"Yours does not mean mine / Kill does not mean die / We are not your kind / No excuses / I challenge you to all out fucking life!"
Iowa's very own masked heavy-metallers Slipknot are back with their new album We Are Not Your Kind, their first full studio release since 2014's slightly underwhelming .5: The Gray Chapter, amid behind the scenes drama with ousted member Chris Fehn and the unfortunate passing of Shawn "Clown" Crahan's teenage daughter at the age of 22 from an alleged drug overdose. The title of the new album comes from a line in the band's excellent standalone single "All Out Life," released on October 31st 2018.
Slipknot have dealt with their fair share of controversy, hardship and loss, and this is the foundation on which their dark, heavy, violent and exhilarating sound is built. Vocalist Corey Taylor, who had just emerged from an incredibly toxic relationship with an ex-wife when recording this album, addresses feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy and belittlement with unflinching honesty and some of his best vocal work in years. On "Solway Firth," for example, Taylor sends a vicious message to those he holds responsible with the lines "Oh, while I was learning to live, you taught me how to die... it wasn't somebody else, you fucking did it to me, You want a real smile? I haven't smiled in years."
"...unflinching honesty and some of his best vocal work in years."
Kicking off this hour long descent into hell and back, opener "Insert Coin" has a creeping, alarm-bell-esque warning; almost daring us to venture further into this album. Not quite as attention-grabbing as "XIX" from the previous album, but it still succeeds in setting the disturbing tone of We Are Not Your Kind.
Lead single "Unsainted" caught the Slipknot fan-base off guard with it's Stone Sour-ish intro and refrain, complete with choral voices, however my fears had subsided by the time the verse rolled around, with it's battering main guitar riff (no doubt a Mick Thomson creation) and Taylor's growl in full force on the album and sounding better than ever, launching into possibly my favourite verse on the entire record: "I'm just weathering a rough patch / Another villain with an itch to scratch / Denial is the darkest when you live in a hole / Why does the hell make you feel so cold?" Good stuff.
Up next is "Birth of the Cruel," with an eerie repetitive drum loop before some samples and disc scratches bleed through in the crystal-clear production and a guitar line that's straight out of a John Carpenter soundtrack. It's been a while since samples have been this prominent in a Slipknot track, and it's refreshing to hear them utilized properly here. And then the riff hits. A menacing, slithering monster of a riff that's a little slower than "Unsainted," yet it's hooks slowly crawl around your eardrums rather than bludgeoning them into submission. Slipknot sound somewhat restrained here, and the track is all the better for it.
"Death Because of Death" is a haunting interlude, with more subtle keyboard work and subdued drumming from Jay, before Corey begins chanting "Death because of death because of you" over and over a few times, before bleeding into the next track.
"A menacing, slithering monster of a riff..."
"Nero Forte" sees Corey Taylor at boiling point after the fallout of his marriage and subsequent divorce on one of the best songs of the entire record. The intro guitar work from Jim Root and Mick Thomson is erratic and brilliant as Jay Weinberg's drums rumble beneath the noise before leading the charge into the vicious verses. Corey is back to swapping between harsh growls, rapping, and cleans during the chorus, but the real highlight of "Nero Forte" is the breakdown section with a very clever vocal styling that I'll listen to repeatedly. A blinding, seething track, and will no doubt be an incredible live experience if they start rolling this one out. "You do your worst to me / at the end of the day that's what you do best." The anger is palpable, and no doubt a cathartic recording for the band.
"Critical Darling" is a very heavy, twisted journey into the mind of Corey Taylor. The vocalist delves headfirst into his own self and digs up some very personal things that most people would be afraid to do for themselves. "Every time this happens I'm breaking a promise I made to a version of me / Why can't I covet and keep it away from the Leeches that want to deceive?" is brutally honest, and once again the production is excellent. Greg Fidelman has done an incredible job with the entire record, as every instrument shines through. Every note, every drum beat, every growl... It's all so clear. "Critical Darling" is one of the best songs Slipknot have ever recorded, and that's no exaggeration.
"A Liar's Funeral" begins with an acoustic guitar, echoing 2008's "Snuff" with some low vocals from Corey, some tremolo guitar, rumbling bass and piano in the background, before screams of "LIAR!" catch you off guard. Some creeping electric guitar rhythms lurch and crawl as you realise this may be Corey's heaviest vocal performance on the entire album. It's a beautiful track, in the twisted way that only Slipknot can deliver. "Turn your back and show us the truth" is possibly a dig at Chris Fehn, who was fired from the band after a very public dispute.
