SLIPKNOT: Ranking their albums from worst to best
I remember the scene vividly. I am 15 years old and I have just discovered the inner greb within me. I’d always enjoyed Rock music, but peer pressure led me away from it for a few years. Now I was heading back in that direction and at a rate of knots. I am lying on my bed and listening to music, reasonably loudly on my Bush, 3-CD inter-changer stereo system (other stereo systems are available). My parents had got used to the lighter side of things like Blink 182, Green Day, bits of Nirvana. But I had recently started listening to heavier stuff, Linkin Park and Killswitch Engage were on my list at that point having just released ‘Hybrid Theory’ and ‘Alive or Just Breathing’ respectively. Then I made a jump. A BIG jump.
One of my friends at school had gone full greb. She was turning up in dark make up, spiked bracelets and dying her mousy hair black. She was wearing a SLIPKNOT hoodie. Practically living in it. I remember thinking that the 9 men on the front looked like madmen. So naturally, I was intrigued. What would their music sound like? I borrowed the album from her one day and came home, whacked it in the CD player and lay down on my bed. What occurred over the next 60 minutes and 26 seconds would change everything musical in my life.
It was an outpouring of visceral, unrepentant rage. A barrage of aggressive, pummeling anger. I won’t lie, I was terrified. But, I could not stop listening to it. It absolutely gripped me, it pulled me in and opened my eyes to a new world, previously unknown to me. And in this world, I would stay. I am now 33, nearly 34. I still get shivers when I hear those songs. I still grin when they announce they’re releasing a new album. I still message my mates when they announce tours.
SLIPKNOT are, without doubt, one of the most important things that have ever happened to metal. There will have been thousands of 14/15/16 year old’s who had exactly the same experience as me between 1999 and 2000.
They have released 5 studio albums and with the 6th, ‘We Are Not Your Kind’, due on August 9th 2019, we thought we’d rank their previous output.
So here we go, ranking the 5 SLIPKNOT albums from worst to best.
#5 - All Hope Is Gone
Released in August 2008, there was a four-year gap between SLIPKNOT releases as the members went away to do more work on their side projects following the touring schedule for ‘Vol 3: (The Subliminal Verses)’. When they finally returned, once again the fandom had reached a state of uncertainty surrounding the band’s longevity. They were frothing at the mouth for new SLIPKNOT and for a return to something heavier.
Personally, I was hoping for a continuation of where they had left off with ‘Vol 3…’, but what emerged was a slick slice of groove laden metal, influenced by their heavier side as opposed to the heavy side totally dominating or the melodic side dominating.
Opener ‘Gematria (The Killing Name)’ had some serious riffing in it, ‘Sulfur’ was a proper slab of groove with a killer chorus, first single ‘Psychosocial’ was a stomp along metal anthem and in ‘Butchers Hook’ and ‘Gehenna’ SLIPKNOT found new ways to make sludge even sludgier. But amongst all this heaviness, they got more melodic as well. ‘Dead Memories’ is still performed live and ‘Snuff’ is one of my favourite SLIPKNOT songs because Corey shows what he is best at…singing.
This album saw the rise of SLIPKNOT to a new level as they headlined major European festivals such as Download and Rock am Ring. It may not have been the band’s favourite, but it helped propel them once again to new heights. Around every corner, there is something waiting though. And what awaited SLIPKNOT ground the Metal world to a halt.
#4 - .5: The Gray Chapter
May 24th, 2010; SLIPKNOT’s darkest day. Paul Gray was much more than a bassist. He was their “doer”. He wrote the songs. He pushed them forwards. He handled everything. The world of metal stopped spinning when news broke that one of SLIPKNOT’s founding members had been found dead in an Iowa hotel. A day later, a visibly distressed and upset group of men held a press conference where they faced the world and bared their soul. It was a very difficult watch.
3 years later, during writing sessions, drummer Joey Jordison was fired from the band. It would later be revealed that Jordison had an illness that was preventing him playing at his once fervent pace. SLIPKNOT now needed a new rhythm section to record the most important album of their career to date.
‘.5: The Gray Chapter’ began to emerge with the single ‘The Negative One’. Immediately I felt that they were making a return to the heaviness of the ‘Iowa’ days, but with a more controlled edge to it. ‘The Devil in I’ was next, along with a spooky video which showcased new masks and 2 new unknown members. There was concern among their fan base that the passing of Gray would have a profound and negative impact on their music.
Worry ye not.
Upon release in October 2014, the album was met with more or less universal approval and a fitting nod to their departed low-end man. They clearly took their time in order to do him justice and I always felt that songs like ‘AOV’, ‘Skeptic’ and ‘Custer’ were almost written with Gray still in the room with the band, in some sense or another.
