Slipknot Are Actually Very Good???
If you've been paying even a little attention to heavy music over the past few years, you've probably noticed that nu metal is coming back. Deftones and System Of A Down are basically canon at this point; Korn have been re-evaluated so many times that it's almost hard to remember a time when they were considered uncool; websites from LA Weekly to Revolver to Vinyl Me Please have published best-of lists for nu metal; nu metal was represented on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time list in 2017; and that's just the tip of the iceberg. A big reason it’s happening is because, though nu metal was often considered "uncool" by tastemakers at the time (possibly related to a perception of who the fans were more than to the music itself), it became became a formative influence for tons of musicians who were much younger than those tastemakers, and who are now tastemakers of their own or forming bands who are considered "cool." One of the biggest nu metal influences on hyped and respected new artists, from hardcore to hip hop and beyond, is Slipknot.
Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor guested on a song by modern-day hardcore leaders Code Orange, Slipknot have been called a formative influence by current hardcore greats Knocked Loose (who Corey Taylor also loves in return), they were namedropped in several reviews of the awesome and widely acclaimed Vein and Harms Way albums last year, and they've surely influenced tons of other great hardcore and metal bands too. They've also been sampled by rap duo Ho99o9 (who Corey Taylor loved in return and who are touring with Korn this year), they've been covered by rap duo City Morgue, and rapper Ghostemane has shown his love for Slipknot too, and all of those rappers' rising careers have been met with acclaim. No matter what you thought of Slipknot 15 or 20 years ago, there's no denying that their impact looms large over some of the most widely respected aggressive music today.
I personally shrugged off Slipknot (and most other nu metal bands) when they were at their peak, so this article is not an exercise in nostalgia for me, or a look-back on a band I "grew out of," or anything like that. When Slipknot was dominating rock radio and MTV, I just assumed it wasn't really my thing; I never gave them a fair chance at the time. But I like this new crop of hardcore bands they influenced, and I always want to listen to my favorite bands' and critics' favorite bands, so I've finally been giving Slipknot the chance they've always deserved. And I finally realize that Slipknot are actually very good!
If you're already a lifelong Slipknot fan, you're probably rolling your eyes at me, and that's fine, I deserve that. (And if you're one of those super cool tastemakers and you're rolling your eyes at me because you were right all along and Slipknot still suck, sorry grandpa!) But if, like me, you like heavy music but wrote Slipknot as off as just another nu metal band at the time, you might wanna rethink your stance on Iowa's most popular mask-wearing band to ever have a member named Clown. Over time, it's become clear that they were (and still are) a unique, trailblazing band, and one that would appeal to several factions of heavy music fans. Like Deftones and System of a Down, they're one of the best nu metal bands because they don't fit neatly into the genre at all. Their music veers into all kinds of different territories, from punk to industrial to psychedelia, and fans of any of those styles of music should give Slipknot a chance if they haven't already. And there's no better time than the present to do that, because 2019 is shaping up to be a major comeback year for Slipknot. They're celebrating two major anniversaries this year: their career-making self-titled debut turns 20 in June, and their best album (Vol. 3: [The Subliminal Verses]) turns 15 in May. Their first album in five years will be out this August, and going by lead single "All Out Life," this album might be genuinely good (and it's already gotten hype from non-usual suspects like Vulture and The FADER). It's not uncommon for a band to get re-evaluated long after they've stopped making great music, but Slipknot never really did stop. Even if their last true classic is 15 years old, followup albums All Hope Is Gone (2008) and .5 The Gray Chapter (2014) proved Slipknot were in it for the long haul, capable of making worthy albums despite lineup changes, the death of their founding bassist, a frontman with many other projects, and the waning popularity of their genre. And "All Out Life" suggests they could have yet another very major album on their hands. It sounds like it could've fit on Vol. 3, and it would sound pretty great on a playlist next to Code Orange, Knocked Loose, Harms Way, and Vein (or similar bands like Jesus Piece and Turnstile) too. On top of all that, Slipknot are embarking on a lengthy tour this year, and the openers are two of the most respected metal bands of the past two decades or so: Behemoth and Gojira (And in 2016 they toured with modern metal's most critically adored band of all, Deafheaven.) It makes sense that Slipknot are associated with those bands in 2019, and not, say, Limp Bizkit or Kid Rock.
If you ever did associate Slipknot with a band like Limp Bizkit, maybe you never heard their soon-to-turn-20 debut. It makes sense that current hardcore bands consider this album a gateway, as Slipknot were sort of a hardcore band on this album. The production is raw (at least compared to what they'd do next), the songs bulldoze by at full speed, and Corey Taylor's scream is pretty punk. And while a lot of nu metal bands would veer towards Creed-like howling on their clean-vocal songs, Slipknot never did that. The clean-vocal hook of "Wait and Bleed" is way closer to the post-hardcore type stuff that has aged way better than most post-grunge and nu metal. It's the same type of clean singing that bands like Vein embrace today. Speaking of, is there really much of a difference between the opening to Vein's album and Slipknot's "Eyeless"?
