Headlining rock bands come from San Francisco, LA, Seattle ... or, from the big cities of the eastern side of the country: Boston, NY, or perhaps Chicago. They decidedly do not come from Middle America, and definitely not from the cornfield-wrapped, cattle-laden, conservative town of Des Moines, Iowa. Unless, of course, they're Slipknot. > Read more
Slipknot was born when a group of bored kids from the heartland got head-over-heels sick and tired of small town life and created a unique (and many would argue, much needed) sound, image, and style to express their feelings of fury. Apparently, it's the fury that never dies, because more than two decades later, they're still raging.
Slipknot's Humble Midwest Beginings & Rise to Fame
When conceived in 1995, metal had fallen into something of a rut. Oh, sure, the hard-driving, head-banging sound was there, but the showmanship, melodies, and realism had faded away. Originally, their lineup consisted of bass player Paul Gray, drummer Joey Jordison, and percussionist Shawn Crahan.
After some initial shakeup in the roster, they settled on a mix that lasted for over a decade: Gray, Jordison, and Crahan were joined by lead singer and lyricist Corey Taylor, guitar players Mick Thompson and Jim Root, sampler and keyboardist Craig Jones, pianist and keyboardist Sid Wilson, and custom percussionist Chris Fehn. They released their self-titled debut album in 1999.
Tragically, the band lost Gray in May of 2010, when he was found deceased by reason of drug overdose in an Iowa hotel room. The loss would derail the band's creative efforts for the next few years. They produced their next (and so far, last) album, .5: The Gray Chapter, in 2014 to amazing critical acclaim.
To date, Slipknot has released a total of 1 demo, 5 studio albums (including their debut, Slipknot), 2 live albums, 1 compliation, and 17 singles, which have led to 15 tours, 10 Grammy nominations, and a single Grammy win for Best Metal Performance in 2006 with their single "Before I Forget".
Slipknot's Image & Style
Slipknot is one of the few bands who never let their intense imagery, devilish masks, and wild stage shows get in the way of the music. Their style is distinctive, delving into a range of subgenres, including the New Wave of American Metal, for which they were true pioneers. They've also been dubbed a "nu metal" band, and cite others within that genre, such as Limp Bizkit and Korn, among their inspirations. Their sound is uniquely their own, though you can often hear the remnants of their inspirations from groove metal, death metal, thrash, alternative metal, and earlier musicians like Hendrix.
Their vocal style matches and surpasses the complex musical extravaganza produced by their massive band, marked as extremely aggressive, laden with profanity, and delving into dark themes like nihilism, psychosis, and a general dislike and mistrust of the human race. Oh, and sometimes love. They draw from a wide range of topics, including personal struggles, politics, and the music industry itself.
Perhaps what sets Slipknot apart the most from others in the realm of metal is their shocking stage personas. All the members wear their own masks with uniforms to match (usually some type of jumpsuit), and instead of using their actual names, they refer to other members of the band by number - #'s 0 through 8 (though less so since the loss of Gray). Unlike fellow showmen KISS, Slipknot's masks and outfits have evolved over the years. According to Taylor, the masks help the members disassociate from themselves and concentrate solely on the musical performance.
Like many bands, Slipknot is almost synonymous for their logo, a nonagram or 9-pointed star, that they adopted early in their existance. The symbol represents the qualities most important to their self-described "family unit,": unity, loyalty, friendship, and rememberance. With these qualities most prominent in their years together, it's easy to see why Gray's death was so traumatic for them.
Slipknot's Connection to Crime & Controversy
But love, friendship, and fellowship doesn't mean that Slipknot is isolated from controversy. Their dark imagery, lyrics, and musical style sparked no shortage of controversy over the years, and was linked to a number of crimes. For instance, in 2003, a couple of young people stabbed a man to death in a park in San Bernadino, a particularly gruesome crime that they blamed on the Slipknot song "Disasterpiece".
Slipknot's songs were again attached to crime in 2006, when police discovered a paper containing the lyrics to "Surfacing" at a grave robbing scene. This instance was a bit bizarre, as it involved stealing an urn with ashes, instead of an actual buried body. To make matters even more strange, police and the deceased victim's family never really understood why the young people stole the remains in the first place. There was only a vague confession saying that they were trying to make things right for the deceased, a teenager who was killed in a vehicle accident (most likely while under the influence of meth) and cremated by his family.
Another brutal and bizarre crime blamed on Slipknot occurred in 2008, when a senior high school student in South Africa, dressed in garb similiar to what the band members are known for wearing, and slashed up four people in his high school with a samurai sword. One student, a freshman, was killed, and another, along with a couple of groundskeepers, were seriously wounded. The killer was alleged to be a practicing Satanist, which was probably a far greater factor than the psychopath's taste in music. Confessing to talking to Satan generally isn't a sign of good mental health. Band member Taylor vehementaly denied that Slipknot or their music contributed in any way to the incident, or to any criminal or Satanic acts of violence.
Finally, there was a heated feud between Slipknot and the band Mushroomhead back in the early '90s, which led to some physical altercations at a concert between the members of Slipknot and fans of Mushroomhead. But the feud was much more about who started wearing masks first and who stole what ideas from whom. Inevitably, both bands agreed that neither of them could lay claim to being the first to don masks, putting the feud in the history books, finally.
Though some membership shakeups of late have changed the look and sound of Slipknot a bit, they continue to perform as such at their annual festival, Knotfest. In 2016, the festival was grouped together with Ozzyfest. The band continues to write music, promising an upcoming album soon, though the new lineup is without Jordison and with a couple of touring musicians that weren't exactly popular with the entire band.
Most recently, Taylor joined up with his secondary band, Stone Sour, and released a new album. But he promises that his work with the "other" group will in no way affect the output of the new upcoming Slipknot album, which he assures us is, "amazing".
Hopefully it'll come out before the rest of their albums are nothing but Dead Memories.