review: Slipknot’s ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ proves they are still pushing forward
2019 has already been a big year for Slipknot. It's the 20th anniversary of their classic self-titled debut album and the 15th anniversary of their most widely loved album, Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses). They're currently on a major tour with hugely killer support from Behemoth and Gojira, and they've increasingly been given a critical reassessment in some of the music criticism circles that slept on their brilliance during the band's heyday. A lot of times when long-running bands are given these types of re-evaluations, it's just about digging back into the classics, but Slipknot are a band who seemed like they could pull off a good new album. Their first in five years, We Are Not Your Kind, is out today, and it was preceded by endless hype in the metal-friendly corners of the internet as well as in less expected corners like The FADER and Vulture. And throughout the 14 tracks of We Are Not Your Kind, Slipknot prove that they are no nostalgia act and that they are very much still capable of making very good new albums.
We Are Not Your Kind has a lot of the same elements that made Vol. 3 so popular, but the album sees Slipknot repurposing those elements and pushing their music forward into territories that it's never gone before. It's an album that'd be good at welcoming back some old fans who haven't checked in with the band in a while as well as roping in some new ones (while presumably pleasing diehards too). It gives you the familiar Slipknot experience, but in a way that's not exactly like any experience you've ever had before.
As ever, the band's pounding percussion is in the forefront nearly as much as Corey Taylor's voice, even though the classic three-person percussion section of Clown, Chris Fehn, and Joey Jordison has splintered. 2014's .5: The Gray Chapter saw Jordison replaced by Jay Weinberg, whose previous credits included Against Me!, Hesitation Wounds, and Madball, and Fehn had a messy split with Slipknot earlier this year. It's not the same, but Weinberg's an ace drummer and he's figured out how to embrace the Slipknot style and still put his own twist on it. Another trait We Are Not Your Kind shares with Slipknot's classic albums, especially Vol. 3, is the knack not just for in-your-face metal but also for pop music that can sound genuinely sweet. Sure, you know a Slipknot album is giving you chunky, downtuned power chords, pounding percussion, and face-reddening aggression, but an operatic choir? "Unsainted" has that. A chorus that warrants descriptors like "ethereal" and "dreamy"? "Nero Forte" has that. Slipknot may never get (and may never want) the "nu metal for people who hate nu metal" cred that Deftones have, but like that band, they clearly care about pop music just as much as they care about metal.
They also still care about being really fucking weird. We Are Not Your Kind makes room for a glitchy interlude like "Death Because of Death," a Swans-like, industrial-folk dirge like "A Liar's Funeral," and a cross between trip-hop and Sgt. Pepper's-y psych pop like "My Pain" (yes, really). It's not unlike Slipknot to incorporate stuff like this (the trippy chamber pop of "Circle" is one of the highlights of Vol. 3), but it's impressive that they remain so intent on being this weird this far into their career. It helps make We Are Not Your Kind one of the strangest albums you will hear from a mainstream metal band in 2019, and it also makes you wonder why exactly they need to be discussed in the context of "mainstream metal" at this point anyway. We Are Not Your Kind has some production elements that seem geared towards making the album more radio friendly -- and, to be honest, those elements hurt the record more than anything else -- but otherwise, what does "mainstream metal" even mean in 2019? Unlike when "Duality" was a hit, you're not gonna flip on MTV or alternative rock radio and hear anything off We Are Not Your Kind or off any other 2019 metal album. We Are Not Your Kind isn't as abrasive as an underground metal band like Tomb Mold -- nor is it trying to be -- but it's a lot more experimental and challenging than whatever's left of mainstream rock (Twenty One Pilots or something?), and even more so than a lot of today's indie rock and indie metal too.
At this point, two decades into their consistently popular career, Slipknot probably aren't worried about what anyone thinks and they probably don't care about the narrative that they're newfound critical darlings -- though they did name one of the catchiest songs on this album "Critical Darling" -- and they also haven't made any of the drastic changes to their music that mainstream bands make when they're after critical acclaim. All the quote-unquote "cooler" elements of their sound were really always there; more and more people are just now figuring it out, as Slipknot continue down the path they've been paving for themselves since the late '90s. And sticking to their own, strong vision is a big part of what makes We Are Not Your Kind such a winner. A truly great band transcends their genre and outlasts the genre's popularity, and that's exactly what Slipknot have done and continue to do. We Are Not Your Kind doesn't rely on nostalgia for the nu metal era, and it doesn't seem influenced by any of today's trends but it doesn't feel totally out of touch with them either. It's a product of its own unique world, and people are still learning to latch onto that world twenty years after the band's debut came out. Once We Are Not Your Kind sinks in, that will probably only continue.
Stream the full album now: