Since 2008’s All Hope Is Gone, Slipknot has been a band in transition. In 2010, they lost bassist Paul Grey to a morphine overdose, then switched drummers three years later after Joey Jordison was fired on account of a brain disease that rendered him percussionally inadequate. Subsequently, he was replaced by ex-E Street Band, Madball and Against Me! drummer Jay Weinberg and the band released .5: The Gray Chapter to widespread acclaim for returning to their roots. Now, it’s been 5 years since The Gray Chapter and Slipknot has ended the wait with We Are Not Your Kind. Inspired both by Corey Taylor’s dealing with a toxic relationship in the personal and the current divisive social climate in the political, We Are Not Your Kind promises to be another hard-hitting, scream-therapeutic ton of bricks dropping on the ears of those who have laid in waiting.
On the heels of the suspenseful “Insert Coin” intro, we dive headlong into “Unsainted”, which builds the anticipation up even higher before unleashing a wall of neck-breaking fury upon the Almighty. It’s a brilliant opener for the record (or any record for that matter) and sets the tone for great things to come throughout the course of this 63-minute odyssey. Mick Thomson’s riff work is absolutely crushing and the Angel City Chorale’s contributing vocal works serve as the cherry bomb on top for an explosive entrance.
“Birth Of The Cruel” continues the atheistic assault with Corey Taylor providing some catchy clean-sung verses and excellent lyrics within them: “Now’s not the time for denying/Shifting the focus to scare/Let’s not forget we’re all guilty/All three dimensions polluted by earnest despair.” Jay Weinberg’s drumming is especially pounding and fierce on this track, perfectly complimenting the hammering guitars coalescing around him to drive it straight into the depths of hell (in a good way). From there, it gives way to the interlude “Death Because Of Death” to build the suspense back up for whatever skull-stomping is to follow.
“Nero Forte” snaps back into the action with a blazing guitar and drum intro, showcasing again the strong riffage and drum work that has dominated the album thus far. The highlight member of this track however is not Weinberg, Thomson, Taylor or Jim Root, but Shawn “Clown” Crahan for his percussion work that adds extra emphasis in the background to Weinberg’s already-ripping drums. Combined, they make for a rhythm section that is utterly unrelenting and savage.
“Critical Darling” follows suit in its merciless approach, attacking people who were judgemental, fake or distant during a depressive period in Taylor’s life. The refrains are particularly go-for-the-throat thanks to the assisting gang vocals Taylor was kind enough to lay down: “good for you, what a cliche/just not true, what a giveaway/what comes now, can’t be the last one/falling down.” “A Liar’s Funeral” ensures that this won’t be a one-dimensional album, however, exploring on the same lyrical themes but adding acoustic dimensions and dragging it down at a far slower pace akin to “Snuff” from All Hope Is Gone.
Taylor’s gripes with the fake people around him are as beautifully tortured as ever and carry over to the fully-automatic assault of “Red Flag”: “They’ll smother their own just to feel you/They’ll get you alone just to steal you/They’ll eat you alive just to kill you.” The track itself sounds like they took “Soul Decoded (Now And Forever)” by Divine Heresy and twisted it into classic Slipknot with even more heaviness than before. Knowing that too much consistent ravaging of the eardrums wouldn’t be conducive to a solid album, they slip into another break, aptly titled “What’s Next” and amounting to a minute of haunted-house elevator music that ends in a bass drop.
As a contrast, the Knot isn’t jumping back into colossally heavy rage out of the gate. Instead, we’re given “Spiders”, trailing off of the dynamic of the previous interlude into a restrained 7/8 industrial funk tune that opens a more experimental chapter in record number 6. It feeds directly into the double-bass blaze of “Orphan”, which deals with rising above demons and past obstacles to become a completely new animal impervious to pain: “There’s still a part of me that’s dying in a dumpster/The one who rose is a motherfucking monster.”
It’s a heavy tune, but it doesn’t go quite as hard as the tunes from the previous half of the album- which is fine, considering the next tune “My Pain” opens up on an atmospheric note and doesn’t even contain drums or guitar. The body of it sounds like what would happen if producer Greg Fidelman had gained access to a trove of old Doors songs that were never released and set them to minimal electronica. While Mr. Mojo Rising isn’t spearheading this track, the piece is indeed a composition culled from the past; a part of a project Clown and Jim Root created together during the All Hope Is Gone sessions and redone for this record with Taylor’s vocals overtop. It continues a streak of songs that prove that Slipknot is not merely a nu-metal stereotype to be glossed over but a heavy, deep band with an ever-expanding series of musical dimensions.
Two songs to go: “Not Long For This World” starts off quiet and then bursts into the stomping metal rhythm used heavily earlier in the album. As a pleasant contrast to some of the other heavy tunes on the tracklist, it focuses far more on Taylor’s clean singing than his screamed vocals, which fits well given the highly vulnerable subject matter he touches upon. After all the betrayal, pain, suffering and the like, #8 doesn’t find much use in life and would rather the unnamed subject of this song just let him die instead: “So decide, tell me how I’m gonna die/‘Cause I’ve already gone away/Decide, tell me how you loved a lie/It wasn’t really hard to see/hard to see, not long for this world.”
The bleakness doesn’t stop there; it becomes ever-present on “Solway Firth”, titled after the infamous Solway Firth Spaceman photograph. The bizarrely-sung intro, which harkens back to the album intro gives the impression of a man simply at the end of his rope, while the song, fittingly heavy as all for the end portrays a man who couldn’t give any sort of a fuck if he tried at this stage of the game: “While I was learning to live, we were all living a lie/I guess you got what you wanted/So I will settle for a slaughterhouse soaked in blood.” Upon Taylor’s parting shot that “I haven’t smiled in years”, The immense wall of sound bursts apart and fades, as if returning to the electronic ether in which it began.
Slipknot, as proven by this record, has achieved a remarkable balance in their approach to music: Staying rooted in the core of who they are, allowing some pieces of experimentation but not too much to veer from the course. The result has been a long string of critically acclaimed albums and a lasting legacy in metal, up to and including We Are Not Your Kind which went straight to the top of Billboard 200 upon its release. Member changes be damned, Slipknot sounds more like Slipknot than ever on this masterful LP, and have ensured themselves continued longevity tapping into the undercurrent of rage and angst in society in an industry that has for the most part gone soft. A stellar effort all around.