Review Summary: Listenable but nothing special, Slipknot's sophomore album has a punch to it but not a strong enough one
Following the release of their accomplished but flawed debut, Slipknot strived to take their music into darker waters. Iowa was to be the outlet for all the rage they had not used on their first album. It is faster and heavier with much more depressing undertones to it but unfortunately has a lot less substance to it. Iowa is the album that divides the fan base of the band the most. Many proclaim it to be their finest; others consider it to be joint worst with their most recent album.
The fourteen songs on this release are much more horrifying lyrically but this is also the albums main down fall. "People = Sh*t" is the largest offender due to its heavy reliance on swearing. The lyrics to their debut were somewhat amusing for the most part but on here they just come off feeling pathetic and unnecessary. "I see my future, my future is bleeding" and "You are wrong, F*cked and overrated, I think I'm going to be sick and it's your fault" are some of the most arrogant lines on the album and feel as though Corey literally was just ranting about nothing at all.
The best thing about the album is the fact that it feels completely genuine. This is what makes it tolerable even to this day. The opening song "(515)" is one of the darkest tracks from the album due to the story behind it. This song at face value sounds like any old introductory track such as the one that opens up their debut. The random screams that are heard come from Shawn Crahan, one of the band's custom percussionists, and was recorded at the time he found out about the death of his grand father. This was the best manner to open up the dark album that would follow and is the best of the introductory track they have done so far.
The instrumental work is slightly more technical this time around although is still very simplistic. The band makes heavier use of tremolo picking on "Disasterpiece" and the guitar work is a lot faster so as to make for a darker feel. Metabolic feels very intense and "People = Sh*t" stands as the band's most aggressive song to date. The guitar work has been taken up a notch with the introduction of a few pinched harmonics and the drumming is still the same schizophrenic, lightning fast style found on their first album. The bass is completely inaudible here unlike on their debut aside from on the overly long title track. This song is also the worst song the band has ever done due to the repetitive nature and the fact it lasts far too long.
The vocals are less angry this time although the main focus is still on the screaming. I Am Hated and one or two other songs make use of rapping again but this time there is a higher proportion of clean singing. Left Behind is the strongest song on the album and Corey pours his heart into it with the clean singing and rage-filled screams. His low screams are very good and his cleans are greatly improved from their debut and carry a lot of melody to them. Left Behind carries the best of both worlds and also has a very tight instrumental performance to it.
Iowa was not a particularly solid album but is still listenable due to the fact the instrumentals are at least tight enough. It is not mindless noise unlike that found in many modern albums but nor is it particularly strong. Left Behind and Disasterpiece are great songs but this is an album that is held back by the length of some of the songs, particularly the title track. The lyrics are among the worst I have ever heard, arguably rivaling Korn's more recent albums.