VERSUS: Slipknot vs. Iowa

VERSUS: Slipknot vs. Iowa

Welcome to Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal history, compare them, to see which one was the better record. In this edition of Versus, we are tackling another special edition where we look at two releases from the same band.

Today, we have a battle from Iowa's favorite metal band Slipknot.  Formed in 1995, the band has been bringing its chaotic marriage of nu metal, groove metal and heavy metal to the masses for almost thirty years. With all of it's nine members bringing a unique element to the band's sound. Today, we are tackling the band's origins. The two records that put the band on the map and cemented these masked men as one of the most memorable bands in metal with their sound and recognizable imagery. Let's see what these releases bring into the ring in this battle I'm calling "All Hope is Gone in Iowa".

In this corner, we have the band's 1999 self-titled debut. The band has called the recording of this album as "very aggressive and chaotic" as producer Ross Robinson wanted to match the intensity of their live performance for their debut. With the addition of guitarist Jim Root joining the band mid-production, the record would receive critical acclaim from many music critics and was a nuclear bomb level drop in the metal community. Introducing the band to the metal world with this release, along with a slot on that year's Ozzfest. Let's take a look and see what this landmark debut brings to this matchup.

Opening up with the instrumental "7426170000027" sample loop intro, the album starts with the pounding track "(sic)". A thunderous and aggressive opening, featuring a sample from Carlito's Way into a short breakdown in the opening, the track is just fast and pummeling in the drumming, matched by vocalist Corey Taylor's pissed off screaming adding to the overall anger the band delivers in their sound. The layered screaming at the end of the track behind Taylor adds an eerie, ominous and dark feeling to the already evil sounding track. With so much anger and heaviness in the first track, it just gets heavier after that.

"Eyeless" starts off with another pulsing drumming section. The pure lunacy in Taylor's delivery of the chorus, matches the band's intensity and vigor of the track. His vocals and lyrics on the track, almost sounding like a one-sided conversation a crazy person would have, almost like he's unraveling on the track itself. A nice breakdown section at the three quarters mark into a clean vocal section with DJ scratching from Sid Wilson, adding more uniqueness to the band's sound. Transitioning into one last heavy breakdown letting Taylor shred his vocal chords over the chuggy closing riff.  

The lead single off the album, and a lot of people's introduction to the band, is "Wait and Bleed". Showcasing the band's insane live performances, the song starts with the chorus showcasing Taylor's clean vocal performance before the band comes in. Showing the band can also write a catchy radio-esque single with the chorus, the band delivers the heaviness on the verses. With pounding drums, a classic sounding heavy metal riff with tinges of nu-metal, the song closes out with another chuggy breakdown into a sudden stop. "Surfacing" opens with pounding war drums into a chuggy, gritty riff with drummer Joey Jordison shining on certain parts before the verses kicks in. With a chorus overloaded with F words and nihilistic attitude, the song is an almost unofficial anthem for the disenfranchised or our aggro-teenage self we were in high school.

"Spit It Out" became a fan favorite live and a staple of the band's shows. Taylor's has a nu-metal feel with the lyrics and rhyming through the verses. With a chant along chorus and nu-metal feel before the growl vocals kick in, showing the uniqueness of the track. With the industrial elements before the bridge, the song takes another form as it builds with Taylor's spitting verses, the guitars building with the pulsing drums. The song is BUILT to be performed live, which is why the song works so well live, when the band has the crowd in the palm of their hand throughout the whole song. "Tattered & Torn" gives the listener some reprieve, but a feeling of unease with the carnival/circus like tune playing before the thunderous drums and growl vocals kick in. The verse section continues the feeling of anxiousness with growls and screams behind Taylor's clean but uneasing vocal delivery. "Me Inside" starts with double bass and quick guitar stabs in the opening build into chant along scream vocals. The band is good at creating unease and anxiety in the song's atmosphere, with dynamic time signatures, and unique effects in the background.

My personal favorite off the album is "Liberate". I love the screaming vocals of the chorus in the opening, plus I love the groove throughout the song. Vocals are all over the place with the band matching the power that Taylor delivers in the track, and the uneasy feeling in the clean vocal section, covered in effects, when he says "liberate my madness". Ending the song with almost incoherent screaming and thundering war drums, the song just ends with utter chaos. "Prosthetics" continues the uneasy, horror-movie themed feel of "Tattered & Torn". With drums almost giving the feeling of being chased and wailing guitars and effects, giving you that creepy feeling the band delivers with the song. "No Life" continues the nu-metal roots of "Spit It Out" with more of a rapping/growling vocal style, matched with the chaos of the band behind him, trying to match his speed and attitude. The album's closer "Scissors" is another song of building unease and unknown in the opening, not knowing where the song is going. The band delivers misdirection at certain sections. Taylor's haunting vocals and lyrics give off a serial killer vibe, like he is talking to his victim, making the song even more ominous and demented, especially when the riff picks up.

After the song ends, there is a gap of silence and incoherent noises and commentary from the band, before we get to the hidden track "Eeyore". A thrash metal opening feel to it, with the guitars before the drums kick in, and it turns into pure thrash/crossover song. Blast beats, tremolo guitar playing, and Taylor's aggressive rapid fire delivery. The song is just thrash, mixed with groove metal. Jordison shines on this track with his impressive drumming throughout the song as this impressive debut comes to a close.

In the opposite corner, we have their second album, 2001's "Iowa". Following the success of their debut, and pressure from the label to match the success, the band was under extreme pressure. Due to this pressure, extensive touring, management issues affecting the band, along with Taylor's alcohol addiction and other member's drug addictions, this has been considered the band's darkest time. With nihilistic themes and pure anger and aggression on the record, let's see how this follow up stacks up against its opponent.

