The 18-legged, masked juggernaut known as Slipknot have returned with the highly-anticipated ‘We Are Not Your Kind’. Marking the second album since the passing of Paul Gray (bass) and departure of Joey Jordison (drums), everything was set for a strong return. That was until earlier this year as legal disputes and ‘he said, she said’ commentary saw Chris Fehn (percussion) swiftly removed from the group. At this stage, I was honestly worried.
On Halloween 2018, a mysterious #WANYK campaign kicked off, accompanied by the powerfully anthemic ‘All Out Life’ (as covered on Take My Tone Ep 1). The recurring line of “we are not your kind”, backed by a rumbling viral campaign, meant by the time ‘Unsainted’ launched (along with new masks, album art, merch and pre-orders), everything came together with #WANYK as a strong foundation. Yes, I too read that acronym as something else, just don’t be a dick about it.
What the album announcement did demonstrate, is through the separation of Fehn and inclusion of a freakish ‘tortilla mask’-wearing replacement, Slipknot had not strayed from their original vision for the album. Watch as my worries float out the window. As is the modern album standard, fans received three songs/videos up until launch. With no album leak (thank goodness), ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ (WANYK) arrives with impact… and surprises.
Corey Taylor (vocals) stated he felt “like a villain” when working on the album, and that theme runs throughout. Darkly cinematic and diverse, it translates almost like a concept album. From start to finish, if there’s one member that truly shines on this, it is the never-before-seen Craig Jones (programming) who provides twisted digital segways, distorted sampling and more keys work than ever for a ‘Knot album. Production-wise, ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ is forged from the drum/bass heavy mix of ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’ with a broader sonic approach.
Known for eerie album intros, the trend continues with ‘Insert Coin’ – a saddened, ‘film-score’ industrial wave blending into the lead single with one line. By this stage, ‘Unsainted’ is well known and sure to be a live staple. Keeping the villain theme in mind, “you’ve killed the saint in me, how dare you martyr me” is a powerful lyric – sparking imagery of a figure whose internal emotional conflict sets an intriguing dichotomy of obsession and aggression.
I am overjoyed at the amount of crafty scratches Sid Wilson (DJ) brought to the table. From sci-fi flavour (‘Unsainted’), alien jitter (‘Nero Forte’) to quasi-dubstep (‘Birth Of The Cruel’) and more. In fact, ‘Birth Of The Cruel’ is an absolute banger that really feels like a perfect representation of all nine members. V-Man (bass) is deep and omnipresent during the intro and verses. A transition point rises in the form of ‘Death Because Of Death’ that would not be out of place at your local cult initiation.
‘Nero Forte’ throws a vocal curveball with a higher register in the chorus paired with harsh ‘IOWA’-level pacing and stomp throughout. Did I mention Corey Taylor is my favourite rapper? This song will thrive live with the “that’s what you do best” refrain, however I am interested as to how the chorus will be pulled off on stage.
I should cover the obvious at this point: Slipknot include clean vocals (and have since 1999) and that does NOT make them Stone Sour (Corey’s hard rock band). Particular songs on Slipknot’s arguably patchy ‘All Hope Is Gone’ (AHIG) were not worked on as band, but rather brought in by individual members ready to go, and it showed. The entirely clean-sung ballad from AHIG, ’Snuff’, sounded like a solo Corey song and therefore a far more comfortable fit for a Stone Sour release – even core member Clown (percussion) said so. It was the introduction of acoustics on their third full-length ‘Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses’, that expanded Slipknot’s use of clean vocals in a fragile and dark delivery, which is much more suited to the overall vibe of the band (think ‘Circle’ and ‘Vermilion’).
‘Critical Darling’ matches the bounce and tempo of ‘Nero Forte’, with possibly the fastest vocal lines in ‘Knot history. A sombre breakpoint is teased, leading to a haunting acoustic middle, and energetic build back. Joey’s replacement Jay Weinberg (drums) has truly solidified his position, to the point where I think he brings a refreshing boost to the band after a serviceable performance from Joey on AHIG. Along with both percussionists, the drum-based attack of the album is very strong.
