Feb 21 2022

Album Review: Slipknot – Slipknot (#MWE)

In hindsight, Slipknot is the genre of metal taken to its most logical next step, but that still doesn’t explain its commercial success. The nine-piece (!) Iowa band, all donning homemade horror masks and wearing red jumpsuits, is the gimmicky excessive endpoint for a style of music that had reached its critical nadir with the rise of nu-metal in the late 1990s. The band looked absurd, a walking, screaming punchline for haters of the genre and where it was headed. But in the end, the truth will out, and the truth is that the music of Slipknot fucking rips. This is no more evident than on arguably their best album, the self-titled debut they dropped in 1999.

Even before Fred Durst was hopping around on plywood at Woodstock 99, nu-metal was already showing its hand: an over-reliance on a stale regurgitation of moods, aggro lyrics, and D-tuned riffs. Slipknot, by contrast, were a slight deviation; they were more interesting than the next Theory of a Deadman or whoever. It isn’t necessarily Corey Taylor’s vocal delivery (which is varied and impressive, but not really unique) or his nihilistic lyrical themes, but rather his backing band, who incorporate the then-trendy rap metal tropes and adorn them with industrial, thrash, and death metal sounds. Taylor at times will moan like Jonathan Davis; other times he’s rapping like Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix, before screaming like Phil Anselmo. Meanwhile, the percussion pummels, the start-stop guitar riffs transfix, the turntable scratches jolt. There are traces of other bands before them, but Slipknot’s energy is trademarked.

This is probably why the album, and Slipknot’s sound in general, has aged so well; it was more aggressive, less downtrodden and more authentically angry. It perfectly encapsulates the feeling of a chaotic Slipknot live show (a testament to producer Ross Robinson’s skills). It broke with trends just enough to attain contemporary success and still sound fresh decades later. And it doesn’t hurt that the album inspired a new generation of rockers to build upon the sound, evolving subgenres like metalcore in the process.

Score: 8/10