Slipknot was followed by 2001's Iowa, which made Slipknot even more popular and I've heard a lot of millennial-age people say they got into the band with this album. It's a little more polished than its predecessor, arguably even heavier, and it has a song called "People = Shit," so, that's always fun. It's probably fair to call this one a classic too, but in hindsight, it's sort of more the bridge between their raw, aspirant debut and their masterpiece, Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses). Vol. 3 is home to what is still Slipknot's biggest hit, "Duality," which injected Slipknot's weirdo, angry, percussion-heavy metal with a dose of genuine pop appeal. It's sort of their "Freak On A Leash," and like that song, it's almost crazy to think "Duality" was ever as popular as it was. Today's rock charts are dominated by safe, inoffensive, middle-of-the-road, engineered-to-impress-Spotify's-algorithm songs like Panic! at the Disco's "High Hopes." In one of the weirdest turn of events in rock history, the youth music has somehow gotten less abrasive, and it can really make you appreciate the time when "Duality" was constantly on MTV. "Duality" is the easiest entry point into Slipknot's career for the average person, but it's just a small taste of what Vol. 3 has to offer. Slipknot's production was way more pristine on this album (after two albums with go-to nu metal producer Ross Robinson, they went with Rick Rubin for this one), but that didn't stop songs like "The Blister Exists" and "Opium of the People" from being nearly as brutal as the songs on their first two albums. They also had another fine pop moment with "Before I Forget," which was almost as big and almost as catchy as "Duality."
Slipknot started to show off a real psychedelic side with Vol. 3 as well. If you prefer the trippy alternative metal of Tool to most popular nu metal, or if your taste leans towards psychedelic music in general, this is probably the Slipknot album you'd like most. They flex their psychedelic muscles on the opening and closing tracks, on "Vermillion" (parts 1 & 2), and on parts of other songs, but it comes across most strongly on "Circle." Slipknot have ballads on other albums, but none like "Circle," a dose of trippy chamber pop that's closer to Pink Floyd than to "People = Shit." It's the kind of deep cut that proves Slipknot are one of those super-popular bands who have more to offer than what they present on the surface. This creepy-looking, mask-wearing, Iowa-hailing band is truly a book you can't judge by its cover.
Slipknot's aforementioned tour includes NYC-area shows at Jones Beach Theater on 8/28 and PNC Bank Arts Center on 8/30 (tickets). Tickets for select dates on the tour can be purchased using Live Nation's Ticket To Rock promo, which also works for select dates on the Korn / Alice In Chains / Underoath / Ho99o9 tour and the Slayer / Lamb of God / Amon Amarth / Cannibal Corpse tour.
Slipknot -- 2019 Tour Dates
Fri Jul 26 – Mountain View, CA – Shoreline Amphitheatre
Sat Jul 27 – San Bernardino, CA – San Manuel Amphitheater
Thu Aug 1 – Salt Lake City, UT – USANA Amphitheatre
Sat Aug 3 – Albuquerque, NM – Isleta Amphitheater
Sun Aug 4 – Phoenix, AZ – Ak-Chin Pavilion
Tue Aug 6 – Denver, CO – Pepsi Center
Thu Aug 8 – Lincoln, NE – Pinnacle Bank Arena
Sat Aug 10 – Des Moines, IA – Iowa State Fairgrounds*
Sun Aug 11 – Tinley Park, IL – Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Mon Aug 12 – Clarkston, MI – DTE Energy Music Theatre
Wed Aug 14 – Virginia Beach, VA – Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater
Fri Aug 16 – Noblesville, IN – Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center
Sat Aug 17 – Bonner Springs, KS – Providence Medical Center Amphitheater
Sun Aug 18 – Maryland Heights, MO – Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Tue Aug 20 – Toronto, ON – Budweiser Stage
Wed Aug 21 – Saratoga Springs, NY – Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Fri Aug 23 – Burgettstown, PA – KeyBank Pavilion
Sat Aug 24 – Scranton, PA – The Pavilion at Montage Mountain
Sun Aug 25 – Darien Center, NY – Darien Lake Amphitheater
Tue Aug 27 – Mansfield, MA – The Xfinity Center
Wed Aug 28 – Wantagh, NY – Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater
Fri Aug 30 – Holmdel, NJ – PNC Bank Arts Center
Sat Aug 31 – Camden, NJ – BB&T Pavilion
Sun Sep 1 – Bristow, VA – Jiffy Lube Live
Tue Sep 3 – Alpharetta, GA – Ameris Bank Amphitheatre
Wed Sep 4 – Tampa, FL – MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre
Fri Sep 6 – Austin, TX – Austin360 Amphitheater at Circuit of The Americas
Sat Sep 7 – Dallas, TX – Dos Equis Pavilion
Sun Sep 8 – The Woodlands, TX – The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion presented by Huntsman
all dates with Volbeat, Gojira and Behemoth unless otherwise noted
*Iowa State Fair – Slipknot & Gojira only