Review Summary: Slipknot generally play it safe in this follow-up to their self titled outing.
Before I start this review, I think I should explain my stance on Slipknot. I never really got into the whole "nu-metal" craze that was going on the late 90s and early 2000s. The only band from this particular sub-genre that I can say I was a fan of is Slipknot. They were the only group out of the whole movement that I think legitimately sounded like metal, rather than hip-hop with guitars *cough ¬*coughlimpbitzkitcough cough*. Save for a few exceptions, they stuck to the metal side rather than the rap metal going on around them. They didn't really disappoint me until their third album. The slow, acoustic songs had nothing special about them, and the heavier songs seemed like rehashes of past songs. Their fourth album, All Hope is Gone, was much better in my opinion, as it evolved past the typical "beat the living sh-t out of someone" lyrics and took a more political approach, while featuring better songwriting overall. With the tragic death of bassist Paul Gray in 2010, I had sort of a renewed interest in the band and where they were going. Overall, I'd say Slipknot is one of the better modern metal bands, although there are plenty that are much better.
With that said, let's get into Iowa, which is often proclaimed by fans as their best work. This album was put into production almost immediately after the the success of their first outing, and for the most part plays it safe, taking the hard hitting dense metal songs up a notch, and abandoning the more experimental elements that made the self-titled debut such a fresh listen.
The first track, 515, is made up of some screaming played backwards... and that's pretty much it. It feels more like an intro into the next song than an actual track. This was supposedly recorded when Sid Wilson, the bands DJ, learned that his grandfather was gravely ill. He went to visit him and his grandfather died a while later. Soon afterwards, he was recording something for the album and he just broke down crying and they kept the mic on during it. They reversed it and it ended up on the album.
The album really starts off with People = Sh-t. There's not a whole lot to say about this track, other than its a solid intro to the album.¬*
All nine band members get some good moments on this one, including a cool drum solo from Joey Jordison, some bizarre wind up noises from Sid Wilson that add to the build up of the great chorus, and some of Corey's angriest vocals ever.¬*There is one great moment I would like to point out however. There's a breakdown about halfway through the song, and the next minute is spent building up onto the chorus. It's a continuous build up, starting with a chugging riff from Mick Thomson, with some dense drumming coming next, followed by the aforementioned wind up noise from Sid. This all climaxes with a high pitched ear-splitting scream of "PEOPLE EQUALS SH-T!"¬*from Corey. This leads back into the final chorus. It's a great way to start things off.¬*
Next comes my personal favorite track, Disasterpiece. Just the title tells you that your in for some nutty fun stuff. The song is basically a huge thrash epic, with some great nihilistic lyrics towards the end.
Everything around me's mine!
Can't see through the sties in my eyes!
Scratching and clawing all the way!
You won't let me f---ing stay!
I'm not suppose to be here!
I'm not supposed to be!
It's just a great song, and probably my 2nd favorite Slipknot song ever.
My Plague is the most commercial sounding of the tracks and was the lead single. Its not very good though, as it tries to follow in the footsteps of their breakthrough hit, Wait and Bleed. It just falls on its face in the end, with a repetitive chorus and pretty ridiculous angsty lyrics.
The only thing you'll ever know about me is...
Thats all you'll ever know!
Really? Is that the best they could ¬*come up with?
Next comes Everything Ends. This is stands out as Slipknot's only emo song they've really ever recorded. The lyrics, apparently about some guy cutting himself because of a breakup, are your typical whiny sob story stuff, but Corey spits them out with enough venom to make it sound genuine. Anyways, this was made before it was a trend to have type of this stuff clog the lyrics, so I'll let this one slip. Besides that, there are some great riffs and has a lot of energy to it, and it kicks the album back into gear after the mediocre My Plague.
Despite the somewhat misleading lyrics that some may take as an anti-religion statement, The Heretic Anthem is basically Slipknot's big "F--K YOU" to the music industry, describing how they want to go against all the standards set by pop music. Slipknot has always been good at making extremely catchy choruses that you can't get out of your head, and this is no exception.¬*
If your 555
Then I'm 666!
