Just when you thought it was safe to enter the mosh pit again, along comes Slipknot with another blast of frantic, body-slamming nu-metal. But this time it's a little different. There's a reason that this album recently debuted on Billboard's pop charts at No. 2 -- and that's because the band has expanded its sound and become palatable to more listeners. The nu-metal freaks will still get their fix, but Slipknot, which in recent years seemed finished (and was blown off the stage on a tour with System of a Down), has been revitalized with the help of producer Rick Rubin. The chemistry is right, because the Iowa-based Slipknot responds with an album that hits hard with its trademark, bludgeoning metal guitars and supersonic percussion, but also pauses for some well-chosen ballads such as "Prelude 3.0" and the acoustic-driven "Vermilion, Pt. 2," which provide a better overall listen. Singer Corey Taylor remains at his best as a punk-metal scream machine, but this time he stretches out more elastically and more convincingly. And the lyrics have a more philosophical edge ("Fight for the unconventional," he sings in "Pulse of the Maggots" and "We are the broken shards, the art disarray," he notes in "Welcome"), which suggest that even Slipknot is showing signs of growing up. This feels like a transitional album, but the music holds up well for a band that once seemed destined to be a rock 'n' roll joke. Slipknot performs at Ozzfest at the Tweeter Center Aug. 14-15.
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