So here’s a blast from the past. It’s been at least six or seven years since I stopped listening to Slipknot, my former favourite band. Basically, I grew out of that phase of my life, and inevitably I moved on in my listening tastes. So this review will be filled with nostalgia. Indeed, it won’t be so much a review as a misty-eyed look back on my wasted youth (as opposed to my ongoing wasted adulthood).
The first thing I notice when listening is that I actually really admire the production job done on this. When I was much younger, it was the aggression, the gutwrenching agony and rage that drew me in. I later dismissed my surprise at this aspect as lack of exposure to metal, but now that I’m looking back with learned ears, this shit really is ANGRY. This is some of the angriest music in the world. Corey Taylor’s unique vocals scream and rip through every track with unmatched vitriol and slips from growls to howls with aplomb. It’s more dynamic than most nu-metal vocalists, and most metal vocalists for that matter.
Perhaps it was overexposure to this album (constant listening for nearly two years) that burned these onto my subconscious forevermore, but I am finding these songs extremely catchy and I find myself anticipating what’s coming next – I even remember some of these lyrics. The common complaint thrown at me in my hoody-wearing days was “It’s just shouting, you can’t even tell what he’s singing!” – well quite frankly, I can make out every single word, and even if I couldn’t, you still have the effect of the vocals. Like I said then, if you don’t get it, you don’t get it. And considering how mainstream this band is, clearly it’s not that hard to “get”.
You have the angsty chugging stereo nu-metal rhythm guitars growling along with the driving, tribal drumbeat tossing and turning beats within beats. It’s not complex stuff by any means, but it’s effective. Samples and weird noises and effects drop in from time to time to keep things fresh. Some tracks, like Spit It Out featuring some rap-styled vocals, which I find a little less effective now, but hey – it’s all in the name of fun, gus. I spotted a few breakbeats thrown in here and there (Eyeless opens with the Amen Break for fuck’s sake).
I have extremely vivid memories of listening to this album in my Grandparents’ house in Ireland in the dark (and in the car at night driving to other relatives’ houses) and I recall from that time that the album seemed to be split into several stylistic sections. The first part, through Spit it Out is fairly straight nu-metal. Then from the middle on the album introduces some weirder, more atmospheric tracks. Songs get slower, darker, doomier, more melodic. Prosthetics is one of the highlights of this.
I should mention the lyrics, because at the tender age of 13 or 14, this stuff was mind-blowing. It’s hard for me to judge their worth now because they were tainted with the intense sense of meaning everything has when you are that age. Diluted was one that particularly struck a chord in me.
I keep my scars from prying eyes
Incapable of ever knowing why
Somebody breathe, I’ve got to have an answer
Why am I so fascinated by
Bigger pictures, better things
But I don’t care what you think
You’ll never understand me
That song kind of summed me up then, and I guess it kind of sums me up now in an odd and slightly worrying way. Slipknot was music tailor-made for misanthropic kids like me, hence the connection I felt with this band. The aggression, the energy, the lyrics, the kind of painful self-expression. It connected with me like no other music at the time, and I will always carry that connection with me for better or worse. Even if I moved on after Iowa, this album will always have a special place in my heart because it was the first album that spoke to the person that I was, rather than the person everyone else was.
I guess I should comment on the whole image thing too. Visually, the band always appealed to me. The mask/jumpsuit gimmick not only looked cool, but it meshed so perfectly with the music that the band always seemed more like a single strange nine-headed monster than nine individual entities. Plus, I’ve always had a thing for masks and costumes. Of course I was a proper card-waring Slipknot fan with several of my own self-customised masks. It always seemed to me that the mask was a proper form of self-expression, rather than the wearing of fashionable trends in a vaguely unique individual combination – the mask started as a blank slate, a few bolts here, a padlock there, a zipper for a mouth, some paint… It symbolised the anger and the pain, in an adolescent way. But it was a thing, you put it on and you took it off and the anger and the pain went with it. Or so it seemed.
For those of you who know PMT, you’ll see my passion for the mask has continued. Sure it’s a gimmick, but so what? I don’t see why having a strong visual component is such a bad thing. The mere act of getting up on stage is inherently bizarre and all these big millionaire bands who try and act like they’re just one of you in their jeans and t-shirts are themeselves creating an illusion. I’d rather some effort went into the visuals rather than a big effort not to make an effort. A more recent love of mine, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum are an example of an even more theatrically minded band.
So, after rambling on for a while, I’d like to say that on reflection, I quite enjoyed listeing to this Slipknot album for the first time in four or five years. It is what it is, even though I have moved on to new pastures. As for the new album, I think I’ll give it a miss.