Album review: Corey Taylor – CMF2
Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor assuredly takes his solo work to the next level on commanding second album.
Over two-and-a-half decades of tribulation, tragedy and triumph, Slipknot have built a catalogue like few others. It chronicles not just the anger, doubt, pain and catharsis of its constituent members, but the growth of the band itself – from terrifying underground oddity to main-stage-straddling metal behemoth.
Any ranking should be taken with the proviso that every track is loaded with furious significance when viewed in the breakneck context of the pandemonium (and ever-evolving scene) around the Iowan wrecking machine. Still, every fan knows that certain songs hold a special place in our (black) hearts and we here at Kerrang! thought it was high time we charted our frenzied favourites…
For all their genre-melding extreme experimentalism, Slipknot have never trodden far into true thrash territory. That seemed like it might change with the opening track on fourth album All Hope Is Gone, with an up-tempo tone calling to mind forbears like Exodus, Testament and Kreator. Lyrically, frontman Corey Taylor matched up, daring to ask, ‘What if God doesn’t care?’ amidst a shredding tirade on how the religious right have so stubbornly embedded themselves into the American political system. Full of righteous fury.
My Plague, the second single from second album Iowa, was an immensely important moment in Slipknot’s infection of the mainstream. Maintaining their cacophonous aggression and sheer nihilistic vitriol, it also delivered a deceptively catchy melody and some massive vocal hooks that bridged radio-rock and extreme metal. Featured (in remixed form) on the original Resident Evil movie soundtrack, it spread like a virus into teenage bedrooms around the world, with its inevitable GRAMMY nomination feeling like scant acknowledgement from an establishment that didn’t really know what’d hit it.
Coupled with companion piece Vermilion Pt. 2 – a hauntingly stripped-back ballad carried by one of Corey’s all-time greatest vocal performances – Vermilion was a sign of Slipknot’s growing confidence and determination to expand their creepy/aggro dynamic. It manages to do so spectacularly, with the promise that ‘I won’t let this build up inside of me’ stressing the tense pull of the darkness within as a world of horror movie atmospherics well up in the background. The strain of (extremely) twisted romance running through dragged Vermilion higher still.
The first single proper from The Gray Chapter, The Devil In I had a lot of work to do in reassuring fans that even after the death of eponymous bassist Paul Gray and subsequent departure of iconic drummer Joey Jordison, the band still had what it took to shoulder the metal scene into their third decade. Opening under heavy skies, there’s a fitting doominess at play before the track catches fire with a brilliantly catchy chorus. With pointed lyrics like ‘You and I can’t decide which of us was taken for granted’ and ‘Some of us are destined to be outlived,’ it was fearless in charting the internal turmoil endured by the band, but ultimately delivers a fist-pumping catharsis.
An odd, openly experimental number from their latest album, it’s unsurprising that Nero Forte is the brainchild of percussionist/ringleader Shawn “Clown” Crahan. It’s about questioning the reality of one’s own existence, apparently, with the title referencing the Italian terms for ‘black’ and ‘strong’ as its abstract narrative charts the feeling of falling into the blackness of depression. Some aspects land with far more immediacy, mind, like the percussive masterclass at its foundation and Corey’s first real deployment of falsetto in service of the ‘Knot. Add to that a weirdly colourful music video shot on an MGM soundstage – and Clown’s extended short-film Pollution – and this Technicolor nightmare layers up into one hell of a package.
‘I don’t like a fuckin’ thing,’ roars this self-explanatory 124-second blast, inserted as the final finished track on the extended version of Slipknot’s 1999 debut. ‘Music sucks dick / Suck the snot-end off the tip of my prick / You fucking c*nts, get up off of my back, I don’t wanna do a show with your shitty fuckin’ band / You suck! They suck! Guess what: get fucked!’ Uninterested in making friends amongst an already fading nu-metal fraternity, they were already establishing themselves as an uncompromising band apart. ‘GET THIS OR DIE! GET THIS OR DIE! GET THIS OR DIE!’ Quite.
