Review Summary: Iowa feels like Final Destination 3 trying to pass itself off as Hostel.
After Slipknot’s debut in 1999, other nu-metal bands, such as Mudvayne and Disturbed, would use Slipknot’s success as a stepping stone into the mainstream. Two years later, Slipknot would release their sophomore (or junior, if you count Mate.Feed.Kill.Repeat.), effort, Iowa, a homage to its home state.
After listening to Iowa and the self titled album, there are few changes in Slipknot’s formula. It’s obvious that Slipknot was shooting for a heavier sound, and Slipknot manages to succeed: the percussion is being used more frequently, the riffs are heavier than ever, and even the bass manages to make its presence known. However, this time in Iowa, turntables are utilized rarely. This is the same case with the samples. Jordisson’s drumming is still solid, yet still lacking creativity. This is only a small distraction though, nothing that should cause major concern with the listener. Corey Taylor’s vocal is now primarily screaming, rarely snatching away a few seconds to add melody to Slipknot’s sound in Iowa. Taylor’s lyrics are nothing special in Iowa either. No, the lyrics weren’t written badly, rather, it’s the song topic that is poorly chosen.
Iowa’s formula is similar to the self titled’s formula, resulting in Iowa being easier for the listeners alike to consume Iowa. Like the self titled album, there is an intro that lasts for less than a minute, this being (515). Unlike 742617000027, however, (515) is 50 seconds of random noises and screaming. Self titled closer Iowa is similar to Scissors, however, Iowa smashes Scissors. While Scissors may be eight minutes of nothing but sheer chaos, Iowa tops that. Take the chaos in Scissors, double it, and you will have Iowa. Iowa is fifteen minutes of nothing but pure insanity. I don’t know what it is about Slipknot, but Slipknot knows how to close an album. I can go on and on with these comparisons to the original album, but I’ll save you a little time.
The strongest song on Iowa without a doubt goes to My Plague. With the perfect balance of screaming with added melodic structure from Corey Taylor, and lessened heaviness from Mick to allow the rest of the band to come into form, My Plague is not only well crafted, but it results in being the strongest piece of work Iowa has to offer. Left Behind is just as well crafted as My Plague in terms of musicianship, but unlike My Plague, Left Behind leaves a feeling of awkwardness in Corey Taylor, maybe due to the fact that he might have went a little too heavy on the singing. The Shape is a close second with My Plague for strongest song, showing a good balance between screaming and singing and even adding some technicality with the quiet lead guitar fills in the background, however, it’s not as carefully constructed as My Plague.
Yet, while Iowa does have its highlights and improvements, there are many flaws and downsides. When taking close listen to People=*** and comparing the riffing from that to the majority of Iowa, nothing much is original about the riffing. You can take one riff and play it any way you want, but if you take that same riff, but play it differently, you’re still reusing a riff that you’ve already played. Examples that follow the People=*** method in terms of riffing include Disasterpiece, Everything Ends, and I Am Hated.
Most of Iowa flows in a wicked, depressive, misanthropic manner, which the band tries too hard to sell. While most nu-metal fans will worship Slipknot for songs like The Heretic Anthem, others will scoff at Slipknot for trying so hard to sell a song, especially with such clichéd lyrics like “If you’re 555 then I’m 666, what’s it like to be a Heretic"” From start to finish, Iowa feels like Final Destination 3 trying to pass itself off as Hostel. Iowa is like a predictable horror movie that everyone in the world has already seen. You’ve already seen all the tricks, and you know what’s coming next. In terms of what drives Iowa’s core and what the main focus on nearly every song is, it’s easily predictable when Everything Ends clocks in.
Sometimes Iowa drags out longer than it needs to go. Skin Ticket lasts for six minutes, when it could last for three. Nonetheless, Skin Ticket can be overlooked. Joey’s drumming and Corey’s vocal works together well to give Skin Ticket a life raft. Disasterpiece, however, drags out too much. The instrumentation is varied in terms of riffing, switching out riffs in the intro, but Slipknot does nothing to make this interesting. Slipknot tries hard to sound interesting, but instead, this sounds dull.
Furthermore, the old formula from the self titled album is evident. Sure, it’s easier to digest and take in, but the problem lies within the inability to experiment and attempt new things that people wouldn’t take you seriously for. Slipknot makes few attempts at experimenting with new styles. Iowa’s overall sound can be considered as experimentation. Other than this, Slipknot doesn’t try to experiment with new things.
Iowa is a very confusing release for me to rate and take seriously. There may have been a sign of maturity with My Plague, Left Behind, and The Shape, but Iowa tries too hard to be something that it’s not. Iowa also feels like a reissue of Slipknot’s self titled album. The majority of the riffing on Iowa recycles the People=*** method, and some songs just drag out. The first half of the album seems to be the lackluster half; it isn’t until after The Heretic Anthem that things get rolling on Iowa, but even in the second half, after The Shape, Slipknot doesn’t pick it up until Iowa, and by then it’s too late to save the album.