Review Summary: An impressive debut marred by a string of flaws common among much of the nu-metal movement, this stands as many people's gate way into heavy music
After a near complete change in style from their demo album the rising underground band Slipknot released their first official album in 1999. The music scene was flooded by an influx of unoriginal rip-offs of nu-metal bands such as Korn and Deftones in the hope of releasing their own rendition of either White Pony or Korn' debut. The turn of the century was but half a year ago when the nine psychotic individuals from Iowa put out their self-titled album. This was a breath of fresh air to a generation of metal-heads that were growing weary of the same self-indulged bands time and time again.
Slipknot's debut marked a change in the winds for many who enjoyed nu-metal music. It had very strong influenced from that particular genre whilst relying heavily on rapping during the verses. The band attempted to refrain from using this as a mere gimmick by forcing it upon the listener on half of the songs on the album. Mixed in with this was a collection of angry, borderline immature lyrics and the simplistic, heavily down-tuned riffing Korn had introduced to many. Their sound was so strikingly different to what many percieved nu-metal to be about that the band went on to pave the way for bands such as Papa Roach and the 2000 studio debut from Disturbed.
The black and white Parental Advisory sticker occupying the bottom corner of the album cover for Slipknot's debut is a good inclination as to the sound the band achieved. This is a dark and family unfriendly release that is both vulgar and as violent as it gets. The music to this is aggressive and fast and the vocals chaotic. After a brief introduction to the album the band gallops forth and takes no prisoners fuelled primarily by the schizophrenic drumming from Joey Jordison. The instrumental work for this album is dominated by the double-bass work and snare abuse that Joey subjects the listeners to; so much so that guitarist Mick Thompson takes the back seat. That being said, the guitar makes for a solid back drop although it eventually grows repetitive due to the heavy usage of open strings and the first five frets, mainly on the top string.
The vocals are often debated both by fans of the band and by the people who love to hate them. Corey Taylor's charismatic presence on this album revolves around his incessant use of open-throat screams on songs such as the band's hit single Wait And Bleed. His rapping is not the strongest but doesn't clash with the music in the way that bands such as Papa Roach made popular. The clean singing on this album is not as prominent as it would be on later releases but it used occasionally but these moments are sadly the weakest vocal snippets of their respective songs. One good example would be on the song Surfacing. Corey does not particularly sing the verse to this song but adjusts his vocals in a manner that one would link with melodic singing but the notes he his hitting feel off-kilter with the musicianship and clash with the screamed chorus.
Lyrically this album really can't be praised as it takes immaturity and amplifies it ten fold. These albums literally feel like spasticated bursts of pointless rage that brings up the question of what Corey was smoking whilst writing the lyrics. Spit It Out would be a good example as would Surfacing. Both have heavy reliances on the use of the profanity as the bridge to Spit It Out shows off with the repeated refrain of "F*ck me, I'm all out of enemies". Nearly every song on this album has a rather colorful display of the English language and nearly every curse word imaginable is found multiple times. This is one aspect of the band's sound that can not be phased out due to how much the cursing stands out and is a huge negative point.
The band makes good use of some innovative features of their music that best come to light on the monster closing track. Scissors clocks in well over the eight minute mark and really gets under your skin. It makes good use of sampling and DJ work before the rumbling bass signals the beginning of the vocal passage. The lyrics appear to be about some twisted manner of self-mutilation and are sung almost calmly by Corey to begin with. As the song progresses the music really picks up and with it the vocals shift into some throat ripping screaming leading to a thrilling conclusion-some of which was improvised. This song is twisted and also very atmospheric with the constant changes in levels of aggression and also the brief break where Corey sings with no instrumental accompaniment "Biding my time until the time is right".
Slipknot's debut is a highly influential and focused release that is held back by the fact that it is too immature to take seriously occasionally. The pressure was off for the band on their debut and whatever the listener's pre-conceptions of them, this album shows off everything their early works embody. Nowhere on Slipknot is there a filler track in sight as was the main problem with their most recent album and every song feels honed and unrestrained.