Slipknot - Debut Album 20 Years On
With the recent aniversary of the monsterious debut album that would spawn on of the worlds biggest bands, we take a look at the choas behind the making of it.
It’s the 29th of June, 1999 and you may have not felt it at the time but in more ways than one the metal scene changed forever. This shift was heralded by the release of a self-titled, debut studio album from a bizarre nine-piece band from Des Moines Iowa of all places, this was Slipknot and they’d come for us all.
At the time, few outside of their home state knew about the band in the boiler suits and the grotesque masks that included not one but two percussionists, a DJ and a Sample guy alongside the more traditional metal set up. Few saw them coming, but all took notice when they arrived with their unique and incredibly aggressive brand of metal.
Recently the twentieth anniversary of Slipknot’s debut record was celebrated and so we thought we’d take a deep dive into this landmark album and relive the chaos.
I remember the first time I heard the record, I was around twelve years old, I’d been brought up on Motown and classic rock and before this, the heaviest band I’d heard was Alice In Chains. A friend had picked up a bootleg copy of the album from somewhere and recorded it to cassette tape, this tape then circulated around friends at school and found it’s way into my tape deck.
I was blown away, I knew little of heavy metal as a whole back then but even then, a dumb kid still in school I knew I was listening to something different, something unique and I immediately wanted more. Yes, Slipknot were my gate drug to harder bands and I am not ashamed of that at all.
Slipknot as a concept was the brainchild of Paul Gray and Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan. They wanted to create the most extreme band on the planet and by the time 1999 rolled around the band had shifted and mutated into something that really began to resemble the vision Gray and Clown had, the first glimpse of which was on 1996 demo Mate.Kill.Feed.Repeat.
Slipknot was to be more than a band, it was a movement, an idea, a brand and it was to be packaged and sold in a very specific way. It’s this early blueprint that has been so religiously stuck too over the years that has given the band such phenomenal success. If Mate.Kill.Fed.Repeat was the four-minute warning then the debut studio effort was the full-scale attack.
Having originally been criticized and rejected by the likes of Sony, Roadrunner Records would be the ones to put the album out. Ahead of recording Clown had personally made promises to executives at the top of the pile within Roadrunner Records that they had signed the biggest band in the world and that they would not regret taking this chance. Ross Robinson was hired for production and knew the current wave of Nu-Metal well, having worked with outfits such as Korn and Limp Bizkit. It was Robinson who had a part to play in securing the huge seven-album deal with Roadrunner which also saw Roadrunner stalwart Corey Brennan take the management role
The album was recorded at Indigo Ranch Studios in Malibu in September 98 and wrapped in February 99 and would be Corey Taylor’s first album with the band having recently replaced outgoing frontman Anders Colsefni. Ross Robinson was known for driving artists hard in the studio, really hard, working them to their limits then breaking through the pain barrier and reaping the creative reward on the other side. Slipknot would be no different, new to the industry or not, Robinson was on the assault from the start.
Corey Taylor told Revolver magazine "By the end, I was literally broken completely in half and wide open and bawling and I couldn't stop crying," said Taylor "I was throwing up all over the fucking place. At one point, the vocal booth smelled so bad." Robinson would terrorise the band, trying to rip their instruments from their hands whilst they played, hurled insults and plant pots at Joey Jordinson whilst he drummed and almost broke Chris Ferhn in order to get exactly the right sound. The bands own insanity mixed with the extreme pressure from Robinson to create the perfect storm, a brutal, no holds barred album as relentless as it is creative and like nothing you’d heard before at the time.
The album was recorded with guitarist Josh Brainard who departed from the band shortly after completion of the record due to what has been cited as ‘conflicting opinions’. The now-familiar figure of Jim Root was brought in from Stone Sour to replace him.
Once everything was laid down and the chaos had subsided in the Malibu studio space the tracks were mixed by Robinson alongside Joey Jordinson using analogue equipment to retain a more authentic sound. It’s this raw, dirty sound on the debut album that helped cement Slipknot’s patented blend of metal in the psyche of their fans. Once completed the album was a tortured, aggressive juggernaut that intended to annihilate anything in its path, there is a certain unhinged feel to the entire record that still permeates to this day, every listen still as fresh as the first, even twenty years later.
Tracks ‘Wait and Bleed and ‘Spit it Out’ were cut and released as singles, both going on to garner critical acclaim and the band scored themselves an opening slot on the North American Ozzfest tour in the summer of 1999, the album would release whilst they were on the road.
Once the record was out in the publics hands there was no stopping Slipknot, gathering a huge amount of attention on Ozzfest’s second stage and making waves in the Nu-Metal scene to which they were automatically if somewhat unfairly assigned. Yes, the band contains a DJ and they hit the scene on the edge of the millennium but that doesn't necessarily mean they’re Nu-Metal, either way, you see it, this label would not slow them down.
It only took mere months for Slipknot to rise up and become a Roadrunner Records bestseller. The album itself was crowned the fastest-selling debut record by a metal band in history alongside the 98th best-selling album of the year, a No. 51 spot on the Billboard chart and single “Wait and Bleed” was nominated for a Grammy and would be named the 36th greatest metal song of all time by VH1.
Q magazine listed the album in their list of "50 Heaviest Albums of All Time". CMJ ranked the album as the twelfth highest "Editorial Pick" for the year of 1999 and it was also featured in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die authored by Robert Dimer
The band had achieved huge success with their first attempt, just as Clown had promised that day back in the board room and this was just a taste of what was to come. The debut would go double platinum in the US, and platinum in UK, Canada and Australia and Gold in Japan and the Netherlands.