"Every note, every drum beat, every growl... It's all so clear."
"Red Flag" ramps the speed right back up with a blistering and violent track that would not be out of place on Iowa. When Corey Taylor screams "I wish you would all fuck off and go back to Hell where you belong," you feel the venom in every word. Brutal dual guitars thrash out some of the traditional Slipknot feel while the drums pummel you into submission, for a truly breathless and vicious experience.
"What's Next" is an interesting transition piece, with a quietly thudding bass drum, subtle acoustic guitar and melodic use of a piano, before alluding to a bass drop leading into "Spiders." This is definitely the most surprising song on We Are Not Your Kind, as it's something the band haven't really tried before, and for the most part it works. It's still Slipknot. Be careful, the spiders are coming for you.
"Orphan" is without question the heaviest song on the entire record, lyrically and musically. "There's still a part of me that's dying in a dumpster / The one who rose is a motherfucking monster" sings Corey, and he sings with such conviction that you know he's baring his soul once more as he did on "Critical Darling" and it makes for uncomfortable listening; it makes you feel things you may never have felt before. Just outstanding in every way.
"My Pain" also enters new musical territory for Slipknot as the band delve into electronica and creepy piano sounds for a tale about communication. About fighting the internal struggles millions of us face each and every day. It's an atmospheric and haunting track, and an important song for the world today. "Pain... she loves me... I'm your friend, and I'm your shade..." Just absolutely sublime. This track might not tick with everyone right away, but it's brave new ground for the band.
"...the drums pummel you into submission, for a truly breathless and vicious experience."
Second to last is the aching "Not Long For This World," with lyrics referencing Corey's own battle with depression and self harm. It's unflinching, and honest. "Cutting or scratching, they scar the same / The angle is off, the edges are soft / The mark remains" croons the front-man in a bitter yet beautiful melody. Top marks for production once again, because it's really flawless here. Some vocoder sounds are used to great effect on his voice towards the end of the track, and it really adds to the demented mood that's already been set. It's reminiscent of "If Rain Is What You Want" from their previous album, yet builds on what was lacking from that song to create something new and exciting.
"Solway Firth" was an incredible choice for the album's second single, and was sure to set aside any doubts people had from the sugary chorus in "Unsainted." With a clever little Easter egg in the form of the song being 5:55 in length, the track wastes little time in pummeling us within an inch of our lives. A low-key, menacing intro sees Corey Taylor 'counting all the killers' with a hint of Gaelic in his voice, owing to part of his ancestry. Once the track kicks into gear, it's exceptionally heavy, with chugging riffs and stomping bass lines that give the song a meaty, full-bodied late nineties metal flavour. Keep your ears peeled for an unexpected surprise towards the end of the track for the keyboards that sound like a child's music box. It's unsettling; and amongst the bedlam of the song, it's a fantastic way to bring the album home.
"Slipknot have created something truly incredible..."
The new album is a twisted combination of the best parts of everything that came before it, from the rage-filled early days of the self-titled debut album and the boiling insanity and anger of Iowa, to the more mature Slipknot of All Hope Is Gone and .5: The Gray Chapter, with a few splashes of Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses thrown in for good measure. Slipknot have created something truly incredible in We Are Not Your Kind, and everybody involved should be immensely proud of what they have achieved here. The sheer ambition on display is breathtaking and the dynamic between the guys seems better than ever.
We Are Not Your Kind is in parts vicious, dark, horrifying, beautiful, vulnerable, experimental, fearless, and yet one-hundred percent, unadulterated, pure Slipknot. It's good to have you back, boys.
Slipknot are: Shawn Crahan – custom percussion, backing vocals, Craig Jones – samples, media, keyboards, Mick Thomson – lead and rhythm guitars, Corey Taylor – lead vocals, Sid Wilson – turntables, keyboards, Jim Root – lead and rhythm guitars, Alessandro Venturella – bass, and Jay Weinberg – drums
We Are Not Your Kind is available now via Roadrunner Records on all good streaming services, YouTube and physical CD and vinyl from all good music retailers and via the band's official website.