Monday, 4 March 2019

Slipknot (1999)

Today I thought I'd try something different since I'm still mulling over a couple of recent releases as I think I need more time with them before I start giving my opinion on them. Recently, Slipknot announced a massive American tour (please come to the UK) even being joined with the likes of Volbeat, Gojira and the mighty Behemoth. Not only that, but they've finally given a scheduled release date of their highly anticipated 6th album which is now set to explode onto the scene on August 9th this year and I cannot wait.

I'm so excited about this that I plan on revisiting all five of the Knot's previous releases in celebration of this wonderful news, starting with this little release you may have heard of. As well as this being the year of a new Slipknot album this is also the year that they are headlining the Download festival in Donington and I'll get to see them live for the first time. Not only that, but June this year marks the 20th anniversary of this release which is mental to think about.

As far as the band goes I've been a big fan of theirs since high school after my first time listening to Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses) and have listened to them ever since. They seem to get trashed on by metal 'purists' but you can't deny their genuinely good songwriting and overall creativity. There's a reason why they're still massive today.

A little background on the album. It was released on June 29th 1999 by Roadrunner Records and of course was a huge hit and made the band instant stars on the metal scene. Of course it wouldn't be Slipknot without a little controversy but we'll get to that as I go through the whole album. After a re-release following a lawsuit to remove the song 'Purity' from the record, it ended up going double platinum in the US and is still the bands best selling album today. But how does it hold up almost 20 years later? Let's take a look.

For context, I'll be looking at the 10th Anniversary version of the album on Spotify up to the song 'Eeyore' as I believe this is how the original album was meant to be heard (even without Frail Limb Nursery) and every song after this just sounds like a B-Side bonus, so sorry fans of 'Me Inside', that won't be mentioned here.

The intro track is '742617000027' and is 36 seconds of a screeching DJ track with the words "The whole thing, I think it's sick", preparing you for what's to come and what I think a lot of teenagers parents were thinking of the album at the time.

Right after this intro we explode right into '(sic)' and what might just be Slipknot's greatest moment so I can't think of a better way to start things. This is a song I've been able to listen to over and over again for years without becoming tired of it and it still holds up as an absolute adrenaline pumping anthem of a song that makes me want to start a one-man mosh pit in my bedroom. This is where the Maggots are born and try singing "You can't kill me cos I'm already inside you" without growling your vocal chords out of existence. I dare you. Here comes the pain!

You'd think the momentum would stop here but Slipknot had other plans with 'Eyeless'. Starting with a high pitched guitar riff and Corey Taylor letting you know that he's not fucking around, this is another win. Slipknot has always been against the fakeness in the world with an example being Hollywood, and this appears here with the chorus line "You can't see California without Marlon Brando's eyes". And how about that screaming of "Motherfucker" at the end? I'd swear someone was being murdered inside my speakers. Another fast and furious track that's an album highlight.

Things slow down a bit with "Wait and Bleed" but that is by no means a bad thing as this another one of Slipknot's best ever songs and is the first one to really let us hear Corey's fantastic clean vocals that he would utilise more on later releases. According to the band, this song is about a man who has constant dreams of suicide by slitting his wrists. One day he does it and it's not a dream. He tries to fall back asleep but it turns out that this is the end for him. Dark stuff and yet somehow not the darkest this album would get. The song was also nominated for a Grammy and for good reason. This song, while short, is fantastic while it lasts and is probably the closest this album comes to a mainstream song and yet still manages to keep it's edge all the way through.

Any thoughts you might have had about the band going a little more clean are absolutely vanquished by 'Surfacing'. This is a live favourite of the band and is usually used to close their sets and for good reason. With their entire discography this might be the most vicious, brutal and bombastic song the band has every recorded and I love every second of it. It takes me back to my days of teenage angst and is still good for getting out any frustrations with our cesspool of a society.

Fuck it all, fuck this world!
Fuck everything that you stand for!
Don't belong, Don't exist,
Don't give a shit, don't ever judge me!

Just wonderful. The band likes to announce this as 'your new national anthem' and I would be happy to sing along with my hand on heart and a tear in my eye. Another highlight in an album full of them.

If you needed a bit of a breather after that, you're in for a bit of hard luck as 'Spit It Out' is up next. This is another setlist favourite and is famous for having the band have an entire audience get down on the ground only to jump back up and cause chaos as the drop hits. Not gonna lie, I cannot wait to experience this in June. This is a nu-metal gem complete with rapping verses that I do wish the band would bring back at some point and a catchy as hell chorus that was designed for stadium play. We're five songs in and already have five classics. This is mental!

