If you were expecting a return to form after We Are Not Your Kind, prepare to be sorely mistaken.
This bold return by Slipknot 3 years after their last album (Which is shocking to many considering the long hiatuses in studio albums that Slipknot is known for), many fans will realize goes strikingly against the grain of their preceding albums – both structurally and sonically. This want for change is particularly marked by the replacement of their Producer Greg Fidelman with Joe Baressi, known for his work on Progressive Rock band Coheed and Cambria’s Year Of The Black Rainbow; and boy, is the change striking right off the bat.
The Listener is greeted to the album with a low, somber, whining hurdy gurdy and horn-like synth accompaniment, followed by a tension-building industrial synth that deafens them both, and leads into the rest of the shockingly upbeat yet melancholy post-rock track “Adderall.” Standing in at 6 minutes, it not only breaks the formulaic brevity of their album introductions, but the very tone they set for the album. Gone are the days of the gritty, distorted, noise-focused grimoire meant to send chills down your spine – Slipknot has replaced that with the haunting choirs accompanying Corey Taylor’s clean vocals, and tight active basslines.
This more pristine sound is carried on over into “The Dying Song (Time To Sing),” with its clean choral harmonies over the less sludgy tone of Mick Thompson and Jim Root’s chugging riffs, but the real strangeness becomes prevalent on the song after, “The Chapeltown Rag.” On this track, the standard structure of Slipknot songs is foregone for the sake of various bridge sections, accompanied by more traditional Death Metal breakdowns, as well as a much more black metal feel in the chorus sections with harmonic and bright thrashing riffs as Corey screams his heart out. Slipknot definitely hasn’t been afraid to break from their traditional sludge metal heaviness before, but the scope of the sub-genres they’ll reach out into has clearly evolved with their time as a band.
Corey Taylor, I think, aptly describes The End, So Far as a “heavier version of [Vol. 3] The Subliminal Verses,” as much of the experimental feel it hearkens back to is audible in the composition of these songs. Nowhere is this more present than in the metal ballads of “Yen” an “Acidic,” which harp on the foundations of tracks like “Circle” and “Snuff,” yet simultaneously rip apart and drag them forward into the context of modern heavy metal. The Acoustic guitar cliche has all but been gutted from these tracks, replaced by timbrally soft synthesizers, and subdued yet creeping electric guitars, and interrupted by walls of deep and cutting power chords and sludge riffs. Acidic broaches even further into the elements of heavy metal, stretching the very meaning of the name ballad.
Overall, I am personally quite satisfied with this ending to Slipknot’s time with Roadrunner records! This album marks the end of their partnership with an explosive sendoff of an album, which could mean much more exciting things for the band in the future. This delve into other subgenres and not sticking to one sound, though arguably less cohesive than some of their other albums, keeps you on your toes the whole way through, looking for the next way that they’ll bash through your expectations – though I personally wish the lyrics were less cheesy on this records, what with the references to an “online god” and some nonsense lines that sound good together. I’d give this new album an 8/10 overall, and a Slipknot record I certainly won’t get bored of!