Twenty years into their career, you probably think you know what Slipknot sound like. Corey Taylor’s roars of rage, savage post-death metal guitar riffing, blasting drums, beer-keg percussion and a few splashes of synth and turntable here and there.
But across their six studio albums, including their latest, We Are Not Your Kind, they’ve sprinkled a surprising number of tracks that take their music in unexpected and even bizarre directions. Here are 10 of the best.
10. “Opium Of The People” (from Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses), 2004)
Whether you love or hate Slipknot, the one thing you can almost always say is that they’ve got their own style. This song is the closest they’ve ever come to an exception: Frankly, it sounds like Slipknot imitating System Of A Down, from the squiggly guitar figure at the beginning to Taylor’s frantic, Serj Tankian-esque delivery on the verses to the herky-jerky rhythmic stops and starts. It’s an interesting window into a slightly different version of the band.
9. “Snuff” (from All Hope Is Gone, 2008)
The power ballad. Every rock or metal band’s got one, and Slipknot’s no exception. This song is as “classic rock” as they’ve ever gone, from the acoustic guitars to what sounds like a for-real organ or electric piano in the background to the total absence of aggression or extra percussion. If Slipknot ever make an “unplugged” album, expect most of the songs to sound like this.
8. “Be Prepared For Hell” (from .5 – The Gray Chapter, 2014)
This two-minute interlude is a showcase for Craig Jones, serving as a strong argument for his importance to the band. The vocals are by Clown; he murmurs, “Be prepared for hell and I say, ‘Oh well, just tell me when I can open my eyes’ and realize I’ve died.” Behind him, layers of samples and pulsing electronic drones create a dark and deeply unsettling atmosphere, with a quick outburst of martial percussion to up the tension and make you think a catharsis is coming. It isn’t.
7. “Prosthetics” (from Slipknot, 1999)
A slow-burning, almost post-punk track tucked in between two bursts of aggression (“Liberate” and “No Life”) on the band’s 1999 debut, “Prosthetics” comes in slow and creepy, the late Paul Gray’s rumbling bass and the three-piece rhythm team building the intensity with cruel patience. Taylor’s vocals initially sound like they’re coming from underwater, and later he sounds like he’s having a gibbering breakdown in the background as the band bulldoze along.
6. “Gehenna” (from All Hope Is Gone, 2008)
This track from Slipknot’s fourth album isn’t especially weird, which is exactly what’s so weird about it. It’s almost the kind of thing that could get play on mainstream rock radio—it’s not too fast or aggressive, it’s got a pretty guitar solo you can air along to and Taylor’s vocals are some of his softest and most gentle, closer in spirit to what he usually does with Stone Sour. Still, they can’t help themselves, and every once in a while they burst out a death roar or a blast of drums to keep things from getting too pretty.
5. “Skin Ticket” (from Iowa, 2001)
Iowa is Slipknot’s heaviest and most aggressive album, but it also features some of their most emotionally raw performances. “Skin Ticket” is built around a crushing doom riff, but it’s the way Taylor sings through gritted teeth for the song’s first half, before erupting in unhinged screams and howls, that make it so powerful. Meanwhile, the band pound away like demons trying to break into whatever room he’s hiding in.
4. “Custer” (from .5 – The Gray Chapter, 2014)
This one begins with Clown dictating the rhythmic pattern to the drummer. That bit of studio realism leads into one of the group’s most organic performances; it really sounds like they’re all bashing it out in a room together, with Taylor chanting one of their nastiest choruses (“Cut cut cut me up and fuck fuck fuck me up”) as the guitars grind and the electronics squeal like pneumatic drills.
3. “Danger – Keep Away” (from Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses), 2004)
The final track on Slipknot’s third album is effectively the debut of a Corey Taylor-Craig Jones darkwave project. A few other band members add restrained guitar and drum parts, but the twin foundations of the piece are Taylor’s vocals and Jones’ looping electronics, which create a melancholy, Radiohead-esque atmosphere tinged with static and subtly haunting noises in the corners of the sonic field.
2. “Spiders” (from We Are Not Your Kind, 2019)
Easily the most un-Slipknot song on the eclectic We Are Not Your Kind, “Spiders” sounds like the band angling for placement on the soundtrack to Tim Burton’s next puppet musical. Steadily ticking programmed drums and one-finger piano are accented by occasional post-punk guitar noises and typewriter-like clattering sounds, as Taylor sings in a weird but hypnotic monotone. The brief guitar solo sounds like a hornet the size of an air conditioner.
1. “Iowa” (from Iowa, 2001)
The album-closing title track from Iowa is easily the longest Slipknot song, running 15 minutes, with much of that a slow buildup. Taylor infamously drove himself into a physical and emotional frenzy while recording the track, stripping naked, vomiting in the booth and cutting himself with shards of broken glass. The fact that the result still manages to be a compelling piece of music, and not just a noise freakout, is a testament to Slipknot’s talent.