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It’s not hard to describe SLIPKNOT’s music: fast, heavy, vicious, ferocious, venomous and crude – in fact a few journos made them out to be nu-metal’s answer to the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Halloween” and “The Evil Dead” – all rolled into one wicked mother. The mask-clad spooksters have found their niche within the flow of sports metal in the US; bands such as KORN, MARILYN MANSON and white-rap chumps LIMP BIZKIT thrive off the cash made from these schlock-hammer bass-drum pedal-pushers. But as for the music (listen at your own risk!), the angsty punk-metallers were not at all bad, mixing in a blend of tricky, thumping and downright blast-feric lyrics along with pounding guitars and drums. It’s what the Big Bad Wolf, the Child-Catcher and Chucky have nightmares about.
Formed September 1995 by bassist Paul Gray and sticksman Shawn Crahan, in Des Moines, Iowa (initially as The Pale Ones), the pair added second drummer Joey Jordison, guitarist Donnie Steele and vocalist Anders Colsefni, while second guitarist Josh Brainard made up the original SLIPKNOT line-up that recorded the self-financed MATE. FEED. KILL. REPEAT (1996) {*5}. Basically demos that were turned into proper tracks on subsequent sets (e.g. `Slipknot’ morphed into `(sic)’), a heavy fusion implementing jazz and funk rhythms showcased a band in transition; a re-distribution of the CD a year later rocketed in value.
Colsefni and Steele had their own reasons to depart forthwith, their respective replacements, Greg Welts (custom percussion), and, in turn, a vocal replacement Corey Taylor (from STONE SOUR) and Craig “133” Jones (samples), steadied the boat a little, as the subsequent 9-piece took on board, Chris Fenn (custom percussion), Sid Wilson (turntables) and Mick Thompson (guitar).
The ensemble duly signed with Roadrunner Records and surfaced from the studio minus Brainard (who contributed to several of the tracks), but with guitarist Jim Root in tow. Incidentally, the band were each issued with pseudonymous numbers as follows: Corey (#8), Mick (#7), Shawn (#6), Craig (#5), Jim (#4), Chris (#3), Paul (#2), Joey (#1) and Sid (#0).
The eponymous SLIPKNOT (1999) {*8} album , predictably gained a huge home-grown following from the widespread majority of dysfunctional teens all over America – and beyond. Nu-metal had come to Des Moines with a vengeance; `Wait And Breed’ and `Spit It Out’ (both UK Top 30 gate-crashers), `Tattered And Torn’ and the aforementioned `(sic)’, making LIMP BIZKIT look rather pedestrian and er… flaccid.
During the months touring to promote the set, the gory group of intensely intense metallers – for some obscure reason – became hugely popular with the amount of frantic followers exceeding that of a huge, sinister American cult. Soon, the troupe of rubber-faced monsters were featured on every t-shirt worn by every prepubescent kid who, in just a short space of time, abandoned the latest Kylie album; hence the alleged tongue-in-cheek statement by Taylor: that all SLIPKNOT fans were “maggots”.
Sick of this worrying sight and worried themselves over the musical direction in which the record company wanted the follow-up album to go, the group cut and issued the dark, theatrical and utterly insane sophomore set, IOWA (2001) {*8}. More black metal than early BLACK SABBATH, the group were slightly in danger of turning into G.G. ALLIN’s back-porch cousins. `Left Behind’ tore up the rulebook and the speakers with its emotional apathy, accumulating in thrash guitar noise that was the musical equivalent of being fisted by a robot; `My Plague’ also entered the UK Top 50. The culminant result was the creeping, KORN-like 15-minute homage to their home State, in which Corey was said to be – whilst recording the track – “puking, bleeding, trampling on glass and being burnt by hot wax”. Hot wax?! You have been warned.
For those still not satiated after such sonic torture, there was the re-emergence of STONE SOUR, the band with which Taylor and Root had first begun to terrorize the metal scene. After seeking out fellow conspirators Shawn Economaki and Joel Ekman, together with new face Josh Rand, the band contributed `Bother’ for the soundtrack to the 2002 “Spiderman” remake. As a taster for their eponymous album, released the same year, it heralded a promise that was pretty much fulfilled. Leaving behind the theatrics of SLIPKNOT and actually vocalising to the best of his not inconsiderable abilities, Taylor pretty much stole the show on a set of songs all the better for taking their foot off the gas.
