Slipknot: Every song on Iowa, ranked from worst to best
Twenty years ago, Slipknot released an album that would change the game for good. Iowa, the band’s second LP, arrived to near-universal acclaim, its 14 tracks of gut-wrenching nu-metal marking a whole new high-point for a genre that was already in fine health.
What’s most impressive about Iowa, though, is how it’s stood the test of time, and still manages to sound as vital today as it did upon release. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, we’ve set ourselves the unenviable task of ranking every song on this classic album from worst to best. Knives at the ready, maggots…
Serving as an atmospheric taster of the chaos to come – in a similar vein as the sampled beginning to their 1999 self-titled debut – (515) may be little more than an intro track, but it sure does the job. It’s basically lots of Sid Wilson screaming about death (his grandfather had died during the recording of the album), which, given the depravity that characterises Iowa, is exactly the right kind of introduction to Slipknot’s second LP.
Iowa’s title-track is a little weird. At 15 minutes long, it and ebbs and flows between a brooding, downbeat sound and the more in-your-face ferocity that the album as a whole is best known for. As a microcosmic encapsulation of all Iowa as an album has to offer, it works, but we’re sticking it at the lower end of this ranking as it’s little more than a mere taste of the sonic devastation of The Nine…
12. The Shape
Of all the songs contained on Iowa, The Shape has had one the fewest live outings, something which, on reflection, makes a lot of sense. By most bands’ standards, it’s great, but this is Slipknot we’re talking about, and despite possessing a deceptively catchy chorus and some characteristically brilliant drumming by the late, great Joey Jordison, The Shape doesn’t quite hit the heights of the band at their best. Still a rager, mind.
11. Skin Ticket
A song about hopelessness and being stuck in the cage of your surroundings, Skin Ticket sounds like a desperate plea for understanding in a world that keeps giving you a boot right in the face. There’s plenty of venom and anger present, but so too does Skin Ticket demonstrate the raw emotion that lies within much of the material on Iowa, and Slipknot’s back-catalogue as a whole. As Corey Taylor repeatedly cries ‘Keeping myself alive!’ as the track reaches its climax, you can feel Slipknot’s vocalist pouring out everything he has.
Metabolic bounds along thanks to the killer combination of Joey’s rapid-fire playing and Corey’s man-possessed vocal performance. Groove, passion and technical virtuosity can all be found in abundance here, and the result is yet another example of the excellence Slipknot demonstrate throughout Iowa.
9. I Am Hated
Uncharacteristically short by Iowa’s standards, I Am Hated may not hang around for long, but it still leaves a great impression. A track which really brings the band’s hip-hop influences and the pivotal role of turntablist Sid to the fore, it shows Slipknot experimenting with their musical structures and formulas, but despite the broader influences, I Am Hated still hurtles along to a frantic conclusion thanks to some ferocious riffing from guitar gods Jim Root and Mick Thomson.
8. New Abortion
A violent and hate-fuelled call-to-arms, New Abortion serves as a rallying cry for the downtrodden. It’s impossible not to feel Corey’s fury as he bellows ‘You can’t take my soul away from me’ throughout this nasty, anthemic track. One for the outsiders, New Abortion makes you feel like you’re truly a part of something.
Gently provides a welcome change of pace amidst the carnage that makes up the majority of Iowa. It’s another song that demonstrates Slipknot’s broad approach to songwriting, as the band stray from chaotic nu-metal into something more groove-driven that’s all about a slow, gradual build. Corey’s vocals here still sound as harrowing as normal, but they’re more muted until The Nine eventually let rip in the song’s final moments.
6. Everything Ends
‘You are wrong, fucked and overrated / I think I’m gonna be sick, and it’s your fault…’ An iconic opening lyrical salvo that gives way to an aggressive earworm, the intro to Everything Ends sets the scene for some killer nu-metal. Corey takes a star turn here, leading his cohorts into battle as he spits venom to a backdrop of feral, untamed musical carnage. Everything Ends is exceptionally good, yet it’s not even in the top five songs on Iowa, proving the strength of this near-perfect album.
5. The Heretic Anthem
A death-metal-influenced epic, The Heretic Anthem is one giant ‘Fuck you’ to a music industry that tried to tell Slipknot what they needed to be. Originally released to fans ahead of Iowa’s release, it was a fine taste of what was to come from the album at large. A brutal, rampant and pissed-off dose of metal fury, The Heretic Anthem shows Slipknot in all their hostile glory.
4. My Plague
My Plague is one of Iowa’s more melodic tracks, but Corey’s lyrics more than make up for that. ‘Kill you, fuck you, I will never be you’ is the glorious lyrical refrain that most sticks out from a song that, thanks to its inclusion in Resident Evil, set Slipknot on the path to stardom. My Plague scored a GRAMMY nomination in 2003, demonstrating how the strength of the material on Iowa was seeing Slipknot deservedly capture the attention of those outside the metal world.
‘I wanna slit your throat and fuck the wound.’ Yep, someone pissed off Corey Taylor really bad. Using that hatred as the fuel for Disasterpiece’s raging wildfire of aggression, Slipknot are electric here as they lay waste to all who dare cross their path. A remarkable dose of fury, Disasterpiece is the kind of song that could only be made by The Nine.
2. Left Behind
Iowa’s lead single, Left Behind is certainly the most radio-friendly thing on the album, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy-going. Nominated for the 2002 GRAMMY for Best Metal Performance – an award that was eventually won by Tool for Schism – it’s an impressive example of Slipknot’s crossover appeal, as the band take a more melodic approach while retaining all the unbridled fury that characterises their heaviest material. A neat gateway into Slipknot’s back catalogue, Left Behind is an undeniable nu-metal epic.
1. People = Shit
It couldn’t really be anything else, could it? People = Shit is one of Slipknot’s most iconic songs and up there with the best the band have ever put their name to. A staple of The Nine’s live set and one they’ve performed live more than any other track from Iowa, People = Shit sparks an especially feral reaction from maggots whenever Corey and co. drop it at their shows. Setting a devastatingly high bar which no other song from Iowa can quite match, this is a special track which encapsulates all that’s so great about Slipknot – sonic violence, groove in abundance and a gargantuan, punch-you-in-the-face-repeatedly chorus. Play it loud.
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