When Slipknot first burst onto the scene, they were as chaotic as it comes. A flurry of aggression and bile that brought out the animal in all that let them into their lives. But as the years have gone on, what Slipknot is has changed, and subsequently, what makes a Slipknot song has changed as well.
To listen to the band's latest full-length, The End, So Far, you will hear as much viciousness as you do vulnerability. That's because emotion has become as much a part of the Slipknot DNA as chaos. From the demise of love to the death of a brother, life has had a hell of an influence on what the band have created, and here are 10 moments that stick out as the most stark, raw and sentimental.
Goodbye (.5: The Gray Chapter, 2014)
Trying to write about the hardest days of your life is something that an artist comes into contact with a lot through their creative process. Yet Goodbye is a song that tries to summarise that feeling but for eight individuals rather than one. Written directly about the day that bassist Paul Gray died and how the band tried to figure out what they would do next, there’s a numbness to the tribute, a blurry sadness that perfectly embodies that feeling of uncertainty and fear.
Then as the song builds into a blistering crescendo, with a riff reminiscent of the band at their heaviest, it is almost an indication of Slipknot making that decision to strive on and keep doing what they do best. It’s what Paul would have wanted, after all.
'Til We Die (All Hope Is Gone, 2008)
’Til We Die is one of the only tracks that we have from Look Outside Your Window, the additional album recorded alongside All Hope is Gone back in 2007 that we are still yet to hear. Attached as a bonus at the end of the special edition of All Hope Is Gone, it took on a whole new level of importance when played over the speakers at the band’s memorial world tour following Paul Gray’s passing. Though a curious composition sonically, full of unassuming bleeps and atmospheres, how it lyrically speaks about how family is much more than blood means that there couldn’t be a more fittingly powerful tribute.
Vermilion Pt.2 (Vol.3: The Subliminal Verses, 2004)
In many ways, both parts of Vermilion are emotional in their own way, but it’s the stripped-back second half found at the tail-end of Vol.3 that really cuts deep. Haunting and beautiful, its soft plucks, tender delivery and delicate echos are enough to have your goosebumps stand to permanent attention. Yet there is a discomforting edge to it that lingers in the air, an otherworldly feeling that not all is as it seems. And that’s what had always made Slipknot so special; even in their most tender moments, there is still so much that is left as unknown.
Medicine For The Dead (The End, So Far, 2022)
Perhaps the band’s most varied offering to date, swinging between crushing intensity and bleak openness, of the bunch, Medicine For The Dead is by far one of the rawest moments on The End So Far. An uneasy, delicate and driving song all about depression in all of its forms, it’s an audio representation of how it feels to be waiting for the pain to go away, just for a second. Every croon and callous scream that Corey Taylor lets out feels like another plea for just a little bit of relief, and that’s a feeling we can all relate to in some way or another.
Snuff (All Hope is Gone, 2008)
By far one of the most personal songs in the Slipknot wheelhouse, this is Corey Taylor letting every ounce of what he has been through and how it has shaped him spill onto the page. Love, loss, longing and all of the darkness and despair that comes with trying to navigate all three, it’s hard not to feel choked up whilst letting such heartbreaking and honest words wash over you. Still performed acoustically by Corey at his solo shows even to this day, it’s clear what a special song this is to him, and that will continue to be for years to come.
Skeptic (.5: The Gray Chapter, 2014)
Another tribute to Paul Gray can be found on .5: The Gray Chapter, but this one sits on the heavier side of the band. Though it’s in the words that allow this one to hit home the hardest. Focusing more on what sort of person Paul was, it is a chance for the band to share their innermost sentiments about their friend and brother in a way that only they can. Describing him as the skeptic voice that knew what the Nine were capable of even if the others didn’t believe it, it’s the sort of eulogy that tugs at the heartstrings as well as keeping the pit spinning.
A Liar's Funeral (We Are Not Your Kind, 2019)
Raw emotion is unpredictable, coming in ebbs and flows like waves crashing against the shore. And in terms of this offering from We Are Not Your Kind, it bubbles and boils over several times. Dealing out heaviness via its striking humanity, speaking openly about the distrust to be found in people who judge you for your demons, it is when Corey really lets rip that you feel the pain he has experienced in the inspiration for the track. Set against such an aching instrumental, it's a perfect blend of heart and hurt.
Circle (Vol.3: The Subliminal Verses)
The click of a tape stopping and starting, going around and around. The soft country-leaning guitars. The thoughtful refrains and rousing sentiments. Circle was not just one of Slipknot’s most enticing and surprising moments to date when it appeared on Vol. 3 back in 2004, but also a precursor for what was to follow. A song that focuses on cycles, be them of life or death, that opened the doors for future musings on mortality and beyond, it’s an emotional moment that changed the course of what we would expect from the band in years to come.
Dead Memories (All Hope Is Gone, 2008)
Much like Snuff, Dead Memories is a moment on All Hope Is Gone that finds Corey Taylor using the band to speak totally candidly about some of the hardest parts of his story. Though more of a vessel for letting ghosts of the past go and not being tied down by what has come before, it is no less devastating being guided through the pain before watching it fade away into the ether.
Not Long For This World (We Are Not Your Kind, 2019)
There's a different sort of brutality to Not Long For This World than what you get from other typically heavy Slipknot tracks. There's a loneliness, an emptiness, to it that makes its message all the more sad and real. That message is one of feeling like life has run its course, things have no chance of getting better and that the sweet silence of death is all there is to look forward to. To hear such a heart-wrenching sentiment isn't easy, but that's exactly why it is so effective and vital. The things that are hard to hear are sometimes the most powerful, and the dark needs to be expressed as much as the light. Without that balance, then what is life all about?