Are Not Your Kind ticks all the right boxes and will transition very nicely to the live shows. This is a solid album that will surely go down well with fans old and new, and will undoubtedly live long in the band’s history as a triumph.
Top Tracks: Solway Firth, Nero Forte, Red Flag
Release Date: August 9th, 2019
- 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