It’s been quite a journey for Slipknot, the American alternative metal giant from Iowa. Since their conception in the late 1990s, from the initial splash they made on the metal scene all the way through various line-up changes and musical evolution, there has virtually never been a time when the group of nine wouldn’t have been under immense pressure to prove themselves time and again. The original nine-piece outfit has shrunk to a group of six, with three additional sets of helping hands that seem to have solidified their role within the band. “We Are Not Your Kind” from 2019 was hailed as a triumphant masterpiece in the face of ongoing challenges within Slipknot, and it’s hard to attribute it to anything else besides covid-19 that a follow-up record is in our hands only three years later. Having listened to “The End, So Far” a number of times now, I can tell you that it is a very natural continuation to Slipknot’s previous effort.
“Adderall“, the album’s introductory track, opens with a sullen soundscape that almost resembles church organs. The song maintains a slow, steady rhythm throughout its almost six-minute length, with Corey Taylor’s clean vocals and Alessandro Venturella’s bass guitar carrying the tune throughout. The opening tracks of Slipknot’s albums have varied from short cacophonies to full-fledged songs, and “Adderall” definitely belongs to the latter category, which is a treat in itself.
The next trio of songs are what the band released promotionally ahead of the album, so they must be quite familiar to most listeners by now. “The Dying Song (Time to Sing)” is a classic Slipknot track with a heavy focus on catchy hooks. Predicting this song as a certain addition to the live-set would be redundant as the band has already performed it a dozen times over the summer. Unleashed already in November 2021, “The Chapeltown Rag” turns up the aggression. “Yen” is for this album what “Vermilion” was for 2003’s “Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)”; almost five minutes of darkly atmospheric metal with deep-slicing lyrics. The effectively somber mood is briefly killed by the awfully out of place DJing of Sid Wilson, which is then compensated for by the gorgeous interlude right before the final chorus.
From the experimental intro to furious blastbeats and melodic chorus, “Hivemind” has it all. It’s easy to imagine this as a regular on the band’s setlist for this album’s tours as it has plenty of aggression to get the crowd going as well as melodic sensibility for a sing-along. “Warranty” is a guaranteed headbanger as one of the record’s most violent tunes, and only in its c-part does the song take a little breather from the aggression. “Medicine for the Dead” brings to mind “A Liar’s Funeral” from three years ago with its scope and moodiness. I’d call this one of my favorites on the album. “Acidic” lives up to its name with some truly trippy sonic experimentation and Corey Taylor’s vocals shifting between different shades of mournful.
“Heirloom” is doubtless one of the catchiest tunes on the album, right down to its compact length of three and a half minutes. Corey Taylor showcases the raspy timbres of his voice in the verse, and the chorus is an earworm ready to stick with you at first listen. Almost as an apology for excessive poppiness, following track “H377” takes its place among the fiercest moments on “The End, So Far”. Corey Taylor’s vocal cords truly get a workout in this song as there are lots of lyrics delivered at a furious pace. The album is drawn to a close to the somber tunes of “De Sade” and “Finale“, the latter being a bittersweet look-back on the band’s career. “Finale” is an aptly titled piece that somewhat suffers from its repetitiveness, though thankfully not too much.
“The End, So Far” is a statement of continuing competence from a group that the naysayers have attempted to drag down ever since they introduced themselves way back when. At one point Shawn Crahan referred to the contents of this album as “god music”, a statement that can now be chalked up to the hubris artists excited about their work are prone to feel. Musically “The End, So Far” doesn’t break new ground for Slipknot, and many of the ideas therein have been explored before, with better results. The fact that the album isn’t named simply “The End” means there’s still interest and intent within the band to see what they’re capable of, and their departure from Roadrunner Records is a clear sign of Slipknot’s desire for a next step in their evolution. With that said, as agreeable as the music is, “The End, So Far” sounds more like a band marking time rather than taking any decisive step in a new direction.