Slipknot’s 6th album is astonishing. Drawing from the successes of their past five releases, it feels as though the Iowan behemoth have somehow managed to craft a release that every Slipknot fan could conceivably view as their best.
Slipknot are fucking back motherfuckers, and holy mother of god what a return it is. In the aftermath of their eulogistic 5th album ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’ there was always a question that, I felt, loomed over the heads of the mask-clad 9-piece: musically and emotionally, where will Slipknot go next? The answer has arrived in the form of a 14 song, 1hr 3 min, exposé of the anguish, the anger, the pain, and the primality that have exemplified Slipknot since their 1999 explosion into the public domain. Since the release of ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’, an album shrouded in Slipknot’s darkest days after the passing of founding bassist Paul Gray in 2010, Slipknot have been dealt further tragedy in the horrific passing of Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan’s daughter Gabrielle, have had guitarist Mick Thomson stabbed in the head by his brother, and dealt with yet another change in line-up after the departure of percussionist Chris Fehn. As a result, for me this is more than just an album; there’s a theatricality to what Slipknot have just unleashed on the world that is both reflective and forward-thinking. It’s as if the Slipknot of today have looked inwards and backwards at their former selves, sought out the best and the worst in all of them, and transformed that into the monster we now have before us.
Beginning with the aptly named ‘Insert Coin’, the sinister and mechanical 1-minute-39-second soundscape is only interrupted once. “I’m counting all the killers” breathes Corey Taylor before his spotlight is stolen by angelic choral vocals; ‘Unsainted’, the lead single off the album, is here. I love this track, specifically because I feel as though it exemplifies the internal struggles Slipknot have been dealing with in the creation of ‘We Are Not Your Kind’. The delicate and haunting beauty of the choir is violently cut in two by the roar of “I’m finally holding on to letting go”. The dichotomy between verse and chorus, between the brutal kick-drum assault and soaring chorus, feels like the Slipknot of ‘Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses’, but with follow-up track ‘Birth of the Cruel’ I feel as though I’m looking at a Slipknot I haven’t seen before. I genuinely think it could be my favourite ‘Knot track of all time, and I know that opinion is going to divide like hell. It grooves in a way I haven’t heard a Slipknot tune groove before. It makes your face curl into a snarl as your head throws itself back and forth uncontrollably. “I’m all fucked up and I make it look good” cries Taylor; this could be a motto for the whole goddamn album! It’s a song that has everything for every Slipknot fan, and yet it doesn’t feel overdone or ‘try-hard’. Iowa era maggots, and fans anew, will be hurtling headlong into one another for years to come as this monster explodes on stage.
I wouldn’t say this album is necessarily ‘brutal’, which is a term I’ve seen thrown around in the press in the run up to the release of ‘We Are Not Your Kind’. When I think of ‘brutal’, I think very much of a physical sensation, the kind of sensation that might come with a few hard-hitting punches and a bat to the head. No, for me at least, I find Slipknot’s latest offering to be far more sinister and disturbing than anything else. Yes, there’s tracks on this album that could slot into almost any Slipknot release of the past, namely ‘Red Flag’ and album closer ‘Solway Firth’, which pack punches that will please Maggots of any age. What I find so unsettling about ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ are the tracks that I didn’t think I’d hear from Slipknot any time soon. ‘My Pain’ is the perfect example, a dreadful nightmare disguised as the devil’s own personal nursery rhyme clouded in a distant cry of “Love! Love! Love!”. The increased importance of synths, keys, and soundbites throughout the album is a welcome development, creating tension which coexists with visceral anger in places, aiding melody and creating a ‘pop appeal’ in others. The gentle tinkle of keys that is almost an ever-present in ‘Spiders’ is a stroke of genius, still holding its own in amongst the crescendo of percussion, disparate guitar tones, intriguing synths and Taylor’s questioning “Who is food and who is thrown away?”.
Acoustic guitars make their way onto the album (I know!) for ‘A Liar’s Funeral’. I must confess I’m yet to work out exactly the meaning of this track, but the emotional response it evokes is extraordinary. ‘Snuff-esque’ verses gently tell a bed-time story to the listener, only for their oncoming slumber to be viscously interrupted by the guttural cry of ‘LIAR’. Taylor’s primal voice has taken over, occasionally intersected by delicate harmonies, is some kind of pseudo-conversation where it’s unclear if they agree or want to kill each other. Oh, and just as you might not expect acoustic guitars on a typical Slipknot album, you only have to listen to the pop infused Nero Forte to find a song you may never have thought you’d hear on any Slipknot album, ever!
This album is unbelievable, and I’ve just found out that Shaun Crahan has been quoted as saying as many as 18 tracks didn’t even make the cut for the album (including the title track!). It has simultaneously made me feel nostalgic and intrigued by what is yet to come. If this is your first taste of Slipknot, you might not believe the journey that this band has come on over the past 20 years. Yet, at the same time, if you journeyed back through their catalogue of brutally honest, revealing, and pained albums that have preceded ‘We Are Not Your Kind’, you might just begin to understand why album 6 has come to exist in the way it has. For me, this is the greatest Slipknot album of all time, and being the fan I am I cannot believe I’m saying those words, but there you have it. I’m totally flawed by what I’ve spent my Friday listening to, by its intricacies, its power, its honesty, and its execution. 10/10. 5 stars. This could well be the best album that gets released this year. Fight me.