AKA “Daddy Issues: The Definitive Collection”. Ok stop it, Rizzo.
Why this time machine review? Because I found a new appreciation for Slipknot, and I’m now kinda crazy on their debut for no apparent reason.
Back when I was like 14-15, I used to hate them. My thoughts were something around “Meh. Generic riffs. Where’s the actual bass line? Anything interesting on drums? Ok, that’s just some teenage-angst, generic-metal targeted band. Plus they play in costumes and masks, this is kindergarten bullsh*t come the f*ck on. 9 members? Yeah right. Maybe play better music and I’ll be interested. K bye now.”
Buuut. I was too much of a musical nazi back then, plus I just wasn’t judging in the right perspective, and I heard the wrong songs (aka their mid-discography Nu metal era, which I still don’t like).
So ten years later, I’m casually giving them another chance out of thin air: “let’s check their debut”. And it just clicked.
I understood I wasn’t getting the music. I wasn’t getting the attitude. I wasn’t getting the lyrics, the production choices, the message, the image, I wasn’t getting the marketing. Basically, I wasn’t getting the whole package, or in better words, I wasn’t getting the product. And mostly, I wasn’t contextualizing the product to 1999. And man, does it all work flawlessly for what it is.
Slipknot comes from the late 90s, still it’s anything but nu-metal. It might as well be one of the most original takes on the late 90s-early 2000s offer of heavy music.
Take the heaviest, darkest crossover you can imagine. Add very hardcore-oriented, almost kind of beat-down riffs, so simple but effective in their own way (Hey 14-year-old me, not everything has to be technical and progressive to work out, shut up). Add a very nervous and hyperactive drumming, with tense and anxious grooves and lots of fills. Sprinkle a bit of death metal on all of that and let it rest for 15 minutes in your fridge. Then take it out and add vinyl scratches, primal, deranged metallic percussions which is not your average kind of tribal-feeling percussion but reminds me of drug addicts partying on a darkened parkway at late night, and a ton of creepy, industrial-like sampling and noises. Add Corey Taylor’s talent. There’s singing, rapping, scatting, expression and screaming with incredible animalistic energy (I still consider him the only actually talented member of the band, now fite me irl boi). Let it rest again for a couple of hours. Now add some thematic insanity to the whole mix. Ooooops no no no that’s too much insanity! Well alright, you now have Slipknot.
It’s a pity that the most HC punk-vibed, raw tracks didn’t make it to the release version of the album (ex. “Get This”). But you can hear them on the 10th anniversary special edition, as well as the lost Frail Limb Nursery/Purity and lots of extra stuff.
I still think there’s not so much interesting content from a purely musical standpoint, but the artistic vision makes the whole offer just plain work. The intertwining of the multi-influenced, high-energy music with a very raw, instinctive and “in your face” approach to production which actually delivers the idea of psychotic derangedness (gritty and raw tones, the industrial feeling, the samples, the percussions, the quick and dirty recording, the almost absent editing, the often tempo-free sections, so on) makes me feel like the album was actually recorded in a mental health institution, or a drug addict’s basement. The vocals’ unedited heavy breathing, the lamenting, the manic laughter, the incredible power and rawness in the screams. Plus have you ever heard a reverberated vomit retch? Well you will. Disturbing, in a word. Also some half ambient\industrial tracks are fascinating.
Actually, the whole Slipknot sound reminds me of the videogame Manhunt. I know, lame metaphor but that’s exactly the atmosphere I get. Remember the warehouses, the darkness, the masks and the nonsense violence and overall explicitness? Bingo. “Slipknot, the video game”.
Plus let’s get to their image. Long time ago I was thinking “Why the suits? Why the 9 members with different masks? This is cartoonish and resembles some kind of tv-series characters format”. Well now that I know the back story to the formation of the band I know that the 9 members are actually essential to render the original sound in a live environment, maybe they could get away with just one guitar player and one DJ plus sampler in just one member but well.
As for the marketing, the music perfectly fits with the idea of a gang of jumpsuit-clothed, mental health detainees which have something dark and mysterious to exorcise behind a mask. Also it was the early days of the internet for masses, and the idea to have such a high-energy and weird, intense live band with members completely unknown except for their masks for quite some time was surely fascinating and fitting with the theme. That’s what was lacking in the late 90’s metal, mystery. Can’t get such a marketing campaign nowadays, everything’s too much interconnected to keeps things secret.
Also the band logo is basically as simple as it is raw and ugly, and look at the artwork. And the name is just perfect for the music, Slipknot. It doesn’t say “suicide, self-hatred and autolesionism”, but you get a gentle nod at it. Brilliant. So basically, they nailed it with the marketing imho.
Lyrics are full of hate and insanity, nothing nobel-prize-for-literature grade but some subtle metaphors to deliver the madness. You can’t see California without Marlon Brando’s eyes, you know? Only complaint is an abuse of the F-word.
In my opinion this is the most representative album of the band’s original artistic vision, which got lost and diluted in time as they got popular and had to compromise on their raw sound to evolve and keep on track with the market.
So yeah this was just a chat on the pleasure of revisiting things in time and changing your opinion on them. Feels good to find a new perspective and cut out on the prejudices and superficiality. Music is art, you just have to appreciate it. Let me know your opinion and enjoy your Slipknot!