Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Back in the Day

20 Years Ago: SLIPKNOT Released Iowa. We Look Back.

Having built up a cult following on the back of their self-titled debut and a breakthrough showing on the Ozzfest tour, Slipknots sophomore album had a lot riding on it, both within and outside the band. Slipknot was Roadrunner’s first LP to be certified platinum in the USA, and their label was desperate for the band to replicate its success. It was also a chance for the nine-piece to stand up and drag the already aging nu-metal sound into the new millennium. Whilst the genre that dominated the metal airways worldwide for close to a decade was always drenched in angst and passion, the Des Moines group stood out by taking things further and heavier than any of their genre-mates. With expectations and pressure on the band at an all-time high, Slipknot entered LAs Sound City Studios at the start 2001 to create their second release, Iowa.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

After manning the boards for their first record, Ross Robinson continued his role as the band’s producer of choice, mostly based on his ability to push Slipknot to their breaking point to achieve their best performances. And that breaking point came frequently, with Iowa’s recording process was far from a cakewalk for the band and producer alike. Personal and professional tensions between the band members ran rampant, with musical fatigue, rock’n’roll excesses and almost insurmountable expectations all adding fuel to the fire. It was a dark and challenging time for all involved.

Robinson guided Slipknot on their first album to create tracks that were brutally simple and to the point, however on Iowa he and the group focused on pushing the boundaries. Their debut’s more simplistic nu-metal-styled sound was slowly phased out, with Iowa expanding the band’s palate into various directions. The new songs had become more technical, melodic, extreme, and experimental. The usage of samples and DJ scratching was drastically reduced, having already become somewhat contrived by the time 2001 rolled around, with the time-tested template of vocals, guitar, bass, and drums serving as the main foundation.

After the disturbing minute-long intro of “515” (central Iowa’s zip-code), the explosive opener “People = Shit” is an immediate and furious sign of the album to come. The blistering tempo hurtles straight from the gates, with the blastbeats and tremolo-picked guitars being lifted straight from the death metal playbook. Frontman Corey Taylor’s rapid-fire verses move into the simplistic, repeated chorus that was built for the live setting. Following track “Disasterpiece” keeps the momentum moving, with drummer Joey Jordison, and percussionists Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan and Christ Fehn's wall of drums pushing along the ugly yet grooving riffs. It also features some of Taylor’s most charming lyrics (“I wanna slit your throat and fuck the wound”), and is another number with its roots clearly deep in extreme metal, with the bridge being the only chance for listeners to catch their breath.

While the first two songs properly show the band getting heavier and more extreme, melodic passages and traditional choruses were also being fully explored. The Grammy-nominated “My Plague” and “Left Behind” both pack genuinely catchy hooks, without losing the trademark Slipknot fury. Taylor’s vocals are a highlight throughout, with his clean singing much stronger than ever before, whilst clearly channeling Mike Patton with his raw, manic delivery. “The Heretic Anthem” is another track that was built for the live setting, with its anthemic (pun intended) chorus making it a staple of their setlist for years to come. The powerful vocals, jackhammer instrumentals and ‘middle finger to world’ lyrics encapsulate everything that the band was about at this point of their career.

Iowa starts off so strong that one criticism that could be leveled is how top-heavy it is, with the first half being packed with some of the band’s biggest songs. That being said, some of the lesser aired tunes stand on their own as great deep cuts and fan favorites. The brooding, experimental “Gently” and “Skin Ticket” eschews the verse/chorus template with building tension and an overall claustrophobic feeling. Whereas “I Am Hated”, “New Abortion” and “Metabolic” are sub-four-minute slabs of straight-to-the-point brutality, with little to no subtly or melodic elements, and are instead driven by pure aggression and adrenaline.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

The late, great Joey Jordison further solidified his reputation as one of his generation's most influential drummers. No band as popular as Slipknot had incorporated blastbeats and lightning-quick double kicks and fills into their sound before. You’d be hard-pressed to find many metal drummers post 2000 who aren’t influenced in a way by Jordison’s incendiary playing. His ability as a songwriter shouldn't be understated as well, with himself and bassist Paul Gray penning a majority of the music on Iowa. Individual flair and color was then added to the songs during the production stages, with new member Jim Root adding his own influence on the guitar side of things, whilst also managing to keep pace with longtime guitarist Mick Thompson.

Iowa’s enormous closing eponymous track is drawn out 15-minute epic. DJ Sid Wilson and sampler Craig Jones deliver layers of uncomfortable audio and effects, whilst the crawling bass-lines and loose drumming carries the song through a good chunk of it’s lengthy run time. Taylor’s tortured wailing and whispering take centerstage, with massive droning guitars punctuating the mood here and there. It’s a monolithic way to end the album and serves as a tremendous juxtaposition to the LPs opening assault.

Hitting number two on the Billboard charts, and number one in the UK and Canada, Iowa officially entered Slipknot into the mainstream. Multiple elements of their debut were cranked up, but the band showed that they weren't afraid of musical growth and exploration. Slipknot had truly arrived as one of the biggest acts in metal, and they'd achieved this on their own terms. Despite tragic passings, member changes and other crushing lows, their success shows no signs of waning. The next three albums all charted at number one in the USA, and they continue to headline festivals and sell out arenas worldwide. Potentially Slipknot’s crowning achievement is the sheer number of unexposed fans that were introduced into the world of extreme metal through their music. No, they’re not a death metal band, but with Iowa Slipknot took brutality to the mainstream.

Sponsored Links from Around the Internet
Show Comments / Reactions

You May Also Like

Tour Dates

Of course due to the never-ending pandemic.

New Music

It also serves as a tribute to Joey Jordison.

Advertisement