After releasing their immensely popular debut album, our very controversial masked group, SLIPKNOT, garnered a legion of fans deemed endearingly as ‘maggots’ through extensive touring, the power of MTV, and general confusion on whether or not they were actually ‘evil’. Of course, being in the mentality of ‘edgy on the mainstream side’, the band decided to embrace this concept and pushed it on their second album, “Iowa”.
Named after the state of which the band was born, “Iowa” features SLIPKNOT as a more cohesive group with a more focused approach to writing and performance. Although being a step forward for the group, “Iowa” still lacks a general theme of maturity and is still plagued by some of the production values that were deemed necessary for Nu Metal acts. The band is showing progression with this album, but it still isn’t what the band has potential for.
It is nice to hear that SLIPKNOT is starting to act as a more cohesive entity with this album. Instead of taking turns with every member in each song, the band seems to be moving forward and saying ‘what does this song need’ instead of ‘how do we fit all nine members on each track’. This allows for a bit more layering (which was desperately missing on their debut) of the music and adds a bit more towards the band maturing as a whole. The songs just feel generally stronger on the whole even if there are some genuine filler tracks included (can anyone really tell me the purpose of “Gently” except to show that the band is trying desperately to add atmosphere to the album?). Songs like the chorus heavy “Left Behind”, the anthem like “My Plague”, and even the pretty heavy opener “People = Shit” show the band moving in positive directions with the music and showcasing to their listeners that you don’t have to be as random as they were on the debut to write good SLIPKNOT music.
Granted, there is also still a thread of immaturity that runs through this album that makes them seem a bit too childish to be taken all that seriously. For example, the band tries very hard to come across as that edgy ‘evil’ band that people started deeming them. The random goat on the cover, the overall lyrical content (the chorus “If you’re 555 than I’m 666” on their track “The Heretic Anthem” still makes me embarrassed to admit that I have listened to this album at all), and even their general attempt at making this album darker and more atmospheric just pushes too many of the wrong buttons for me. They try so hard to be evil, that they more or less come across as comical instead. It’s a choice by the band that doesn’t work for “Iowa”.
Once again, I also have a few issues with this album’s production. Although the band is essentially Nu Metal at its foundation, the stronger song writing presence and stronger performances on this album tend to counter the production on it. The guitar work has stepped up a bit (still just mainly riffs and not adding a lot of depth to them), but the tonality of them is down tuned to the point that they sound murky, Taylor’s vocals tend to override most of the rest of the band a bit much – although it was nice to hear him lose most of the hip hop influence and move in a heavier direction – and the overall bass heavy sound makes the drums lose their impact. Considering the drum work is the highlight of SLIPKNOT, this isn’t such a great thing. It worked for the trend that was the late 90s and early 00s, but this production lacks a lot of oomph that could have made this album even stronger.
“Iowa” is a move in the proper paths for SLIPKNOT, but it’s far from a masterpiece even for the Nu Metal genre. The album tends to fall apart in its filler too much and the strong songs that are included can’t make up for some of its immaturity and lackluster production. Unlike many other fans, I dig this album more than the debut, but not by a whole lot – it just has some stronger individual tracks.
Songs to check out: “My Plague”, “Left Behind”, “Everything Ends”.
(Online March 4, 2010)