‘I haven’t felt like this in years,’ seethes Corey Taylor five songs into We Are Not Your Kind, on album standout Nero Forte. Indeed, Slipknot’s leader has been on quite the journey since 2014’s .5: The Gray Chapter – at war with mental demons while also dealing with the blow of a divorce in 2017. For the Iowa metal titans as a unit, too, it’s been a similarly tumultuous story – still finding their feet between line-up changes, and even having to deal with an ugly lawsuit involving departed member Chris Fehn in March of this year.
Such disturbance is not only heard through Corey’s lyrics, but the sound of We Are Not Your Kind as a whole. This is Slipknot at their most bleak, where helplessness thrives and a sense of closure is seldom around the corner. Ask the members of the band to describe this music, and they’ll use adjectives like “heavy”, “experimental”, “insane” and “dark”. Corey will even say that “every song has a different soul”.
Given that it’s been four years in the making – predominantly at the hands of percussionist Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan, guitarist Jim Root and drummer Jay Weinberg – this meticulous approach can be heard everywhere across We Are Not Your Kind’s 60-plus minutes. Even the interludes have been pored over: the alarm-bell-esque warning of opener Insert Coin, the creeping dread of Death Because Of Death, the subtle 54 seconds of What’s Next.
The two songs Maggots have heard in advance of its arrival – Unsainted and Solway Firth – already alluded to the thrilling and unpredictable direction album number six would be taking. The former sees the band using a choir for the first time ever, while the latter begins with Corey putting on a peculiar folk twang before the band’s gloriously aggressive side rises to a thunderous head. But there’s so much more than that at work here, too, encompassing stylistic leanings from every single stage of their discography. Where Birth Of The Cruel throws things back to 1999 with samples that recall the moods of their self-titled debut, Liar’s Funeral looks ahead a decade and opens like All Hope Is Gone ballad Snuff, before there’s what could be read as a nod to Chris in the demanding line, ‘Turn your back and show us the truth.’
Meanwhile, Corey effortlessly switches from furious, impossible-to-keep-up-with rapping to huge, clean choruses on Nero Forte and Critical Darling, while putting on outstanding vocal performances over the crushing Red Flag and Orphan. And yet on We Are Not Your Kind’s longest track, My Pain, he’s never sounded more vulnerable. Most striking of all, though, is Spiders, a song that could well have been written by horror composer John Carpenter, and is made all the more sinister with the chanting chorus of, ‘The spiders come in side by side / Two by two and night by night / Who is food and who is thrown away?’
In fact, it almost goes unnoticed that last year’s brilliant standalone single All Out Life – the song from which this album takes its name – has not been included in the final tracklist, only as a bonus cut on the Japanese edition. Given that the one-off release was essentially an attack on the music industry, it makes sense to keep it away from the delicate, personal subject matter on display here. Instead, it serves as a welcome reminder that this is a band who can still shatter confines and do whatever the fuck they want. And that also sums up We Are Not Your Kind perfectly: 20 years since their debut, Slipknot are as bold, fearless and exhilarating as ever.
With the death of bassist Paul Gray and departure of drummer Joey Jordison, there was some speculation as to whether the nine would, or could, continue. Here we are though, six years after the release of All Hope Is Gone, about to review .5: The Gray Chapter. Slipknot are a band who influenced my life in a number of ways, and even now, 15 years on, they still make my heart beat a little bit faster. With singles 'The Negative One' and 'The Devil In I' teasing us and giving a taste of what to expect from the album, I couldn’t hit the play button quick enough.
Immediately I know this is going to be another triumphant Slipknot album. Haunting intro XIX harks back to the Iowa days, it is gritty and angry, but it also carries a message of unity amongst the maggots. Sarcastrophe is a brutal ripper of a song, which would drive a crowd mad at a festival, and has me moshing around my bedroom from the outset. AOV is probably one of my favourite track on the album, with its furious guitars and catchy angry hook line “Approaching Original Violence” Twisting and tumbling riffs spin us and twist us as we fall down the rabbit hole in to the unknown.
Slipknot have an incredible ability to make music that is so instantly recognisable. They really do possess an inherent sound that is theirs and theirs alone. This is clearly a Slipknot album, and their signature sound is ever present throughout. In fact the only song I could see Stone Sour do is the anthemic The Devil In I, but even then the chorus is Slipknot at their finest. The subject matter is pretty thinly veiled- Lech spits venom that could burn through steel and there are multiple references to The Negative One…we wonder who or what that is?!
