An Analysis of Influences Heard on Slipknot’s ‘We Are Not Your Kind’
Every great band has its influences. Sometimes it sounds great when a group writes something that sounds a whole lot like a song by one of their favorite outfits — not just like another song, but in the style of one or more of their major inspirations. As the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. What’s even cooler, however, is when a band writes songs in their own mold, then adds segments to their music that pays tribute to one or many of the countless bands that influenced them.
Slipknot’s latest, We Are Not Your Kind, is not derivative in any way, yet many of the more experimental passages on the album are redolent of some of their favorite music. Some are more obvious than others. The choir in “Unsainted,” for example, is a clear reference to The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Many of the other touchpoints on the record are far more subtle, yet greatly lend to the eclecticism, weirdness and terror-filled vibe of the music.
Below are songs that Slipknot may have drawn from in their quest to create the audacious, monolithic structures of We Are Not Your Kind. Some don’t sound much like the Slipknot songs themselves, but each offers an indication of the kind of musical vocabulary the band members possess and some of what they refer to when they want to write something outside of the box.
The first of three short intro pieces on We Are Not Your Kind, “Insert Coin” is comparable to Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh?” The opening track to the British psychedelic band’s epic concept album, “In The Flesh” is a bombastic piece that serves as an intro to the jaw-dropping compositions that follow and ends with a crashing airplane.
There’s no mistaking the choir in the song “Unsainted” is a nod to the choir in The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” from the band’s 1969 album Let it Bleed. While everyone in the band was thrilled with the song when it was finished, vocalist Corey Taylor was originally opposed to including a choir in “Unsainted” and referred to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as one his “least favorite” Stones songs.
The tinny guitars, insistent groove and spoken word sample at the beginning of “Birth of the Cruel” sound vaguely like “Destruction” from Ministry’s industrial masterwork The Land of Rape and Honey. Of course, that’s before Taylor’s infectious vocals make an entrance. As for the rest of the song, we hear tidbits of Einsturzende Neubauten and even “Window Licker”-era Aphex Twin.
The harrowing samples, weird keyboards and tribal beats in the second atmospheric interlude on We Are Not Your Kind sound a bit like latter-day Swans. Check out the song “No Words / No Thoughts” from the band’s 2010 noise/post-rock album My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky.
This song is pretty much Slipknot through and through. To paraphrase “Nero Forte,” at the end of the day that’s what they do best. The martial beats in mid-section of the song, however, are a bit reminiscent of the marching drums that open Metallica’s “Struggle Within” from The Black Album.
The hip-hop-ish vocals atop a bludgeoning riff kinda remind us of Anthrax and Public Enemy’s cover of PE’s “Bring the Noise.” And the ambient mid-section of the song contains galactic sound effects that wouldn’t be out of place on Pink Floyd’s expansive “Echoes,” the closing track on the 1971 album Meddle.
Starting with atmospheric noises and delicate strums redolent of Pink Floyd, “A Liar’s Funeral” builds into a climactic chant of “Burn, burn, burn the liar!” that brings to mind a scene from an old horror movie about a mob of villagers hunting down a witch as in this 1992 mini-series “Witchcraft” … or the cinematic opening of Rush’s “Witch Hunt” from 1981’s Moving Pictures.
There’s not much to say about the bombastic “Red Flag,” but the choppy, staccato riff near the end is kinda like Prong, whose ‘90s albums Beg to Differ and Prove You Wrong helped bridge the gap between electronic industrial and metal.
The third and final weird interlude on We Are Not Your Kind, “What’s Next” is mainly composed of a guitar and keyboard melody that’s kinda like a paranoid, methed out take on Radiohead’s “No Surprises” from the 1997 album OK Computer.
Incorporating hand-claps, new wave melodies and very little guitar, “Spiders” is the biggest (and possibly) best surprise on Slipknot’s new album. The haunting keyboard line that runs through the whole song sounds a lot like Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells,” otherwise known as the theme to The Exorcist. Both songs are even written in an unsettling time signature that rolls over itself with each repetition.
As it opens, “Orphan” sounds like an interstellar orchestra warming up. That, along with the subtle, droning melody, guitar feedback and clunking drums suggest Slipknot are familiar with space rock titan Hawkwind’s Lemmy-era track “Master of the Universe” from 1971’s galactic In Search of Space. The rest of the song, however, is way more Iowa than it is Jupiter.
This is the sound of the disintegration of an already fractured and sedated mind, yet it’s delicate, but haunting in a way that’s almost transcendent. Then it gets even weirder, incorporating electronic Casio keyboard beats, footstep sound effects, harmonized near-monotone vocals and unbalanced, very un-Beatles-y chants of “Love, love, love.” Surely, at least someone in the band has Nurse With Wound’s Soliloquy for Lilith somewhere in his collection.
Building from “My Pain,” “Not Long For This World” is another weird, nightmare ambient track that bursts to life at about the 1:30 mark. As for the delicate stuff, think the 1977 German rock/ambient collaboration Cluster & Eno.
One of the most lyrically devastating songs on We Are Not Your Kind, “Solway Firth,” like “Insert Coin,” mentions “counting all the killers,” only the album’s closing track, stays quiet for just under a minute. Then it’s a full-on assault with brief moments of respite to count more killers. The song ends with an ominous sustained chord as an unsettling wash of noises rise to the top of the mix. A major influence throughout the album, David Bowie’s collaborations with Brian Eno also impact the underwater melody and reverb-saturated vocals of the first part of “Solway Firth.” Just listen to “Always Crashing the Same Car” from the 1977 album Low.