In 1999, Y2K was in the headlines. It was everywhere. What would happen at the strike of midnight on December 31 st because computer dates wouldn’t know what to do when it clicked over to ‘00’. Would planes fall out of the sky? Would computers simply stop working? Would our fast becoming automated world cease to be as we knew it?
All of that didn’t matter to Slipknot. In fact most of us didn’t really care, or understand it fully.
It was on June 29th, 1999 when this unknown hybrid metal band released their debut full length studio album, and it’s fair to say that it turned the heavy music world on its head. In December of that year they did it again with a slightly altered track listing and mastering due to legal reasons.
But what WAS this? Where did it fit? What’s with all the extra percussion? Who does that? Wait, they’ve got a guy on turntables and it’s still THIS HEAVY? Why are there so many people in the band? What do you mean there’s another guy hitting stuff with a baseball bat?
NONE of it made sense, but it worked. Nu-metal was metal de rigueur in 1999, and then this… thing, emerged and took some of it, mixed it with the heaviest riffs and a screaming lunatic up front. Oh and by the way they’re all wearing freaky looking masks because if you’re gonna go over the top, you may as well jam a pole up ya clacker and be a stop sign to make people look.
As a ‘regular’ metal listener in 1999, to me, Slipknot was a novelty. I thought they may appeal to a certain crowd, but kinda be flash in the pan, even though the only song I’d heard was 'Wait and Bleed', and I didn’t mind it. The rest seemed, too much. Which is a weird thing to think about metal. Is there ever too much?
I’d just started my radio career in 1999, so was afforded the album via a record rep at the time, and it started as a peripheral album for me because, let’s face it, the little commercial FM station I was working at wasn’t going to be playing it anytime soon, so it went in the car CD stacker and popped it’s head up every now and then. That soon became every other day, which in turn became every day. I was in. I was hooked. I got it.
The things that didn’t make sense to me suddenly didn’t matter, it was what was coming out of the speakers that mattered. Much like I would listen to Steve Vai – Passion and Warfare. A lot of that didn’t make sense, but he made incredible sounds that grew on me like moss. Slipknot grew more like a fungus, stinking up the place and making me notice things I previously couldn’t smell on the debut album.
Like how good Corey Taylor actually was as a vocalist. The ability to shred his vocal chords to make them sound like they’re literally bleeding with ferocity, to then belt out cleans like it ain’t no thing.
And that clown belting a keg with a baseball bat? Well suddenly other metal bands percussion parts sounded shallow.
The further into the album I went, the more it became normal. It was SO different, and so exciting, the novelty thinking had gone, my blood pressure was rising and I was completely caught up with the intensity and perceived evil of it all. It was dark, unapologetic, and uncompromising.
There’s a groove embedded in Slipknot that keeps the whole machine rolling along, and perhaps that’s one of the things that made it such an infectious album for me; there’s so many head nodding parts, I often found myself skipping back in certain parts to listen again and notice more. It’s something that’s prevalent in so many of the songs, but because of everything that’s going on, it's often missed. The songs are crafted in such a way that it’s almost subliminal (pun intended). Go on, load up that song, 'Subliminal', right now, and groove the hell out to it.
Slipknot’s debut studio album is a relentless assault on your senses. Writing this now, in 2019, is still as relevant as it was in 1999.
In the 20 years since, we’ve seen and heard all kinds of metal. Some bands have stayed, some have come and gone, some have just started, but in 1999, no one had done what Slipknot was about to do to us.
Still claimed by many as their best work, others say Iowa is their best. Whatever your thinking on Slipknot’s career is though, this self-titled album will always be remembered for changing the way we looked at metal.
Listen to Slipknot now.