Undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year, partly because of the six-year gap since previous album “All Hope Is Gone” and partly because it is the first output since the Iowa nine-piece lost two of its long standing family. Much has been said in interviews, features and internet speculation about what would become of the band after losing important members such as the late Paul Gray and the more recently departed Joey Jordison, and the answer, unfortunately, is that the Slipknot of 2014 are a much less threatening and exciting prospect than the chaotic mob that burst onto the global scene 15 years ago.
The album opens with the slow-burning ‘XIX’, which slowly builds momentum before fading out just as it seems to be getting somewhere. After this, the recently previewed ‘Sarcastrophe’ comes slowly in and it’s nearly a minute into this and four minutes into the album when you get the first real taste of any energy. I used to love the way that Slipknot albums exploded into life with tracks such as ‘(sic)’ and ‘People = Shit’ but this just starts of on a lull and takes a while to get going. ‘AOV’ is little bit more lively with its thrashing, choppy riff and because of this it could have been a much better choice of opener. First single ‘The Devil and I’ is up next, an obvious choice as it is heavier and has enough about it to be a good live track, whilst not being too heavy for mainstream radio and TV to play. Again, it just feels as though something is missing, and when they do introduce the first really fast, heavy section, it vanishes just as quickly and ends up feeling like a bit of an afterthought.
‘Killpop’ and ‘Goodbye’ are two semi-ballads that feature some really emotional and heartfelt lyrics. Decent songs in their own right but I am now eight tracks into the album and am still waiting for that vicious assault that made the band’s name years ago. As the album goes further on there are two really good tracks in ‘Custer’ and ‘The Negative One’, which show you why the band made it so big in the first place; really tight, fast, aggressive tracks that they do as well as any of their peers. It’s a shame that after this the album closes with ‘If Rain is What You Want’, another slower number that, after the pace that has built up in later tracks, takes the album back to that earlier, frustrating vibe.
I really wanted to like this album, and even if it didn’t live up to the early albums (which are classics of modern metal) I just wanted to know that Slipknot could still get somewhere near those heights. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and it just seems to wander aimlessly, with the band unsure if they are still that angry machine that stormed stages across the world and pissed a lot of people off, or are they just another band, a middle of the road act who don’t want to upset too many people. Devin Townsend lost the anger that made Strapping Young Lad such an amazing band so he stopped making SYL albums, and if this is where they are heading then why use the Slipknot name and create work which pales in comparison to earlier work?
It’s not just that is not loud or fast enough, but it lacks the energy and chaos of an ‘Eyeless’ or ‘People = Shit”, the frustration and anger of ‘Everything Ends’ or ‘Wait And Bleed’ or the anthemic crowd-pleasers such as ‘Duality’ or ‘Left Behind’. The band have a lot to be pissed off about after the last few years and this could have been great but it is never truly let off the leash and feels very reeled in and tamed. No doubt the band will put on a quality live show when they come over in January but it is difficult to see any of these song having a big impact alongside their other material. I can’t see why, a year or so down the line, people would choose to listen to this instead of any of their other albums. It’s not a terrible album and I have heard a lot worse, but it’s just very mediocre and a bit dull, and whether you like Slipknot or not that’s one charge you could never aim at them. A damn shame.