I expect an uphill battle on this topic, especially given the audience. Those of you who know me from my years on the air ('84-'99), advocating artists like Faust and hanging out with the likes of Jowe Head and La Monte Young, may assume that I've gone completely bonkers. But in my pre-WFMU years, my taste was informed by a great many other things, like Black Sabbath's Master of Reality, the first Damned album, and "Pay to Cum." Lovers of hard and heavy music everywhere ought to bypass pre-conceived notions of teenybopper "Nu Metal" in this case, as we all know labels are ultimately meaningless—when you hear it, you either like it or you don't.
Back in mid-2002, I rented the DVD of the movie Resident Evil. What stuck with me from my viewing experience (apart from Milla Jovovich – sigh), was a bonus music video for a song used in the film, by a band that I had always assumed to be a half-assed “rap rock” act ala Insane Clown Posse. The song was “My Plague” by Slipknot: great angry lyrics, monster riffs, horror-movie-style latex masks, a giant inverted pentagram backdrop, and fire. I deemed the band worthy of further investigation (need it be said that I am also quite sympathetic to devilish, “Satanized” imagery?)
What can I say? With no apologies to the underground musical elite, I became a fan.
Slipknot’s first 2 CDs spoke to the angry, frustrated adolescent in me, and helped me through a lousy time at a lousy job. Their best songs are hooky anthems of limitless hatred and anger that embed themselves in your brain like a mighty dose of SSRIs.
Here are four big reasons why you should listen to Slipknot:
1. They’re hard. Really fuckin’ hard. Harder than Dead Moon. Harder than most Death Metal bands I can think of. Though their second CD, Iowa, was a massive seller, it’s totally uncompromising and musically raw (though quite meticulously arranged; with nine members in the band, it would sound like a total mess were it not.) Even Stevil of Amoeba Music in San Francisco, the man responsible for my introduction to the Black Metal genre, had to admit that Iowa was one of the hardest records he’d heard in long time.
2. They’re from Iowa. Iowans are fuckin’ nuts. Unique characters, to be sure. Look at Bronwyn C. Look at the band Stiff Legged Sheep. Iowans are the Australians of America, if you follow. They don’t fuck around.
3. The hip-hop posturing in Slipknot is thankfully minimal. (Don’t let Fred Durst and Limp Bizkit spoil all these new metal bands for you. In fact, the feud of words between Slipknot and Durst was highly publicized; apparently he referred to all their fans as “fat losers.”) I, for one, still squirm a little whenever any white person lays down the hippity-hop (Beastie Boys not withstanding); leave it to the men and women of color, I say. Slipknot’s sound is more informed by Pantera or Dismember than Public Enemy or RUN-DMC.
4. I always like to say that a band is only as good as their drummer, and Joey Jordison is a highly evolved musician. His approach incorporates thrash, punk, funk, metal, jazz and avant-garde, and the song arrangements clearly owe a lot to his innovation. Joey sat in on drums for the recent US tour of Norwegian Black Metal legends Satyricon, if that tells you anything. In addition, Slipknot has two other guys exclusively “punctuating” on vocals, drums and percussion – that’s three drummers, one more than the classic lineup of the Butthole Surfers.
Their third and latest disc, The Subliminal Verses, was produced by Rick Rubin, so obviously he thinks they’re OK (I assume ol’ zen master Rick need not take any jobs he doesn’t want.) The disc includes some “mellower” numbers, and was a mild disappointment to some fans, though the harder tracks are still hard as hell. But don’t start there; start with Iowa, or the first, self-titled disc.
If you’re not a convert after that, then you weren’t meant to be, perhaps too mired in European experimental brass ensembles, Jim O’Rourke productions, No Depression, EMO, or Auntie Jessup’s Back Porch 78s.