Saturday 10 August 2019

Slipknot - We Are Not Your Kind

So, how do I define Slipknot? It seems so easy, yet so difficult.

In 2001 I went to see Slipknot, in the TurbinenHalle in Oberhausen, Germany. My Mum drove me and my mate to the gig, in a dark warehouse of a venue. Ozzfest never came to Germany, so we had a sort of "best of". Amen, Mudvayne and Static-X supported Slipknot, who, at the time had only 1 major label release. If I were to define them in 2001, they were an angry, scary group of kids dressed as horror movie serial killers, worshipping Satan, and making a lot of noise. They playfully jumped around the crowded stage, tossing goats heads, pissing themselves, jumping into the crowd, and kicking over drinks at the bar. It was brilliant!

A few months after the gig, I lined up at my local record store on a sunny August morning to get their second album, Iowa. It changed my life! These 9 heroes had somehow managed to make their heavy, scary sound even heavier and scarier.

The following year I went to see Slipknot again, this time in Essen, Germany. This time with 5 friends! This time there were fireworks, a drum kit that span upside down, the new masks looked all professional and they sounded unreal! Against all odds, these 9 weirdos in masks were starting to catch on.

Now, fast forward to June 2019. Somehow I find myself standing in front of a huge stage, once again, waiting for Slipknot to come on and rip a layer of skin off my face. They are now headlining the biggest metal festival on earth. I look to my left and see a kid on his Dad's shoulders with the dreadlocked ghost mask I remember seeing at that sweaty hall in Germany. Slipknot have come so far in 2 decades. They are huge, they are important, they are mainstream, and guess what, maggots, They Are Back!

Their new record came out yesterday. It almost picks up where Iowa left off.

I don't want to take anything away from the albums between Iowa and We Are Not Your Kind. After all, their 3rd album gave use Duality, Slipknot's 'Enter Sandman', their big hit, their dancefloor filler. All Hope Has Gone gave us the epic 'Snuff' along with it's chilling video. The Grey Chapter was also a wicked album, paying tribute to Slipknot's fallen brother, Paul Grey. None of them quite managed to grab me the way Iowa did, though.

The new album did grab me, but instead of grabbing me by the heart, it grabbed me by the balls, and it hurt! I will admit, the first time I listened, I didn't quite get it. I didn't like it!
I also didn't like Corey Taylor's new mask when I saw it. Which is kind of the point. In 2001 I was finding my feet musically. I was rebelling against the norm. I was doing things I shouldn't because people didn't like it. I was different. I still am, but now I am one of those grown ups I was rebelling against. The feeling of uncomfort I had listening to this new album, was the feeling of uncomfort I was trying to personify back then. Once I figured that out, I was ready, I am back in the mindframe of that 17 year old, and I am ready to have some fun. Isn't music amazing?

So, yeah, the album. We Are Not Your Kind (the title taken from lyrics from All Out Life which came out earlier this year, which, weirdly, isn't on this album) is Slipknot's sixth album. The album is built from the ashes of band conflict, departed members and tragedy, but I'm not here to talk about that, Google it if you want. I'm here to talk about the music, and this record certainly delivers on that front.

Track 1, Insert Coin: Slipknot's albums tend to begin with atmospheric, instrumental, weird intros, and that's what this is. It's a build to something sinister. "I'm counting all the killers" are the only lyrics before we burst into Track 2.
Unsainted was released a few months ago. It became an instant hit. It introduced the new masks, it built the hype for this latest incarnation of Slipknot. A heavy bastard of a song with the catchiest chorus since Duality. Over 4 million YouTube hits in its first day! By the time I saw Slipknot at Download, I had listened to this song so much it felt like an old song. It's ace! Go listen to it! It's the new dancefloor one. It may very well be Slipknot's best!

Track 3, Birth Of The Cruel was released a few days ago. Can a song be deceptively heavy? Because this is! It's slower, it begins with clean vocals, but by the end, it's aggressive and destructive. We are off to a great start!

Death Because Of Death is track 4, and with its 1:20 run time, it serves as an interlude. Chanted lyrics set to a monotonous drum pattern breaks the album up slightly before the next act beings.

Track 5 and this is what I am talking about!!! Nero Forte is a beast! It's my track of the album! It's so familiarly Slipknot, fast, growly, painful verses! The chorus is something brand new though, a high pitched angelic line followed by an aggressive growling hook. Insane military drumming, chunky power riffs and lyrics that basically scream Fuck You! This is what I wanted! "You can do your worst to me, at the end of the day that's what you do best".

Critical Darling is up next. This is very much a paint by numbers Slipknot song. The big verses are loud and fast, the chorus is catchy, and the whole thing builds to a pumping final burst. You know what you're getting with this, and it's so simple to see why today's metal bands have really followed the flow set by Slipknot. This will be loved by the old faithful!

If Critical Darling is the typical Slipknot song, Track 7 is something totally different. Broody and moody, A Liar's Funeral is deep and depressing and very experimental for a band who have definitely settled on a sound.

Red Flag follows, and we are back to normal. The lyrics, again, take centre stage, but the distinctive guitars supplement them perfectly while the drums will give your heart a good work out. This is heavy! Proper heavy! One for the gym, but nothing special.

Track 9, What's Next is our second interlude. It serves as a mini intro for Spiders. Almost childlike piano keys sound like they are straight from a horror film. I'll admit I didn't like Spiders at first. It's weird, it's not what I wanted to hear, it's almost a pop song. I found myself listening to it again and again. It's good fun! My wife told me I don't like change, she is right. Change is good. I'm gonna end up listening to this the most!