Goodbye is one of the most emotional Slipknot moments ever, as we bid farewell to Paul Gray. Then its straight back in to the heavy with Custer (who can’t love a chorus of “Cut, cut, cut me up and fuck, fuck, fuck me up”), this is Surfacing 2014. Be Prepared for Hell has all of the horror of Scissors…OK so its an interlude but it sets the scene perfectly for The Negative One.
5: The Gray Chapter offers the next phase in the life of Slipknot. It isn’t Iowa, Slipknot, Vol 3 or All Hope Is Gone and it doesn’t try to be. Rather, it’s a powerful, passionate, and potent piece of music in its own right, while still retaining the hallmarks of the group’s patented sound. Don’t just disregard 5: The Gray Chapter as another Slipknot album, its a masterpiece of modern metal mayhem. This is Slipknot in 2014, and they’re still haunting, toxic, modern, urban and oh so dark. Their music is so much more than it seems. Beneath the surface lurk layers and layers of purification, while ushering in a gorgeously chaotic and crushing future for the new nine.
It’s hard to imagine any Maggot being disappointed by The Gray Chapter. Slipknot may have had to go through hell to make this album happen… but in the end, it was all worth it.
The past couple of years have been tough on legendary extreme-metal outfit Slipknot and their legions of fans: the untimely loss of bassist & songwriter Paul Gray in May of 2010 shook the band to the core... and for a while there, it seemed they would disband in the wake of that tragedy. Fortunately, they pulled together and soldiered on, continuing to uphold the legacy that Paul had worked so hard to build since their inception in the late '90s. That legacy has now been chronicled in the band's first greatest-hits compilation Antennas to Hell. It's a massive and comprehensive package, containing all of the band's blockbuster singles (the lone exception being 2005's “The Nameless”), along with two companion DVDs containing their complete live set at the 2009 Download Festival and all of the band's music videos to date - including the complete short film Snuff, featuring guest performances from two icons of genre cinema.
Antennas To Hell is the ideal jumping-off point, as it details the band's evolution from their self-titled 1999 debut - which also marked the beginning of their controversial reputation and the first real surge of a cult following - and continues through their 2008 chart-topping release All Hope is Gone. Along the way, flamboyant percussionist Shawn “Clown” Crahan, also the band's official chronicler and visual artist, has racked up countless hours of documentary footage of the band's outrageous live shows, studio sessions, on-the-road shenanigans and other candid craziness - much of which has been compiled on DVD projects like the feature-length Voliminal. Many of Crahan's inventive visions appear on Antennas' video supplements, and some are like mini-horror films in themselves.
As for the audio content the standard one-CD edition of Antennas To Hell features tracks from the band's debut album including "(sic),” "Eyeless,” “Wait and Bleed,” "Spit it Out" and "Surfacing." The chartbusting 2001 release Iowa yielded the hits "People = Shit," "Disasterpiece,” "Left Behind” and "My Plague,” all of which are compiled here, though “My Plague” appears in the “New Abuse Mix,” as heard on the first Resident Evil soundtrack:
From the 2002 live album Disasterpieces, we get "The Heretic Anthem" and "Purity,” and from 2004's Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses comes “Pulse of the Maggots," "Duality," "Before I Forget" and “Vermilion.” The band's latest studio album (and their biggest seller to date) is 2008's All Hope is Gone, the last Slipknot release to feature the late Paul Gray as songwriter and bassist. Tracks included from this monster include "Sulfur,” "Psychosocial,” "Dead Memories” and “Snuff."
The Special Edition of Antennas to Hell contains two bonus DVDs, beginning with (sic)nesses: Live At The Download Festival 2009. The band's entire set is included, covering all of the songs mentioned above as well as "Get This,” "The Blister Exists" and "Everything Ends."
