The track, Red Flag, is available via:
The album, We Are Not Your Kind, is available here:
9th August, 2019
Roadrunner Records, Inc.
ONE might notice a bit of a shift…
from yesterday’s review to the one today! One cannot say there is a lot in common between Slipknot and Lana Del Rey but, to me, both artists are equally worthy. Before I review a song from Slipknot’s latest album, We Are Not Your Kind, I wanted to talk about the band from a number of different angles. I want to look at Metal and how it gets a bad reputation; the fact the genre is pretty broad and its fans are among some of the very nicest. I also want to explore the endurance of Slipknot and why their music remains relevant and urgent; a bit about taking gambles in music and getting out of that comfort zone; music that provides a release and can actually calm the senses, despite being pretty intense; a look at why Slipknot can continue to endure and what the future holds for them. I do think that people look at Slipknot and think that their music is going to be offensive, disturbing and a complete racket. There have been some controversies in the Slipknot camp over the years and some tragedies. One of their beloved members, Paul Gray, died in 2010 and there have been accusations Slipknot’s lyrics have provoked violence and killings. So many artists have to answer questions around their music and whether it is safe. It seems absurd but many media sources attack bands like Slipknot because they feel they are encouraging violence and sending messages to their fans. Rap artists like Eminem used to cut the same flack and many hear Metal bands and feel they are a force for evil. I have been following Slipknot since the late-1990s when they released their debut album and they have remains hugely important and intriguing. There are some genres of Metal that rely on screaming and noise and, whilst that is okay for some, that is not what Slipknot are about. Even since their eponymous debut in 1999, the group have provided actual songs and structure; a lot of nuance and depth.
There is, sure, anger and aggression but that is never aimless and a means of brainwashing listeners. Before I continue on, I want to bring in an interview Slipknot’s lead Corey Taylor gave to The Independent where he discusses misconceptions around the band:
“Music is an easy target because [people in authority] don’t understand it,” Taylor says. “There’s a complete lack of effort to try to understand it, and a lack of willingness to take any portion of the blame for these events.
“If you’re looking for a certain kind of rhetoric, whether it’s hating black people or gay people or whatever, there are thousands of sites with people posting about it,” he continues. “We’re seeing the repercussions of a failure to address that.
One of the biggest misconceptions about heavy metal – particularly a band like Slipknot, with their terrifying masks and relentless, thundering sound – is that they’re scary people. Speaking with them proves otherwise: Taylor and Clown are friendly – dare I say cheerful – over the phone; Taylor laughs uproariously when I refer to his self-confessed “horrible” attempt at an English voice on new single “Solway Firth” as “Cockney screamo”. Their attitude towards the band is one of a family that extends to the fans, fondly known as “Maggots”, where no one is judged for their gender, skin colour or sexuality. And they appear to share a brotherly affection for one another – as Taylor’s interview reaches its end, he instructs me to tell Clown that he’s a “s**thead”, with all the childish glee of a younger sibling.
The Slipknot guys are actually pretty nice and personable and they get written off as bad influences. Slipknot’s music has brought so much meaning to young people and direction; the band have managed to influence a lot of other groups and, whilst they will always court negative press and face questions, I do think there is a lot of misunderstanding around them.
Maybe this all ties into the Metal genre in general. You cannot label any genre easily and assume that it is going to be the same. Look at Country music and how that has evolved; the way Hip-Hop has developed through the decades. The same is true of Metal. The genre has grown and expanded since its inception and earliest days. There are so many sub-genres and options for fans. Those who think Metal is all about intensity and chaos need to do some investigation and discover there is a lot more than meets the eye. In the case of its fans, there is a wide spectrum to be found. Again, like bands such as Slipknot, the fans get a pretty short shrift. People will assume Metal fans are hard to like or they will be angry; maybe they are going to unpleasant and not the sort of human you want around. In fact, polls have shown that Metal fans are among some of the nicest out there. I am not saying that a Slipknot gig is a love-in and everyone is hugging throughout – there is going to be moshing and sweat flying, that is for sure! – but one gets wrong impressions when they consider Metal fans. I know quite a fair few myself and, whilst there is an image that comes with the genre, the focus is on the music. When I listen to Metal, I want that sense of release but I also want to be moved by the force of the music. I know a lot of Metal fans who feel angered or misunderstood and, when listening to bands such as Slipknot, they feel like someone gets them; they have this source of defiance and anger that speaks for them. Again, this is not about Metal bands inciting violence: conversely, bands like Slipknot are peace-loving but they know their music will stir up controversy and debate all of the time.
