The masked Metal juggernauts Slipknot return once again to make another ferocious racket but this time it is a return to form of sorts. Five years since the underwhelming Gray Chapter, the Iowa nine-piece outfit seemed to have found their peace as a band. Having once stated they would only ever perform as the original line-up, a promotion cycle parading unity among each other and the three newest additions seems so as the music reflects fondly of this time and place. Even the surprising dismissal of Chris Fenn hasn't derailed the Slipknot beast. Rumors of greed may have tarnished some perceptions but their sixth full length bares none of this burden.
There are not many records that come out the gate screaming and kicking, refusing to let up. Thinking back to the bands explosive self-titled and extremified Iowa record, they both open with daunting ambience introductory track of manic dread and terror before erupting into a string of unrelenting aggression and energy, birthing five unforgettable tracks each. With exception to the friendlier Insert Coin introduction we have four songs that really kick the album into life. Unsainted, Birth Of The Cruel, Nero Forte and Critical Darling spur of the best of the bands traits. Wild metallic riffs loaded with punch and groove barrage the listener as the sway between the infectious hooks Corey delivers with his charmed singing voice.
Its the best of their first three albums rolled into one, slickly produced and neatly polished into a digestible package. It may lack some of the immediacy and imminent frustration from the bands youth but as seasoned song writers the group hand pick some of their best ideas and redeploy them tastefully. Seasoned fans will hear similar compositions, timely keg smashes and delightfully an audible Sid Wilson who is keenly involved in adding a textural level with his scratch and sample that often peaks involvement in the "breakdowns". Couldn't of asked for more, we even get a revival of Corey's maddening shouted raps, beautifully juxtaposed with a little incoherent fire against his most pristine vocal on Nero Forte.
A Liars Funeral marks a shift in tone as Slipknot focus on the expansive, slow moving and brooding atmospheres. On this track alone they execute it stunningly as the music moves from its foggy, lonesome acoustic guitars and rainy singing into an intense drive of restrained, stalking pace wonderfully complimented by these pitch phasing electronic drones. Its a powerful song, A brilliant work of progressive writing, perhaps akin to the likes of Gently if not better? After this Red Flag pulls it back to a quick and snappy pummeling of Slipknot aggression, then from this mediocre by comparison song the album loads in a lot of ambience that took a little longer to come around to.
Death Because Of Death and What's Next certainly feel like underwhelming interludes. Its an expansive move for Slipknot's sound pallet and as we head into this final phase of the record this temperament opens up. My Pain feels like the dud, its toying with ambience and bright xylophone lead by a jolted hi hat is all fantastic but perhaps out of place on this record? The unsettling, crooked piano melody of Spiders lets this angle manifest perfectly and Not Long For This World has a ambient build up but ends up with one of the albums best crescendos as Sid Wilson again gets teeth in with vinyl scratches alongside Corey's "I was not born for this world" screams.
Although writing a blog is usually the turning of a page on an album I will certainly give this one more time as I found I differed in this final phase from the exuberant response critics and fans alike have given this release. The thing is, writing this blog and paying a little closer attention made me realize how much these songs had sunk in despite feeling unsure about the atmospheric avenue in the end phase. Orphan and Solway Firth pop in the middle of this slow temperament and they too are hard hitting tracks. Time will tell for sure but and this moments its hard not to feel excited as this album delivers something to truly fit in with the bands first three exquisite albums.
Least Favorite Songs: Insert Coin, Death Because Of Death, What's Next