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Slipknot 2014
Photo: M. Shawn Crahan / Courtesy of Roadrunner Records

Slipknot Transformed Modern Metal with ‘Iowa’ 20 Years Ago

Slipknot’s boundary-pushing second album Iowa changed the trajectory of heavy music 20 years ago. Its influence rings through many corners of the metal scene.

Iowa
Slipknot
Roadrunner
28 August 2001

On 28 August 2001, Slipknot unleashed their second album, Iowa. The band’s 1999 self-titled debut had already captured interest outside of the metal scene with its fusion of nu-metal and elements of various extreme metal and electronic genres. Therefore, expectations were high for its follow-up. Unsurprisingly, Iowa quickly peaked at number one on the album charts in the UK and Canada (and number three in the US). It’s since been certified platinum in all three territories. That firmly established the band as one of metal’s most commercially successful acts, a feat especially significant when considering that Iowa is by far Slipknot’s most sonically abrasive effort to date.

While still squarely in the realm of nu-metal, the inklings from death metal and late ’90s hardcore are more evident on Iowa than in any other mainstream band from the genre. If they had worse production, then half of its tracks could pass for Disembodied songs. Likewise, the gory lyrical angst of “Disasterpiece” could easily be seen as Slipknot’s more jovial take on similar songs by Cannibal Corpse or Carcass. It’s one of the few nu-metal albums that easily falls within the borders of extreme metal, and it seamlessly blends the style with industrial and noise music. Its extremity even expanded past its music: in a 2001 article by FHM, vocalist Corey Taylor revealed he recorded the title track while cutting his skin and being sick on himself.

The album became the first exposure many had to extreme music and enamored a generation of young people, becoming a gateway to more traditional extreme metal styles. The level of success that metalcore and the NWOAHM received in the mid-2000s likely wouldn’t have happened were it not for Slipknot expanding what music could gain this level of attention. Chris Pritchard, the guitarist for Blood Youth, was one such young person affected by it. “I first heard Iowa when I was really young… like eight years old. I wasn’t allowed any CDs with a parental advisory sticker,” Pritchard tells me over email. “I used to set VHS tapes secretly on record overnight to hopefully catch a Slipknot video on Kerrang! TV without my parents knowing.” Often this was the video for “Left Behind”, the album’s lead single. “The first time watching and hearing ‘Left Behind’ was such a euphoric and unreal experience for me; the sound was nothing like I’ve ever heard before. So much aggression… every single time, I’d rewind and watch over and over again,” he continues.

Despite still being masked much of the time, the members of Slipknot were figures in popular culture. Their aesthetic was ubiquitous with the public perception of metal, even though the metal scene of the time tried to distance themselves from it. “I feel like everyone’s seen Slipknot before they’ve heard them. That was the case with me,” Loathe vocalist Kadeem France tells me over the phone. “I’d always known of the band who wore the masks and had about 25 members. That was the thing that always stuck out.” Like Pritchard, France was also drawn into metal through the band; however, he discovered them through playing Guitar Hero. “It wasn’t really until secondary school, when you start those pre-teen angst emotions, that I properly got into Slipknot,” says France. “At that time, I’d never heard anything as heavy as Slipknot, and I was like, ‘This is the pinnacle of heaviness.’”

In 2021, it’s hard to find any metal or hardcore musician that isn’t at least indirectly influenced by Slipknot and Iowa, from Higher Power and Malevolence to Poorstacy and Deafheaven. “I feel like Slipknot is pretty much the blueprint for every modern heavy and metal band nowadays,” continues France. “Slipknot, Deftones, and Korn are the three holy bands of any band now, whether it be how they dress, how they sound, or how they act.” The progression that deathcore took in the mid-to-late-2000s is just one example. These bands created a heavier and more groove-driven sound than their predecessors and increasingly bordered nu-metal. Most of this era’s frontmost practitioners, namely Whitechapel and Suicide Silence, cited Slipknot’s influence on their music.

Nu metal revivalism has been in full swing since the mid-2010s. The movement has counted both pre-established metal bands who transitioned into the sound (like Of Mice & Men and Suicide Silence) and up-and-coming bands (like Cane Hill and Blood Youth) amongst its numbers. “Iowa has 100% influenced me and what I do. Slipknot is the reason I do this, and I’ve told Corey that to his face,” admits Pritchard. Particularly how Iowa channels real pain and fear and doesn’t discard mistakes, creating a sonic depth that affected Pritchard’s own writing style. “That’s something I try to implement into the way I write and produce music now,” he expounds. “I try to focus on layers, and not so much the perfection of the production, but the perfections in the imperfections.”

One particular crop of bands from this movement merge the genre with elements of metalcore. These “nu metalcore” bands play a style that falls more on the shoulders of Slipknot than any other band from the time. “There’s a lot of bands like Code Orange, us, Vein.FM, all these new nu-metal-y metalcore bands . . . we wouldn’t be here without Slipknot,” says France. The genre hit its stride around 2016, with groups Sworn In and My Ticket Home. Since then, the success of Code Orange’s 2017 effort, Forever, has become one of the most prominent flavors of contemporary metal.

 “When Loathe first began, I used to wear a mask. It was proper heavily influenced by Slipknot. The simple thing of them wearing masks just embodies so much of their image,” France surmises. “No face. It was all about the music. There was nothing else at the time that was doing that, really.” France then cites the industrial and gloomy atmospheric elements on songs like the album’s title track as influencing Loathe’s decision to use those elements. In addition, he states that Taylor’s aggressive style of vocalization—and the way he quickly switches between different vocals styles—influenced his vocal style.

Twenty years on, Iowa is more important than ever. Its influence rings through countless corners of the metal scene and expands into multiple adjacent styles. “So much of what Slipknot has given to the metal community is so important to the direction of where it has gone since 2001,” concludes Pritchard. “They’ve changed the game and changed the way people work.” Despite its distinct lack of palatability to a mainstream audience, the album-dominated charts subsequently raised the next generation of metal musicians and fans. “It’s proper interesting looking back now and seeing how much they were criticized for the crazy things that they did… and now seeing how much of a legendary band they are and how much they mean to the music industry,” declares France. Indeed, it is.


CITATIONS

“Slipknot”. FHM. December 2001. pp. 76–80

Rosenburg, Axl. “Disasterpieces: the Slipknot Retrospective – Iowa (2001)”. Metalsucks. 8 July 2019.

Travers, Paul. “12 Bands who wouldn’t be here without SlipknotKerrang!. 20 July 2019.

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