The second bonus DVD contains the band's entire video library, beginning with their first music video “Spit it Out” and featuring three versions of “Wait and Bleed,” the most interesting of which being a creepy animated film depicting the band members as macabre puppets:
The majority of the band's video output focuses on their live performances (and rightly so), but their experimental film work, much of which is handled by Crahan, is creepy and nightmarish, particularly the accompanying clips for “Vermilion,” a two-part mood piece depicting a waifish ghost woman - first in stop-motion animation, then in a dreamlike floating sequence. Other high points include “Sulfur,” depicting the band members floating in a water tank (which resembles a drowning device concocted for the SAW franchise), and “The Blister Exists,” which is a mostly sped-up performance piece, but perfectly captures the band's maniacal energy, as you can see here:
Dedicated maggots and curious (and brave) newcomers alike will find everything they need in Antennas to Hell. If you've never been down with the band's bizarre carnival of madness and thunderous melodic metal, as well as some seriously dark and doomy mood pieces, you may not change your mind about them just yet, but for the rest of us it's a worthy addition to the collection... hell, if just for the comprehensive video collection alone.
Live albums are always difficult to review because they too are an acquired taste, usually meant for diehard fans. Not everyone who listens to SLIPKNOT's music needs a double-CD of a SLIPKNOT concert, and it's always tricky for bands to capture what makes them great on tape (or on a hard drive, for that matter). In this case, however, "9.0 Live" does a fine job of summing up the band's recorded high points over the course of six years and three albums, and also comes very close to presenting a definitive audio record of what the group sounds like live.
In some ways, I enjoy this record more than the band's 2004 studio effort, "Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)" only because sonically SLIPKNOT sounds heavier and darker here than on that disc. And with a nonstop barrage of favorites like "Pulse of the Maggots", "Purity", "Everything Ends" and an especially vicious "Heretic Anthem", "9.0 Live" also emphasizes that underneath the band's sonic and sometimes chaotic assault, there is a core of solid metal songwriting that shines through.
"9.0. Live" also showcases the individual and collective talents of the group live, proving them to be a formidable concert unit. Despite having nine people onstage at all times (except for Joey Jordison's drum solo, which drives home what an excellent drummer and indispensable component he is), the band stays tight throughout the album, weaving its way through death metal blastbeats and more complex, melodic material with equal ease. On the downside, singer Corey Taylor goes flat on occasion, and the musical contribution of both percussionists remains murky at best.
Nonetheless, it's rare that a live album truly replicates the experience of being there, but "9.0 Live" definitely captures the aggression, power and underrated abilities of SLIPKNOT in a punchy mix, courtesy of the great Colin Richardson, that probably beats out an actual live show in terms of clarity. Whether you love them or hate them, there are reasons why SLIPKNOT is a tremendously successful band, and "9.0 Live" documents one of them in the strongest possible fashion.
The album cover of this self-titled release depicts the nine members of Slipknot in creepy masks, the dark image confirmed by the presence of a parental advisory sticker. Inside, foul language and subversive lyrics complete the picture. Yet Slipknot are no Insane Clown Posse, using hyperbole to mask a lack of talent. Slipknot's sound, while indebted to the likes of Korn , is more aggressive and creative; indeed, it's a closer kind to Slayer and death metal, yet listenable and surprisingly melodic.
The common denominator among Slipknot and the late 1990s crop of neo-metal-rap bands is producer Ross Robinson (Korn, Limp Bizkit ), who discovered the Iowa-bred Slipknot and signed them to his label, I Am Records. His stellar production, melded with wonderfully creepy percussive elements, a sampler, a DJ, metallic-grind guitars, and singer Corey Taylor's immense passion and wide melodic range, makes Slipknot immensely listenable. Slipknot isn't for everyone, but they provide a visceral and satisfying ride for fans of the hard stuff.
“(sic)” is still quite possibly one of the best opening tracks I can think of. “Surfacing” is still a punishingly dissonant take on what really boils down to a typical “angry white male” lyrical focus. “Liberate” is one of the only tracks on the record that is actually better than I remember it being the first time. “Spit It Out” is really the only song on the entire album where Corey Taylor’s more rap-styled delivery really works, with “fuck me, I’m all out of enemies” still being one of my favorite shout-along metal refrains ever.
Combine this with often refreshingly intelligent lyrics, and equally refreshing melodic vocals between the shouting, and you begin to realise that Slipknot's music goes above and beyond the band's image.
Buy this album, listen to it all the way through with an open mind, and i defy any metal/rock fan not to be impressed. If you're a huge fan of Slipknot, or consider yourself some sort of Slipknot collector, odds are you already own this. Heck, I'd even recommend that casual fans pick this up.