‘If you’re 555, then I’m 666!’ Probably Slipknot’s most instantly recognisable, er, anthem, the sixth track on 2001’s second LP Iowa rang out in furious defiance of anyone claiming the ‘Knot were about to react to success by selling out or sacrificing even an ounce of their profane severity at the altar of marketability. Driven by a pounding attitude and unashamed large-scale scope, this felt like a release for marginalised outsiders around the world and a turning-point in Slipknot’s journey as modern ‘mainstream’ metal’s voice of the voiceless.
With an intro featuring Los Angeles’ 160-strong Angel City Chorale, there’s a lavish grandiosity about this recent cut with both Clown and We Are Not Your Kind producer Greg Fidelman envisioning an updated take on the visionary epics of classic rock heavyweights like Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones. Dig deeper and the track is a chronicle of Corey’s depression following his split from ex-wife Stephanie Luby in 2017, as well as the struggle to stay outside the grasp of addiction. Typically, its swaggering fury is refracted through the singer’s hatred for organised religion.
If 1999’s self-titled LP was a potent blend of face-smashing aggression and creeping dread, Prosthetics was proof that they could slip right to the latter end of the spectrum to truly skin-crawling effect. Lyrically inspired by iconic 1965 psychological thriller The Collector – the tale of a psychotic entomologist who kidnaps a beautiful art student and holds her prisoner in the basement of his farmhouse – coupled with its complex percussion and static squalls delivered at a malevolently measured pace, it’s a pained masterclass that pulsates to life spectacularly in the live arena. More than that, it’s one of the eeriest rock songs on record. Period.
HERE COMES THE PAIN! An off the chain fan favourite and staple of their live set (at 954 performances, it is currently their most-played song on setlist.fm) this first album standout sees Corey dropping some insanely rapid-fire vocals as all hell breaks loose around him. Tellingly, it was one of the first tracks recorded with pivotal percussionist Joey Jordison onboard and even bore the name Slipknot before they realised that’d make an even better name for the band! All together now: ‘THIS IS A WAAAR!’
If Iowa is the most fucked-up platinum-rated album in history, Disasterpiece is its defining track. Featuring an opening lyric as shamelessly inflammatory as ‘I want to slit your throat and fuck the wound,’ alongside others as hopelessly nihilistic as ‘I feel like I’m erased, so kill me just in case…’ this was sheer nightmare fuel being pumped by master provocateurs. Driven on by Jordison’s vertiginously technical drumwork, this was a key moment in their breaking away from the falling nu-metal banner and even won (begrudging) respect from the most blood-flecked corners of the death metal fraternity.
Although the ‘Knot were already a massive deal by the time they dropped 2008’s All Hope Is Gone, Psychosocial felt like the first of their tracks that truly belonged on mainstream radio. Another percussively-oriented masterclass with a chorus (‘And the rain will kill us all…’) custom written to be sung back by full fields of fans, it was testament as much to the band’s well-honed songwriting as to how much they had changed the game. It’s also one of the most satisfying songs with which to time those truly gut-busting hits in the pit.
The song that got Slipknot signed to the legendary Roadrunner Records. It’s easy enough to see why, too, with those straight(ish) nu-metal tendencies – a juggernaut rhythm section, buzzing riffage, Corey’s unhinged rapping – quickly lodging themselves in the minds of early fans with even a passing interest in the band. The version on the album wasn’t even tweaked by legendary producer Ross Robinson, with the band preferring to use the rougher-hewn demo version they sent to the label in the first place. Surely enough, it also inspired an iconic live tradition, with hundreds of audiences since invited to “SIT THE FUCK DOWN” then “JUMP THE FUCK UP!” to fist-flinging effect.
