Few would have expected how big SLIPKNOT was going to become considering their humble beginnings in America's Heartland. But the Des Moines, Iowa-based band has become seemingly larger than life to some. They're a household name. They are veritable rock stars. They are a modern-day KISS. Some metal purists ignorantly write them off by trivializing them as being nothing more than a nü-metal act. Sure, that tag captures some elements of the band, namely the stringed-instrument tuning and occasionally rapped lyrics and similar vocal patterns, but they are so much more than that. SLIPKNOT is a vibrant mix of death metal crunch and ferocity, thrash metal groove and repetition and PANTERA-styled, aggressive groove metal — sparsely peppered with tripped-out interludes influenced by bands as varied as MR. BUNGLE and TODAY IS THE DAY — that's narrated by Corey Taylor's Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde-like interplay between caustic growling and impassioned, melodic singing. The Grammy Award-winning, Midwestern band has reached multi-platinum level status. Regardless of how one perceives such accolades, they've rightfully earned whatever recognition they've received by virtue of their hard work, resilience and talent.
Following their first four years of existence, personnel changes have been seldom; quite impressive considering that we are talking about a nine-member band. But the few change-ups over the last decade have been significant. Bassist Paul Gray died in 2010, and drummer Joey Jordison parted ways with the band in 2013. Both members were integral in the songwriting process of SLIPKNOT's first four albums: "Slipknot" (1999), "Iowa" (2001), "Vol 3: (The Subliminal Verses)" (2004) and "All Hope is Gone" (2008). There was an understandable period of grieving and mourning following Gray's death. The masked men returned in 2014 with ".5 The Gray Chapter", the title and spirit of the album obviously serving as tribute to the fallen heavy metal warrior.
".5 The Gray Chapter" was enjoyable and hard-hitting, their most hefty release since "Iowa", yet it wasn't quite as memorable nor focused as that which preceded it. It was an extension of the formula that had been working all along. Now, in 2019, SLIPKNOT has finally challenged that formula with "We Are Not Your Kind". While the nine men have continued to reliably capitalize upon their tried-and-true approach, they've now submerged themselves into musical oceans that were only previously visited by dipping their toes in the water.
The haunting intro, "Insert Coin", sets the album in motion with the air of a modern-day horror flick. The eerie sensibilities are threaded throughout saliently during the chorus of "Unsainted", and even more so, immediately thereafter with Taylor's ethereal melodic vocals on "Birth of the Cruel". When Taylor's inner bad cop takes over — in other words, when he's screaming with rage — the guitar crunch is equally menacing, but with a lurching and crawling effect in contrast to their typical full-frontal thrash assault. SLIPKNOT's dynamic six-string duo, Jim Root and Mick Thomson, flex their muscles here and elsewhere, as with the utterly crushing "Nero Forte", a track also boasting drummer Jay Weinberg's militant percussive onslaught. But the guitarists also slide back into the JANE'S ADDICTION-esque melodious groove as they always have on a cut like "Liar's Funeral".
"Iowa" undoubtedly remains SLIPKNOT's most abrasive and pummeling effort. But when they are clenched fisted on "We Are Not Your Kind", they clearly reach the same level of intensity. The album's more expansive dynamics, involving the experimental aspects and greater penchant for melody, mean that the release is more accessible and palatable to a broader audience. The contrast also makes the aggressive stabs feel that much more violent. Looking back at the era of the self-titled debut and "Iowa", SLIPKNOT seemed as though they were trying to be the heaviest band on the market and trying too hard — a shared pursuit of many youthful heavy bands. They were never as bludgeoning and intense as bands like NAPALM DEATH, CRYPTOPSY or DROPDEAD, but in the realm of nü-metal and on the surface level of the mainstream's meeting point with the underground, SLIPKNOT was the biggest boy on the block. When they are in overdrive nowadays, however, it feels more authentic and expressive.
None of that means that they were insincere with their emotional outpouring. The charismatic Taylor has always worn his heart on his sleeve whether he's angry, sad, happy or vulnerable. And the recording of "We Are Not Your Kind" seems likely to have been the perfect vehicle for his catharsis considering his recent personal woes involving the unraveling of his relationship with his wife a couple of years ago. Here, the artist's pain will both provide pleasure and serve the catharsis of many listeners. "We Are Not Your Kind" ultimately proves to be a shining gem in SLIPKNOT's crown, one that will take a while for people to fully grasp and comprehend because of the extent of its depth and complexity.