Editorial: Slipknot Should Call It
I’m a big fan of Irish goodbyes. When I’m at a party, and things are raging, and I find myself feeling a little bit too drunk and on my way to tired and careless, there’s nothing I like more than walking out without saying goodbye to anyone or making a big deal about my departure. It’s simple, it’s classy, and it doesn’t get you caught up in a bunch of So Good To See You and When Will I See You Next. I did what I came there to do, I saw everyone, we had a good time–peace out.
A couple of days ago, I went to MetalSucks and saw this article, in which Slipknot’s Shawn “Clown” Crahan said that his band’s next album might be their last. Crahan’s statement felt understandably vague — even if he didn’t have bandmates, managers, and label employees to consider, Clown is not known for his succinct and specific commentary — and yet there’s a certain finality to it. Discussing your band’s retirement after one more album makes that album seem like a hurdle that Slipknot has to jump before Crahan can have his much-deserved rest. And honestly? That makes me think that album will be lame, an exercise more than an expression.
I say forget it. Slipknot should just call it. They defined a genre, broke its boundaries, and changed the face of heavy metal. That’s enough.
Before our maggot readers get up in arms, I’m aware that Clown says all sorts of things, and that no Slipknot album is the same experience for all nine members (which album was it where Crahan wandered off and recorded frogs humping or whatever, and when he returned with the tapes Taylor and Co. were like, Nah, here are some metal songs?). Maybe Crahan’s just feeling a little burnt out right now. But I think this raises a few questions about what Slipknot is, and could be, and whether or not they should be that thing.
First of all, Slipknot are quite literally not the band they used to be. Between the tragic loss of founding bassist Paul Gray and the departure of founding drummer Joey Jordison, Slipknot have lost some of the original magic that made their first four albums so undeniably powerful. And while it may seem like a band featuring nine guys in masks doesn’t need all of its original members, I’d argue the opposite. If Slipknot had gone full Gwar, and created fictional characters for themselves, it would be one thing, but given that their masks reflect the personalities of nine real people who came together to make metal unlike that of any other band, having those original nine members is important. For a complicated recipe, every specific ingredient is necessary. Those guys helped invent Slipknot’s sound; their replacements, though incredibly talented, are just performing it.
More so, let’s all admit that .5: The Gray Chapter is a lackluster album, and certainly not as good as any of its predecessors. Its biggest hits are midway decent compared to songs like “Duality” and “I Am Hated,” its overuse of the band’s emo influences is kind of grating after a while, and its cover looks like something right off of a Hot Topic clearance rack. .5 felt to me like a band just putting out another album of Their Thing rather than the strange and exciting progressions that I’d heard on Slipknot’s previous records. And why should one of the most extreme and subversive bands of all time make albums that are neither extreme nor subversive?
Speaking of .5‘s ridiculous cover, it’s not Slipknot’s fault that it might be time for them to pack it in, because the changing face of the music industry doesn’t support a band like Slipknot the way it used to. Do you remember the original CD booklet for 2001’s Iowa? That thing was like a David Fincher movie, full of transparent pages, scribbled lyrics, theatrical photographs, the works. That booklet existed only because the physicality of the money coming in from actual CD sales made it possible for Roadrunner to print something that cool. These days, Slipknot just can’t afford to do shit that strange and elaborate, and rather than watch them try to create that sort of ambient art on a tighter budget, I’d rather appreciate the fact that their cultural timing allowed them to make it at all.
I mean, as far as What Slipknot Does, what else does Slipknot need to do? Are there new frontiers they need to explore? From what I can see, Slipknot have pushed all the buttons and scaled all the summits they possibly could have. If you start as nine dudes from Des Moines making nu metal in masks and end as some of the most recognizable names in rock and roll with a stage show that rivals Siegfried and Roy’s, I’d say you’ve done pretty well. You don’t need to crank out new material at that point. You’ve earned your stripes, and can go on to other projects that better align with your current interests, along with reuniting live here and there.
For the record, I am not suggesting Slipknot call it entirely; specifically, if they want to keep playing live, they’re more than entitled to. That live show is where you make the real money these days, and very few if any bands put on a live show like Slipknot’s, which looks like the subconsciouses of Hieronymous Bosch and Todd McFarlane 69-ing onstage. But albums are greater landmarks than shows, and each album’s success and atmosphere dictates the following tour schedule and aesthetic. No one is begging for another Slipknot album, or wondering when they’ll finally put out a good one. Slipknot’s tour aesthetic can be the one they’ve spent the last two decades defining, and their touring schedule can be whenever the Hell they feel like it. Why create albums that are personal obstacles for the sake of justifying a live show?
The obvious answer is, Because they fucking feel like it, Rhombus, you goon, and hey, that’s valid. A lot of people felt that way when I urged The Misfits not to put out a new album with the original line-up. And the Slipknot dudes have earned the right to do whatever the fuck they want to do. If that’s record more albums, then more power to them. But seeing as each Slipknot album up until the most recent one was so impactful, they shouldn’t put out records incidentally. And if it seems like they’re doing so, which I get the vibe they’re doing now, then why not just leave their legacy as is? No need to win that last trophy or say that big so long to everyone. Just find your hoodie, grab a shot for the road, and bail.