Slipknot have always been fascinated by the darker corners of humanity. As far back as the grisly "Purity" from their 1999 debut, Corey Taylor has had a specific affinity for orating the twisted crimes of violent serial killers. Technically, the Iowa manics' new song, "The Chapeltown Rag," is yet another instance of Taylor drawing inspiration from a murderous fiend — the notorious Yorkshire Ripper, who slayed 13 women in England throughout the late 1970s, and used the Leeds suburb of Chapeltown as his "hunting ground."
However, you wouldn't necessarily pick up on that context while reading along to the song's lyrics, because, as Taylor explained in an interview with Knotfest.com, the singer uses the unassuming Chapeltown as a metaphor for the socially homicidal behavior that plays out in our day-to-day digital lives. People on Twitter, of course, aren't literally committing murder, but Taylor identifies our increasing addictions to online platforms that encourage negative impulses and antisocial behavior as breeding grounds for the minds of virtual serial killers, who view themselves as arbiters of life and death and feed on the rush of playing the role of an unmerciful, tormenting God.
"Everything is god online, and it's as evil as it gets," Taylor bellows at the start of "The Chapeltown Rag," emphasizing the non-hierarchical order of how information is presented on social media — a flat, one-dimensional scroll of images and words that all have the power to be amplified and perceived as holy scripture by whoever chooses to worship. Most of Taylor's lyrics that follow are abstract and askew, squirming with rage but intentionally inarticulate in a way that feels like he's writing from within the very hall of mirrors that he's simultaneously decrying.
"You're gonna need a new disguise/Vessels burst, veins release, just slide into the nearest lie," he belts during the hook with a trad-metal clarity to his voice that sounds at once triumphant and defeated. The lyric is a comment on the way our corporeal bodies are now so wired to the satisfaction of subscribing to perceived truth that we'll embrace a lie just to feel that rush. It's astute social commentary, but the surrounding music translates the feeling just as well.
Slipknot's 2019 LP, We Are Not Your Kind, sounded like a breakthrough point in the band's long march toward mastering the balance between unbound fury and tuneful finesse. On paper, it's one of the band's most melodic albums, but it doesn't feel that way because its most accessible elements are blended so seamlessly with the torrential anger and unrelenting heaviness. "The Chapeltown Rag" sounds like an extension of that approach, as it encompasses every era of the band's wide-ranging sonic history without feeling like a clunky grab bag.
The song kicks off with a drum break that throws it back to "Eyeless," while the whirring guitars and pummeling blast beats of the pre-choruses recall the extreme-metal nastiness of the most punishing tracks on All Hope Is Gone. Taylor's vocals during the chorus are the most drastic departure from Slipknot's quintessential sound, but if you shave off a couple of the harmonic layers, it's really not all that different from the way he belted on "Wait and Bleed." It's that sweet cocktail of fresh and familiar that everyone hopes their favorite bands can achieve 20 years deep into their careers.
With not a moment wasted, you wouldn't necessarily realize that "The Chapeltown Rag" is nearly five minutes long, and the final section is quite possibly the best part. After a few seconds of smoke-clearing feedback and creepy soundbites, the band comes swinging back in with a thrusting breakdown that alternates between earth-rattling stomps and piranha-like spasms. It's fucking heavy, but Taylor's final line hits the hardest: "When everything is God online, nothing is," he seethes with a kill-shot growl of his central thesis. If we're all killers, then we're all somebody else's feeble prey.