Album review: Roadrunner United: The Concert
Roadrunner Records’ legendary all-star birthday jam gets revisited on stunning live album…
You might know their biggest anthems – but you also need to hear these underrated Slipknot belters…
Slipknot are one of the biggest metal bands on the planet. Headlining festivals has become second nature and their every move is pored over by social media, with fans forever wondering if new music is on the horizon, what the masks mean, and, as millions of memes will show, what Corey Taylor thinks. Such is their ubiquity amongst rock and metal fans that many ’Knot tracks are now part of the fabric of our genre. Everybody knows Wait And Bleed. Everybody knows Duality. Everybody knows Psychosocial. Your local rock club definitely still has all three on its Floor Fillers Megamix CD. But what about the underrated gems amongst Slipknot’s crown jewels?
Here we pick out 10 overlooked tracks from the Iowa legends’ catalogue that need revisiting…
So much has been written about the Earth-shifting impact of Slipknot’s debut album. And while all of those words are justified, most attention is given to the mega-anthems that pack out the first half (Eyeless, Wait And Bleed, Spit It Out etc.), ignoring the unbridled creative chaos the lurks in the deep end. Eleventh track No Life buzzes with hip-hop electricity, with a fresh-faced Corey rapping over a funked-up bass and turgid chainsaw guitars, as the pace veers from discombobulated jazz to full-throttle metallic fury. Clocking in at less than three minutes, it’s bursting with colour from all nine members, managing to cram in everything from haunting soundscapes to a classic beer keg pang.
Continuing the debut album’s spiral into darkness, Me Inside scratches and whirrs its way into existence before Joey Jordison’s pummelling percussion and eerie sci-fi electronics shift gears on the 18-legged killing machine. The punishing, crunching guitars pile on the heaviness while Corey has an existential crisis, roaring that ‘life is just too fucking hard’ and ‘this fucking life is killing me’, echoing the sentiments of countless jaded, isolated teenagers who heeded Slipknot’s call. Me Inside’s sinister edges are sharpened further by the Korn-esque guitar inflections and minimalist vibe that surrounds one of the biggest clean-singing choruses on the record. It’s hard to see why this song wasn’t bigger.
There’s a scene in Slipknot’s Disasterpieces live DVD where, just before the band take to the stage, they decide to add New Abortion to the setlist. And, frankly, it should never have left again in the almost 20 years that followed. From the fluttering atmospherics, Iowa’s 12th track careens into view like a juggernaut of despair, chugging with a guttural heaviness that only the masked maniacs could create. Against the murky backdrop, Corey reckons with his own lot in life, with the excellent rhyming couplet of ‘How’s it feel to be new abortion / The only generation to suffer extortion’, that eventually climaxes with the a barbaric war cry of, ‘You can’t take my soul away from me.’ Heaviness distilled.
Another exploration into the darkest recesses of Corey’s mind, as we find The Great Big Mouth tormented by a never-ending cycle of hopelessness and nothing – ‘zero and zero is nothing but zero’. Psychotic laughter permeates through at times, clearly plagued by his own being, the brooding, hulking heft of the metal adds not just weight to the music but further pressure to the frontman’s already fractured mental state, screaming to be let go, while acknowledging he’s effectively being kept on life support by the empathy of others. It’s wrecking-ball heavy in every sense, at one point acting as a vehicle of undiluted catharsis with Corey just screaming into the abyss. Personal demons have often acted as the framework for Slipknot’s art, and this is one of The Nine’s most devastating pieces.
There’s a misconception that Slipknot ‘went light’ on third album Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses. And while they might have done away with the swearing, the mayhem was there for all to see on the hugely underrated Welcome. Slotted between the more ‘mainstream’ Circle and Vermilion, it’s an experiment into just how much pummelling the human brain can take. Remember when Spinal Tap gathered seemingly every bassist in the world for their performance of Big Bottom at Live Earth? Welcome is like that, but with drums. Sure, there’s only actually Joey, Clown and Chris Fehn at work, but such is the speed, ferocity and eccentricity of the polished yet punishing percussion, the song isn’t so much an earworm but a drill. And with Corey on poetic and barking form, it’s a hellacious culmination of what makes the ’Knot so vital, and shows they can still be heavy… even when critics say they’re not.
While Vol. 3 is packed with songs that have long become part of Slipknot lore – Duality, Before I Forget, The Blister Exists – the bonus CD has some hidden gems on it, too. As well as an eight-minute version of closing track Danger Keep Away (which is well worth your time), it features the rampaging Don’t Get Close, a riotous frenzy that only gets faster and more aggressive as each second passes. From its ‘Bring out your dead’ fade-in to the flurry of pangs and cataclysmic guitars, it’s a veritable tour de force of nine men intent on making it to the finish line in as chaotic way possible, somehow managing to up the tempo again in the final seconds as Corey screams the song title at lung-bursting levels. Great stuff.
Despite being the opening track proper on an album that got to Number One in the U.S. and Number Two in the UK, very little attention is paid to Gematria (The Killing Name) by the men who made it. According to setlist.fm, Slipknot have never performed it live, which is even more baffling when you consider it contains the line, ‘The time of The Nine has begun.’ It’s also one of the band’s most pointed songs, taking aim at both religion and America, all embellished by death metal brutality and fist-swinging swagger. Definitely the most destructive track on the band’s fourth album and littered with lyrics destined to be yelled by an audience of thousands (who doesn’t want to scream ‘What if God doesn’t care?’ at the sky?!), it’s a crying shame this song has been swept under the rug.
From one end of All Hope Is Gone to the other. Closing track ’Til We Die has also never been performed live, although it does ring out from the PA at the end of every live show. It’s a completely different side of Slipknot than previously seen, with an almost post-rock/arthouse flavour. The almighty weight of the bass, the warping electronics and the tumbling guitars build and swell around Corey’s wholly clean performance, acting almost as an ode to Slipknot’s friendship and brotherhood, lamenting that ‘family is much more than blood’ and ‘I’ve never known trust like The Nine’. In hindsight, of course, there’s an added level of poignancy that this – the final track All Hope Is Gone – acts as a swan song for bassist and founding member Paul Gray, who would pass away two years later.
The opening track to Slipknot’s fifth album had a lot of work to do, acting as the first taste of the new era, and proof that the empire hadn’t fallen in the wake of Paul’s death and Joey’s departure. Eerily it fades in with echoing percussion, building and booming until the trigger is finally pulled and all nine men – with V-Man and Jay Weinberg now amongst their ranks – continue to blaze trails and set the world alight. Sarcastrophe stabs, spits and snarls its way through, bouncing with a renewed vitality and a point to prove, as what sounds like a genuinely pissed-off Corey urges you to ‘live long and die for me’. Charming.
Something of a different direction for the band who released Get This some 20 years earlier, the 10th track on We Are Not Your Kind sees Slipknot channel their inner John Carpenter with the horror movie piano and sinister sounds of Spiders. Beer keg battering has been replaced by hand claps, which pockmark the various weird inflections and textures that weave throughout, as Corey sings about the spiders entering ‘side by side and night by night’. While nothing is impossible for Slipknot, it’s evidence that not everything needs to be fire-breathing fury, and it’s arguably more subversive to defy that expectation with the antithesis of ‘heavy metal’.
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