What is there to write about Slipknot that hasn’t already been written? Also, it’s not like these Iowa natives needs an introduction – love them or hate them but you sure know who they are. What can be said though, it’s that it has now been five years since their last release, the great 5: The Gray Chapter, a title that held tribute to their then newly diseased bassist Paul Gray. That meant that that record was a tough job recording for the band and also add to injury the fact that original drummer Joey Jordison got the sack which meant two original members gone for that recording. Five years later their replacements, bassist Donnie Steele and drummer Jay Weinberg – son of E Street Band’s Max Weinberg – has had a chance to get warm and become a part of the unit Slipknot which should mean that the new record must have been a more comfortable affair for the band. As a fan of the band’s two latest releases but not so much of their earlier stuff, I was intrigued to find out if the band would surprise me, in a good way, once again. That we would get an aggressive, hard and dark album was to me something that goes without saying!
The album opens with a dark, eerie and industrial sounding intro called “Insert Coin”. “I’m counting all the killers”, states Corey Taylor before it takes us into the real opening track and leading single “Unsainted”. With tribal drumming, a choir and clean vocals the tune lures us in before all hell breaks loose. It’s hard, fast and aggressive – very Slipknot – but the in-your-face, knuckles to the jaw refrain is actually catchy with a striking melody that sticks. A slow, sullen and angst-ridden middle-break takes a hold before the song turns aggressive and hard again. A very good start indeed. “Birth Of The Cruel” holds some laid-back verses with clean vocals and a pretty smooth melody over a punchy metal-groove. The refrain is menacing and robust, hard and maddening but it still brings on a memorable melody-line and the contrasts are fabulous.
“Death Because Of Death” is more like an intermission than an actual song. Corey chants “death because of death because of you” over ominous and industrial noises and some laid-back percussion. I don’t know if I’d call it a good song but it sure is creepy. Upbeat and with some groovy rhythms, “Nero Forte” throws in a whole bunch of chugging guitars and a big-ass refrain that both tries to bite your head off and is catchy with an underlying pop-twist yet not mainstream Hard Rock at all. It’s also furiously heavy and full of aggression and it manages to get under my skin right from go. The uptempo paced “Critical Darling” is rough, crunchy and rhythmic with a robust metal-groove that hits like a punch in the gut. It sounds pissed-off and full of wrath but brings on a refrain that holds a striking melody that’s both memorable and catchy, even hummable, just like “Psychosocial” was catchy. This is great stuff for sure.
“Liar’s Funeral” is a ballad – and later years Slipknot has shown us just how good they are at writing and performing ballads which “Snuff” and “Goodbye” are proof of. This one’s mellow, stripped and bare in the verses, yes even on the soft side. But it’s also dark and melancholic. The chorus however, is more aggressive and heavy yet with melodies that etches themselves to the brain. The pace remains slow throughout the the song and comes off as a bit of a breather. I think it’s amazing. The album’s first dip comes with “Red Flag” a pissed-off and angst laden metal-puncher that goes straight for the throat. All would be well there if it wasn’t for the fact that the nuances are missing and I find the tune forgettable. It’s ok but what I love with Slipknot is that they have a remarkable way of blending brutality with shitloads of hooks and make it sound like the most natural thing in the world and this tune lacks that.
Another short interlude called “What’s Next” – experimental and unnecessary – takes us right into “Spiders”, a kinda laid-back yet stompy number that holds an uncommercial pop vibe but is also electronic and industrial with an eerie atmosphere and comes across as something that could have been written as a horror-movie score. The softer laden vocals sounds out of place and the noises it brings sounds more annoying than anything else. I don’t hate it but it doesn’t rock my world either. Some fast and furious drumming is what the fierce and hard-striking “Orphan” is built upon. It’s an aggressive track full of piss n’ vinegar but also very catchy and hook-laden and again, the contrasts here are a winner – a great track. “My Pain” is a dark and depressing ballad, so saddening my whole body aches of misery. It’s slow in pace, holds a great deal of angst and while its main melody is memorable, the tune is really uncomfortably diabolical. And I love it!
The melancholic “Not Long For This World” starts of with verses on the laid-back and mellow side, dark and creepy with a crumbling atmosphere, bedraggled with depression. It also comes with a refrain that lies on the modern side of Metal and a groove that’s stompy and heavy. Don’t let the “modern” description deter you because this isn’t aimed at rock-radio at all. That said, it sure could be a future single but knowing Slipknot, it probably won’t. A good tune. A single, though – the latest one – is “Solway Firth”, a striking tune that commences on a soothing and a bit laid-back note but sooner than you can say Metal, the tune turns fast, hard and aggressive. And heavy as fekk. I’m not sure about the tune’s single-potential – not that the band gives a fuck – but as an album closer, it’s perfect because it will leave you breathless. Yes, this is some really good shit!
So, do this album differ from Slipknot’s latest few releases then? Both yes and no. Like always with Slipknot we get brutal, aggressive, pissed-off and stone-hard Metal with a great deal of feral angst and raw anxiety. We also get hooks and catchy melodies that never becomes radio-friendly or hit-laden but still are memorable. So everything is like it should on that part. However, this record isn’t as direct as the previous two – and it’s a bit more progressive – so it takes longer to get into whereas an album like All Hope Is Gone stuck right from go. To be quite honest, after the first spin I didn’t know really what to think because nothing really stuck but on the good side, it had stuck with me after just two spins more. So for now, it’s not as great as the last two albums but it’s still a solid and stellar record that keeps growing on me with every listen. I can’t see any fan of Slipknot finding this record disappointing. Let’s count all the killers…
More Slipknot reviews:
1. Insert Coin
3. Birth Of The Cruel
4. Death Because Of Death
5. Nero Forte
6. Critical Darling
7. Liar’s Funeral
8. Red Flag
9. What’s Next
12. My Pain
13. Not Long For This World
14. Solway Firth