It’s important to view Slipknot through the lens of their history, what the band has endured outside of the stage, and how these elements reciprocate into music. The nine man group never set out to entertain the public’s standards in civility and rock music, which is what they’ve been widely appreciated for. Slipknot is defined as the freedom to be who you are without any regard for ridicule, and the destructive tenure they’ve brought to the stage establish the group as gratifying entertainers.
With all that said, ridicule and critical outlook into the band’s personality and song style never tripped their momentum; if anything, it’s considered their MO. Coming into this new ‘Knot era still emotionally recovering from the passing of founding member Joey Jordinson, I was skeptical to sit down one more time for the destructive maggot hoarders. It should be no surprise to grow skeptical about the band’s rigidity to continue performing and creating music, in the name of losing members and disconnecting between members of a twenty year legacy.
In The End, So Far, ‘Knot takes no needed introduction to push a new agenda of story and sound. As soon as “Adderall,” opens with a dark atmospheric and eerie drone, I could tell this project would be unique.
“The Dying Song (Time to Sing)” rips into tasteful yet subtle ‘Knot familiarity. The track opens with its quirky up front screaming and intimate distortion, which fans typically associate with, but it’s not what the 7th installment needs. The track plays like a bottom roster tune that doesn’t hold up to the responsibility of being second in line.
In contrast, “The Chapeltown Rag” is the replacement for the adverse track listing. While this song struggles to identify album direction, it’s the simple song structure, technique in melody and breakdown that personifies the group’s tendency to explode. My favorite anecdote is the machine-gun hitting snares and riffs while Corey yells “We don’t need” at the same time. It’s those subtle black metal sprinkles that add character and taste. I’d argue that the chorus is the one element that doesn’t hold the track together, but everything else like the guitar’s punch lines, the drum’s anguishing breakdowns and ringing outro make it stand out.
“Yen” is the magical pick-me-up the roster needed. Its broodingly dark themes of death and blood and Taylor’s intricate language personify this track. My criticisms lie with the BPM because it’s a slow track. While fine, this level of adversity at the top of the record interrupts tonal fluidity. It’s important to acknowledge an intricately organized song list, but whenever the flow and tone overlap, the speed bumps stick out. “Hive Mind” continues the dark brooding and hoard inducing metal. The intro and the crashing of stick to steel provide the headbanger anthem the album critically needed at this point. I’m ashamed at how late into the album this banger is placed. The second verse is tight on: guitar metrics, the earworm hook “I hope you fucking die,” the snare-hat combos, and clashing cans.
“Warranty” is that note within the collaboration that allows you to sink your teeth into the band’s breaking point. Here, Taylor breaks down and draws no distance between him and the mic to yell through your soul: “Your warranty is not amity to me / Contrived to controversy, the sinister is grain / Isn’t this what you came here for?” Taylor’s raspiness comes out, which is always a good sign for that classic ‘Knot feel.
“Medicine for the Dead” and the remaining half of the record both stand high in my rank. The percussion supports Taylor’s nasty growls, while the guitars melodically bleed through. This pack-a-punch combination reiterates the deep talent the group still holds. Unfortunately, while the groaning guitars mesmerize this track, the vocal metrics come off as awkward. It’s a shame, because the second verse is one of the best rage-inducing peaks.
The figurative language Taylor uses cements itself within notions of contemporary living. “I’m not a god like you” and “The 1 is always 2” are passages that Taylor exclaims, which shine the light on the singer’s attention to contrarian associations. “Heirloom,” by parallel, allows Taylor and the band to elaborate on the misfortunes of domestic abuse. “You can’t run to ground” and “You’ll always have the past along to last a lifetime now” correlate to the synthetic approach of trauma. These lyrical elements complement the project’s scope.
“H377,” or hell, brings the walls closer in on the band, confining the listener to Taylor’s howls and the group’s methodical play-style. Front to back, this track doesn’t let up and proves the act has so much to offer in regard to musical evolution. “De Sade” is a fast-paced ringer that contrasts with the slow-paced opening verse. After the first verse, Slipknot’s nuance of different sounds culminate into a heaviness that goes down as one of best Slipknot tracks of the past decade. The double bass drums kick the song’s content into overdrive, and as you listen, the beat switch ups, keys, and guitars combine together fittingly.
“Finale” closes the group’s journey of turmoil and complacency in The End, So Far. Orchestral accents are sprinkled into the forefront of this reflexive sentiment. “I keep repeating older answers, the questions are all brand new / Does the room seem smaller these days?” These are the questions the collective arises to. So Far pushes the act’s consideration for ambience, but many associated and familiar sounds that it produces are not enough to sustain interest in the project.
Older fans can visit this project and immediately retract the breath of sounds that ‘Knot is known for; although, you can’t disregard the wall between newer and older fans’ distinct Slipknot tastes. For me, it was always about how rapid and heavy the act conducted chord progressions. Their nuance in nu-metal and alternative wasn’t a catch-all during my Slipknot upbringing. This album provides insight into how the group is essentially past all these features. Thanks to Taylor’s lyrical direction, the thematic literature of contemporary social analysis holds the album up to a big degree; unfortunately, this aspect is overshadowed by the group’s inconsistency. Slipknot is forever a magically sensational act. The End, So Far should be considered the opening chapter of a new book for the group.