Music I Love: “Slipknot”, Slipknot (1999)


There’s frankly not a whole lot to be said about this seminal album that hasn’t already been discussed ad infinitum in every possible media avenue in existence, but that doesn’t stop this from being one of my absolutely favorite albums of all time. I once wrote a dissertation about the expression of emotion through music, and Slipknot featured pretty heavily.

Slipknot were a nine-member (sadly now only eight) band from Des Moines, and to read through any of their lyrics, they had some issues:

Insane – am I the only motherf***er with a brain?

I’m hearing voices but all they do is complain

How many times have you wanted to kill

Everything and everyone – say you’ll do it but never will

Eyeless – Slipknot, 1999

It’s hard to recall the impact these – and the rest of the album’s – words had back in 1999. From the opening few seconds of (sic) you are bludgeoned by a frenetic, nearly incoherent rage, an insatiable fury that could stand up to an atomic blast and win. I can’t think of anything in the realms of rock or metal – or music in general – that even came close to such a level of energetic hate. In particular was the subject of this vitriol; unlike previous “angry” bands like Rage Against the Machine, there were no targets for Slipknot’s hostility, no politics; here was a terrifying group of people with not pity or mercy.

It’s scary enough to be facing an uncontrollable madman, never mind a vicious and calculating psychopath.

Which is ironic, because Corey Taylor and Joey Jordison et al. are, in conversation, a bunch of pleasant guys, albeit many with disturbing or traumatizing pasts. In a way, the band became cathartic for them: a way to express the inexpressible, to release the rage that had built up in them.

Another disturbing aspect of this burgeoning phenomenon was the use of grotesque and terrifying masks and costumes, furthering the disassociation of these people and their music from reality. By dehumanizing themselves, they created a heightened level of terror – an image of demons, quite possibly directly from the pits of hell.

So controversial was their debut album that it was considered likely that the group would either disband or kill each other before ever recording another album. Instead, they released Iowa in 2001, shattering their first album’s popularity by reaching #3 in the US Billboard 200. If Slipknot was an explosion of raw fury and rage, Iowa was a more refined hatred, a feeling of a more calculated and targeted ire, which of course was all the more disturbing; it’s scary enough to be facing an uncontrollable madman, never mind a vicious and calculating psychopath.

Their style and emotion became ever more refined with Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, and – if such a thing is possible – a more mellow kind of anger with All Hope Is Gone. However, none of their succeeding albums can come close to the untamed fury of their first album. It’s raw, abrasive, offensive and uncomfortable, and it is because of these qualities that it is such an outstanding work. There is nothing I have come across in the history of music recording that comes so close to the very embodiment of demonic rage and hate; it is likely as far as music can get whilst still remaining coherent.

Slipknot can be cathartic for me, too; whenever I’m feeling stepped on, maddened or infuriated, a play through this album is more than enough to get it all out. Like they said:

Who the f*** are you?  F*** you!

Better suck it up ’cause you bled through

Better get away from me

Stay the f*** away from me

Eyeless – Slipknot, 1999


5 thoughts on “Music I Love: “Slipknot”, Slipknot (1999)

  1. Great album! I like my metal. Slipknot might have found making the album cathartic, but I also find listening to music such as this cathartic. It’s an excellent way of venting my rage, frustration, pain, or despair without giving into it. Something about this music actually invigorates and soothes me in a way softer sounds cannot. I suppose it helps me feel that I’m not alone in having such feelings? I’ll admit that the lyrics for some metal albums are probably not so nice, even morally objectionable on certain grounds, but the sound of such fury helps me release mine harmlessly.

    • Definitely not alone in thinking so! I have to say, though, that I think there’s very little, thematically, in heavy metal that is out-and-out deplorable. The vast majority of it is fantasy (i.e. demons and swords); a very large proportion is political, and a smaller group set out with the deliberate intent to shock and offend (think Rammstein or Marilyn Manson), which isn’t so different to things like South Park or Family Guy (then again, there might be some questionable content there, too). The metal bands that are deadly serious with their offensiveness – the neo-nazi groups, or the violently satanic groups (most satanists are actually pretty peaceful) – are usually shunned as much by the metal community as anyone else.

      Hm. Didn’t mean to go on a rant there. Sorry. Slipknot, though – yes, cathartic!

  2. I haven’t noticed that most content is that bad, and I do enjoy my Viking metal, too. I mentioned that because I’m constantly being besieged by comments of “All they sing about it evil, gross stuff. Aren’t they satanic or something?”. Knee jerk reaction on my part, as of course if you like the music I don’t have to explain myself. We play metal a lot at work (I work in a kitchen and a lot of the things that might be objectionable in a normal job don’t seem to apply so much), and every time the servers look at us questionably and ask how we can listen to THAT we say something like “This song is all about rainbows and puppies and unicorns,” or “This is a love song. Can’t you tell?”

    • Ha! In our secluded technician office at work we take turns with the music; even so, I tend to avoid the really hardcore death metal, simply because it can be abrasive to some people. But a bit of Iron Maiden and Metallica never goes wrong.

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