What's it like to be a heretic?!
A great call to arms type song that exemplifies pretty much every metal fan's view on music.
Gently comes next. This track was actually featured on their Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. Demo (yes it was a demo, not an album, the band members have said so themselves). You wouldn't be able to tell however because the 2 songs are completely different. Whereas the original started off with an acoustic verse and got heavier as it went on, similar to the ballads of Metallica, this has a much more abstract sound to it, similar to the song Prosthetics, although a bit more melodic. The only thing that was kept completely were the lyrics, which are pretty much the same as the original, and the main chord progression is the same as well.
Left Behind is the second big single from this record and ,thankfully, it fares much better than the first. One cool thing is that Corey changes from growling to singing rather abruptly. I don't mean that he growls the verses and sings the chorus; he literally constantly switches in mid-sentence between the two. This is also the only track where we get significant backing vocals from Chris Fehn and Shawn Crahan. However, this song suffers from the dreaded breakdown. There have even a few others on the record, but it those cases it fit pretty well, and we're relatively short. In this track it really messes up the pacing of the song and seems rather pointless.
The Shape is definitely the most overlooked ¬*song on the album and is almost never mentioned, which is a shame, because it has some unique moments. The lyrics are about a serial killer and what must be going through his head as he kills. It could be about Michael Myers since Corey Taylor has said that the first Halloween movie is one of his most vivid memories. Combine this with the serial killer lyrics and the fact that Michael Myers was actually called The Shape in the first movie, although I can't be sure about it.
I Am Hated. The title says it all. A really angsty song with not much to it. This is an example of what I call the late album slump, where songs start to blur together in a whirlwind of mediocrity. This album would be so much better if it had about 3 songs cut from it.
Skin Ticket... such a cool title right? This song has more of the abstract aspect of songs like Scissors or Tattered and Torn, albeit with an actual rhythm. Don't even bother trying to figure the lyrics out. They really don't make any sense.
Zero and zero is nothing but zero.
Cancer and people conspire together
Running and running and going forever
Collected and sampled and starving for zero.
I keep feeling the urge to shout "ZERO THE HERO!" during this song.
I'm going to group the next 2 songs, New Abortion and Metabolic together, since they serve as nothing but filler and are really tedious. Nothing is in here that you can't find in better tracks.
Clocking in at a whopping 15 minutes, the title track is the finale to this crazy package of metal tomfoolery. This song is hard to describe. It starts off with some ambient noises, following by some echoey drumming. Then, a simple baseline kicks in. This continues on, building up an atmosphere and a tension that one would feel while being stalked by cannibal rednecks in a swamp somewhere in Louisiana. That's the type of feeling this song gives off. Then, we get a cool guitar riff, followed by some really unnerving lyrics, sung in a very unstable sounding voice by Corey.
You belong to me
I fill your mouth with dirt
You can never leave
I take your second digit with me.
The song proceeds to fall apart into some crazy guitar noise and some of the most uncomfortable screaming you will ever hear. When Corey was recording the vocals for this song, he went into the booth naked, cutting himself with a piece of broken glass an forcing himself to vomit, according to the other members of the band. Overall, this is a really tense song and really makes you feel uncomfortable listening to it. I remember waking up from a really bad nightmare once, and I got up and sat in my chair and started to listen to music on my iPod. This song came on just as I was drifting off, and I fell asleep with it on. I woke up about 12 minutes later just as the song was ending. I was dripping with sweat and my heart was racing but I couldn't remember why. That is why this song really creeps me out to this day.
Overall, this album is pretty good, but doesn't hold a candle to their self titled album. I might have had a more positive reaction if the album hadn't become so boring towards the end, and if the lead single didn't suck do bad. In conclusion, if you really want to listen to Slipknot's whole discography, give the whole record a listen, but if you just want to get a taste of what Slipknot sounds like before you dive into their work, take your pick out of the first 8 tracks.
People = Sh-t
The Heretic Anthem