Even though I’m ancient, I like to think that I can come to new music, and new musical genres, with an open mind. There is nothing about nu metal that is actually “nu” at this point of course, but it’s pretty new to me. Why is that?
Apart from the fact that I dislike the non-word “nu” with a hatred a pure as sunlight*, when nu metal began to find favour in the early 90s I was deeply into a lot of music that I’d have to admit was fairly loud and abrasive too (I was the typical Pearl Jam, Faith No More fan), so it’s not easy to put my finger on why I needed to avoid this so determinately.
I think it was a sense that it was inauthentic in some vague way. What a load of arse, I hear you cry – bands like Deftones and Slipknot were no more or less manufactured than Pearl Jam. You’re right, but I came to this new Slipknot album with this lingering prejudice against it.
I pushed myself to try We are not your kind truly willing to like it, but in the end, although it has some moments of interest, it is pulled down by its failed attempt to be radically new.
This is perhaps signposted by the title itself, shouting that Slipknot are outsiders from mainstream society. This is a pretty tired claim that a band can own difference, and it’s also one that is not very convincing, given the gleaming production of this album, and the fairly standard super-square distorted guitar tone that runs throughout almost all of it.
For this reason, Slipknot is just not heavy enough for my taste, which moved over the course of the 90s to settle closer to something much more messy and confused. If mainstream music is neat and clean and tidy, I reasoned, how can something so well-defined by boxed hammer-ons and hard pauses before more blasts of distortion be considered so different from it? No amount of ghoulish masks can conceal that this album is not very radical.
To be fair there does seem to be some points when things move away from the beaten path. “Unsainted” uses a choir to sit over the building distortion and kick-drum rolls to good effect. “Orphan” is also more moody and dynamically subtle than almost anything else on the album, giving itself some time to breathe, at least at the start. “My Pain” works well too, setting up a delicacy that gives the song some refreshing variation.
We are not your kind can’t be faulted for its production quality, or the consistency of its pace, or it’s short lyrical hooks (Looping “Everyone has something!/ Someone here has everything!”, on “Orphan”, is a gem of vaguely focused angst). For me though, it’s precisely these aspects of the record that make it feel like it misses the mark.
*Thanks to Henry Rollins for that analogy.
Words by Nick Parker