Metal fans and bands will often have to face prejudice and judgement but I feel we need to reassess our outlook. In fact, not only are bands like Slipknot a lifeline for many fans but they are in touch with what is happening in the world. Slipknot’s new album, We Are Not Your Kind, might not be explicitly political and about what is happening in America but, as Corey Taylor explained in the interview with The Independent, he realises things are in bad shape:
“While there are no explicit references to the state of the world on this new album, Taylor pays plenty of attention to politics in the US and the UK, claiming he “f**king called it” before Trump was put in office.
“I caught so much hell for that,” he says, “because people thought I was trying to stir up s**t. I was like, ‘this is gonna get way worse before it gets better. Next year I’m going to vote like everybody else, and hopefully we won’t have another four years of that f**king douchenozzle.”
He compares the way Trump uses rhetoric to Boris Johnson, and finds similarities in the way they were written about in the months before they came to power.
“Boris Johnson is very much your Trump,” he says. “I’ve watched Boris for 15 years, and he has never been someone that people have taken seriously – even when he was mayor of London.” He heaves a sigh. “And now he’s the f**king prime minister”.
I would suggest that, if you are one of these people who snubs Metal and thinks it will all sound the same, do some digging and you will be pleasantly surprised. I would suggest you start from Slipknot’s 1999 debut and then work your way forward. You will see the way the band have evolved and strengthened through the years. I shall come to the new album in a bit but, to many, the band have created their most intense yet gentle album yet – they have the aggression and speed notched up but there are moments of genuine calm in places.
A lot of Metal bands flail and fall by the wayside because they either repeat themselves and fail to ignite or they follow a commercial path. I remember the dreaded rise of Nu-Metal back in the early-2000s and how groups like Limp Bizkit ruled. I am not sure whether they are still going but, to me, Nu-Metal is not as interesting and quality-laden as other areas. It is hard to categorise Slipknot because they are not pure Metal or Hardcore. They have stepped into Speed Metal and they have moments where Groove Metal can be applied to them. I think it is the eclectic nature of Slipknot that means they keep attracting new fans and remain relevant. Back in 1999, the scene was changing in music and there was this new burst of Metal and Nu-Metal. Artists like Eminem were rising and bands such as Rage Against the Machine were producing immense work. It is clear that a definite sense of physicality and release was demanded and, rocking along, Slipknot provided something familiar yet new. Fellow bands such as Opeth and Neurosis were adding to the Metal cannon in 1999 but Slipknot topped them all. For a start, the fact that they are masked and had that mystery around them – since then, most members of the band have been snapped without their masks on – was interesting and I was taken about at the sheer rush of the music. Whilst the band came in hard on their debut, there was definite structure and layers to their music – rather than it being about shock-and-awe. Some fans did not like the fact that, after the 1999 debut, the band sort of moved away from their roots and tried new sounds. Again, it was not like Slipknot were going Reggae and aiming for a slot on Top of the Pops but they were employing darker elements and, after 2001’s Iowa, there were new shades and complex rhythms in the mix. What has remained key and essential since the debut is the sheer physicality of the music.
Slipknot have always been more than a band intent on screaming as loud as possible and making their guitars crunch harder than anyone else’s. I do think Slipknot have stayed popular and hyped because each album offers something fresh. Fans can relate to them but, with each album, you notice little touches and angles that beckon you in. I do think that the dynamic in the band now is stronger and more engaging than it has ever been. Look at some of the reviews for We Are Not Your Kind and this might be the most celebrated and highly-reviewed album of their career. It is getting five-star reviews all over the place and many have noted how the band is articulating an anger that many people feel. There is a feeling that songs are attacking President Trump and the hatred he is stirring. There is personal disconnection and aggression in addition to, yet again, new sonic twists and turns. Like I said, the anger always remains and the fire seems as intense now as it did back in 1999. There are a number of reasons why Slipknot remain compelling and popular. They are a band who has a close-knot relationship and you can tell how much they mean to each other. I think the band will continue to make music for years to come and, unlike so many Metal bands, Slipknot continue to push forward and find new avenues. I do think there are Metal groups that rely on a single sound and think that one-dimensional anger will sustain them. Slipknot have always been more intelligent than that. One only needs to listen to We Are Not Your Kind and discover so many different stories, contours and possibilities. It is an album that will relate to their faithful but it is one any non-fan can appreciate. I especially love how there is this energy and creative gold flowing. The band rejected quite a lot of songs for the album and it is clear they are in inspired form.