Opening the album is "(515)", an incoherent interlude intro of the band screaming in agony over building industrial pads and distortion. The album kicks off with one of my favorite tracks from the band "People = Shit". With blast beats, Taylor's building growl vocals, wailing guitars and unmatched intensity, this song is out for blood and is gonna take it. With nihilistic lyrics, showing how dark the band was at the time, and with the way the world is with social media and entitlement today, the song title couldn't be more fitting for today's society some times. With a chant along chorus and Jordison showing his drumming prowess. Plus the amazing riff work of Mick Thompson and Jim Root, the song is a strong opener and shows the band is more pissed then they were on the debut. "Disasterpiece" follows up the pure vitriol of the previous track. With the opening line, one of the darkest I think the band has ever written, this band is just going for the jugular. Jordison's drumming with blast beats and thrash style drumming, add so much intensity and fury to the track. Making him the driving force of the song.

The song "My Plague", the second single, and was featured on the soundtrack to the 2002 Resident Evil movie. Starting with pounding drums, a wailing and bending guitar riff, the song kicks off strong with Taylor relentless aggression from the first two tracks. The clean vocals on the chorus again showcases his unique vocal range and his impressive ability to jump from screams to cleans very well. The song continues the groove metal sound with a matching drum section throughout. "Everything Ends" continues the nihilistic, depressing and overall melancholy attitude of the band at the time. Riffs are front in center with a pounding double bass and tom hits adding to the ferocity in the vocals and attitude. "The Heretic Anthem" starts with a sample countdown segueing into a pounding and pummeling double bass and chugging riff. A good headbanger of a track with a great chant-along chorus, showing the band knows how to write great songs that were built for the crowd to chant along too. "Gently" channels songs like "Tattered & Torn" from the debut, but amp it up. With better production, musical direction, and unique instrumentation, the song channels that dark, brooding feel of the song, but is almost heavier than those tracks.

The album's lead single, "Left Behind", debuted the band's new direction and new masks to the masses. The band is firing on all cylinders with the track. With driving drums from all three drummers, a chuggy but memorable guitar riff, and Taylor delivering his trademark growl/clean chorus vocal juggling, the song is a great lead single. I love the building breakdown with Taylor panting into clean vocals, because you know they are building musically into a heavy drop. The song is a strong single and has become a classic from the band. "The Shape" continues the pummeling aggression in the double bass with another chuggy opening riff into a simple, driving bass by bassist Paul Grey. The track feels like a song off the debut with the feel and attitude of the track, but with better production.

"I Am Hated" gives off a great riff, feel and tone similar to "Spit It Out". With Taylor spitting rhymes again over a simple, but heavy sounding riff. A scream along chorus, especially with Taylor gutturally screaming the song's title. "Skin Ticket" shows off a simple guitar riff with wailing DJ scratching, and thunderous drums from all three drummers. The song almost has a Meshuggah-esque riff at the quarter mark of the song into Taylor's demonic, villain-like laugh. His vocals are back to the demented singing/mumbling/rambling tone, adding more of the unhinged feeling this album has to it. The following track, "New Abortion", returns to unmitigated pissed-off energy. Chugging, heavy riffs with matching drums behind wailing screams and growls, the song continues to give you that nihilistic attitude the band does so well on this album.

The album's closer, the title track, is a fifteen minute sonic journey of darkness. With opening screams and a simple bass, the song sets the stage for an eerie, uncanny feeling, a fear of the unknown. Driving war drums pick up, matched with laughter and crying over the background screaming. With unique time signatures, Taylor pretty much losing it mentally throughout the whole song, and unique guitars throughout, this is one of the most experimental tracks from the band. Bringing this insane, pissed off, unhinged record to a close.

After listening to both of these classic records, who gets the W in this one? This is a tough one honestly. Both records are good for their own reasons, and this debate still happens between the band's fanbase. For me, the self-titled album is the winner, but by a very close margin. The self-titled album, in my opinion, broke the mold with what metal was at that time. At the time of release, we were at the peak, maybe the start of the downturn, of the nu-metal phase. Metalheads wanted something heavier, more aggressive, and less hip-hop/rap influenced. Slipknot delivered that with their debut album. With unhinged aggression in the vocals, intense drumming and guitars, this was a band that broke the mold of metal at the time, and separated themselves from their metal peers. "Iowa" is still a great record, but musically front to back and the impact it has, the self-titled debut is a stronger record, giving it the win in a close matchup.

Slipknot would continue to release new music and would be nominated for ten Grammy awards, winning one for Best Metal Performance for "Before I Forget" off their 2004 album "Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)". Their most recent record in 2022 was the divisive "The End...So Far" receiving mixed reactions from fans due to the band's musical direction on the album. The band would also go through some tough times. Drummer Joey Jordison would leave the band in December 2013 to pursue other projects before tragically passing away in 2021 at the age of 46. Bassist Paul Grey would die from a drug overdose in 2010 at the age of 38. In 2023, sampler/keyboardist Craig Jones left the band, with no reason from Jones himself yet about his departure. The band has also teased an unreleased album called "Look Outside Your Window", an experimental record recorded during the recording session of their 2008 album "All Hope is Gone" that is potentially being released in 2024 per Taylor and drummer Shawn "Clown" Crahan.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won this battle? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

VS: Slipknot vs. Iowa - Online Poll -
What’s your opinion? Vote now: Slipknot, Iowa…

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to This Day In Metal.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.