Slipknot are crafty devils, aren’t they, especially when it comes to their sixth studio album, We Are Not Your Kind. Even the track that bears the same name as the title, that released in time for Halloween last year, is nowhere to be found here. It’s a massive subversion of expectations, which is a theme that their latest appears to be gunning for.
The Iowa-based metallers are no strangers when it comes to the themes of anguish, pain and suffering. Just a quick look at their history, and you can see it’s pretty messed up. They’ve always channelled this into their musical themes, resulting in anthems fuelled with a visceral rage. WANYK is no exception to this, and considering recent events, there’s a lot for them to get riled up about. From departing bandmates, to lawsuits, breakups and even violent attacks, there’s no shortage to the drama that they can translate sonically into brutality. That’s just their own personal experiences too. Whilst they’re (mostly) the same, angry Midwesterners, the world around them has changed a lot, seemingly decaying with the likes of Trump’s America, the increase in gun crimes and inequality, to name a few. Whilst not being overtly political, at the album’s core, the message is clear; that we are not their kind.
The gears begin to turn with “Insert Coin”, as an unsettling ambience takes over, the glitchy beeps making it feel as if trapped in a broken video game. The creepy aura continues to build all around, leading seamlessly into “Unsainted”. It’s not too long before it bursts into the chaotic, brutality that has Slipknot’s trademark style. Yet this shows the first signs of experimentation on the record. A choir of children sing in the background, and it’s incredibly haunting. “Birth of the Cruel” continues the visceral energy, the drone-like pulses having hypnotic qualities. The atmosphere in which it creates is extremely claustrophobic. The Electronic fluctuations in “Death Because of Death” seems like they’re emanating from a chorus of broken, worn out machinery, as the drumbeat kicks in, turning it into a tribal chant. “Nero Forte” opens with a slick, spidery riff, before the chaos once again descends. This song captures the essence of Iowa, if it had an illegitimate love child with “Duality” from vol.3. The chorus transitions into a style that’s in the vein of pop-rock, echoing that from their signature hits. The pace transitions from an unrelenting force, to that of a war march, and constantly shifting in unexpected ways, keeping listeners on their toes. “Critical Darling” sounds like warped sci-fi industrial machinery powering up, until a flurry of riffs and drumbeats explode in. It’s intense as hell as it chugs along. A poppy sing-along chorus comes out of nowhere, but is still pleasing, if a bit surprising, and feels like it was made for live settings. There are some fantastic moments of contrast within this track. “A Liar’s Funeral” tricks us into thinking that this in an acoustic number, that is until the heaviness once again roars in. Booming percussion takes prominence, having earth shaking properties. It’s not just heavy for the sake of it either, it feels carefully crafted to emphasise the urgency within the song, also adding to the raw emotion in Taylor’s screams.
If there were a soundtrack to sleep paralysis, this would be it. [“My Pain”]
“Red Flag” marks off all the hallmarks of a true ‘maggot’ anthem from the checklist. Droning effects? Check. Clanking drumbeat? Yup. Trashing guitars and frenetic pace? Very much as yes on both. This one is bound to get the moshpits in a frenzy at live shows. “What’s Next” is unexpected elevator music, that quickly takes a turn for the sinister, as ominous effects creep in from the background. This seamlessly bleed into “Spiders”, also being the weirdest, most experimental track on the album. The piano sounds as if were lifted from John Carpenter’s Halloween theme, and is the main driving force. It’s extremely minimal on guitar, having massive emphasis on ambience being built up around it. They don’t kick in when expected, and even then they don’t overstay their welcome. “Orphan” has an unsettling build up, having an effective use of guitar feedback, then the drum beats in like a massive explosion. One by one, each musical element is introduced, then it roars back into the punishment. If you’re looking for the classic Slipknot sound, then this is it, as it could easily be mistaken for a track off any of their first three albums. A mystical darkness settles in for “My Pain”, the creepy aura aided by distant effects and pulsing soundwaves, as Taylor unsettlingly whispers behind distortion. The build up begins, and what feels like should be a barrage of heaviness becomes the complete opposite, as if it were a twisted lullaby. If there were a soundtrack to sleep paralysis, this would be it. A hazy intro signals start of “Not Long for This World”, the ambience taking hold. It soon explodes back into the traditional heaviness that we’re all used to. Yet, before it can go too far with this, it stops in it’s tracks, returning to the haze. Naturally, it becomes fierce once again, but this ferocity is made all the more effective, thanks to the dynamics utilised earlier. “Solway Firth” brings the album to an appropriately brutal close. It explores the glitchy themes from the opener, as well as lyrical content (“Today, up on this hill / I’m counting all the killers”), making the record come full circle. It may start off more subdued when it begins, but once it fully kicks in, it packs in an intense force, as if a punch to the gut. This is probably one of the most brutal, grittiest tracks of their career.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but even after nearly 25 years since they began their careers, Slipknot still find ways to surprise us. When it’s at it’s heaviest, WANYK is arguably their most visceral material to date, yet it’s given a lot of breathing room in some of the softer moments, which still maintain a sinister, creepy vibe. The whole record feels like a roller-coaster ride; one second it’s as intense as hell, before switching up the pace, twisting and turning in unforeseen ways. All the hallmarks are there, and when it’s really going it is definitely traditional Slipknot, but there are a few arty moments that are incredibly immersive.
At it’s very epicentre, the album shows that the band have remained true to their core sound, whilst also having creative reign to explore ideas outside of their comfort zone.
Of course, the album is at it’s absolute best when the music is going at full force, which results in moments that are some of their catchiest and grittiest. Good examples of this are “Unsainted”, “Nero Forte” and “Red Flag”. At it’s very epicentre, the album shows that the band have remained true to their core sound, whilst also having creative reign to explore ideas outside of their comfort zone. Moments like “Spiders” and “My Pain” stick with you because of how weird and unsettling they are in tone. They’re not as heavy, but it still feels like Slipknot.
Collectively, WANYK is the band’s most experimental and creative work yet. Regardless of there being various interludes and ambient moments, none of it feels like filler. Admittedly, there are times where certain concepts could have been pushed slightly further, but it’s still pleasing in the way it’s been presented. The band have not only proven that they can adapt an transform against an ever changing lineup, but they’ve also shown that they can evolve with the times. There is no one like their kind, indeed.
Final verdict: WANYK contains some of Slipknot’s heaviest material yet, whilst also some of their softest, all whilst remaining sinister in tone. Creative and experimental, it’s surprising in unexpected ways and proves that they’re a kind of their own.