Album review: Roadrunner United: The Concert
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Just when you thought it was safe to go outside again, Slipknot have announced their return with seventh album The End, So Far. In a world-exclusive interview, Corey Taylor dissects the band’s new heaviness, how the record is connected to Vol. 3, and why they’re finally getting in touch with their emotions…
Corey Taylor remembers the moment like it was yesterday. “The hairs on my arm stand up,” he grins with a glint in his eye. “People were not ready for it…”
September 4, 2021. It’s stage time for Slipknot at Oklahoma’s Pryor Festival Grounds. The band’s elaborate production blasts out brilliant blue lights as the opening setlist song Insert Coin rings out across the venue. Eight members take their places as normal. But something is markedly different about Corey when he strolls out to his usual spot, right in the centre…
It’s definitely nothing to do with those iconic, unmistakable pipes, as he begins to belt out the massive sing-along intro to Unsainted. Slowly but surely, though, the lights lift to reveal that the frontman is – seemingly out of nowhere – wearing a brand-new mask… and a really bloody ghastly one at that.
“At first people were like, ‘Who the fuck is this?!’” the 48-year-old fondly recalls today. “The cameras came out like fucking crazy. I mean, it lit up like nobody’s business, and I just stood there for a second and let everybody do it. And then it was just on, you know?”
Right now, Corey is in an incredibly good mood, fresh from a family vacation that entailed trips to Legoland and the beach to swim with wild sea lions. Re-energised from just “being a regular human being for a little bit”, he is happily juggling dad duties with bringing the monster that is Slipknot back to life once more… even if he was some 10 months ahead of schedule this time around.
Make no mistake, a singular mask reveal is not how the Iowa metal titans have operated in the past. They’d typically build hype before each album cycle, and would collectively unveil their new get-ups via promotional photos or music videos, with millions of eyes eagerly waiting to see what the nine men behind them had conjured up.
But with the pandemic putting something of a halt on 2019’s We Are Not Your Kind, Corey had a gut feeling that, when they could start playing live again, he needed to change things up away from the ’Knot’s traditional timelines.
“I tend to go with my instincts,” he explains. “Sometimes it pays off; sometimes it doesn’t. I told the band: ‘I’m bringing out my new mask.’ And they were like, ‘Why?’ And I was like, ‘Because it’s time.’”
By now, you’ll have seen that the rest of Slipknot have caught up with Corey. Drummer Jay Weinberg unveiled his last November on social media along with the caption: “I want a face – that you can only recognise – I’m afraid.” And today (July 20), we’ve at long last seen the completed set – from percussionist Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan’s mirrorball to samplist Craig Jones’ signature spikes.
And then there’s DJ Sid Wilson’s…
“Just when I thought that fucker couldn’t surprise me any more,” Corey laughs of his now-robotic bandmate. “His whole thing… I’m just like, ‘What the fuck is happening?’ It’s incredible. He didn’t show us until [we made] the videos (laughs). He saved it, which was almost like a reverse of what I had done. He waited and then he hit us with that, and I was just like, ‘Fuck! You win!’”
Unlike Corey’s more straightforward creation process, Sid had a much different experience in getting his mask – and accompanying machine-like claws – ready for battle.
“I don’t want to give too much away, but you’ve gotta ask him about the journey it took to get that fucking mask together, because he’ll talk to you about it for a good 20 minutes,” Corey continues. “It’s a fucking horror story! Anybody who’s been waiting on new shit to show up on a deadline will understand the panic that Sid Wilson was going through. I listen to it and cackle, because it’s one of those moments where you know what adrenaline tastes like (laughs).”
Despite Sid’s ordeal, this move into fresh aesthetics also became a happy catalyst for something else.
“I kind of got the ball rolling,” says Corey. “I was just ready, and maybe it was because I was just so excited to be back playing shows. I’m so excitable and impatient that I tend to be my own worst enemy sometimes. So I kind of charge ahead (laughs). But everybody dug it, everybody loved it. And it was the right time to do it, because it got people excited about what was next for us.”
Yes indeed. Because we all know by now: new masks equal new music…
“People are gonna shit when they hear it!” As ever, Corey Taylor is not one to mince his words when discussing Slipknot’s just-announced seventh album, The End, So Far.