And along comes 'Tattered and Torn' to ruin the hot streak. It does have it's moments like Sid Wilson getting a chance to shine on the turntable but it's just not a very pleasant song to listen to. It feels like the band phoned it in here to give us something a bit more experimental that doesn't really work after the last five songs and kind of drains the adrenaline away. This isn't one I go back to listen to when I put the album on and is completely skippable.

Thankfully we're brought back to the light (poor choice of words for this track) with 'Purity'. So this song is involved with the controversy I mentioned earlier. The song was inspired by a story about a girl called Purity Knight who was kidnapped and buried alive. The band thought the story was real but it turns out it was a work of fiction and so the original writer threatened to sue the band and the song was removed from the album. Thankfully it has been allowed to be released onto newer editions of the album because this song is great. It's one of the slower ones on the album but ends up being one of the band's darkest songs due to it's subject matter and the fact that we're put in this girl's shoes while she's trapped in a coffin and can't breathe. It's almost claustrophobic and I'm surprised that the chorus is as catchy as it is. Another gem in the band's catalogue and one that wouldn't be out of place on 'Iowa'. Check it out if you haven't heard it before.

Next up we have 'Liberate' and once again it's another live favourite for the band as I'm guessing having an arena full of people screaming "Liberate my madness!" is as fun as it sounds. It also helps that the verses are bouncy as hell and perfect for a good bit of headbanging or jumping. Mosh pits were made for songs like this.

Following this we have 'Prosthetics' and this another slower one, though not as fascinating or as engaging as the likes of 'Purity' and only really succeeds in draining the adrenaline from the room once again. The song is based on the 1965 movie The Collector which is about a man that collects butterflies as well as humans. More nightmares! Yay! I'm not a big fan of this song which is strange since the subject matter is a serial killer which is right down my alley, but it just doesn't resonate with me. It's too long, the chorus is pretty bland and it only really kicks into gear in the last minute when it speeds way the hell up and makes it sound like we're in the psyche of a psycho. Not the worst song on the album but nowhere near the best.

Next is 'No Life' which I do enjoy but it can't help but feel a little generic compared to the rest of the album and comes across more like a lovechild of 'Spit It Out' and 'Liberate' with a rapping verse and screaming chorus. I won't lie though, that chorus is fun to sing along to. I'll give this one a pass since it's an easy listen, it's just I don't have much to say about it.

Next up is 'Diluted' and this one continues the trending topic of self hatred on the album that made this album so popular to us angsty teens back in the day. It still holds up as a good track with some great songwriting as the person in the song has given up on their disappointing heroes and all the phonies of society. Some fast-paced nu-metal and a banging chorus gives this one a thumbs up from me.

We're coming close to the end and the next track is 'Only One'. This one bucks the trend a bit as it has a fast, rapping verse and then a slower chorus which I'm pretty sure hasn't happened on the album yet. It feels like this one was designed for a live audience as I can imagine a few thousand people singing along to the chorus "Only one of us walks away!" and I'm kind of sad it's not gotten the setlist attention it deserves. It's also short enough not to overstay its welcome at all and comes across as another good track.

Now we have the track 'Scissors' which usually ends the album but with 'Eeyore' now being a separate track this isn't the case. Due to the latter being a secret track, the former would normally go for over 16 minutes, but now on it's own it's a doable 8:26. This is another slower track but for good reason as it explores the themes of self harm (try to think about the scissor sound effect without cringing) and drug abuse. Another dark moment for the band but one that is harder to revisit due to it's length and pace. Definitely not a bad song, but not as memorable as it maybe could have been. If it was shortened to the length of 'Purity' it definitely would have some major potential. I know there are fans of this song, but for me it's another skippable one.

Finally we have 'Eeyore' and is a short, frantic, secret track that the band still likes to play live from time to time. They really don't fuck around and go all in and almost go to the realms of death metal here. A fun track and a great note to end things on.

Overall this album is still a classic, and is still a favourite of mine. Sure it's not perfect with a couple of tracks bringing the tone way down and a couple of generic ones that aren't too memorable, but there is way, way, way more good than bad and so many songs that recommend listening to and songs that are still considered Slipknot and nu-metal classics. Check it out and be converted into a Maggot if you haven't already.

Tracks to download: (sic), Eyeless, Wait and Bleed, Surfacing, Spit It Out, Purity, Liberate, Eeyore

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