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In all fairness, Slipknot don't have to work too hard to be creepy. When your band consists of nine guys in masks and jumpsuits assaulting each other while one of them roars about sex mania, you've already given most of the world the willies. But metalheads are a desensitized breed, which means that Slipknot have actually had to work harder than most to elicit gags and shudders from their fans. All Ariana Grande has to do is have a wardrobe malfunction to scandalize her fans; Sid Wilson has to break both his heels just to raise an eyebrow.
Thankfully, the band from Iowa never baulk at a challenge, and have poured their hearts into shocking and skeeving their fans and haters alike. But while their whole career feels like a tour through a prison ward on PCP, there have been a couple of moments where Slipknot have shaken us to the core. Some of these are intentional, others are not, but all are burned into our memories for the rest of our maggoty lives.
Here are the 11 times Slipknot had made us wish we'd never met them…
Photo via t42 Design
In the age of streaming music, it’s easy to forget the artistry that went into big-name bands’ CD booklets. The packaging and booklet for Slipknot’s 2001 album Iowa, expertly crafted by t42 Design, was full of transparent pages, shots of the band, and photos of dead baby animals overlaid with anatomical diagrams. The whole thing looked like a prop from the movie Se7en, and cemented the members of the band as the kind of people you didn’t want to run into in a dark alley.
The difference between a horrific artist like, say, Rob Zombie, and one like Slipknot, is that you want to know what Rob Zombie would put in a Halloween attraction. But Slipknot’s haunted maze The Slaughterhouse looks like their music sounds – psychological, slightly sexual, and deeply uncomfortable. Imagine a traditional chainsaw-filled ghost house coupled with the minds of the nine guys in Slipknot, and try not to shudder.
As Herman Melville points out in Moby Dick, white is maybe the most grotesque color in nature. Slipknot tap into that perfectly in the video for 2019 standalone track All Out Life, which features a crew of Slipknot cultists dressed in immaculate white hazmat suits that eventually get bloodied a deep red. Whether it’s our association of white jumpsuits with psychiatric hospitals, or some bone-deep repulsion at whiteness, something about that shot of the bus rolling up makes us cringe and gag a little.
Those lyrics were truly the moment in 2001’s Iowa where we heard Slipknot leave behind any sort of fashionable rap-metal posturing and commit themselves to pure, repulsive horror. It’s not an over-the-top slasher film scenario a la Cannibal Corpse, but a very real act of sex murder that made fans realize exactly who they were dealing with.
On their debut, Slipknot opened with 742617000027, an eerie track full of high-pitched ringing and the repeated mantra of, 'The whole thing, I think, is sick!' But for Iowa, the band decided to step things up a notch, and introduce fans to their new face by having Sid Wilson scream, 'Death' over and over while a dull roar turns into a piercing whine in the background. Few bands would think to open their long-anticipated sophomore effort with the sounds a serial killer hears in his nightmares.
NOPE, NUH-UH, FUCK RIGHT OFF. Of the many masks Shawn Crahan, AKA Clown, has worn over the years, maybe the most disturbing is when he started wearing a transparent woman’s mask with a clown nose on it. It took him out of Pennywise territory and right into the psychological mindfuck of Don’t Look Now. Unlike some of his more elaborate masks, this looked like the one he would wear when he finally decided to actually murder you.
Of all the masks Slipknot have ever worn, perhaps their creepiest was no mask at all. The Before I Forget video was revolutionary for showing the band performing maskless… without ever showing their faces. The result is that the viewer feels voyeuristic and uncomfortable, as though peeping at the band while they’re naked. Even worse, it raises a blood-thickening question that lies at the core of Slipknot’s ethos: what if the masks are their faces?
Of the many elaborate stories surrounding Slipknot singer Corey Taylor, perhaps the most famous, disgusting, and creepy was when Corey and Marilyn Manson engaged in a freak-out competition on tour. “I do remember throwing up in a cup and drinking it in front of Manson and he kind of freaked out,” the frontman told Rolling Stone. “He didn’t really know how to take it.” That said, The God Of Fuck might have won the contest by offering Corey and co. a little gentlemen’s entertainment. “…then he ran into our dressing room in tighty-whitey underwear and kind of danced for us and kind of ran back out, and we were like, ‘What the fuck just happened?’”
How do you make masks scary when you’re working with some of the world’s leading special effects artists? Simple: you make them you. For 2008’s All Hope Is Gone, Slipknot did a photoshoot in their 'Purgatory masks', giant papier-mâché versions of their own death masks which make them look like characters out a child’s dream. Watching this video will make your genitals bunch up.
The Big Bang of Slipknot showing fans exactly what the fuck they are was of course Clown’s dead crow, kept in a jar and huffed before shows so that he would vomit into his mask to get himself in the right mindset. As time went on and the crow further putrified, Clown would bring it onstage with him and let fans put their hands in the jar. There’s no way something so repulsive could happen at a concert these days.
'Relax. It’s over. You belong to me…' If this one doesn’t get your hackles raised, nothing will. Despite all the bulldozing fury of Slipknot’s sophomore album, nothing could prepare fans for the title-track. Clocking in at 15 dizzying minutes and featuring sounds ranging from human screams and rattling washboards, Iowa is a ballad that sounds as though it was written in a poorly-lit shack with a shallow grave in the dirt floor. Just remember, always remember: Love.
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