The song that won Slipknot their GRAMMY after having been nominated six times in a row previously. Propelled by that distinctive meatgrinder riff (based on the track Carve from their early, unreleased album Crowz), Before I Forget feels relatively straightforward when held up against much of the rest of their work: its marriage of testosterone-fuelled aggro and charged melody sounding stylistically far closer to so many NWOAM contemporaries’ snarling output than previously. Accordingly, the video – focused on tight-shots of members’ faces – marked one of the first occasions the band were portrayed without their masks. Forthright brilliance.
The lead single from Iowa felt like a massive change of pace for the band from the moment it dropped. Having been kicked around (originally known as Lust Disease) as a demo for years, it flourished into a darkly melodic early landmark for the band, and one of the most recognisable tracks in their catalogue. Some fans at the time actually railed against the perceived change of direction, feeling betrayed by the relative accessibility of what they were hearing, but the Dave Myers-directed music video ratcheted up the bleakness with its depiction of a bullied kid working in a butcher shop, living in a rotted-out shell of a house and munching the least appetising cereal in history.
‘I push my fingers into my eeeeeeeeeyes!’ Another outcast anthem for the ages, the lead single for Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) might just be Slipknot’s most iconic moment. Having taken time off, and with the resurgence of individual members’ other projects, there was a feeling of real uncertainty before The Nine returned for their third album. In one fell swoop, this song – and the iconic music video featuring a horde of Maggots ripping apart a house like some nightmare reimagining of Johnny Knoxville’s Jackass – confirmed that the Iowan machine was still to hit top gear.
The band’s first single of the Roadrunner era (and their first to earn a GRAMMY nomination) still startles with its sheer lunatic darkness today. Telling the story of a man dreaming vividly of bleeding out in the bathtub with slashed wrists – then coming to the gut-lurching realisation that this isn’t a dream – it is a chilling rumination on mankind’s ability to slip into darkness at any moment, and to find themselves carrying out the unthinkable. Its tangle of descending riffage matches up perfectly, dragging the listener down to the track’s violent, climactic nadir.
Far more than the million mum-upsettingly offensive T-shirts it helped spawn, Iowa’s furious second song works as both a scalding indictment of human stupidity and a cathartic release for anyone caught on the wrong end of it. Sort of like an extremist, post-9/11 flipside to Limp Bizkit’s Break Stuff, this encapsulated the stirring discontent in American suburbia, with Slipknot questioning the true value of increasingly self-satisfied Western civilisation and mischievously asking, ‘What’s the matter with calamity anyway?!’
‘You can’t see California without Marlon Brando’s eyes,’ wretches Corey Taylor on this chaotic nu-metal banger, repeating the disturbed mantra hurled at him by a homeless person on the side of the street. Unsettlingly abstract yet thrillingly evocative, it encapsulates so much of what hooked fans on Slipknot’s early output. Scratched to hell by turntablist Sid Wilson and packed with lyrical rhymes, it sounds – almost jarringly – of-its-time, with over two decades’ retrospect. Its greatest achievement, however, is in capturing the dark magic of that specific moment, for the band and the legion of Maggots who’ve clung to them since.
Surfacing has long been considered Slipknot fans’ “new national anthem” for good reason. Other tracks might have been more responsible for the Iowans breaking the big time, but Surfacing benchmarked the nastiness bubbling underneath that would keep them there. Mick Thomson’s pitch-shifting, brain-bending six-string subsides into a sea of bubbling rage. ‘Fuck it all,’ Corey rages, laying the band’s hateful agenda bare. ‘Fuck this world! Fuck everything that you stand for!’ Suddenly, a new legion of disenfranchised outcasts had their battle cry, a black flag behind which to unite, and nothing would ever be the same.
Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor assuredly takes his solo work to the next level on commanding second album.
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The Cover Story
Author. Presenter. Musician. Plus actor. There’s nothing Corey Taylor can’t do, and with new solo album CMF2 he’s fully seized the opportunity to flex his creative muscles. Meeting The Great Big Mouth in London, we get into his ’70s-inspired process, how it differs to Slipknot, and what his younger self would make of it all…
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Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor has hinted that their Look Outside Your Window record could finally be with us in 2024.
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