The last thing we expected from Corey Taylor’s solo debut was a party album. The motor-mouthed vocalist has spent over 20 years down in the bowels of self-revulsion with his nihilistic band Slipknot, neck-deep in piss and vinegar and picking at scabs.
Furthermore, ‘CMFT’ (an acronym for ‘Corey Mother Fucking Taylor’) comes off the back of a particularly tough period for the singer. Last year he was on the campaign trail with Slipknot following the release of the Iowan’s excellent sixth album, ‘We Are Not Your Kind’, a record Corey has since described as a “purge”. Not only was he wincing from the effects of double knee surgery – the inevitable result of being in a band that have kicked the living shit out of each other for two decades straight – he was still processing a brutal divorce from his second wife Stephanie Luby in 2017. Things felt dark.
What a difference 14 months can make. At the start of the pandemic, Taylor headed into Hideaway Studios in Las Vegas and left all that baggage at the door. Instead, he and his mates, guitarists Christian Martucci (from his other band Stone Sour) and Zach Throne, drummer Dustin Robert and bassist Jason Christopher, plugged in and rocked out.
Nothing here resembles Slipknot or Stone Sour’s anthemic commercial metal, but this isn’t an album for fans of those bands. By removing the two bookends that have so far structured his career, he’s let everything tumble free. Musically, it’s all over the place, nodding to everything from country, blues, hip-hop and punk, capturing the spirit of amped-up, hard-partying cock rock. By all accounts it was great fun to make – and sounds it.
The record opens with ‘HWY 666’, which finds Taylor outrunning his demons on an Arizona-sized slab of southern rockabilly that recalls country stalwart and Bob Dylan session musician Charlie Daniels. Later, first single, ‘CMFT Must Be Stopped’, is five minutes of pure fire-breathing, leather encrusted bravado. With a chorus big enough to open Wrestlemania at Ceasar’s Palace, it’s a volte-face where Taylor plays homage to early Rick Rubin-produced hip-hop and rap-rock featuring verses from rappers Tech N9ne and Kid Bookie. Closer, ‘European Tour Bus Bathroom’, is an inside joke about taking a pee on a moving bus – set to frantic punk.
Elsewhere, the hedonistic vibe continues – think ’80s hair metal, whiskied up and plonked on the Vegas strip. ‘Samantha’s Gone’ comes off like a modern take on Meatloaf’s ‘Dead Ringer for Love’ (or Poison without the hairspray). With ‘Meine Luxe’ he shoots straight for the arenas, with huge, infectious four-on-one-microphone gang chants and peacocking AC/DC-style riffs.
Taylor is 10 years sober now, and has fought depression and insecurities for most of his life. ‘Silverfish’ has him lying awake, trying to drown out the negative thoughts that visit him in quiet moments. “No-one’s gonna save me when I die,” he muses over woozy, Alice In Chains-style guitars, later adding, “All you’ve got to know is leave your worries far behind.” This isn’t the first time Corey has grappled with regrets on record, but for the first time, it sounds like he can beat them for good.
Lyrically too, Taylor is in a better place here. Looking back now at Slipknot’s ‘We Are Not Your Kind’, it’s clear just how bleak things got behind the mask. On that album’s closing track, ‘Solway Firth’, he delved into the pain of his failed marriage, bellowing, “You want a real smile? I haven’t smiled in years.” Compare that here with the tenderness of newbie ‘Black Eyes Blue’ or the love-struck, piano-led ‘Home’, both written about his new wife, Alicia Dove (a member of the dance group Cherry Bombs, whom he married in 2019) and it’s clear just how far he’s moved past the emotional debris.
Not every track here strikes gold. ‘Kansas’ feels generic and for all its flying spit, ‘Everybody Dies On My Birthday’, lacks the electrifying enthusiasm Taylor and the band have managed to capture elsewhere. Bluesy ‘The Maria Fire’, which tackles his divorce, feels out of place, as he notes, “The longer I’m away from you more I can’t wait / To dance in your ashes and spit on your grave.”
Writing it might have provided closure, but it feels catty, and the only time he lets himself fall back into the bitterness of the past on an album that otherwise looks resolutely forward. ‘CMFT’ isn’t the most profound or intense album Taylor has put his hand to, but it’s certainly the most fun. He sounds in love with life, a man finally free of his darkness.
Release date: October 2
Record label: Roadrunner Records