The elder gods of nu-metal, SLIPKNOT, released their seventh studio album “The End, So Far,” just now, on September 30th, 2022, via Roadrunner Records and, to put it simply, it is truly a sneaky bastard of a record. If truth be said, I was not exactly expecting anything radical from this bunch and their new endeavor is just that: not radical. Secretly, I may have wished that they would follow and improve on the trajectory of their two previous offerings “.5: The Gray Chapter” (2014) and “We Are Not Your Kind” (2019) – and after a few spins, I am pretty impressed. Upon first listening, halfway through the new selection, I caught myself thinking that these nu-metal ruffians are maybe playing it a bit too safe this time around, only to be proved wrong just a few moments later. The band does not precisely stretch too far from their comfort zone but, thankfully, in the name of common decency, they do throw in a good pinch of new flavors to spice up their signature sound; it further goes to quash the online rumors suggesting that the title of their new outing is emblematic in any way. In a world that’s becoming weirder by the minute, we need more and more kick-ass music – and with their new album, SLIPKNOT emerge as the patron deities of metal who are responding to our needs.
The album opens with “Adderall,” a song that not-very-subtly refers to the common mixture of amphetamine salts used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Unexpectedly, though, the opener unfolds more like a therapeutic dose of art-rock rather than a relentless nu-metal punch-up, resonating slightly with the avant-pop air of, say, David Bowie‘s 1977 album “Low” – layered with the idiosyncratic rumblings of the band, of course. Not a bad way to start an album, I would say.
The next two tracks traverse a bit more familiar ground. “The Dying Song (Time to Sing)” and “The Chapeltown Rag” were released as singles and they resonate strongly with the air of the band’s triumphant, older efforts such as “We Are Not Your Kind” and “Vol.3: (The Subliminal Verses)” (2004). While both tracks do come off as extremely tight and hard-hitting bangers, they also are the culprits to blame for not feeling very impressed upon the first listen-through. The band has written a good bunch of songs like these already and, as the insufferable romantic that I am, obviously, I’m emotionally a tad more attached to the older ones. However, paraphrasing the album’s enigmatic title, I must say: so far, so good.
The first track to really make me raise my eyebrows was the third single, “Yen.” The verses are charged thick with a darkly shaded and atmospheric chanson vibe, serving as welcome breathers after the relentless lashing of the previous two riffathons, and when the song hits the chorus the first time, it explodes into a straight-up metal version of THE DOORS. Now, we’re talking! Of course, the song doesn’t come with Baroque Farfisa-organ doodlings á la Ray Manzarek, but there is something in the vocal melodies that hits very close to those dark shaman-rockers from the 1960s. Now, this is something that I did not expect from this Iowa bunch!
At this point, I thought I figured out the pattern in the album: rather consistently, these brilliant surprise blows seemed to be sandwiched between one or two more traditional SLIPKNOT songs. So, once again, the next couple of tracks, “Hivemind” and “Warranty” return to form, so to speak, boasting brutal riffs and Corey Taylor‘s signature snarls, along with the diabolically catchy chorus layered with clean vocal harmonies that might trigger flashbacks of certain vintage KISS songs, even.
Then, the next two tracks proved my theory wrong, although in the best possible way. “Medicine For the Dead” is one of the standout tracks on the outing simply because it is such a high-octane banger. It doesn’t feature out-of-the-box elements to speak of really, but the song is just so friggin’ good that it cannot be ignored. When you put it on, the song simply demands your undivided attention because it rolls out such a pristine set of riffs and class-A vocals.
What broke my carefully constructed pattern was the next song, “Acidic.” It is yet another standout track, this time because it introduces a totally new facet of the band: I’m pretty sure this is the first time for a SLIPKNOT song to feature bluesy Hammond organ, let alone a distinct grunge vibe á la SOUNDGARDEN, what with Taylor‘s vocals being fed through a Leslie cabinet, like “Black Hole Sun,” and all… On repeated listenings, this song just sounds better and better, almost alluring me to say that it is THE song on the album.
Yet, the rest of the outing packs a few more punches. “Heirloom” throws in some glitchy ‘n’ scratchy nu-metal riffing paired with vocal melodies that sound almost as though they were lifted from THE BEATLES‘ songbooks. Then again, why the hell not, as long as it works! “H377” comes off especially aggressive on all fronts, with the lyrics being about embracing the fact that haters are going to keep hating you – almost as though revisiting that vengeful misanthropy of the band’s debut. Taylor‘s breakneck vocal delivery sounds, perhaps, a bit too ADHD for my liking, but the guitar riffs kick ass rather prominently. Before the atmospheric closer, “Finale,” brings the journey to a haunting close, with cinematic strings and all, “De Sade” rolls forth as an eerie and dark ballad with big choruses. This song, too, is among the most outstanding cuts in the selection; the balance between atmospheric gloom and punching riffs is perfect.
So, what to make of this album? I guess SLIPKNOT have long since become a lonely reject with the “cursed” status among some of the band’s oldest fans, what with the ever-increasing prominence of those singalong choruses that rather liberally flirt with pop aesthetics; then, songs like “Adderall” couldn’t possibly have made their way onto the band’s albums, say, 20 years ago. However, there remains a good pinch of that original raw energy on the new album too, and infused with these exciting new flavors, it looks pretty much like SLIPKNOT‘s creative juices are far from running dry. So, rather than marking the end for the band, “The End, So Far” seems more like a rejuvenation.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- The Dying Song (Time to Sing)
- The Chapeltown Rag
- Medicine for the Dead
- De Sade
Corey Taylor – vocals
Shawn Crahan – percussion, backing vocals
Mick Thomson – guitars
James Root – guitars
Alessandro Venturella – bass
Sid Wilson – turntables
Craig “133” Jones – keyboards, samples
Jay Weinberg – drums
Michael Pfaff – percussion, backing vocals