‘Let’s pretend we’re not at the end’, the couplet that underpins soft-black-metal ‘Vendetta’, encapsulates the album’s motif. Slipknot’s scene may have crumbled, but by packaging political lyrics with riffs heavy enough to interest hardcore fans, and familiar enough to draw in old Maggots, they’ve stirred up more press attention than they deserved to get with the old ‘abandoning the masks’ stunt. Punishing tracks may seem commercial if Dying Foetus is your regular poison but, for the Maggots, this is a violent lurch away from approachable rap-metal. They’ve even gone political: ‘Gematria’ (The Killing Name)’ layers political vocals – the oft repeated ‘America doesn’t care’ – over thrashtastic drums. Without, incredibly, sounding like emo-core lost at an Obama rally.
This is a dark album – as befits what is, effectively, a requiem. Part Cradle of Filth, part Meshuggah, gothic guitar tremolo and descending discordant base lines spasm into shuddering riffs before diving back down, if you’re lucky, into a hook that you can get your head around. Corey’s doing his best one-man Napalm Death impression, leaping from on-key melody to guttural vocalchord shredding, and coming over all sensitive on, yes, power ballad-esque ‘Snuff’. Thankfully, power ballads aren’t Slipknot’s new direction, just the odd ill-advised (but surprisingly fitting) pitstop. When they really try to escape the box, as with highlight Butcher’s Hook, it’s complex tempo Math Rock rather than soaring piano wankery.
‘I’ll never survive, but I won’t be born again’, Corey bawls in ballad-esque ‘Dead Memories’. There’s a confident grace in Slipknot’s latest: they’re not exuming the body of a genre that was only briefly exciting as an alterative during era Backstreet Boys, but they’ve not veered off on an illadvised dance-meets-prog road. The kids have grown up and left home, and it’s given the band a chance to turn up the volume. Buy the album: pay your respects and move on to somewhere darker. Slipknot are waiting for you.