Assembling the top ten tracks for Slipknot got me thinking, there is so much more to the band that the aggressive racket that casual listeners pen them as. Their latest album, We Are Not Your Kind, is a career best for the band, and sees them at both their heaviest and their most experimental. And what about all the other times that Slipknot stepped outside of their bread-and-butter format to really show the range of their creativity? While only really scratching the surface, here are some of my personal favourites from the more experimental side of Slipknot.
Spiders (We Are Not Your Kind, 2019)
One of many highlights from their chart-topping latest release, “Spiders” shows a progressive side to Slipknot that we only normally get teased with in introductions and interludes. Written in a 7/4 time signature (professional musicians may correct me on that), the track is both musically intriguing and instantly engaging. Featuring heavy percussion, thick basslines and off-beat tinkling melodies, it somehow makes a very minimalist song sound encompassing and intense. The gradual build up to the final chorus is hypnotic in the best way, and a great reminder that Slipknot can be creepy as hell while holding back their aggressive side.
Circle (Vol.3: The Subliminal Verses, 2004)
It was on 2004s Vol.3… that the world was first introduced to the idea that Slipknot could use acoustic guitars and that yes, that is ok. Corey Taylor shows off his improved clean vocals over droning acoustic chords that give an almost folky feel to the song. Echoing vocals and string melodies flow through the track, giving it an ethereal and out-of-body feel, before merging into a much harsher industrial rhythm right at the end.
A Liar’s Funeral (We Are Not Your Kind, 2019)
At first listen, “A Liar’s Funeral” sounds like another acoustic Slipknot song. Right up until the punch to the gut when Corey Taylor first roars ‘LIIIAAARRRRR’, seemingly out of nowhere. The tracks builds from acoustic beginnings to the heavy stomping chants of ‘burn, burn, burn, the liar’, with Corey’s delivery perfectly showing the transition from mournful to outright pain and anguish. This development makes it one of the most emotional tracks on the album and shows how Slipknot can continue to innovate and surprise us.
XIX (.5: The Gray Chapter, 2014)
Under normal circumstances I would avoid including ‘intro’ style tracks on lists such as this, but “XIX” is long enough to merit being classed as a song in its own right. And so it should be. It musically consists of droning electronics that sounds like a demonically possessed set of bagpipes, which support another raw and emotional delivery from Corey Taylor. The lyrics were written as a response to the tragic death of Paul Gray, and to represent a new start for the band. The version heard on the album is the first and only recording of the lyrics, done in one take, with Taylors delivery of bringing Shawn Crahan (Clown) to tears, such was the emotive release of the track.
Snuff (All Hope Is Gone, 2008)
Another acoustic track, “Snuff” is one of the few times I would ever describe Slipknot as tender. It is the one true highlight of 2008s All Hope Is Gone, with an instantly recognisable chord change and heartfelt vocal delivery. It is the one of the only times that Slipknot have written a straightforward acoustic track, with no weird electronic leanings and with melodies that most mainstream songwriters wish they could have come up with. I don’t think anyone expected such mournful and gentle melodies from a band that also wrote “Surfacing”, yet write it they did, and it is one of the most emotional tracks you’re ever likely to listen to.
Vermillion Pt.2 (Vol.3: The Subliminal Verses, 2004)
Similar to “Snuff”, “Vermillion Pt.2” is written predominantly as an acoustic track. With lyrics addressing an unrequited, or possibly fabricated, love, there is little to say about the track other than it is another fine example of how Slipknot are masters of whichever aspect of music they put their minds to.
Goodbye (.5: The Gray Chapter, 2014)
Another emotionally heavy track, “Goodbye” is about Slipknot’s first meeting together after hearing of the tragic death of bassist Paul Gray. The ambient and echoing electronics that open the track provoke images of being suspended in water, before the introduction of the drums and guitars break the surface, tracking the bands progression of feelings and emotions towards the tragic news. While not heavy in the traditional sense, this remains one of the weightiest tracks in the Slipknot catalogue.
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