‘Slipknot’ Vs. ‘We Are Not Your Kind’: An Investigation Into Which Slipknot Album Is Best
It's been 20 years since 'Slipknot' first entered our brain, so how does it hold up against the band's ferocious new album?
Five years on from their last LP, Slipknot have mounted a huge return in 2019 on the back of album number six, We Are Not Your Kind.
It arrived on Friday, and has already received some of the best reviews and strongest sales of the band’s career. Curiously, however, it arrives less than two months after the 20th anniversary of the band’s self-titled debut. A double-platinum smash, Slipknot cemented the band’s legacy in one fell swoop — one they still live up to, to this very day.
With both albums currently talking points, it felt right to pit them against one another, just to see which would come out on top. Don your mask, grab your baseball bat and get ready to jump the fuck up — today, we’re going deep on both Slipknot and We Are Not Your Kind.
In 1999, with the addition of guitarist Jim Root, Slipknot established what would become its classic line-up, lasting for over a decade and four studio albums.
Joining the founding members — bassist Paul Grey and percussionist Shawn “Clown” Crahan — are lead vocalist Corey Taylor, guitarists Root and Mick Thompson, drummer Joey Jordison, turntablist Sid Wilson, sampler/keyboardist Craig Jones and percussionist Chris Fehn.
Needless to say, the dressing room would have been very crowded back in the day. Also of note is guitarist Josh Brainard, the man Root replaced, who played on nearly every song on the album before quitting at the end of 1998.
The band co-produced the album with Ross Robinson — a man who, while not nearly as famous as the bands he’s produced, is deemed instrumental in shaping how these bands would sound. His greatest hits read like a top-100 rock and metal albums list: Korn’s self-titled, Sepultura’s Roots and At the Drive-In’s Relationship of Command to name but a few.
‘Wait & Bleed’ is a song that has remained somewhat synonymous with Slipknot — indeed, it’s been performed well over 700 times by the band over the course of their career, making it one of their top five most-played live songs ever.
It feels fitting, in many ways, that the song would survive in the manner it has. If you’re not on board by the time the song’s second fist-wielding chorus rolls around, adrenalised by the walloping drop-B guitar chug powering the song along, then there’s a good chance Slipknot aren’t the band for you. For everyone else, ‘Wait & Bleed’ was the song that cemented Slipknot’s status as being very much “their kind.”
Much like nearly every Slipknot album, Slipknot begins with an intro track that segues directly into the album’s second song — in this instance, ‘742617000027’ into the menacing ‘(sic)’. Thus, discussing the impact of the opening track depends on where you think Slipknot truly begins — track one or track two.
Taking both into consideration, the energy and intensity levels are immediately set considerably high. ‘742617000027’ is the sound of guitars feeding back, ready to strike, while Jones loops a sample from a documentary on Charles Manson — an unnamed woman, saying “The whole thing, I think, is sick.”
Taylor’s vocals, while normally a mix of sugar and spice in terms of the stylistic contrasts, are absolutely rabid.
It’s a perfect lead-in to “(sic)” itself, which sparks an all-out assault of drums and percussion that Robinson mixes just so in order to really hammer every last hit home. Taylor’s vocals, while normally a mix of sugar and spice in terms of the stylistic contrasts, are absolutely rabid here. If you weren’t paying attention beforehand, you sure as shit are now.
You can answer this in one of two ways — because Slipknot, after all, are not the type of band to ever make things easy. ‘Scissors’ is the track that, according to the tracklisting, ends the album.
Comparatively downtempo for the band, it’s a song that locks into a snarling, hypnotic alt-metal groove that has Corey whispering tensely in the spirit of Jonathan Davis before giving way to his regularly-scheduled bark. On an album permeated by darkness, ‘Scissors’ may be one of its most abrasive and uncomfortable moments. Part Fear Factory, part Nine Inch Nails, part horror movie… all Slipknot.
Anyone who knows the album knows what comes next: Nothing… well, for about five minutes anyway. Not long after that, a hidden track (remember hidden tracks?) takes over: The breathless, relentless ‘Eeyore.’ Essentially the closest thing that the band has ever recorded to a grindcore track, it’s a thrashing menace of a track with blinding drum work and piercing guitars to boot.
Both showcase different sides of the band sonically, and to their credit both work to full effect.
There’s a lot to choose from here. Like, a lot. It’s unfair to suggest that Slipknot have a signature song, but it could well be fair to contest that Slipknot is their signature album.
‘Surfacing’ is a loose cannon of angst and defiance, ‘Liberate’ is era-defining and ‘Spit It Out’ has long been established as a live favourite — not least of all for “the crazy test,” which Slipknot were doing long before Tones & I or Skegss or whoever else was inconveniencing you at festivals.
At the time where the nu-metal boom was very much taking place, Slipknot were pushing its sound and its aesthetics to the absolute extreme. One can’t even begin to imagine how many mane-thrashing teens were inspired to pick up an instrument because of playing this record at full-blast.
Were Slipknot the first band to mix metal with groove and melodicism? Absolutely not. It’s fair to say, however, that the both band’s approach and its execution has resulted in them accumulating a distinctive, definitive sound.
It all started with Slipknot, which emphasised the band’s frontline of percussion, its churning guitars and its unruly vocal delivery. For what is ostensibly their debut LP (not counting the hard-to-find demo Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat., featuring former vocalist Anders Colsefni), Slipknot are entirely self-assured and confident in the way they mash together sounds from a myriad of genres — as if they’d been doing it for an entire career, as opposed to theirs just beginning.
