The year of our Lord 2019 may be the best year on record for Slipknot. In the lead-up to the release of We Are Not Your Kind, the band was featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live’s concert series, where they played the lead single “Unsainted” and the non-album single “All Out Life.” The latter of those two went on to be chosen for the new main title theme for WWE NXT, and with the black and gold brand of sports-entertainment jumping to USA Network in the coming weeks, more viewers are prone to becoming fans of the Nine than ever before. On August 9th, the release date of the new album, Corey Taylor himself revealed that one of the #NXTLoud themes for TakeOver: Toronto would be “Unsainted,” giving the WWE Network event another bone-crushing addition to its already star-studded lineup of theme music. And how can we forget Corey’s new mask, designed by the legendary Tom Savini?
Twenty years after their first release, the self-titled Slipknot in 1999, the masked nu metallers from Iowa have not missed a step. We Are Not Your Kind has enough tracks to satisfy the longtime Slipknot fans, as well as a few risks and flavors of “fuck it, let’s see what happens” to urge new fans to have a taste of the madness. This album was one of the most hotly anticipated in the year, maybe second only to Tool’s upcoming work, and the five-year gap between .5: The Gray Chapter and this LP has been made to be well worth it. In so many words, there are several reasons why this album made it all the way to number one in the US and the UK, and below, I’ll be happy to spell them out for you.
In line with many of their album openers, “Insert Coin” is atmospheric, a calm before the storm that lies ahead. “Unsainted,” the lead single of the record, adds a choral arrangement to the intro and the choruses, adding a haunting melody to the mosh-ready track as it builds up to a high-speed frenzy of double bass, detuned guitars, the guttural roars of #8 himself, Corey Taylor.
“Birth of the Cruel” switches perfectly between the brooding melody of Taylor’s vocals over an ominous soundscape and the brutal, hit you over the head with a sledgehammer chorus. The post-chorus “sick, I’m sickened” section is such a heavy moment, a calculated section that breaks up the wide-eyed, frenetic pacing of the usual Slipknot track. “Death Because of Death” creeps in behind it, with a layered chant-sung repeat of the title over a thumping drum riff and a fingerpicked, clean tone guitar melody.
“Nero Forte” comes barreling down the path after it, with a sound that could have easily fit in the “Iowa” era of the band, with the bounce in the pit guitar riffs and Corey’s almost rapping screams. With the equal parts brutal and beautiful chorus harkening back to Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, this song serves as a sort of “greatest hits” of the band’s two decades of prowess, hitting all the high notes of each era. With the marching band snare bleeding into a pissed-off bridge, “Nero Forte” is a highlight of the album, and that’s saying a lot with the number of pure bangers which populate We Are Not Your Kind.
“Critical Darling” sounds like another Iowa-era track, sounding like the early 2000s material the band put out. The time signature changes as the song shifts in and out of the pre-chorus are a nice touch, and got a genuine, “ohh SHIT” out of me when I first heard it. The one two punch of “Nero Forte” and this song help the middle of the record to stand out.
“A Liar’s Funeral” starts off sounding less punchy and more like a ballad, until Corey’s growl of “LIAR!” cuts through the acoustic guitars and gives way to an epic build-up. This is another song that caught me off-guard on my first listen, and had me smiling like an idiot the whole length of the track.
“Red Flag” might be the most thrash-influenced track of the album, with the selling point here being the work of drummer Jay Weinberg. This is a track that refuses to let up on the accelerator from moment one to moment done, and is one of the few tracks where no real risks are taken. That’s far from a bad thing, as there are plenty of other experimental tracks to come.
“What’s Next” transitions from the thrashy tones of the previous track to an almost Muzak-sounding bridge track, if Muzak had acoustic guitars and a sample behind it. Then comes “Spiders,” with its haunting piano main riff and the lower range of Corey Taylor’s vocals instilling a sense of dread and unease. Even as the guitars slink in, the song maintains an air of soundtrack to it, as multiple vocal tracks set into the chorus. Even the guitar solo, one of only a handful on the album, keeps things low-key, while still brooding. The song is very much not a traditional Slipknot song, and it is in this polar opposite nature where the track succeeds, even as a downswing after “Red Flag” and its mad bastard nature.
“Orphan” might give “Red Flag” a run for its money solely on the BPM, as the main riff and the sustained double pass pattern reminding this longtime Maggot of “The Heretic Anthem.” Another track that doesn’t deviate far from the tried and true formula, “Orphan” is a joy of a listen, with its flavors of death and thrash metal.
“My Pain” sounds like something off of Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral, with a dual-tracked vocal harmony and a drum machine stringing the song along. “Not Long For This World” is a hauntingly melodic song, until it hits a growl-heavy bridge in the midst of the clean vocals that permeate the track. It’s a cinematic track, and helps pull everything together before the end of the record.
“Solway Firth” closes out the album with a reminder of precisely what the fans came for: some of the heaviest grooves this side of the nu metal era that the band rose to power in. Some have called Slipknot metal’s last men standing, and it is within tracks like this where we can be reminded of that fact.
We Are Not Your Kind is a triumph for Slipknot. Two decades of staying power is a feat, especially given the controversies and tragedy that the band has seen in much of their second decade of existence. This album has plenty to please the diehards, with enough new spins on the formula to keep things fresh. If Slipknot are indeed the last bastions of modern metal excellence, I have full faith in the future of the genre.