The sixth album from Slipknot, We Are Not Your Kind, brought up a serious existential question in my addled brain. What the hell am I, a fifty-year-old grandfather, doing still listening to Slipknot? Shouldn’t I have outgrown the screaming vocals, the loud guitars, and furious drumming from nine guys running about in scary masks like hell’s baseball team?
I wrestled with this for a while as I listened to their new record. We haven’t gotten an album from Slipknot since 2014. A quick Google search will tell you about all the wretched things that have happened to the band members. Lawsuits, overdoses, even a blown-out testicle that singer Corey Taylor suffered while practicing his high notes. To understate things, it sounds like a frustrating and sad five years between albums. That awful time, though, has permeated the band’s creative output. That which did not kill Slipknot has made them stronger, and We Are Not Your Kind resonates with both anger and defiance.
“Unsainted,” with its deceptively sweet choir singing the chorus, kicks things off with a hammerfist rage. Like many Slipknot songs, it’s an anthem for individuality. As Taylor sings, “The anti-antagonist is back in style.” His insistence for not being a whipping boy for the establishment becomes a rallying cry within the maelstrom of guitars and percussion.
The strain of “weird is good’ continues into the next song, “Birth of the Cruel.” With its fierce call of “Let’s hear it for the damaged,” the song proves that Slipknot knows its audience. This is music for the misfit, the outsider, the ones with locked diaries in their nightstand drawers.
Almost impossibly, We Are Not Your Kind manages to get heavier and more experimental. “Nero Forte” is one of the best songs Slipknot has ever written. Corey Taylor is half-singing, half-rapping, and completely pissed off. The song, “Spiders,” is cinematic. It sounds like something Kevin Williamson would have slapped over the end of a horror movie in the Nineties. The guitar solo is appropriately skittish. It is one of the most accessible songs they’ve ever recorded, but it doesn’t betray that Slipknot spirit.
Everything is great until the last three songs. If there’s a weak link in this chain of cool, it’s “My Pain.” With its swoopy keyboards and creaky, whispered vocals, this is what DeviantArt would sound like if you could hear it. It would have made a great secret track, not the beginning to the denouement of the album.
The closing track, “Solway Firth,” is definitely heavy, but it feels long and formless. It could pass as orchestral, in the sense that it feels like there might be musical movements, but the flow isn’t there for me. It feels like a bit of a mishmash, and a weak ending for an album filled with killer material.
We Are Not Your Kind is music for malcontents. Like the bumper stickers say, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” That’s exactly why I’m still listening to Slipknot, and why I’ll be playing them for my grandkids. There’s still a part of me that’s a little pissed off and craving freedom, vengeance, and retribution. To that end, I have found my champions. Slipknot might not be your kind, but they are mine. What other explanation is necessary? Existential crisis averted.
Slipknot’s We Are Not Your Kind is available from Roadrunner Records on streaming formats and wherever fine music is sold.