Yet again, during the touring run for this album (which shifted by the pallet load by the way) they headlined huge European festivals. They had their own arena tours across most continents. They continued to have mainstream radio play. SLIPKNOT had now become a behemoth. They had a stage set. Pyro. Video screens. It’s not just an 18-legged monster anymore, it’s a company with hundreds of people involved.
A long touring schedule at frenetic pace, meant SLIPKNOT took a break for a while before starting work on their next album. This time it’s different though. They looked like a unit again, their grief had bought them back together again.
#3 - Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)
Following the release of ‘Iowa’, SLIPKNOT toured the world and released a Live DVD, ‘Disasterpieces’ (which is a masterpiece by the way). At the conclusion of that tour, it’s pretty well documented that these 9 men absolutely hated each other. They badly needed a break from the ferocity and energy required to do SLIPKNOT full time. Some of the members had formed new bands (Murderdolls), some reformed old bands (Stone Sour) and some embarked on their own projects (To My Surprise). These projects would have a profound effect on how SLIPKNOT would proceed with their music, once the rumours of a break up had dissipated.
In 2003, they began working with Rick Rubin at The Mansion in LA. The result was an album that was not as sonically heavy, but technically far outstripped their two previous releases. They first offered single ‘Duality’, which had more clean vocals than any other SLIPKNOT song had previously had. Followed by ‘Before I Forget’ and then creepy as hell ‘Vermillion’.
What was clear in all these singles was that SLIPKNOT were moving away from sheer brutality and towards a more melody-focussed type of songwriting. It was widely acknowledged that Corey Taylor loved a melody and this was very apparent on this album.
At the time of its release in May 2004, I will admit to being slightly confused, such was the departure from the previous two albums. It didn’t *feel* like SLIPKNOT. However, the more you listened, the more you found technical bits of brilliance, as well as more radio friendly musicality. It was a grower, no doubt.
It gave the band a different path to tread and introduced them to a wider audience who were now less scared of the 18-legged troupe. It opened doors to much more than the first two albums had. And it shaped what SLIPKNOT were going to become in the future.
#2 - Slipknot
This is the album I am referencing above in my introduction. I have read stories about the recording process and I have heard the band talk about how Ross Robinson (their producer) got this album out of them. When you hear/read those stories, the vibe of this album is of no surprise to you. It was disturbing. This album is disturbing. It was violent. This album is violent. The world changed on June 29th 1999 and it was all the doing of 9 masked men from a boring town called Des Moines in the state of Iowa and a guy named Ross Robinson.
It is a testament to the power of the songwriting that plenty of this album is still played live 20 years later. The opening barrage of ‘(sic)’, ‘Eyeless’, ‘Wait and Bleed’, ‘Surfacing’ and ‘Spit it Out’ immediately propels this album to god like status. The slow songs such as ‘Purity’ are creepy as hell. The whole album creates an atmosphere you mentally struggle to comprehend. Nobody had created a dense, dark, threatening atmosphere like this on a record before. It was an exhilarating listen from front to back and is arguably one of the best debut albums of all time.
#1 - Iowa
As a direct result of the popularity of the first album, the power of their live show, the obsession the media had developed in them and an absolutely rabid fan base (now named “Maggots”) the buzz surrounding SLIPKNOT had reached absolute fever pitch by the time they announced they were dropping a new album. I remember KERRANG ran an article several pages long essentially offering a track by track review of this album a few weeks before it was released. The band had done a video for ‘Left Behind’ which was scary in its own right and they were now talking to media outlets in an almost psychotic manner.
The bare faced reality is that the world in 2001 was not ready for ‘Iowa’. They weren’t *really* ready for SLIPKNOT. The band had taken that debut album, turned it up to 10 and then got a whole lot angrier with everything. I remember buying it and thinking on first listen “Nah, this is out of my range. This is far too heavy”. I was about to turn 16 at that time and I hadn’t heard anything, other than their debut, that could prepare me for it.
‘(515)’ is a deeply disturbing 59 seconds of pained screaming, shouting and pent up aggression. After 18 years I’m still not sure there has been a better opening track for an album than ‘People = Shit’, and it just gets angrier and angrier as it goes through ‘Disasterpieces’, ‘My Plague’, ‘Everything Ends’, ‘The Heretic Anthem’, ‘Left Behind’… It’s a musical sledge hammer.
I forced myself through that first listen. I had to have a lie down after. I had to recover. What had just happened to me? 66 minutes of utter brutality. If I wasn’t gripped by SLIPKNOT before, I was absolutely entranced now. Little did I know they weren’t letting up…ever.
So, that was my list. Do you agree with it? Let us know and we’d love to hear your own Top 5 SLIPKNOT album rankings. Also, tell us if you are looking forward to ‘We Are Not Your Kind’.