I will move on to a song from We Are Not Your Kind that I wanted to focus on but, right now, I want to get back that idea that Metal bands like Slipknot are here to encourage violence and disruption. Oddly, I think the music of Slipknot can calm the senses and actually release a lot of burden. Good Metal can get you fired-up and pumped but it goes much deeper and can actually be medicinal. I am not suggesting Slipknot are a form of therapy but there is a lot to be said for their music and how it can make you feel. The anger they articulate is something many of us want to express. We all want to scream and rage at the moment and hearing it through the prism of Slipknot can be cathartic and a big relief. There are so many different sides to Slipknot’s music and they manage to evoke so many emotions from the listener. I do feel people get stuck with this stereotype of Metal and the feeling that it is basic. Listen to the music and lyrics on any Slipknot record and there is a lot of musicianship and skill. Even when they are thrashing and pulverising, you can detect a lot of different elements working away in the music. It is a fascinating blend and one that compels you to listen again and again. I am not sure how many of their peers have survived since 1999 but I do think Slipknot have endured longer than most. Now that they have released one of their best albums, who is to say how long they have left. The once-fresh-faced band might be a bit older but I think they have grown wiser and more extraordinary as the years have gone on. Some might still be wary of Slipknot but I would encourage people to get out of their comfort zones and explore the band.
I am one of these people who can be a bit reserved when it comes to certain genres and unwilling to take a plunge. I am not a huge fan of genres like Drill and Trap but, having dipped my toes into the water recently, I have discovered artists and tracks that have started to change my mind – although I am not a convert, it is clear one cannot judge and write off entire genres. There has always been this battle in Metal between misconceptions and reality. Fair enough, if you are not a fan of harder and accelerated music then Slipknot might not be able to hook you in. If you do like your music with firepower but plenty of depth, do listen to Slipknot and absorb as much as you can. We all get a bit lazy with our tastes and fall back on the same sounds. Maybe it is time to move on to reviewing a track but, in regards to the We Are Not Your Kind album, there is this great mix of the personal and political. I do like the fact that (the album) has the traditional and reliable Slipknot ingredients but there are new stories and sounds that have sent critics into overdrive. The band always knows how to surprise and push forward. I love what they are doing and one can only imagine how their music translates onto the stage! I have never been to one of their gigs but, as you can probably figure, it is quite a memorable and vivid experience! The mix of sounds and effects on We Are Not Your Kind are spellbinding. Slipknot build sound collages and there is this blend of the more mechanical and experimental. The band turns universal disgust and anger into something genuinely hopeful and meaningful. They have turned their own heartache and loss into something constructive and, in the process, are connecting with so many different people.
It does not take long for Red Flag to spark into life. Whereas some Metal bands would throw as much volume into the mix as possible, there is a satisfying grumble and groove working underneath the noise. The band make sure there is enough force and charge right from the off but you get this nice little grumbling groove that has rumble and grit. The combination is exceptional and the lyrics provide plenty of curiosity. “Past just saving, this is like escaping/Running wild in the middle of weeds” is an interesting opening and you wonder what the words relate to. “Eyes can’t see me” declares our hero and, when that is uttered, you get an intensity and sense of conviction that takes you back. One could attribute the words to be about personal dislocation and a relationship burning out but, in a wider sense, maybe there is a feeling of being adrift in a world that is spinning out of control. The pace, rhythm and structure of the song is fantastic. It is never too intense and loud but there is this determined anger throughout. The band is exceptionally tight and potent and, as you’d expect from Slipknot, their music and lyrics dig deep. I would suggest people listen to Red Flag a few times because there is so much going on. The composition is a perfect cocktail but I was drawn to the lyrics and possible meaning. There are words about suffering and, if you want a reason to suffer, there are plenty around. Again, I was thinking about this possibility that it might be personal; relating to love and a relationship that has hit the skids. There is redemption and hope as the hero suggests that, if you want to live to be better then you can be. This sense of motivation and positivity against the torrent is inspiring. Of course, it is the frantic heartbeat and feeling of anger that makes Red Flag one of the most urgent and powerful songs on the We Are Not Your Kind album.