WANYK finds that same balance and works with it in even more surprising ways. At the halfway point, ‘A Liar’s Funeral’ cranks the contrast of gentle and brutal but in a cohesive manner, and serves as an album standout in my opinion. Corey’s shredding vocal style echoes emotionally with a singular “LIAR!”, offset by an acoustic and electric back ’n’ forth. The guitar work here (James and Mick) presents despair-ridden chugging and a nerve-inducing waver, bridging to an effective tremolo-picked lead. Dynamic and brilliant.
Unfortunately Slipknot fans are sometimes ridden with the ‘Star Wars effect’, where you often hear/read “they were crap after IOWA”. As Slipknot’s heaviest album, ‘IOWA’ was written during a desperate time where inner turmoil and real hatred plagued the band. Yes it gave us one of the greatest metal albums of all time, but the band are not interested in trying to force-replicate that environment just for the sake of producing brutality. ‘Red Flag’ is this album’s equivalent of a purely heavy song. If you’re one of the aforementioned moan ’n’ groan ‘maggots’, and you don’t like this song, then you will never be satisfied. Period.
What’s next is ‘What’s Next’, a brief ‘elevator music’-esque intermission, that morphs into the album’s stylistically bravest song ‘Spiders’. Every ‘Knot album has an odd and off-kilter track (think ‘Scissors’, ‘Virus Of Life’, ‘Killpop’) with a rhythmic and chilling piano setting the tone here. The same higher vocal register from ‘Nero Forte’ is demonstrated here, with an alluring beat and call-and-response instrumentation.
“Too white to be black, too black to be blue, too sick to be me, too fucked to be you” just rolls off the tongue in the abrasive ‘Orphan’. You can feel the rejection seeping through the lyrics, bringing back the violent villainous theme of the album. The aftermath is quietly faded in with ‘My Pain’; you can hear the ramblings of a homemade killer. The beauty in the melody and softly sung words is truly terrifying and bring out the obsessive aspects of the character – “I’m your wall and I’m your rock. Don’t run away. Don’t forget it’s only love.”
The expanse continues with ‘Not Long For This World’; a predominantly melodic piece that almost spells out the regret felt by this villain we’ve been following in the album. It comes to a head with a glitch-covered wall of noise and Sid cutting in with wobbles.
Closing the album, we have the exceptional ‘Solway Firth’. Beginning with the same lyric we heard during ‘Insert Coin’, and almost ghost country style delivery, this piece love to effortlessly pull away and surge back hard. The inclusion of seemingly Gothenburg-inspired riffage is very welcome. “You want a real smile? I haven’t smiled in years” finishes WANYK; completing the villain narrative, left with nothing.
With so much to love here, the only lower points are created from the high standard the album sets. The chorus of ‘Red Flag’ possibly sits too close to how the verses sound, so it can blend together a bit too much. Structure-wise, ‘Nero Forte’ can sometimes stay on longer than I’d like. The mix itself, while very drum-heavy, suffers in parts where the guitar gets lost. Some of the primary riff sections would hit harder if instances of guitar-drum trade-off changed in the mix.
As a complete Slipknot album, WANYK flows extremely well and you get the sense it was very well considered in its approach – just like a serial killer could be. It provides so many different elements of the band that we’ve heard over the years, leaning harder on the sonic landscape to direct the mood. Undoubtedly a grower, this album gets better on each listen, with new textural surprises to discover (eg. I only just heard a keys section on ‘Solway Firth’ even though I’ve listened to it over 40 times).
Slipknot, at its core, sound immediate and integrated. Preconceived ideas of ‘heaviness’ from those chasing an ‘IOWA Pt 2’ should not judge on one listen – in fact no Slipknot fan should. If you give this album your attention, it will reward you.
Slipknot – “We Are Not Your Kind”
We Are Not Your Kind is the sixth studio album by American heavy metal band Slipknot. It was released on August 9, 2019, via Roadrunner Records. The album was produced by Greg Fidelman. The lead single, “Unsainted”, was released on May 16, 2019, along with its music video.