Photo Credit: Roadrunner Records
Okay, let’s skip – or at least-fast forward past – what we all know already: Slipknot are a hard rock band whose members wear truly scary, horror movie-style masks onstage (and possibly elsewhere, but that’s their business), although they’re not actually concealing their identities (lead singer Corey Taylor’s actual face has another gig fronting Stone Sour, to cite just one member). Gimmick-wise, Kiss has always been the most obvious comparison, although that band tried to present themselves as superheroes and offered up an infinity of correspondingly kid-friendly merchandise (by contrast, one wouldn’t really picture little Timmy trotting off to elementary school carrying a Slipknot lunchbox).
While there’s probably some deeper meaning regarding Slipknot’s costume element which would make a fascinating discussion, for now the only thing we’re going to say about it specifically is that the masks always appear the same, rarely if ever changing. This has largely been the case with Slipknot’s music, as their sound has been fairly consistent since their self-titled 1999 debut.
If you do know at least that much about the band’s image, you’re probably familiar with their sound as well, an altering of hard rock riffs and screaming vocals which are then balanced out with chunks that are more enjoyably melodic than we might have a right to expect. Once we’ve entered our comfort zone with that part of the song, it goes right back to the screaming (although with many Slipknot fans that probably is the comfort zone). With nearly every Slipknot track you can practically hear some carpool mom leaning in, horrified, to change the listening selection only to say “Oh wait, I like this part” and then go right back an average of a minute later.
For the most part, all of this remains the case on the band’s latest release, We Are Not Your Kind, including self-explanatory tracks like “Unsainted,” “Red Flag” and “My Pain.” Still, Slipknot does slip in a few genuine surprises. The track “Death Because of Death,” despite the Spinal Tap-esque title (shame on you if you’ve forgotten “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight”) exists because of – no, not death, but rather Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk.” “Birth of the Cruel” also flips the script a bit by opening with the melodic stuff before it goes into hardcore, while “Nero Forte” has the two elements overlapping, almost as if engaged in combat (the listener wins in the end). “Liar’s Funeral” begins as a Nine Inch Nails-like ballad before Taylor shouts, “Liar!” Somewhere, Henry Rollins is no doubt smiling (or maybe just frowning a bit less).
“What’s Next” is another short but distinct track comprised entirely of a creepy music box tune ( even though some would argue they’re all creepy). The song “Spiders” actually stays on the same path as a compelling mid-tempo piano song. A light guitar/drums/synth mix – seemingly cautious, almost coming off like it’s trying to make sure it’s safe to come out – precludes the explosion into the band’s familiar hard rock assault on “Not Long for This World.”
But will Slipknot be long for this world? Several years ago Miracle Whip mayonnaise (of all products) launched an advertising campaign with the slogan “We’re not for everyone,” and TV commercials (including one featuring Jersey Shore cast member Pauly D) talking about how much they thought the product sucked. If titling their album We Are Not Your Kind was meant to be a similar exercise in reverse-psychology on the part of Slipknot, it’s clearly working, as the album’s already been number one in both the U.S. and the U.K. However, if you liked Slipknot up until this point, you’ll still like them, and if you never liked them before… well, it’s not too late. Slipknot proves once again that they’ve actually got something behind those masks, and some of it is talent.
WRITTEN BY RICHARD JOHN CUMMINS