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Slipknot - We Are Not Your Kind Music Album Reviews

The sixth album from the Iowa metal mainstays has more to offer than expected and is still sometimes frustratingly short-sighted.

Slipknot have no shortage of rallying cries, but nothing defines them quite like when lead singer Corey Taylor yells, “I’m all fucked up and I make it look good” on their sixth album, We Are Not Your Kind. They’ve made anguish look appealing throughout their two-decade career, finding worldwide success channeling unwieldy, messy anger. Though this is the first record without long-time percussionist Chris Fehn, it’s not as dramatic of a shift in personnel as 2014’s .5: The Gray Chapter, which was marked by the death of bassist and founding member Paul Gray and the departure of powerhouse drummer Joey Jordison. For better or for worse, Kind is a Slipknot record, one that has more to offer than expected and is still sometimes frustratingly short-sighted.

“Unsainted” is their signature angst-pop-rock in the vein of their hits “Wait and Bleed” and “Duality,” centered around Taylor’s melodic choruses. He’s aided by a choir, turning it into a reboot of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” fueled by Midwest desolation. Its richness, part of Kind’s more detailed production, doesn’t dilute the angst Slipknot traffic in. “Birth of the Cruel” draws upon tension from industrial drum banging and tense guitar; the song’s explosion proves that they haven’t lost their unifying malaise. Though hampered by Taylor’s awkward spoken-word intro, “Solway Firth” takes that energy even further on perhaps the most intense track of their career.

It’s part of the secret of their success from early on: Longtime guitarists Mick Thomson and Jim Root distilled underground death and black metal for suburban kids sacrificing their allowances to Sam Goody and too young for tape trading and MTV’s“Headbangers’ Ball,” forgoing intricacy for gut-bashing immediacy. (Listen to their self-titled record again if it’s been a while: You’ll pick up bits and pieces of Obituary, Morbid Angel, even a little Cradle of Filth.) They’re not the heretics that underground metal dudes (or even the band themselves) claim to be, they just made the underground more palatable. “Orphan”’s speed, fueled in part by drummer Jay Weinberg’s (son of Bruce Springsteen drummer Max) relentless bashing, alone should nip any metal G checks in the bud—they’re capable of totally unloading. Besides, Thomson has an Immolation tattoo, are you really gonna call him a poser?

Slipknot know what works for them and they exploit it to a fault, but they’re also more wide-eyed than they’re given credit for. “My Pain” and “Not Long for This World” are both hazy and cavernous, the former’s dreamy electronics moving into the latter’s breathiness, like Portishead performing at the Iowa State Fair. Slipknot also try out some post-metal with “A Liar’s Funeral,” which focuses more on panned guitars, volume swells, and moodier drums. “Spiders” is the only flop in their experimentation, with its cabaret piano too hokey for a band that is essentially a macabre traveling carnival. It’s a painful reminder that they used to try a little too hard to be the zany heavy metal equivalent of Mr. Bungle in their early days. For arena-sized metal acts, even fewer and far between now, you could do much, much worse.

The most curious mainstay are those turntable scratches, and while they flow nicely on the record, they do cast a harsh light on Slipknot’s missed opportunity to take advantage of metal and rap’s stronger alliance in 2019. Take for instance Ho99o9, an intense act who can square up against the hardest of any genre; Richmond’s Lil Ugly Mane is a gifted rapper who mainly plays to hardcore audiences because he grew up a hardcore kid. New York duo City Morgue play “Wait and Bleed” at their shows, which Taylor is aware of, and their aggression signals that they wore out a couple of copies of Slipknot’s landmark 2001 album Iowa at minimum. For all their experimentation, it’s disappointing Slipknot ignored hip-hop’s fruitful coexistence with heavy guitar music.

It’s not as though Slipknot haven’t kept up with their audience. They’re pushing their own brand of whiskey, with full knowledge that “getting really into craft booze” is a typical path for aging metalheads. And their anger may not always rise above entry-level, but even that is hardly out of fashion. There’s something to be said for keeping that base rage with you, and it’s not an impediment on maturity: Taylor is a thoughtful frontman who recognizes his fanbases as a mish-mash of misfits, and he’s always appealed to their shared disenfranchisement. Even as masters of fan-service, they don’t condescend to their audience. For as much as they give, there’s an underlying feeling that they could be giving more, that the synthesis that made them ultimately limits where they go next.

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