Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses
ow it’s over” sings Corey Taylor on the opening dirge of the Iowan nontet’s newest album. And, for Slipknot, it did look to be all over merely a year ago. With Taylor and a host of others going off to record solo and side projects and the band’s website proudly proclaiming the fact the group was mulling it over (they didn’t want to become “the next Gwar” went the quote), it looked to be a done deal. But after a rushed apology to Gwar, the group came to its senses, hoping that with nine members that something new could possibly be wrenched from their melodic death metal formula.
They were right.
But at what cost? The group seems to have softened to longtime fans. But those people are mistaking softness for maturation. Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses trades in the straight ahead thrash that the group came to be known for on their two previous discs in favor for a sound that swings and hurls. It doesn’t go in for the immediate kill, taking its time, gathering up energy for the eventuality of death. None of the trademark squall is necessarily missing here—you merely have to wait for it a bit longer. And it’s worth it.
Because on Vol. 3, the group actually stretches its constraints to include songs led by acoustic guitars, breaking up the tedium of pounding metal. Admittedly, it’s uncharacteristic for the group, but it’s an ingenious pacing maneuver. It also helps that they’re engaging tracks in their own right. “Circles” and “Vermillion Pt. 2” both utilize the acoustic in creating a rhythmic basis for Taylor’s surprisingly affecting vocals, the latter even going so far as to include stately vocal harmonies. The closer, “Danger – Keep Away”, alternately, is probably as close to the group may ever get to a ballad. A “Goodbye, Blue Sky”-esque organ works its way underneath Taylor’s vocals, allowing him, a variety of effects and a ramshackle backing band to make their final point. It’s far more depressing and emotional than anything here, with nary a grindcore riff in sight.
But, there are plenty of those elsewhere (“Three Nil”, “Duality” and Before I Forget” being particular highlights). In fact, it hardly bears mentioning. Because, aside from the experimentation in song structure and instrumentation, the main difference on the album lies in its production. Enlisting Rick Rubin for this effort as opposed to Iowa’s Ross Robinson, the vocals are mixed much higher than in previous efforts. The riffs have lost none of their impact, but it seems like finally the group also wants you to appreciate their vocal and lyrical impact. As for that, it seems to be standard metal fare—particularly more interested in the self, as opposed to, say, Satan.
Which is probably the key to this band being lumped in with a large majority of nu-metal bands at the end of the millennium. With lyrical content so focused on the self and the visual interest of nine musicians jumping around on stage, it seemed obvious that the group was destined for something bigger than Iowa (and bigger than mere genre players in the death metal scene). And they’ve now released their best album and the best pop inflected metal album since System of a Down's Toxicity. It's not over. It's just beginning.