Slipknot’s covered-up faces are integral to their myth. From fucked up, skin-peeling botched surgery to eerie, blank expressions, the masks of the Iowa ninesome have showcased some of the most horrifying imagery in modern metal – a visual accompaniment to their horror-first take on hard rock.
The brainwave of the ever-creepy Clown, the masks came about as the band prepared for their first show: Halloween night, 1995. After some reluctance, the group accepted Clown’s decision to wear the eerie, wide-grin mask and donned facial coverings of their own. Combining that headwear with featureless boiler-suits, an iconic image was born.
- Read more: A love letter to Slipknot’s Dicknose
The masks each member of Slipknot wears evolve with every album, usually getting more intricate (and gory), and are often thought of as an extension of their personalities. Now, with Corey Taylor teasing the next era of Slipknot – and seemingly working with horror SFX mastermind Tom Savini on his 2019 visage – we’ve charted a course through the various masks of Slipknot, to prepare for their long-awaited return this summer.
1‘Slipknot’ (1999) – the DIY years
This was the nine-piece group’s first set of masks. In addition to Clown’s creepy, dirty, store-bought mask, frontman Corey Taylor opted for a blank, expressionless face, green dreadlocks poking out the top, while guitarist Mick Thompson went for a black leather gimp mask. Elsewhere, Jim Root opted for a leather jester’s mask (complete with zipped-up mouth), DJ Sid Wilson opted for a gas mask, bassist Paul Gray took on a pig’s decapitated head, and drummer Joey Jordison opted for the blank stare of a Japanese Kabuki mask – inspired by a Halloween costume his mother once wore when he was a child. Chris Fehn and Craig Jones, meanwhile, established the looks that would stay with them throughout their tenure in Slipknot – the former, a long, phallic nose inspired by bondagewear, and the latter opting for a motorcycle helmet with handfuls of 12-inch nails hammered through it.
2‘Iowa’ (2001) – darker album, scarier masks
Slipknot’s mainstream breakthrough brought with it an evolution in the band’s image. Clown ditched the more traditional clown mask in favour of something more blood-curdling with exposed skin, a carved-out facial pentagram, and lashings of fake blood. Sid Wilson, too, switched things up, replacing the gas mask with a mutilated, bone-like structure, while Paul Gray painted his pig face black. Their bandmates, meanwhile, simply evolved their looks from album one to reflect the somehow darker thematics of ‘Iowa’ – Taylor’s mask was painted black and grey, Fehn’s a dark, grimy grey, and the rest lashed on the fake blood. Jones, meanwhile, swapped out the motorcycle helmet for a rubber bondage mask, complete with zipped-up mouth. Oh, and the nails got longer. That would become a recurring theme.
3‘Vol 3. The Subliminal Verses’ (2004) – more detail, more gore
Taylor ditched the dreadlocks and blank face for the band’s third record, instead opting for a stitched and stapled collection of diseased skin, and a mess of tangled, matted, colourful hair protruding out the top. Wilson’s evolution into a warped, skull-like being continued, while Clown went fully overboard, wrapping his head in bloodied bandages and adorning them with a comical bright red clown’s nose. The rest opted for more simple evolutions, Gray ditching the black pig’s face for something more human-like (though, naturally, with a nailed-up mouth), while the others opted to simply increase the detail and fearsome expressions on their ‘Iowa’-era masks.
4‘All Hope Is Gone’ (2008) – robots, brains and bigger budgets
Album four brought with it Taylor’s most frightening mask to date – a completely blank white face, with the top cut off. Resembling a botched brain experiment on a bloated, human-like alien creature, it remains one of his most iconic looks. Elsewhere, Wilson had gone full mecha, his face resembling that of a glitched-out robot, while Clown had opted for blood-spattered, sewn-together lather patches. Joey Jordison, meanwhile, had opted for a Christ-like crown of thorns atop that now-iconic Kabuki mask.
5‘.5 The Gray Chapter’ (2014) – new members, new masks
Slipknot’s first record in six years, and the first since the death of Paul Gray and departure of Joey Jordison, ‘.5 The Gray Chapter’ brought with it two new members, both of whom were wrapped in makeshift, patchwork masks. Taylor reverted to his diseased skin look, this time with a crooked nose and wildly exaggerated proportions, while Sid Wilson opted for a leather mask complete with metallic features (and, under his mouth guard, a row of terrifying teeth). Clown peeled back the skin of his previous masks to reveal a horrifying, bloody mess, while Fehn added studs and leather to his ‘Dicknose’ mask. Even Thompson upgraded his facial features, with a gnarled expression now adorning that hockey-like mask. As for Craig Jones? Well, just look at the length of those nails. That’s gotta hurt.
6‘We Are Not Your Kind’ (2019) – the present day
And so, to 2019, and the latest incarnation of those creepy costumes. There’s been a few big changes here, most notably our beloved Dicknose being replaced by someone with a terrible skin condition. There’s also the ornate new V-man mask, and Sid Wilson’s wild new cloak, which makes him look a little like Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars’ bastard son. Oh, and Corey’s gone well weird, with some sort of plasticky face covering, and a roll-neck to boot. Are roll-necks metal now? Apparently so!