MURDERDOLLS, the side project of Jordison and his compadre Tripp Eisen (of STATIC-X), was a different matter altogether, a self-indulgent, splatter-core shamble through various strands of moribund metal going by the tongue-in-cheek title “Beyond The Valley Of The Murderdolls” (2002). One of SLIPKNOT’s most unlikely and least successful extra curricular projects was TO MY SURPRISE, the brainchild of Crahan, SLIPKNOT DJ, Brandon Darner and fellow Des Moines vocalist/guitarist Steven Robinson. Produced by Rick Rubin no less, their eponymous 2003 debut album left behind the puke and grimace of Crahan’s day job for a pleasant, mildly trippy retro vibe referencing the likes of The MONKEES and the DOORS.
Rubin stuck around to work his beardy magic on SLIPKNOT’s VOL.3: THE SUBLIMINAL VERSES (2004) {*7}, widely hailed as the most adventurous album of their career. Like SLAYER on “South Of Heaven”, the band fattened up their sound by going on a speed diet, putting on the brakes and opening their masks to ideas that would’ve been heresy only a few years ago: the cantering monologue of opener `Prelude 3.0’, and especially the pastoral acoustica of `Vermilion, Pt.2’ – okay, it was “a stalker’s love song”, but it sounded pretty. The more traditionally throat-ripping `Before I Forget’ ended up as another UK Top 50 single (their 7th in all), while the album itself was another transatlantic Top 5 success. Many of these tracks made it onto 9.0 LIVE (2005) {*6}, a Top 20 concert double-set with the added woaarrgh! factor of the band’s infamously partisan fans in full voice.
2008’s long-awaited return to the top spot, ALL HOPE IS GONE {*7}, dug deeper into their lyrically-numbing sociopath psyche. Although “Maggots” had to endure a regressive metal bizkit by way of power-ballad, `Snuff’, true macho metalheads were only too smiley-face-happy to pierce tattooed wounds for the likes of `Gematria (The Killing Name)’, `Gehenna’ and `Wherein Lies Continue’.
Sadly, on May 24, 2010, Paul Gray was found dead in an Urbandale, Iowa hotel room; later confirmed as due to an accidental overdose of morphine and fentanyl. While Corey and Root’s STONE SOUR continued to sparkle among metal crowds throughout the globe, it was unclear until 2012, at their inaugural “Knotfest” experience, that SLIPKNOT would continue onwards in their quest to get their “subliminal verses” to the people; Joey Jordison would depart in 2013.
Roping in mysterious masked bassist Donnie Steele and drummer Jay Weinberg (on tour if not on record), SLIPKNOT channelled their despair through song and chance on the long-awaited fifth set, .5: THE GRAY CHAPTER (2014) {*8}. Obviously dedicating the record to their fallen compadre, the fractured metal compound that was SLIPKNOT played the soft/hard schizoid for `Killpop’ and `Goodbye’ while the pummelling was played to perfection on gut-wretching growlers, `Sarcastrophe’, `The Devil In I’, `The Negative One’, `Lech’ and `Custer’. Not for folks of a nervous disposition.
Not for folks of a nervous disposition. Nor for that matter was the uncompromising DAY OF THE GUSANO: LIVE IN MEXICO (2017) {*6}, a grinding double-CD/DVD movie – recorded in 2015 – that should’ve carried a government warning against those el SLIPsNOT banditos from across the border.
Evil comes in many shapes or forms, and in the blood-curdling, gameboy horror-show of worldwide No.1 double-set, WE ARE NOT YOUR KIND (2019) {*8}, the jury of gods was out to lunch… again! SLIPKNOT had now lost one of its brethren; custom percussionist Chris Fehn, when he dared serve a lawsuit on the band for unpaid royalties: a question of legality rather than anything devil-ish some might attest.
Corey, Root and their masked marauders planned to propel a “Sgt. Pepper”-type concept on us mere mortals; however in its place was Satan’s soundtrack to a purge-awaiting America still buying an arsenal of weaponry to defend themselves – from themselves. In reality, nobody in their right mind could/should take SLIPKNOT seriously; their wise words of wisdom a warning to the bleak future ahead. Possibly. And in this creepy conceptual paradox of aggro-versus-melody paranoia, the record worked on that level like some KORN-meets-BREAKING BENJAMIN nightmare.
From the opening lines of “Never gonna kill myself to save my soul” on `Unsainted’ (featuring Angel City Chorale!), the scene was set for the maniacal metal rapping of expletives that rolled off the twisted tongue of schizoid Taylor; he’d recently divorced his wife of several years: Stephanie Luby. Spreading out his visceral vox like a venomous virus, a carnival of souls were picked off by way of `Nero Forte’ (their own “Flight of the Bumblebee” perhaps?), `Critical Darling’, `Red Flag’, `Spiders’, `Orphan’ and `Solway Firth’.
© MC Strong 2002-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2013-Aug2019

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