Masks are for life, not just for Halloween. And for Slipknot masks are a huge part of their image as the octet (that’s 8 members!) have taken the world by storm since emerging from their Iowa home with their 1999 Self-Titled album.
Since then they’ve gone on slay everything in their path with their chaotic, unique brand of metal. Incorporating elements of death metal, thrash, and even dance styles such as breakbeats, the band have created and honed a unique sound that has been explored and developed through their four albums; more so in their later work as corporate intervention didn’t restrict any creativity.
This weekend Slipknot return to Download Festival, and if pass appearances are anything to go by, they will probably steal the show once again.
But which album is their best?! Well that’s what we’re here to find out as always with our Versus feature. Our European starlet James Berclaz-Lewis believes that ‘Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses’ really pushed the boundaries of what Slipknot are. Whereas heavy lovin’ Aaron Wilson thinks the band’s last studio album to date, ‘All Hope Is Gone’ is where they really perfected who they are.
Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses (by James ‘Bearclaw’ Lewis)
There is little point denying the searing impact Slipknot’s ‘Iowa’ left in the alternative metal scene back in 2001, having previously prepared the ground with their accessible debut album, the nu-metal-ish ‘Slipknot’. The latter introduced the core of what the band is about: a combination of relentless, incredibly dense, rhythms and Corey Taylor’s cathartic lyrical explosions. One their sophomore effort, meanwhile, truly cemented the wall-of-sound aesthetic that defined their middle era, as the band’s sound moved further and further away from any recognizable traditions of metal. As strong as ‘Iowa’ was, the sonic consistency on display came dangerously close from simply being a general over-similarity among the tracklisting. A fault the nine-strong posse were quick to correct on third effort ‘Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses’.
With producer Rick Rubin at the helm, though Taylor has been quoted in the past as having been largely disappointed with the bearded legend’s notable absences during the recording process, the band successfully progressed in every direction. Celebrated for his tendency to push bands into genre-bending, Rubin managed to break the seemingly concrete-strong mold the band had built for themselves and spark up one of the most varied, and consistently compelling, alternative metal albums IN HISTORY. Take, for example, opening track ‘Prelude 3.0’. It’s difficult to imagine Slipknot of 2001-2003 going anywhere close to an introductory three minutes of a noise-laden, proggy, enthralling crescendo in which Taylor doesn’t bark incessantly.
Perhaps more surprising still are the presence of acoustic numbers ‘Circle’ and ‘Vermillion. Part 2’. Dipping slightly into the melodramatic pool, the former weaves guitars, electronic flourishes, ethereal backing vocals, and some delicate piano into a spinning beauty, that never overcommits to theatricality. On the other hand, it is whole-heartedly embraced on ‘Vermillion. Part 2’, an emotional acoustic retake on the angst-ridden, gothic, and considerably heavier ‘Vermillion’. Both came as huge shocks on the album’s release, but are indubitable evidence that Slipknot could remain coherent towards their forged identity even as they ventured into risky ‘sell-out’ territory. Taylor manages to tap into some truly sentimental territory, never more than on ‘Vermillion. Part 2’ as when he repeatedly sings ‘I won’t let this build up inside of me’, without losing much of his metal street-credibility. Somehow.
However, the main corpus of ‘Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses’ was still largely composed tracks of such constant intensity, be it from the ribcage-crushing riff and Jordison drumming or their newly acquired ability to mix effective melodic sections to counteract the chaotic elements. Speaking of the drumming, Jordison is in full deranged mode throughout from the cracking solo on ‘The Blister Exists’ to the preposterous opening of ‘Three Nil’, playing an ever-crucial part in maintaining the structured-disorganization that is so vital to Slipknot’s sound. Taylor meets similarly astonishing form as he shoulders the role of an anti-authoritarian conductor rousing the masses on the simply sensational ‘Pulse Of The Maggots’ (which also features a fine guitar-solo in the midst of the madness.)
Of course, less-fanatic audiences often fondly remember classic albums for the timelessness of their singles. To which I reply: ‘Duality’ and ‘Before I Forget’. Many might remember the hooliganistic ode to the near-intimate sense of community within metal-appreciating circles that was the music video for ‘Duality’, delivering an evocative illustration of the song’s tribal percussions and violent riffing. Think of the way Taylor alternates between riffing through his teeth to the rousing catharsis of the chorus, cleverly alluding to the theme of mental-derangement through composition. Whereas ‘Before I Forget’ channels the aura of their first album, but elevates it above re-hashing earlier stylings by inserting a subtly sweet middle-eight.
Pushing the boundaries of their creativity while still retaining the disorderly heaviness that made them stand out prior to its release, ‘Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses’ stands tall as an alternative metal masterclass. Doing away with their antagonistic shackles, the band found a renewed energy as well as an ability to address a greater emotional range with a greater musical range, and were accordingly granted a deserved place in the Pantheon of heavy music and in the hearts of angry outcasts everywhere.
‘All Hope Is Gone’ (by Aaron Wilson)
Who would have thought that when you listen to Slipknot you are indeed listening to nine band members; all the band members are integral to the band’s sound. For anyone who hasn’t listened to or seen the band live you are seriously missing out because underneath the chaos there is something beautiful.
Let’s back track abit, coming out with their first self titled album in 1999 they were to shock music fans with their masks but also impress with their intense fast and raw metal music. With two further albums under their belt, the visceral and snarling ‘Iowa’ and the prickly, flowering ‘Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses’ the band was growing more and more musically. And this is when they truly flowered and brought out ‘All Hope Is Gone’ their fourth album in 2008 which in my opinion is the bands most accomplished work.
Starting with the almost apocalyptic sounding ‘.execute.’ it draws you into a mass sound of chaos to then hit you with the drums and guitar sound on ‘Gematria [The Killing Name]’. A swirling mix of fast paced drums, catchy guitar hooks, percussion, DJ scratching; it’s heavy yet showcases all the band members’ abilities. The album also brought out a more melodic side to lead vocalist Corey Taylor’s vocals, songs like ‘Sulfur’, ‘Dead Memories’ and ‘Wherein Lies Continue’ which all brought his sweet vocals to the forefront to give a more approachable feel to the album.
The band also kept the heavy songs flowing as well with ‘Vendetta’ which brought gang vocals with some layered melodic and heavy guitar riffs. ‘This Cold Black’ has an old self titled style song of seriously fast drums with a catchy lead guitar riff, as Corey screams his head off and the drums pound it’s a slice of old Slipknot. Who could forget what would be the first two songs we’d hear off this mighty album ‘Psychosocial’ and ‘All Hope Is Gone’ which bring out all the bands best attributes. Every band member is utilised in both songs as Chris and Clown play some fast snare drum parts in ‘Psychosocial’ to DJ Sid scratching at the end of All Hope Is Gone, to Joeys every present fast drums and Jim and Mick’s ridiculous guitar solos in both songs it’s just a perfect concoction.
The band also produce what is a bitter sweet gem of a song that is ‘Snuff’, touching upon the darker feelings of life it juxtaposes the melodic sounding acoustic guitar. With some melodic guitar solos and Corey’s ever present sweet vocals it’s a soaring anthem of a song and in my opinion the best song they’ve ever written.
For me ‘All Hope Is Gone’ is the quintessential album for any fan or anyone wanting to listen to Slipknot because it has everything. From guttural screams, to soaring melodic vocals, to slowed down acoustic moments, to heavy guitar riffs and ridiculous guitar solos it has everything. So what are you waiting for? Go buy it and be amazed at the mighty Slipknot.
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