Slipknot are heavy metal culture in the 21st century. The masked Iowan nine-piece have been changing the world eighteen steps at a time since their self-titled debut in 1999.
And they’ve always done it. Adapted. Evolved. Their debut was a titanic leap from their everything-and-the-kitchen-sink demo album, Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. They took elements of nu metal, death metal, hip hop, industrial and more to sculpt a percussive, monstrously catchy noise nobody could compete with. Since then, they’ve dialled up the extremity, focused more on clean singing, incorporated acoustic elements, experimented with vocal melodies – they’ve tried anything and everything within their wheelhouse, doggedly dragging it across the globe on an arena-touring level.
They’re the heaviest, most extreme band to achieve major festival-headlining status. That’s a fact, and it rings through every shout, scream and swear-word uttered by lead vocalist Corey Taylor; each slithering riff from Jim Root and Mick Thomson; the liquid-slick rhythm section comprising Alessandro ‘V-Man’ Venturella on bass and Jay Weinberg on drums; the respective keyboard samples and turntable trickery of Craig Jones and Sid Wilson; and every abrasive, bastardly brutal keg hit and muffled bellow by custom percussionist and band founder, Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan, with his bin-smashing accomplice, lovingly dubbed ‘Tortilla Man’ by fans, in tow.
Of course, it’s all well and good being a crazy nine-piece metal band with outfits and stuff. But they have the tunes to back it up, and thousands of you voted to crown the best Slipknot song of all time. Here’s the top 50. Wait and read.
50. The One That Kills The Least (.5: The Gray Chapter, 2014)
Nestled within the folds of Slipknot’s fifth album, The One That Kills The Least bears the hallmarks of the band’s work old and new: those primal, clanging keg slams, descending riffs and wholly ludicrous scratches from Sid evoke their early work; Jim’s stupendous solo and Corey’s saccharine delivery through the chorus are both clear, road-worn results of working on their ‘other’ band, Stone Sour. It was also the first song Jim demoed for the record.
49. New Abortion (Iowa, 2001)
Slipknot’s second album, Iowa, pushed, pulverised and piddled on the envelope in all sorts of new ways, but New Abortion is very much a throwback. Its sickly, death metal-heavy intro riff is liberally pinched from May 17: a song that lives on Slipknot’s primitive, Excerpts From Current Project demo from 1996. Proper sonic punishment, this.
48. Sarcastrophe (.5: The Gray Chapter, 2014)
It’s going to come up a lot throughout this list, but Slipknot are so much more than a fancy dress nu metal band – Sarcastrophe kicks off The Gray Chapter with some Deicide-ish fretwork and blasting, anointing Jay as new sticksman following original drummer Joey Jordison’s departure a year prior. The band’s 2015 shows opened with the band ripping into this like a chainsaw through jelly, Corey’s defiant command of ‘Live long and die for me!’ echoing across arenas worldwide.
47. Skeptic (.5: The Gray Chapter, 2014)
Corey said it best himself: “This is definitely about Paul, absolutely. And it’s a song about the kind of person that Paul was, just his love for not only music in general, but for this band, and just how amazing a personality he was.” Skeptic, of course, is a loving tribute to bassist Paul Gray, who tragically passed on May 24, 2010. Say what you want about the line ‘The world will never know another man as amazing as you’ – this was clearly part of the band’s grieving process, and that middle-eight is heavy.
46. Eeyore (Slipknot, 1999)
Originally hidden after minutes of silence and, er, an excerpt of the band watching some poo porn at the end of their self-titled debut album (it was the 90s – shit was weird), Eeyore is two-and-a-half minutes of complete savagery. It’s been described by since-departed percussionist/knob nose Chris Fehn as one of the most physically demanding Slipknot ditties, and also harbours a line bearing Corey’s future nickname: ‘I am the great big mouth.’
45. The Shape (Iowa, 2001)
The breakdown. The breakdown. Hearing Corey scream ‘I don’t wanna do this anymore, everything’s shit, everything’s been taken, forsaken’ atop that puerile percussion is The Shape’s clear apex, but the whole thing’s a sleeper. A cruelly underrated Iowa gem.
44. Diluted (Slipknot, 1999)
Reworked from Interloper, a track from the band’s 1998 demo, Diluted is one of the self-titled album’s more charming efforts. Corey’s quasi-rapped delivery doesn’t quite hit the heights of Spit It Out, tying it firmly to the nineties, baggy jeans and wallet chains. To the passive ear, it’s straight-up nu metal, but it’s still packing enough percussion and spite-flecked vocals to give Spineshank a wedgie.
43. Skin Ticket (Iowa, 2001)
Skin Ticket is Corey’s most disturbing vocal take that’s an actual song (yeah, we’re not counting Iowa’s title track), his teeth audibly gritted during that haunting ‘Come see my cage, built in my grain’ refrain. People gave Slipknot a lot of stick back in the day for relying on profanity and bouncy riffs, but this is nothing of the sort – this is nightmare fuel, especially when the whole band throw their weight into the finale.
42. XIX (.5: The Gray Chapter, 2014)
Every Slipknot album harbours an intro track, and The Gray Chapter’s is arguably the most morose of the lot. Clown starts with a typically Clown asseveration – ‘This song is not for the living. This song is for the dead’ – before what appears to be the sound of bagpipes. Its lumbering build is so oppressively sombre without relying on any of the usual bleakness you’d associate with Slipknot, Corey’s ‘I don’t want to get back up, but I have to, so it might as well be today’ line encapsulating the heartache, grief and struggle they’d encountered during the record’s gestation.
41. All Hope Is Gone (All Hope Is Gone, 2008)
Slipknot’s fourth record was packing a world-class single in the guise of Psychosocial, so it’s easy to forget that its title track was actually the first song people heard. Propelled by Paul Gray-penned, tremolo-picked verses on the very brink of death metal, All Hope Is Gone explodes into a gang vocal chorus and guitar-teacher-killing solo before reaching the boil just after the three-minute mark, Corey screaming ‘I am the reason your future suffers, I am the hatred you won’t embrace!’ like some sort of Warhammer baddie. Nihilistic to the bone, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.