PHOTO CREDIT: REX
There are electronic glitches and the avalanche mixing together in the chorus as Slipknot talk about people – whether the governments or someone else – getting you alone so they can steal you; smothering you and eating you alive. The imagery is quite stark and explicit but, actually, I was wondering whether this was a nod to politics and the state of the world. Into the second verse and there is a line that stands out: “I won’t allow this to happen”. This straight and powerful line arrives in the middle of a verse that looks at cattle and vultures; a feeling that we are being cheated and displaced. The imagery throughout Red Flag is eye-opening and vivid and Slipknot show that they are incredible skillful when it comes to words. You can tell how much the power of language means to them and I like the fact Red Flag is not easy to unpick and predict. As the song progresses, the words become more appealing and intriguing. In the bridge, there is a lot to unpack and interpret: “Don't believe the riddle that confuses you/Bitch, so manic/I can see the light that exposes you/So dramatic, now I'm so empathetic/Means the bigger the mouth that I can eat you with/Force of habit/God, you reek of your havoc/But consider the sources you've been tampering with”. I was wondering whether these lines referred to the pain of a break up and the complexity of emotions or a view of modern America and how it is being led down a dark alley. You might need a few runs of the song to get to its core because it is pretty deep and complicated. One can never accuse Slipknot of being basic and uninspired because, here, they massage the mind but project these very striking and stirring images. There are some truly standout moments in regards the composition. From some squalling solos to a deep-down growl, the band sound completely thrilling and enflamed throughout. Red Flag is a jewel in an album that is stuffed with treasures and treats. I am not suggesting Slipknot are at their most accessible here but I do think people who have been unsure of their music before should check out Red Flag and the We Are Not Your Kind album.
Slipknot are coming to the U.K. next year and they are going to be pretty busy in the meantime. With a new album out, they have even more material to bring to the stage and it will be intersecting to see how their new songs mix with the classics! Right now, they have American dates to get through and I am sure their faithful will flock to see them. It is amazing how much devotion Slipknot inspires and how they have remained so popular since their earliest days. Many wrote them off on their debut as being a novelty of designed simply to shock. The band proved everyone wrong and, not only have their remained to this day, but they seem more essential and fantastic than ever. I do think We Are Not Your Kind is one of the year’s best albums and it seems, as I said earlier, to react to the anger felt around the world. So many artists go purely for the personal when it comes to writing tracks but Slipknot have a more universal and wide-ranging vision. There is so much to enjoy on their new album. In terms of sound and compositions, they can range from the truly epic to shorter bursts. What’s Next runs at under a minute whilst Critical Darling is over six minutes; there are songs that build to a fury and others that start the explosion right from the off. Long may the brilliance of Slipknot continue and I do suggest that people listen to their latest album. Many have impressions of Metal and it will take a lot of convincing to get them to change their minds. Maybe it is this feeling that bands like Slipknot are there to upset people and promote violence. That has never been their way and I think some press sources have distorted what Slipknot are about and what their music concerns. Listen to what they are doing and you will find yourself intoxicated and hypnotised.
We are living through times that are strange and stressful and I feel Slipknot are much-needed. Whether you want to release some anger or feel like you need some direction, We Are Not Your Kind can offer that. I wanted to focus on Red Flag because it is getting a lot of positive press and it is one of the most immediate tracks on the album. Appearing at the middle of the album, Red Flag is a perfect distillation of all Slipknot’s elements. It is raw and unleashed but there is plenty of depth and nuance. That might sound strange when talking about a Metal band but, as I keep saying, one should not assume and judge. I shall leaver things there but I would encourage people to get behind Slipknot and their latest album. I have so much respect for them and have always loved what they put out into the world. I hope they carry on making music for years to come because there are so many people who rely on their music. I shall end it here but, after listening to Lana Del Rey yesterday for reviewing purposes, it has been quite a shift today! The joy and sheer variety of music is what makes things so interesting and, with Slipknot, you never truly know what you are going to get. Twenty years after their debut arrived in the world, this Iowa-formed band remain one of the most interesting, enduring and compelling…
IN all of music.
ALL UNCREDITED PHOTOS: