Sophie Kernachan reviews the much anticipated We Are Not Your Kind, the sixth studio album from Iowa’s favourite mask-wielding heavy metal band
After several months of build-up and hype, Slipknot have returned with their sixth studio album, We Are Not Your Kind. The band themselves have made big claims during the lead-up to its release, calling it “the darkest in a long time”, and claiming it had “heavier things than they’ve ever done”. The hype is understandable, as this album’s release falls on the 20th anniversary of Slipknot’s self-titled debut that made them heavyweights of the nu-metal scene, and the hype from this - and from the band themselves - have set the expectations for this album pretty high.
Does it live up to those expectations? Well … kind of. What I can say with certainty is that it is absolutely a step up from their 2014 release, The Gray Chapter, especially in terms of experimentation. This is probably Slipknot’s most experimental album (not counting their first demo Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. released in 1996), acting mostly as a combination of their heaviest material and the more experimental nu-metal style from their self-titled release; with new experimental additions to their sound that you might not necessarily expect from Slipknot such as choral music.
My hopes for the album originally were not high, especially when hearing the first single All Out Life, which was ultimately not included on the album. All Out Life, while definitely reminiscent of the heavier material from All Hope Is Gone, in retrospect seems less like a song that would fit into the flow of the album and more destined to be the opener to every concert Slipknot will play for the next year or two. But despite that, the album itself turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise, and despite several complaints to be had, is one of the most enjoyable releases Slipknot has put out in years.
This album will bring joy to those who appreciate older Slipknot, as the band mostly deliver in that regard. Gone are the soft ballads present on All Hope Is Gone and The Gray Chapter with the most prevalent acoustic moment found at the beginning of A Liar’s Funeral, which while unfortunately sounding like Stone Sour’s leftovers, picks up very quickly as the music delves back into the Slipknot of old, with some of the best guitar work the band has had to offer in a long time. The riffs are thunderous, solos - while short - are complex and vicious, and it’s incredibly satisfying to actually hear the guitars in a modern Slipknot release, where in the past they’ve been buried under vocals and percussion.
Songs like Critical Darling, Neo Forte and Unsainted are satisfyingly heavy thanks to the inclusion of well written riffs, and as a result makes them some of the best and most memorable songs on the album. Speaking of percussion, Jay Weinberg in particular shines on this album, emulating the heaviness present on the likes of Iowa to a decent extent while still having an individual style, most apparent on songs such as Orphan. It’s unfair to expect the same quality of drumming as what we got on Iowa, Joey Jordison had a very distinct style, heavily reliant on double bass drumming, something that he’s now putting to good use in extreme metal projects. Weinberg’s drumming, while slower and steadier, fits well for both the heavier and melodic elements of this album, and it’s satisfying to see him find his place in the band after an understandably understated performance on The Gray Chapter.
However, overall one major flaw did stand out, which was the ambient interludes scattered throughout the album. Ambient interludes can work and Slipknot have made them work before, but they just … don’t here. Even the opener is less memorable than openers on previous albums such as 742617000027 or (515). Insert Coin is forgettable, and the other interludes on the album seem like a distraction, interrupting the flow rather than enhancing it and padding out the album’s length where it really wasn’t necessary. The heavier direction here absolutely works in the band’s favour, I say as somebody with nostalgia for Slipknot’s early releases. However, the raw heaviness from those albums they’re replicating here doesn’t mix well with these ambient moments, since the two don’t really connect to each other tonally or musically. The worst offender is What’s Next, which doesn’t connect to its following track, the experimental Spiders, due to it sounding like elevator music.
The biggest interruption to the album’s flow however is its worst track, My Pain. A painfully slow track of just under seven minutes, it drags the album to a screeching halt. It has those same creepy lullaby vibes that anybody who knows early Korn songs will recognise. The disjointedness between vocals and the instrumentals is jarring, with the vocals sounding like a song played over the credits of a bad indie movie, and the instrumentals sounding more like an off-key nursery rhyme. I imagine the disjointedness in the instrumentals were supposed to be purposely unsettling, but instead they sound like a bunch of different sound effects thrown together with little care for cohesiveness. This track, unlike other experimental ones such as Spiders, doesn’t even have the veil of being "experimental" to hide behind, as it crosses over the line of being experimental into just messy. The coherence on this album is one of its strengths, and songs like My Pain and the interludes throughout disrupt that.
This album has been called the best that Slipknot has ever done, and I will have to say it doesn’t quite reach that level. It’s a flawed but clearly passionate piece, which shows the band coming out of their comfort zone, succeeding at some points, failing at others; but overall creating an enjoyable release that is worth a listen or two at the very least.