Slipknot Vol 3: (The Subliminal Verses)
Grade
B+
 
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Slipknot's chaotic catharticism has made them both popular and hated. Whereas they have a strong fanbase, they also find a lot of metal purists (and even elitists) who dislike them for a number of reasons, one of which is that they managed to become popular despite their freak-show gimmick. For those who don't know, Slipknot is a nine-piece from Iowa that dresses up in disturbing masks and outfits and throws down some brutally heavy metal layered in chaos, percussion, samples and an overabundance of antiestablishment rhetoric. Or, at least, that's what Slipknot used to be.

After parting ways with producer Ross Robinson and his "wall of fuzz" way of producing metal albums, they managed to hook up with Rick Rubin (Slayer, Johnny Cash). I would have to wonder whether they looked towards Rubin because of the change their music-writing or if their music had changed because of the venerable producer's influence. Maybe a little bit of both. With that said, Vol 3: (The Subliminal Verses) is an obvious change in the band's sound and even style. The music is more moody and shows a stronger song-writing and performing element. Instead of feeling like a couple filler performances covered up by having nine performers, the album does show off some talent.

First and foremost is the awesome drumming by Joey Jordison, who has always been one of the highlights of the band. His work on this album, along with percussionists Chris Fehn and Shawn Crahan, sets a highly charged tone that works exceptionally well with the more moody aspect of the new album. Instead of just focusing on laying down thunderous riff after thunderous riff, guitarists Mick Thompson and James Root, add a stronger, more varied effort that shows far more talent than previous efforts ever did. Yes, there's still the harsh thrash there, but it's tempered with more "progressive" moments. Vocalist Corey Taylor exhibits a greater vocal range this time around, showing more influence from his Stone Sour side-project. This probably goes hand-in-hand with a more concerted effort to purge as much of the clichéd antiestablishment lyrics that, to be honest, got overbearing within a few listens of the previous efforts. In this new album, the lyrics delve into more feasible regions while retaining a certain demented quality about them.

The album opens with Prelude 3.0, which is sure to catch a lot of people off-guard. It's dark, moody, almost gothic piece that lulls it's way along. People used to the in-your-face methods of the band will find this a strange way to begin, but once you take in the whole album, it all becomes clear. Following this up is The Blister Exists, a more "traditional" Slipknot track that features a strong percussion element to aid ushering the revised sound and songwriting aspect that the new album offers.

While a lot of the album features Slipknot's standard style - brutal slabs of metal with varying degrees of speed and groove - there are a lot of tracks that take a new look at the band's songwriting. Circle strikes an interesting chord: an acoustic piece that stands out as an almost stark shift in musical style. Along with the acoustic guitars are layers of synthesized string arrangements and Corey's harmonized vocals, making a song that both works on it's own and as a different flavor to the album. Vermilion is another piece that takes a different angle, but without so much of an abrupt change. The lower, darker tone of the song tempers it's mood and makes it comes across as one of the more interesting songs. Vermilion, Pt. 2 is an acoustic revisit of the first track which proves good, even as stripped down as it is.

In between some of these more varied tracks are a lot of songs that fall into Slipknot's standard repertoire. While some of these heavier songs may sound familiar, even amongst each other, they all have their own little quirks that keeps the album moving along. Duality proves to be more "radio-friendly", even with cries of "I push my fingers into my eyes" to go along with a good tempo and groove. Opium of the People has a certain Slayer quality to the way it opens before swaying into Slipknot's well-known style of progression.

What is a Slipknot album without a powerful ending? Well, Vol 3: (The Subliminal Verses) delivers with an odd one-two punch. Track 13, The Virus of Life, is a coarse, apocalyptic industrial metal track that borrows from the likes of Neurosis to create a dark, building pressure of violence that explodes into a rage near the end. To cap this off is the outro, Danger - Keep Away, another low profile, almost depressing track that ends the album almost the same way it begins - with a whisper.

After listening to the album a few times, I would have to say it's one of their better efforts. In fact, I would say that if you were to get a Slipknot album, this would be the one to get. The songwriting is better and more varied. Without the performance gimmick to identify themselves, they might get more attention given to their songwriting, but as it is, most metal fans will enjoy this. Those Slipknot hardcore fans who are obsessed with previous "I hate the world" lyrics and mentality may be in for a rude awakening, but everyone else will find something remarkable here for the liking.

- - Vane

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