Metal Moment - Slipknot Still Rocks Hard But Also Gets Experimental on New Album, The End, So Far
There’s nothing like the feeling of a new Slipknot record. Three years on from 2019’s We Are Not Your Kind, the heavy metal titans are back serving as a masterful foray into the guts of all things heavy. The End, So Far is a dose of sharp structures and bruising breakdowns.
Seven albums in and Slipknot are continuing to twist our expectations. This is a release that strives to tie together all-out ragers with exciting new space-rock qualities and moments of slow, somber tension.
The End, So Far is ambitiously diverse – for better and for worse. Mixing old tendencies with unexpectedly remarkable ideas, Slipknot finds a way to stay relevant whether you like it or not.
If you have paid any attention to rock or metal music over the last two decades, you probably know at least a little bit about Slipknot. From touring the world, to having their own festival and winning Grammy awards, they have managed to maintain this massive level of success and popularity despite having sonically and lyrically one of the darkest sounds that you can find within the realms of mainstream rock and metal music.
Their first two records are seminal in the history of metal, and they are some of the most rabid and violent filled - with depraved and often disturbing - lyrics about self-harm, depression, and loneliness. They are not just punishing but almost masochistic.
Helping to pioneer nu-metal, they have also successfully blended elements of death metal, prog, and industrial. The most intriguing thing about the Slipknot story is that while the band grew in popularity, they have more or less remained a relatively extreme band.
Selling thirty million records while having nine guys in masks on stage hitting kegs with baseball bats makes their success undeniable. Remarkably, the band has continued to be ambitious throughout the years, implementing more alternative/art-rock sounds, akin to The Who and Pink Floyd.
If you compare the Slipknot of twenty years ago to the Slipknot of today, you will see a band completely different from what they once were. Their presentation of unhinged madness – evident on their 1999 self-titled debut and 2001’s Iowa (my personal favorite) – has mostly been abandoned.
This band has always been angry and aggressive, but they have also been constantly evolving for over two decades. From 2004’s Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) and onward, Slipknot have become a creative force of progression and expression.
The band’s last album, 2019’s We Are Not Your Kind was a return to form. It was a safe, but solid effort. Personally, it’s my third favorite album from the band. At the time of its release, the album made for an intriguing look at how far the band have come and what more they are capable of creating.
This record is a greater testament to the their growth and experimentation. With that being said, it’s obvious that expectations for the band are sky high.
Slipknot have always been great at opening tracks. From “People=Shit” to “Unsainted,” they typically start things off with an explosive bang.
That’s not the case with their latest release. Surprisingly, The End, So Far opens with a slow, melodic piece that shares similarities with later releases from the great David Bowie.
They trade their signature electronics and double bass patterns for droning riffs, dreamy pianos and haunting soundscapes.
“Adderall” proves that the band still have more up the sleeves of their boiler suits nearly twenty five years since their debut.
“The Dying Song (Time to Sing)” is Slipknot in their purest form. While there are some comparisons to Stone Sour (vocalist Corey Taylor’s second band) there is still enough of that Slipknot flavor that keeps itself from straying too far.
Thankfully, the first single released from this album was a heavy one, “The Chapeltown Rag.” One of my favorite tools in the Slipknot toolbox is how well they can cram a catchy chorus into an absolutely chaotic death metal-esque song.
“Yen” will probably be the most commercially successful of the three singles. This song is a reminder that they’re still capable songwriters. Corey steals the show with heart-wrenching, strained vocals, culminating in the entire band finding unity through a punchy and emotional finale.
Up next, a one-two punch that even the most jaded, hardcore Slipknot fan will appreciate. Opening with a haunting synthesizer pattern, “Hive Mind” delivers with guttural guitar sections complimented by blistering blast beats and echoing keg hits that we’ve come to expect that culminate to an infectious hardcore beatdown.
“Warranty,” though similar, is amplified by one of the best vocal performances of Corey’s career. This is probably my favorite track on the album. It seems to break the fourth wall a bit and address the metal, even down to the lyric “isn’t this what you came here for?”. It’s Corey Taylor on full blast.
Since he joined the band, drummer Jay Weinberg has had to live in the shadow of one of metal’s best drummers, the late Joey Jordison, but these tracks solidify Jay as one of the pillars of Slipknot and show that he can stand on his own.
Plus, he can hold his own live, which was a criticism of Jordison before we found out about his health issues around his shocking and sudden death a few years ago.
Although it has a cringe-inducing name, “H377,” the track itself is a headbanger.
We are also given some more avant-garde tracks like “Acidic.” The later contrasts a bonkers chorus with some more grunge-like verse, showing Corey’s huge love of Stone Temple Pilots.
These moments, good or bad, still manage to capture my attention and curiosity. They are what I invest the most time in. They are more clever, they take chances. Slipknot can write a four minute banger better than almost anyone, but it’s when they step out of their comfort zone that gets me to pay attention.
The record ends on a high note with “Finale” experimenting with similar prog influences like “Adderall”. Infusing Corey’s cleans with orchestral strings, piano, and weird as all hell choir sections make it yet another highlight. It definitely gets heavier than the opener, but both show longtime fans something unique, and I hope the band explores these sounds on future records. With a spacey outro, it fades out with melodic guitar backed by a haunting choir capping off a familiar, yet also wildly different Slipknot record.
Though the bookend tracks are sonically different, we haven’t seen this level of innovation since Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses even if it doesn’t reach those highs and should’ve been implemented more throughout.
Much like the band over the last two decades, The End, So Far muddies the waters with their old tendencies but truly shines when the group experiments with new soundscapes.
The best parts here are when the band don’t try to imitate the drug-ridden days of desolation and unbridled anger and instead focus on making Slipknot a force that can be melded to different genres and a wider array of emotions. Of course, there are plenty of punishingly heavy tunes to whet the appetite of the general audience, but more importantly, Slipknot sounds like they are ready to finally release themselves from the trappings that have plagued them for the better part of their career.
With what sounds like the final ties to Roadrunner Records severed after this release, the road is as vast as they imagine it. Though weaker attempts on this album detract from the second half of its 58-minute runtime, remarkable works such as “Adderall”, ‘Finale” and the three singles establish that The End, So Far is a sign of new things to come.
This album will go down as the most experimental Slipknot album to date. This album takes a few listens to fully appreciate it.
Does all of it work? No, but at least it’s interesting.
Who knows what the future holds for this band but right now, they continue to prove that their position at the top is more than deserved. Even this long into their careers, all the blood, sweat and tears shed, they can still evolve and challenge all perceptions of what people expect of them.