We Are Not Your Kind (2019)
Six of the nine members of the band’s classic line-up appear on We Are Not Your Kind. Paul Grey tragically passed away in 2010, while drummer Joey Jordison was ousted from the band in 2013 and percussionist Chris Fehn was contentiously fired earlier this year.
The band’s rhythm section since 2014 has featured former Krokodil member Alessandro Futurella on bass and former Against Me! drummer Jay Weinberg (son of The E Street Band’s Max); We Are Not Your Kind marks the second Slipknot LP both have featured on. An unnamed percussionist has since joined the band live, known only by fans as “Tortilla Man”. Catchy name.
Behind the boards for We Are Not Your Kind is veteran producer Greg Fidelman, working on his third album with the band following on from 2004’s Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses and 2014’s .5: The Grey Chapter. Fidelman has also worked on albums by the likes of Metallica, Black Sabbath, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Slayer and even posthumous output from Johnny Cash.
Despite the album being named after a lyric from it, ‘All Out Life’ does not feature on the standard version of We Are Not Your Kind.
Instead, the album’s lead single duties went to ‘Unsainted.’ The song opens with a children’s choir, which may not have been the best choice — if Tig Notaro’s famous bit about The Rolling Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ is anything to go by, it’s absolutely one way to completely lose your captive audience.
If you stick around, however, you get a fairly solid Slipknot single. It’s a mix of brutalism and melody, with Taylor’s versatile vocal range being used to strong effect and Weinberg showing off his chops with a blinding blast-beat in the song’s second half. Despite a few niggling setbacks, ‘Unsainted’ does a decent enough job of setting the scene for what’s to come.
Once again, Slipknot have optioned to pair an intro with the album’s first song in earnest — in this instance, it’s ‘Insert Coin’ and the aforementioned ‘Unsainted.’
On We Are Not Your Kind, Slipknot are focused and calculated, no matter what corner of their sonic spectrum they’re inhabiting.
As its title might suggest, ‘Insert Coin’ is a glitchy, electronic piece of music put together by the hugely underrated Jones and Wilson. Often overlooked within the fold of Slipknot — presumably due to their lack of steel barrels and baseball bats to hit them with — the two are often responsible for both some of the more subtle nuances and harsher depths that Slipknot songs can take.
Leading directly into ‘Unsainted’ works fine for what it is, but there’s just one thing: After experimenting with it, ‘All Out Life’ works that much better as a proper opener. It’s got a huge riff, pounding drums, a belter of a chorus — it even has better blastbeats. Also, lest we forget, it features the titular phrase of the album. Why is it not on here again?
Curiously, closer ‘Solway Firth’ was chosen as the album’s second single — marking the first time that the first two singles from one of the band’s albums has been the first and last song respectively.
‘Firth’ works well in bringing the album full circle, as its lyrics are tied back to the first lines that you hear on ‘Insert Coin’ before leading the charge into one of the most fiery, hard-hitting tracks they’ve ever put out. Its moments of half-time pummelling feel as though they’ve been invigorated by bands like Code Orange, the fellow Roadrunner signees who opened for Slipknot just recently.
If a track like ‘Firth’ proves anything, though, it’s that this is still very much Slipknot’s yard.
If you’ve been drawn to Slipknot in the past, there’s plenty to keep you involved and engaged with what the band are doing in 2019.
Tracks like ‘Critical Darling’ and new single ‘Birth of the Cruel,’ in particular, thrive on the archetypal tension Slipknot have been known to create within their songwriting. The former is a sprawling six-and-a-half-minute number that sees the band constantly shifts gears between seething belligerence and histrionic melodicism, while the latter may be one of the toughest and most uncompromising songs on the entire album — it could even pass as a Harms Way song, such is its force.
For Slipknot to be able to maintain a sense of urgency, intensity and vitality within their work — long after many of their peers at the time of Slipknot fell off the wagon entirely — is truly a testament to their abilities of adapting and evolving their associated sound.
On We Are Not Your Kind, Slipknot are focused and calculated, no matter what corner of their sonic spectrum they’re inhabiting. Not only do the band turn in punishing tracks like ‘Nero Forte’ and the aforementioned ‘Solway Firth,’ they also pull out a complete curveball like ‘My Pain.’
The longest song on the album, ‘Pain’ is a Crahan composition that feels like a lullaby from a horror movie thanks to its tinny drum machine and its use of dissonant drones. It’s a huge risk, but it is also entirely arresting and compelling.
Before anything else, let it be said that We Are Not Your Kind is already one of the year’s strongest releases — even outside of the immediate framework of strictly metal albums. It’s an inventive, intriguing record that will keep you guessing throughout its 63-minute runtime.
With that being said, there’s no denying Slipknot. There’s never been a record quite like it, either before or since. Long after the shock value wore off, Slipknot has survived and endeared itself as a hugely important record to the progression and evolution of alternative metal as we know it.
When Slipknot return in October in tow with Metallica, we’ll be screaming along to tracks from both of these albums. The only difference? We’ll be screaming along to songs from Slipknot just that little bit louder.
David James Young is a writer and podcaster. Throughout most of high school, you could catch him playing the drum part to ‘The Blister Exists’ on about every surface imaginable. Find out more at www.davidjamesyoung.com.