I remember back in 2000 when I was getting drum lessons and a friend of mine lent me Slipknot’s self-titled album. I was talking about KoRn and he said he’d ‘moved on’ to heavier music. I was naturally curious. When I got home and pressed play, I heard something unlike anything that I’d ever heard before (or since). The guitars, the drumming (!!!) and screaming. Whoa.
Slipknot spread like wildfire amongst my group of friends and tapped into the teen angst we were all beginning to feel (I was about 12, 13 at the time). Corey Taylor’s snarls and ‘screw you’ mentality perfectly captured (or manufactured?) this growing sentiment. Skateboarding to ‘Eyeless’ and ‘Spit it Out’ just made sense with the blast beats and breakdowns. Fast-forward 20 years (am I that old already?) and Slipknot returns with their 6th album, We Are Not Your Kind.
The opening track ‘Insert Coin’ starts off like a demented theme park leading into the lead single, ‘Unsainted’… and this is where things begin to lose me a bit. ‘Unsainted’ is typical Slipknot with the scattered vocals of Corey Taylor and chugga-chugga verses met with a melodic chorus (which immediately reminded me of the chorus of ‘Inhale’ by Stone Sour). The song does utilise choral backing vocals which is a new sound with the band.
Then comes ‘Birth of the Cruel’ with a Faith No More-esque singing vibe in the verses and a nu-metally chorus. It’s all heavy stuff! Then comes one of a few interludes, which are kind of pointless experimental moments that don’t make a lot of sense. ‘Nero Forte’ is next up, which is a fun song. When Taylor screams out “What’s this?” the riff comes in big and chunky. It’s a banger and recalls older Slipknot songs from Iowa and Vol. 3. It doesn’t break any new ground but is a strong Slipknot song.
‘Critical Darling’ opens up frantically and has a huge chunky riff with super down-tuned guitars. The chorus is melodic and recalls former songs. About halfway through the song, it shifts to a quiet section with twitchy sounds amongst the quiet vocals as Taylor sings “Darlin’ you’re so critical.” It’s a dynamic song with heavy riffs that somewhat resemble a KoRn song. ‘A Liar’s Funeral’ is a somber song that starts with acoustic guitar and breaks with Taylor screaming “Liar!” ‘Red Flag’ is another banger with a very classic Slipknot-y vibe. It’s a good thrash song that resembles their self-titled-era songs. About halfway through the song is a killer head-banging moment which returns in force at the end of the song.
The most experimental song on the album is ‘Spiders’, a creepy song that was apparently inspired by David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar. This influence is apparent if you’re familiar with that album. It’s the only song with a guitar solo on the album. Next up is ‘Orphan’, which is a typical thrashy Slipknot song with a resemblance to Vol. 3-era songs. ‘My Pain’ is the most interesting of the interludes, which sounds like something you’d found on Radiohead’s album, Kid A. ‘Not Long For This World’ is another ballad-y song with a radio-friendly chorus but an effective post-chorus motif. The album ends with ‘Solway Firth’, a heavy song that feels a little bit like several different ideas strung together into a song. Nonetheless, it is a headbanger.
We Are Not Your Kind is definitely the most experimental Slipknot have been since Vol. 3, but experimental doesn’t equal good. The interludes feel like filler, experimental tracks that don’t serve any particular purpose apart from being quirky interludes. I was quite surprised at how much more presence DJ Sid Wilson and Sampler Craig Jones have in the album compared to earlier releases, yet even turntables amongst heavy guitars are kind of dated. Lyrically there’s also the same kind of angst as Slipknot had when they broke onto the scene, which could be channeled in a more effective and original way rather than saying ‘Screw you. You can’t tell me who I am or what to do!” Despite the lyrical content, Corey Taylor’s vocals do sound the best they have in years (he quit smoking).
We Are Not Your Kind has Slipknot finding reinvigorated in song-writing approach, but it is Slipknot with all of their former strengths and weaknesses. I’ve heard the word ‘masterpiece’ thrown around about the album. That is too-high praise. It’s definitely their strongest album in a while, for sure.
Metallica released their album, Death Magnetic, back in 2008 to the same kind of acclaim We Are Not Your Kind – a ‘return to form’. I remember rushing out to buy it, listening to it and thinking ‘I like that they’re playing like they used to’. Now I rarely listen to that album. It was a return to form, but it was a return to form and imitation of a by-gone era of their sound. We Are Not Your Kind, is a similar kind of experience – a return to form, but a bit of an underwhelming one.