A natural follow-on – and, as we’ll find out, so much more besides – from the colossal We Are Not Your Kind, the ’Knot’s new LP was recorded in the “tail-end” of pandemic, with Corey laying down his vocals in Las Vegas and the rest of the band working on the music in Los Angeles. A true team effort, the frontman praises “unsung hero” Sid for his creativity (“When I heard the stuff that he did on this album, I was just fucking blown away…”), while bassist Alessandro ‘V-Man’ Venturella added his music theory knowledge for a whole “different kind of flavour”. Then, of course, Clown typically delved deep into the arty side of things, six-stringers Jim Root and Mick Thomson continued to prove why they’re two of the best guitarists in metal, and latest addition Michael Pfaff – who Corey himself even calls ‘Tortilla Guy’, the affectionate nickname given by fans because of his flatbread-looking first mask – “really brought that energy to the table”, too.
Meanwhile, studio extraordinaire ‘Evil’ Joe Barresi (Tool, Avenged Sevenfold, Nine Inch Nails) was on production duties alongside the band, full of passion to, as the frontman calls it, “play in Slipknot’s toy box”.
“He’s one of those dudes who’s got great ideas, but he also allows you to do what is on your mind,” Corey enthuses. “If he has an idea, he lets you pursue yours, but then he’ll go, ‘You know, just for me, try this and see if these things can live together.’ He’s very unassuming, which is kind of rare these days. Sometimes you can get a producer who’s trying to enforce their will on it, but Joe just wants what’s best for the album, and what’s best for the song, and what’s best for the performance.”
While The End, So Far’s predecessor laid the groundwork for Slipknot’s next musical steps, Corey points to an altogether different album in their legendary discography as a reference point: 2004 third LP Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses). Though, he adds, it’s like a “darker version”.
“To me, Vol. 3 was really the most expansive album that we had done, up to that point,” he explains. “It was the thing that kind of pushed the boundaries for everybody, you know? We were able to experiment with different styles of music, and really show people that there was so much more depth to what we do. And I kind of feel like that’s what this album is doing. In a way it is [also] an extension of We Are Not Your Kind, but to me, the songs are better, the structuring is better. We’re able to kind of take it even further, and after 23 years professionally, being able to say that there’s ground that we haven’t covered yet, and there’s ground that we’re excited to cover, is cool.”
Winter single The Chapeltown Rag and new rager The Dying Song (Time To Sing) show Slipknot at their contemporary heavy best, but elsewhere the musical touchstones on The End, So Far are gloriously eclectic – and that’s just how they like it. Not that Kerrang! have been able to hear everything just yet. But we have been privy to the first four tracks on the record – which, as well as The Dying Song and Chapeltown… – include opener Adderall, and one of Corey’s personal favourites, Yen.
Of the former, the frontman compares it to the likes of Vol. 3’s Prelude or Circle, “but with a very modern approach” and a “gorgeous chord progression” – though there’s something unsettling across its five minutes and 40 seconds that makes Corey quite literally shudder.
“We love fucking with people on such a genetic level, that we will hide tones in there that make it uncomfortable for people to listen to it,” he chuckles. “But we’ve just never written a song like that. And when I heard it, I was like, ‘Oh, we can fuck with this – this is going to be really, really good.’”
As for the latter, you can expect Slipknot “kind of touching our inner Tom Waits in weird ways”, while also having “a Type O [Negative] approach”. Corey thinks that fans are “really, really going to fucking dig it” – though that can also be said of The End, So Far as a whole.
“You can really feel the joy of us playing together, and that loosened our approach,” he grins. “There’s a song – the ‘blues’ song that Jay talks about – that is this drudge, proggy, stoner rock kind of vibe, and it’s actually an homage to one of my favourite bands, and I won’t say who it is. But that allowed us a breath of acceptance to be able to do a tune like that and not sit back and second-guess ourselves – to not be like, ‘Oh, I don’t know, do you think people will dig this?’ We were just like, ‘Man, this is fucking rad!’”
It had a profound knock-on effect when it came to Corey’s lyrics, too. As well as feeling incredibly inspired every time he was sent over new music from his bandmates, he also felt the benefit of We Are Not Your Kind serving as a “palette cleanser” for him as a writer. The Great Big Mouth is undoubtedly back…
“I felt like I had a lot to say again, you know?” he reveals. “This album felt almost like a reset. I could get away from the shit that I’ve needed to say, and get back to the stuff that I want to say.”
Case in point is the furious The Dying Song (Time To Sing), in which he roars, ‘Think hard you bastards / You’re gonna tell me why / If I don’t get an answer / You’re gonna sing and die.’
