Iowa - * * * *
Iowa. I didn't really like it when it first came out. Repeated listenings however have had the inevitable result of the album growing on me. I think it has something to do with diminished expectations. My first reaction to this CD was that I would have expected more from the self-appointed saviors of hard metal. I had picked up the self-titled disc a while ago and was marginally impressed at least by their commitment to what they were doing. Early reports on Iowa was that it would destroy everything that came before it, a record so good that it would singlehandedly save metal from itself. So what happened when Slipknot dropped a disorganized mess of industrial aggro metalcore as the followup to their largely overrated debut? Not much.
The 15 year old trailer park kids I see outside Hot Topic at the mall where my girlfriend works ate that shit up and then bought the T-shirts. Unforunately for Slipknot that was already their core fan base. Since the album was too harsh for commercial radio, they never got airplay and also alienated most of their trendy fans. Likewise since Slipknot still insisted on wearing masks and rapping, they didn't get any additional respect from the metal underground. So while the rest of America bought the new System Of A Down album, Slipknot quietly dropped Iowa on the trailer parks of the midwest and walked away from the whole mess.
The fundamental problem in Iowa is that it's an exceedingly harsh and ugly record from a somewhat trendy band. The album is light years ahead of the self-titled release in terms of sheer brutality, but it doesn't match that aggression with focus or any kind of musical coherence. Instead Slipknot sounds like a band coming apart at the seams, so amused with the novelty of their approach to music that they forgot to write actual songs to play on their 9 instruments. I think somewhere along in the making of Iowa, someone should have realized that having three drummers all playing different rhythms in the same song wasn't such a great fucking idea. But that was their novelty, that was what made Slipknot who they were, and for better or for worse they took this idea to its logical conclusion. The logical conclusion is chaotic and disturbing. The fits and spasms of aggression seem almost random, like the members of Slipknot each decided to play different songs at the same time and record the results, occasionally throwing in a fit of violent drumming or a gutteral scream just because there hadn't been one for a minute or so. A lot of the time the record sounds like somebody gave the monkeys at the zoo a fistful of amphetamines and crack and turned them loose in a guitar shop. Total fucking disaster.
That being said, I like Iowa. The CD is a huge improvement on their debut and I like the aggressive tendencies however unfocused they are. The direction they took in making this CD, while not making them any additional money, was one that at least revealed something real under the surface that is missing in most nu metal swill. That they chose to record a follow up so abrasive and relentlessly brutal that it alienated their trendy fans is a respectable move. They could have easily recorded an album just like the other one and become millionaires like Linkin Park and Staind, but they chose to do this instead. It's the same move that killed Faith No More's career in 92. The music on Iowa is rarely as admirable as their principles, but thankfully Corey Taylor has decided that rapping and singing are both bad, bad ideas. Therefore the debut's biggest flaws, either the rapping or the singing take your pick, are largely foregone in favor of gutteral death screaming. Taylor has improved in this area, as evidenced on songs like The Shape where the vocal style is switched up effectively to sound like Zao jamming with Korn. This is one of the CD's best moments as it exposes the quality metal band buried underneath the chaos.
So that's what you have to do, block out the chaos and listen for the moments when this band really comes together and displays its raw fury in a coherent state. There are a lot of those moments on this CD. Iowa won't be the album that saves metal but it's pretty fucking good nonetheless. The lyrics haven't improved much and they are alternatately self-depreciating and aggrandizing and violent to the point of self parody. The problem with this band is more their image than the actual music. I'm just going to come right out and say that the whole evil clown thing is pretty fucking gay. Clowns aren't scary unless you're fucking eight. Deicide and Marduk are bands with scary images. Blood and inverted crosses all over the fucking place, that's metal, not halloween masks with dildos for noses. If I'm going to back a trendy band though I would still rather listen to a band like this that takes some chances than retarded shit like Limp Bizkit. Of course with sentiments like "I want to slit your throat and fuck the wound" (Disasterpiece) running throughout the CD, you really do have to question the trendiness and mass market appeal of this band. Metal-Sludge.com called this album "the perfect soundtrack for slaughtering a family of four". For any self respecting metal fan, it's hard to take this band seriously but that was never really the point anyway. In reality Slipknot seems to actually be a decent metal band that got famous by accident and as a result are caught up in the novelty of their image. But for someone like me who has developed a taste for the harder stuff, this CD is good to throw on once in a while just so you can beat the living shit out of somebody while listening to it. I think that's exactly how Slipknot would have wanted it.* * * * Reviewed: January, 2003