Track 11 already? Now this song, Orphan, sounds like it was ripped straight from Iowa! It's brutal, it's certainly Slipknot! The machine gun drums and screechy guitars are so familiar, and once again, a funky chorus that will bleed its way into your brain, before a screamed "I am the Orphan, The one who kills your world" bridges us back to the quick verses.

I wouldn't recommend listening to the next track alone in the dark. My Pain is scary as shit. A low hum is followed by a rhythmical chiming, before the lyrics creep in to freak you out. This is straight from the head of that psychotic Clown, M. Shawn Crahan. It's fucked!

Track 13 slowly builds up afterwards. Not Long For This World, features the clean vocals we have grown to love from Corey Taylor's other band Stone Sour, however, this is still a Slipknot song, and it's the atmosphere that makes it feel that way. 
A band that have 9 members have the tool
s to do things differently. The 3 drummers are so prominently featured throughout this whole album, Jay Weinberg sits behind the main drum kit, while the Clown and the mysterious new anonymous member clamber all over their custom designed kit of barrels and bass drums, while providing backing vocals for lead vocalist Corey Taylor. The duo of guitarists, Mick Thompson and Jim Root keep the whole thing sounding rhythmical and distinctive. But the atmosphere is what sets this band apart from other bands and that is provided by bassist V-Man, and the 2 DJs Craig Jones and Sid Wilson (who's new mask is SICK).

It all comes together for the final track, and the 3rd track I had heard before the album had come out. Solway Firth isn't the full stop at the end of an essay, it's the middle finger at the end of the rant. If the album serves as an angry outburst, this song is the punch in the face! It's toe curlingly heavy, and it's an assault on all your senses.

So I didn't like it at first. I don't think I was supposed to. This isn't music to make you feel good. This isn't a Christmas album by Michael Bublé. This is Slipknot. These are the bad guys. They want you to feel uncomfortable. They want you to feel their pain. They want to drag you through the dirt. They want you to accept what they are, and in turn accept who you are. They want to be there with you, every step of the way. We are in this together. We are not normal, we are not all the same, we are not afraid of change, we are not afraid of anything, We Are Not Your Kind.

So, how I define Slipknot?
Simple, I don't! Slipknot define me!

Thursday 8 August 2019


In these times of MySpace, Instagram, Twitter and Faceparty, it is almost impossible to remain elusive. We know everything about our celebrities. We know about Corey Taylor's testicles, Noel Gallagher's feelings towards Scotland, and Kanye West's… well everything. This makes Tool seem rather unique. We know exactly how much they want us to know, which isn't much.

So, without taking selfies on private jets, bringing out a set of Pop Vinyl figures or even appearing in their own music videos, how have Tool publicised themselves enough to headline major festivals? The answer is so simple. Tool fucking rock!

Last week Tool finally released their back catalogue onto streaming sites. Before now, the only legal way to listen to Tool would be to buy a record. Don't get me wrong, the best way to listen to Tool is playing one of their 4 stellar albums from front to back, but to have them on Spotify, to be able to add their tracks to playlists, or listen to them in the gym, is such a cool thing!

This may also open up Tool to an entirely new fanbase. The casual metal fan who never really got them, or the younger listener who has never bought a CD or even seen a cassette tape. For those people, I have put together a "best of" playlist of Tool songs. However, I don't want you to listen to it. Tool aren't a casual band that you put on in the background, or just listen to a couple of tunes while waiting for your bus. You listen to Tool and that is what you do. You turn the lights off, you play the album from start to finish, and you get lost in the music.

If the music finally being streamable isn't enough. Tool have also released the title track for their new album 'Fear Inoculim', their first studio recorded release in 13 years!

The almost 11 minute song begins hauntingly and atmospherically, until the psychedelic instruments join the track one by one. Danny Carey's drums, as with many Tool songs, take centre stage, the unpredictable time patterns confuse and unsettle you. That is until Maynard James Keenan's distinctive, liquid soft vocals calm the mood. Guitarist Adam Jones keeps the rhythm and leads the ever changing sound, while Bassist Justin Chancellor keeps the whole thing sounding very familiar. This is a Tool song, this is what we are used to, yet it is brand new. It's precisely what we needed to hear, and exactly what the band want us to hear.

I saw Tool for a second time at Download Festival this summer, and once again they mesmerized the crowd. They do everything so differently. There is no focus on the musicians, Maynard doesn't even have a spotlight on him, instead choosing to stand at the back of the stage, often not even facing the crowd. In Tool Maynard isn't a front man, he is merely another instrument. Tool don't post their tea on social media. I've never seen a single gym selfie of Danny Carey, and to be able to move about the drum kit the way he does, just 2 years away from being 60, he must have an intense gym regime. No, Tool aren't the social type, choosing to put graphics and videos on the stage screens rather than themselves, but when they sound the way they sound, the music completely speaks for itself.

The album, Fear Inoculum is out at the end of the month. Before it drops, I insist you go listen to Ænima and Lateralus from start to finish, just to get yourself prepared. Once you do, you will almost certainly want to listen to Opiate and 10,000 Days from start to finish too. Then, maybe, just maybe, you will be ready for Fear Inoculum. I know what to expect, any Tool fan knows what's coming, and at the same time we have no idea what to expect. It's all very clever!

Fuck it all! Tool are back!

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