“To me, it just seems like it’s all the outrage and none of the punishment,” he begins, as we brace ourselves for a Classic Corey Taylor Rant™. “For the last few years it’s been very trendy to be offended and outraged by everything, and yet nothing happens – especially in my country, which is just fucking ridiculous. It’s almost like the tables have turned, and the more angry people get, the more the people who they’re mad at just double-down on the shit. Instead of there being cause and effect, or crime and punishment, now it’s just like, ‘Fuck you, we don’t care.’ I can’t tell if that’s a reaction because of the almost nihilistic isolation of the cultures themselves, where neither side is acknowledging any of the good parts of each other – they’re just really honed in on the shit that they consider inflammatory. And it’s almost like people are ringing the doomsday bell. You’re sitting there going, ‘Well, it’s been fun! Everybody, pick up your trash when you’re leaving, and I’ll see you in Hell!’ That’s kind of what that song is. It’s just like, ‘If we don’t figure it out, I’ll see you when the meteor hits, basically.’”
So it’s all very hopeless?
“I think if I was younger then I would believe in something like hope,” he responds. “I would have that kind of optimism (laughs), but I’ve seen waves of this shit for 30 years, and I’m just unimpressed. The sad thing is, it takes real tragedy to make anything change, because we’re not a proactive species. We would rather close the door after the house is already on fire. I’m just kind of used to it at this point.
“I still obviously support and believe in all the causes that I’m very passionate about, but at the same time, I just realised that people aren’t going to change – and I’m done trying to change people,” Corey continues. “It’s wasted effort, and it takes time away from the people that I actually care about. Until I see real shit, I’m just not going to care anymore. It’s like, ‘If you motherfuckers want to kill each other, go ahead. I’m just gonna stand back and will not be in the line of fire,’ because I’m tired of the idiocy. I can only watch stupid shit for fucking so long. So yeah, it’s me basically going, ‘Go ahead, just fucking beat the living shit out of each other and see what happens.’”
This inner rage and darkness, though, has one positive in Corey’s eyes: it keeps the music 100 per cent honest. Despite his anger at the world putting “way more lines on my face” and making him look “like a fucking uncoloured colouring book” (ouch!), the frontman is more spurred on than ever. He lights up when talking all things The End, So Far, and unashamedly admits that he loves listening back to the album.
“That’s something that I know a lot of artists never admit to – like, ‘Oh, I don’t listen to my own music,’” he says with an eye-roll. “How do you know where to go next if you don’t know where you went before? If you just ignore your own fucking art then you’re just a fucking dickhead – you’re a pretentious c**t who can’t get out of their own way. And that’s fine – because then they just piss me off so I do what I do (laughs).”
Once Slipknot had finished The End, So Far, the band did something they’ve never done before: they actually complimented each other.
“I kind of get a little emotional about it, because it means a lot to me,” says Corey, remembering the gathering of his bandmates for an all-too-rare love-in. “We always hang out before we’re getting ready for a show, and all of the guys had different favourite things that I had done on the album – they were like, ‘I love this part, I love this line, I love this, I love how you fucking your scream on this…’ We’ve never given each other props to each other’s face. We’re such crotchety curmudgeons! And it’s really funny that after this many years we had never really told each other, ‘I think you’re the shit, and I love being in a band with you.’”
He points to a number of reasons why it’s taken Slipknot over two decades to do this. One factor could be coming from the city of Des Moines, Iowa, and the “stoicism” surrounding the way of life there. But also, something that’s surely been on their mind a whole lot these past few years, is loss.
“We’ve lost so many people now, it could be a sign of mortality,” Corey ponders. “And it could be a sign of just the fact that, ‘Fuck, we’re still here. You’re still here with me and I can’t fucking believe it, so hey, you’re the shit!’ It’s a very strange turn of events for Slipknot – the beast is developing feelings for some reason…”
Crucially, too, these familial emotions are still going strong on top of Corey successfully building out his solo career during the pandemic. For the frontman, there is this constant, undeniable pull back to Slipknot.
“I’ve said it since day one: if I didn’t want to do it, I wouldn’t do it,” he says. “The stuff that I do, I only do because it’s what I’m passionate about. And I’m only as good at what I do because I’m inspired by the music that I’m lucky enough to be on. So, shame on me for taking this long to really tell them how much I fucking love the music that we get to do – but better late than never. It’s rad that after all these years, we’re still fans of each other.
“We still get on each other’s nerves, don’t get me fucking wrong, and we’re still assholes! But at the same time, there’s no other group of people that I would rather go onstage with and do this fucking music, man.”
It’s safe to say, then, that things are feeling pretty fucking good in the Slipknot camp right now. Not too shabby for a band who, as Corey recalls, “was honestly going to break up after the first album”.
“It’s so funny to me that after this many years, we’re doing our seventh album, and we’re already looking down the road at what the next chapter is going to be. And the fact that there’s still millions of fans with us is just fucking insane…”
Corey chuckles mischievously.
“You fuckers signed up for the ride!”
Slipknot's new album The End, So Far is released September 30 via Roadrunner.
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