Slipknot set out to construct the ultimate metal music flamethrower, ever since their genesis in a Des Moines, IA, basement. But they also deployed an agitprop campaign of masks, smocks, and bar codes that helped scare parents (like good metal should) and transform Slipknot fans into faithful "maggots." The Midwestern origin of all this craziness is genius, as the band's marrow-draining metal and twisted, fibrous mythology is antithetical to the region's milquetoast rep. Still, after the gothic nausea of 2001's Iowa, Slipknot's vitality dissipated in clouds of gaseous hype and individual indulgence. Had they grown fat on their thrones? Probably. But the layoff only makes Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses scream louder. Working with famously bearded helmer Rick Rubin -- aka He Who Smites Bullsh*t -- Slipknot pour the shrill accessibility of their self-titled debut down Iowa's dark sieve, and the result is flinty, angry, and rewardingly restless. Vol. 3 shares its lyrical themes of anger, disaffection, and psychosis with most of Slipknot's nu-metal peers. Lines like "I've screamed until my veins collapsed" and "Push my fingers into my eyes/It's the only thing that slowly stops the ache" (from the otherwise strong "Duality") aren't unique to this cult. But unlike so many, the band's sound rarely disassembles into genre building blocks: riff + glowering vocal + throaty chorus = Ozfest acceptance. What makes Vol. 3 tick is the dedication to making it a Slipknot album, and not just another flashy alt-metal billboard. The seething anger and preoccupation with pain is valid because it's componential to the group's uniquely branded havoc. "Blister Exists," "Three Nil," and "Opium of the People" are all standouts, strafing soft underbellies with rhythmic (occasionally melodic) vocals, stuttering, quadruple-helix percussion, and muted grindcore guitar. Rubin is integral to the album's power -- his cataclysmic vocal filters and arrays of unidentifiable squiggle and squelch unite Vol. 3's various portions in wildly different ways. Just when the meditative "Circles" threatens to keel over from melodrama, in sputters strings of damaged electronics and percussion to lead it into "Welcome," which sounds like Helmet covering Relapse Records' entire catalog at once. Later, another counterpoint is offered, when the swift boot kicks of "Pulse of the Maggots" and "Before I Forget" separate "Vermilion"'s gothic and acoustic parts. Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses doesn't feel like Slipknot's final statement. It's a satisfying, carefully crafted representation of their career to date. But there's a sense that whatever Slipknot do next might be their ultimate broadcast to the faithful.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus