Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Slipknot: Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses (2004)

Slipknot, Soured

This is part 3 of my continuing reexamination of a band that meant a great deal to a younger version of me.

After defying all expectations by going harsher and heavier with their sophomore album, Slipknot took a short hiatus. The members went off and pursued their own projects for a while, most notably Corey Taylor’s Stone Sour. And upon their return, they went to a much more predictable path.

Hard rock and metal bands that achieve any level of commercial success tend to get dogged with the accusation that their music is dumb or one-dimensional. Which results in the band members saying, “Yes, and it’s supposed to be.” Or, in the unfortunate case, “We’ll show you just how wrong you are.” Thus, we have Slipknot’s “artsy” album, Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses.

“Circle” and “Vermillion” are practically wearing berets and smoking through one of those long stem thingies. Acoustic guitars and strings mixed with some heavy-ish parts in slightly unusual juxtapositions. Closer “Danger – Keep Away” is synth and clean signing with weird samples in another clear attempt to be artsy.* There’s even piano in the big hit song, “Duality.”

It’s not like they stopped being Slipknot. “Pulse of the Maggots” with its built-in crowd shouts is obvious live fodder, and the stinking turd that is “Welcome” is a perfunctory nod to their past. “The Nameless” and the excellent “Duality” are two tracks which find the band doing what they do best, making big, angry songs, with big, sing-along choruses. “Three Nil” is another decent piece, which demonstrates at least an awareness of black metal while going down the path to hard rock.

But they actually do a pretty decent job of not sucking while being artsy. It’s not like it’s especially clever or ground-breaking, but they at least use good melodies while they’re doing it. And it does make for the band’s most dynamic record thus far. The real let-down, as far as I’m concerned, is that the “heavy” riffs are almost entirely hard rock riffs, not metal. That’s a big shift from Iowa. I’m going to blame Taylor and his Stone Sour project for that—hell, “Vermillion, Pt. 2” sounds like a Stone Sour song (only not bad). The Grammy-winning “Before I Forget” is as straight-up a hard rock song as the band had ever done.

I’m not going to tear this down. A younger me ate this up and put it high on a pedestal. A younger me also liked Stone Sour a great deal. “The Nameless” was one of my favorite songs for years. It’s still a fairly well-written album, with catchy melodies. It’s just not especially good, in hindsight.

The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars

* I use “artsy” as a slightly-pejorative term to describe the motivation to be capital-A Artistic. “Artistic,” of course, is another term I can’t clearly define, but neither can anyone else. I think you know what I mean.

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