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Slipknot - We Are Not Your Kind

Slipknot, We Are Not Your KindThe eighteen legged killing machine from Iowa is back. There's always a lot of hype surrounding the release of a Slipknot album and sometimes that gets in the way of the actual music but not this time. The band have been saying they are getting on better and wrote this album together and it shows; this is a really cohesive album.

Opening with a warning klaxon somehow seems appropriate given what follows. Insert Coin is a great little opening tableaux. The alarm sounds give way to industrial strength, discordant synth textures that build gradually to a crescendo of noise. Deep in the mix Corey intones "I'm counting all the killers" which is an echo from the closing track.

You would expect the first track proper to explode at the end of Insert Coin but no, after the build up it just stops, allowing Unsainted's low key opening to slide gently out of the speakers. Slipknot love throwing a curve ball and the children's choir is definitely that. They make a gorgeous counterpoint with the keys and Corey's gentle crooning, both singing the song's chorus which arrives before the verse. Typically untypical! It's then the song explodes in a battering ram of beats and a huge wall of guitars as Taylor spits out the lyrics. As if we needed reminding Unsainted demonstrates the singer's huge range, his lovely clean chorus vocals clashing with his guttural roars of fury. The song ends with Cory bellowing "you killed the saint in me, how dare you martyr me"

Birth Of The Cruel continues where Unsainted left off, weird drum loops and a huge groovy noise accompanying Taylor's weirdly accented vocals. The song breaks down a couple of times into Syd's scratching and the end of the song bleeds into the short intermission of Death Because Of You, the one line of lyrics chanted repeatedly over more strange noises and scratching.

By the time Nero Forte blasts out of your speakers you realise what a huge sounding album We Are Not You Kind is. Slipknot's albums always sound dense but the sound when the band hit their stride is a super thick wall of noise. Everything is superbly mixed though; you can hear every riff, drum beat, percussive blast and weird sound effect. Nero Forte sees some higher pitched background vocals which dovetail nicely with Corey's Spit It Out style scatter-gun metallic-rapping, vocal lines spilling out like Mike Patton on speed.

For all their heaviness, Slipknot are masters of writing a catchy tune. There are vocal lines and melodies that you will be humming for weeks after they take up residence in the darker recesses of your brain. Critical Darling is a supreme example of this, vocal melodies rubbing shoulders with riffs the size of tower blocks and hooks that Pinhead would be proud of.

Slipknot are so good at the quiet/loud thing but then you get a track like the album's centrepiece A Liar's Funeral to prove there's so much more to this band. A sprawling epic that moves from acoustic ballad territory with gothic overtones to a huge hulking beast with Henry-Rollins-cum-death-metal vocals within the blink of an eye. In the middle Corey chants "Burn, burn, burn the liar", channelling his inner Mike Patton again. Through the noisier sections there's a glorious guitar riff that turns into a sustained shriek. There's more sweet backing vocals, ominous noises, acoustic strumming and a short but sweet guitar solo as the song builds and builds, only to collapse on itself again under the weight of emotion, which you can clearly hear in the vocalist's voice.

If this album can be compared to anything in their back catalogue it's the eclectic Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses . This is Slipknot not only reclaiming their crown again but pushing the boundaries of their own music. Every track is a creation in it's own right, each having it's own unique personality while being undeniably the Knot. After being so successful for so long the nine have little left to prove but there's no resting on their laurels here. Even the more normal songs have a huge amount of things going on in them - little creative touches are scattered everywhere.

Every song here is finely crafted and then propelled to an extreme to see if it will break. Then as the songs are pieced back together the weirdness is added. You have the straightforward pummel of Red Flag rubbing shoulders with the xylophone interlude of What's Next which sounds scarily like lift musac. This bleeds into the eerie, off kilter, piano tinkle of Spiders, with its staccato riffs and stilted drumming. It's moments like this that absolutely make this album. There's a schizophrenic guitar break after which there's a noise that sounds for all the world like a stylophone which provides accompaniment to the song's conclusion.

The entire band are firing on all cylinders. Guitarists Jim Root and Mick Thompson are on fine form, throwing out a huge assortment of creative riffs around which these songs are built. Alessandro Venturella provides the backbone of the album, his bass rumbling away underneath the six string assault. Jay Weinberg pounds his drums, propelling the songs forward ably abetted by percussionist Shaun Crahan, who pulls so many of Slipknot's strings. There's a mystery new percussionist who has joined the band for their live shows but I don't know if he features on the album. Sid and Craig Jones add weird noises, sonic textures, DJ scratching and keyboards, giving these songs their personality. All the members are locked together so tightly on We Are Not Your Kind and I think that's what raises this album to such a high level.

And then, of course, there's Mr Taylor, vocalist extraordinaire. He has a huge range and many different styles of singing and he uses them all on this album. From crooning gently to a death metal roar to that rapid stream-of-conciousness rapping that he does so well Corey is a huge part of what makes Slipknot the band they are. His lyrics are, as ever, bleak and oblique, full of dichotomy. He tackles loneliness, loss, absence, self-loathing and Taylor aims barbs at the haters, a fairly standard Slipknot trope. His lyrics are full of contradictions, like the chorus of Unsainted: "Oh, I'll never kill myself to save my soul, I was gone, but how was I to know? I didn't come this far to sink so low, I'm finally holding on to letting go" or The Orphan's "Too white to be black, too black to be blue, too sick to be me, too fucked to be you". The lyrics are coloured by his marriage break up and his frequent bouts of depression. In Corey's own words the album was his way of dealing with toxic relationships.

By this point we are on the home straight, hurtling towards the album's climax. The slouching, ambient My Pain is bookended by some Fear Factory style industrial soundscapes. In between, driven by an insistent beat, is a weird bluegrass-cum-lullaby with Taylor gently murmuring "Pain, she loves me, wants me to be" like some weird nu-metal version of Scott Walker. The penultimate Not Long For This World is another slow burner with a huge chorus, bitterness spilling from every lyric.

And so to the album's denouement, Solway Firth. Named in reference to a photograph known as the Solway Firth Spaceman, there are covert references to things not being what they seem, the truth not always what you know or believe... here's an unexplainable one! This is the culmination of everything that comes before it, a hulking great epic and the perfect end to another journey through Slipknot's twisted world. Continually shifting, always restless, full of discontent, exploding in fury, twisting this way and that, straining at the edges. The ultimate barb thrown at those who struggle to accept Taylor's mental health problems: "I don’t need you to do it for me, I don’t need you to understand, I don’t need you to hide it from me, I just want to feel like any other man". Catharsis through music.

All Hope Is Gone was the sound of a band falling apart, collapsing under the weight of pressure, The Gray Chapter was the band finding their feet again. We Are Not Your Kind is a glorious return to form. The band have emerged from tragedy and line-up changes and remembered who they are and what they do. That's no disrespect to The Gray Chapter, which is an excellent album but this is another level all together. After existing for so long and having been through so much, it's fantastic that these reprobates from America's mid-west still have an album as strong as this in them. What have you done? Only gone and made one of the albums of the year, that's what!

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