Somewhere over the railroad, dead crows lie. There’s a land that you’ve dreamed of, once in a mad clown’s eye. While [a]Eminem[/a] scrapes the grim flipside of the American Dream and [a]Limp Bizkit[/a] grope the plump psyche of the American Teen, [a]Slipknot[/a]’s third album is the work of men whose world exists entirely behind their masks. Named after the home that shaped them, ‘Iowa’ is one hell of a mental state.
Misanthropy, solipsism, disgust: there’s nothing here but the dark, derelict landmarks of the tortured soul. If they seemed like daft panto gimmickry when they first stuck their Scooby Doo heads over the parapet, Slipknot have become exceptionally convincing nihilists. And, after listening to ‘Iowa’, you realise their nothing is very special indeed.
Admittedly, these are songs so adolescently self-centred you’d have to head to Ramsey Street to find more pre-adult agony, yet having an immature ego has never been a stumbling block to rock mastery. And if their world revolves around them and their paranoia, it’s because they’ve constructed it to do just that. Like the art of the insane, every possible space is covered in scrawl and cymbals: guitars, percussion, electronic squall, subhuman screaming, Ross Robinson’s production ensuring the music lets no light in, that you can never quite see round the edges. At its occasional worst – ‘New Abortion’, ‘Shape’ – it sounds like ill-aimed projectile loathing, yet elsewhere they’ve worked out that there are 50 ways to smash a cranium, from the nauseous glory of ‘People=Shit’ – a Coke ad waiting to happen – to the boilersuited fight song ‘Heretic Anthem’.
The excellent ‘Everything Ends’ (“I think I’m gonna be sick and it’s your fault”, growls nervous-breakdown-on-legs Corey) is momentarily [a]Nirvana[/a]-like, a melodic fin sharks through the filthy noise of ‘My Plague’ while the scrapyard baroque of ‘Skin Ticket’ is Phantom Of The Opera with real Phantoms. And, having abundantly fulfilled their brief, they even get away with a closing 15-minute title track which is, ludicrously, almost post-rock, a suite of bass menace, muttering and incipient apocalypse that makes you wonder whether it’s Godspeed who’ve been lurking behind those masks all along.
Think you’re going to be sick and it’s their fault? Then their work here is done. People might well equal shit, but sometimes, they care enough to make records this exhilarating, this brutal, this good. It could almost restore your faith in humanity.