Slipknot will always be for the freaks. The Iowan metal crew have been forcing everybody to pay attention since bursting onto the scene since the late Nineties, clad in horror-movie masks and jumpsuits with a total barrage of chaos and aggression. Their diverse and dynamic offerings since 1999's Slipknot would go on to confirm that weirdos who fly in the face of popular trends can be a force to reckon with, and they've amassed one of the biggest and most diehard fan bases in all of music. Their new record We Are Not Your Kind is proof of the power of weird, of what you can achieve when you're not afraid of venturing off into sometime-bizarre territory.
The Nine have used their multi-instrumentalism in the best possible way, branching out far beyond familiar Slipknot tropes to break challenging new ground. It all starts with a strange sense of hope, of exploration into the unknown with the intro "Insert Coin," which shapes John Carpenteresque synth work into an overture of beauty. We then get to the heavy, as the song shifts to "Unsainted," which stood tall on its own as a single but now takes another life as an extension of the album's intro track.
There's a sense that the band is keenly aware of what the "Slipknot sound" constituted on earlier records, and want to subvert it. "Birth of the Cruel" tackles the grooves of nu-metal, with Corey Taylor adding a blues-spin to his vocals as a switch-up while Sid Wilson throws down DJ scratches on steroids, transforming the sound into something even more monstrous. "Nero Forte" is a tale of two Coreys by pitting his singing against scream-raps in the song's chorus. The weird twists of the guitar work lead into dense percussion that positions Slipknot as Hell's own marching band, rallying before unleashing a wild-ass breakdown.
Things get even weirder. "A Liar's Funeral" starts as the typical kind of heavy-band-does-acoustic song, and then stops in its tracks with a a jarring, slow crawl of heaviness. It's their take on Godfleshian dread, injecting high-stakes choral singing to give voice to Corey Taylor's inner dialogue. Elsewhere, "Spiders" continues on the Carpenter influence with pitch-perfect horror-movie piano playing around which the rest of the band jams. "My Pain" pulls in heavy trip-hop vibes à la Massive Attack for the album's strangest, most hypnotic cut.
Everything hits an emotional apex on "Not Long for this World," a perfect blend of the old and new. Taylor sounds as though he's at the end of his rope, accepting that he will die soon after feeling the end of a relationship. The song hits three levels of intensity, beginning quiet before exploding on the bridge where Taylor redirects his emotions to pure rage, before coming to terms with himself and his actions. The band manages to pull off heavy, pretty and emotionally devastating in quick succession across the six-and-a-half-minute cut.
From the otherworldly interludes to the straight-up total crush of tracks like "Red Flag," there's something for everyone. We Are Not Your Kind, as an album title, feels prophetic, the band promising not to get lazy and release a boring or unchallenging album like some of their contemporaries in the big-rock-artist sphere. There's a palpable hunger to seek out boundaries and destroy them; with each song clocking in at over four minutes, there's no rush for radio, only creative triumph. This is an album heavy metal needs right now, to inspire others to branch out, to not settle, and to embrace the weird.