photo & text by nacrowe
when i first came across the nine-peace IOWAN monolith that is SLIPKNOT at OZZFEST 99, their unrelentingly AGGRESSIVE aural ASSAULT and demented mask-and-coveralls PRESENTATION seemed to be NEXT LEVEL everything in terms of METAL. their RICK ROBINSON-produced debut SLIPKNOT (ROADRUNNER, 1999) seemed to likewise be an exercise in controlled VIOLENCE and ever-so reigned in sonic CHAOS. that whole period of the band was lightning in a bottle and very much established the bar for TONE, SHOWMANSHIP and outright ANTAGONISM in METAL for at least the next decade.
by the time they re-upped with ROBINSON again for their follow-up IOWA (ROADRUNNER, 1999), the band had EVOLVED significantly as SONGWRITERS yet were able to somehow able to balance and maintain the AGGRESSION of their debut. this progression can be heard throughout IOWA on tracks like "THE HERETIC ANTHEM," "LEFT BEHIND," "PEOPLE = SHIT," "NEW ABORTION," "MY PLAGUE" and "DISASTERPIECE."
my recollection of the record was that i thought there was no way possible to follow-up such an INTENSE debut record, that it was pointless trying to outdo it on its own terms. when i heard IOWA i realized that the band actually had songs with discernible MEMORABLE HOOKS throughout. at this point STONE SOUR was not a viable entity and singer COREY TAYLOR hadnt yet publicly exercise his CLEAN SINGING talents, much less bring them into the fold with SLIPKNOT. for me, and i could be alone here, IOWA is the last EXTREME SLIPKNOT album before TAYLOR STREAMLINED (and id argue DILUTED) it with more MAINSTREAM post-GRUNGE elements.
the other thing that comes to mind when i listen to IOWA is the fact that it was released shortly before 9/11 and how that album was a soundtrack to that period, especially feelings of LOSS, ISOLATION, DESPAIR and CONFUSION. SLIPKNOT, much like SLAYER, was always superb at translating ANGER and BELLIGERENCE into WELL-COMPOSED songs. it is definitely music that is definitely operating at the extremes of EMOTION, TECHNICAL MUSICIANSHIP and IMAGINATION and is not for the faint of heart. my sense is that such nuance gets lost on a listening public that latches on to the SHOWMANSHIP of their PRESENTATION. taken as a whole, the band and its IMAGE showcase an in-group gang mentality that seemed like an apt metaphor for the country after 9/11 and all the MINDLESS JINGOISM and EMPTY FLAG-WAVING of the period. in many ways, we havent moved forward from such as a country, even if the band and its sound very much has.
IOWA is a MODERN METAL classic and is most definitely worth revisiting.