Any half-observant person traveling through small towns across the U.S. will see recurring themes. Like a novel in need of some serious editing, the same characters in the same situations present themselves time and again. Everything is as dull as death. With dads long gone and moms at work, kids climb the embankment under a freeway overpass to escape the summer heat, have a couple of beers and a smoke. Above they hear the traffic speeding somewhere else. Below, on a two-lane road, the local traffic crawls by.
Here the pressure to accept the status quo or adhere to the norm is even more pronounced and suffocating than in big cities. And it's not all that different in any other hot, dusty, conservative agriculture oriented place. Enter Slipknot.
Using numbers rather than names to identify members (a comment on individualism), Slipknot, who hailed from Des Moines, Iowa, dressed in jumpsuits and scary masks as they drilled the Alt. Metal mine to the hilt.
Forming in '95, Slipknot's self-released debut "Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat." arrived a year later. That opening salvo got them signed to Roadrunner Records where they launched "Slipknot" ('99), the live "Spit It Out" ('00), "Iowa" ('01) and "Vol. 3 - The Subliminal Verses" ('04). Rick Rubin produced the latter. Both "Iowa" and "Vol. 3 - The Subliminal Verses" were major commercial successes.
In the summer of '08, Slipknot performed at the inaugural show of Rockstar Mayhem Festival tour in Auburn, WA. It became a memorable concert, but for the wrong reasons, when DJ Sid Wilson broke both his heels while jumping offstage during the first show. On subsequent tour stops Wilson performed in a wheelchair.
"I think it's the best thing I've ever made," said frontman Corey Taylor, talking up the group's fourth album, "All Hope Is Gone." "And I challenge anyone to prove me wrong."
That would be hard since "All Hope Is Gone" topped the Billboard album chart its first week out. "It proves that the top spot is not just for pop or Hip-Hop bands or Country acts," said Taylor. "If you (other Metal bands) put the work in and you build it, you can have it too."
Though the group began work in the album in October, '07, recording didn't really get rolling until early '08. Recording for the first time with producer Dave Fortman, the album was seen as being more experimental, using such 'unconventional' instruments as acoustic guitars, hi-hats and cymbals - and even trying for melodic vocals. The '08 disc's first single was "Psychosocial."
The video for the song "Sulfur" (also from "All Hope Is Gone") was co-directed by bandmember Shawn "Clown" Crahan, and featured the group submerged in a tank of water. "It was dangerous," said Crahan. "It happens to be my favorite video ever because it involved that fear."
Prior to the album's release Slipknot headlined the Mayhem Festival and had plans to appear at the Reading and Leeds Music Festivals in England (sharing the stage with Metallica, Rage Against The Machine, Avenged Sevenfold and Queens Of The Stone Age). But drummer Joey Jordison's broken ankle (yeah, another injury - hope they have a good health plan) forced Slipknot to cancel the remaining shows on their European tour, including the Reading and Leeds dates. "Doctors have advised Joey to stay off his leg for 4-6 weeks to prevent further injury or permanent and more serious damage," said a band statement.
The day after the cancellation was announced Slipknot collected the Kerrang! Icon trophy at the 2008 Kerrang! Awards in London. "I'm speechless," said Taylor who dedicated the award Jordison. "I wish there was more of us here. I just showed up for the booze." He pledged to return (with Slipknot) to the UK and make up for the missed the festivals. "We will be back as soon as the wound heals."
And back they were - but not to Europe. Slipknot's headlining U.S. arena tour in support of "All Hope Is Gone" kicked-off in St. Paul. "2009 is the 10-year anniversary of the world's first taste of this band," said Taylor, referring to Slipknot's '99 self-titled debut. "To celebrate, we are coming back out with a killer tour." Too bad it didn't turn out that way.
Slipknot canceled a series of U.S. dates after Jordinson was hospitalized for what was termed "a severe medical emergency." But according to Gray other factors were also involved. "There are personal issues in the band that need to be taken care of for us to continue touring," wrote the bassist online.
In the meantime, Slipknot took home Best Live Band and Monster Riff of the Year trophies at the first-ever Epiphone Revolver Golden Gods Awards in L.A.
Whatever "personal issues" there were, Gray ultimately wouldn't be part of the solution. Slipknot suffered a devastating blow when the bassist was found dead (5/24/10) in a hotel near Urbandale, IA. Police investigators said they found no evidence of foul play or trauma but they did find drug paraphernalia. On a 911 tape, the hotel employee who discovered Gray said, "there's a hypodermic needle next to his bed here." The Slipknot co-founder was 38.
Seven years earlier ('03), Gray was involved in a car accident. Cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia were in his car. Gray was arrested and later sentenced to one year of informal probation. In recent years though, word was he had turned his life around.
Two days after Gray's passing, Slipknot held a press conference that was also attended by Gray's wife Brenna, who was pregnant with their first child. It was the first time the band appeared in public without their masks.
"Paul Gray was the essence of the band Slipknot and Paul was there from the very beginning," said Crahan. "None of us would be on the path that we're on right now in life, or have the sorts of lives that we have, without him. He really was the essence of Slipknot and we'd like for him to be remembered that way."
Later, Brenna issued an official statement thanking fans for their words of support. "Paul loved his fans so much, and anyone who had met him knew he was the kindest, sweetest, most genuine person in the world," Brenda wrote on Gray's MySpace page. "His intentions were to always make people happy and smile. All of you have touched Paul in a way that he always would talk about how wonderful his fans are."
The following month all Taylor would say regarding Slipknot's future was that it was "too soon to say" what might happen.
Then came the official autopsy report which revealed that Gray's death was caused by an accidental overdose of morphine and fentanyl, a narcotic analgesic that is 100 times more potent than morphine. According to the Polk County Medical Examiner's Office, Gray also had "significant heart disease" at the time of his death.
As Taylor's other band, Stone Sour, was about to release their third album, "Audio Secrecy," Taylor mused on Slipknot's legacy. "As diverse as Slipknot is, it's always kind of a cornerstone for a certain kind of music and I love that, I really do,' he said. "We kind of set the standards and defined a genre for a while."
Toward the end of the year ('10), Slipknot confirmed that they were one of the three headliners at the '11 Sonisphere festival in the U.K. A few months later, they announced that founding member, Donnie Steele, would be the band's bassist on their summer tour (replacing the late Gray). Steele left in '95, only one year after Slipknot's formation.
Meanwhile, following in Taylor's side project footsteps, Crahan's band, Black Dots Of Death, issued their debut album, "Ever Since We Were Children," with the lead single "Let's Get F***ed Up." Then Crahan made his acting debut in the '12 film The Devil's Carnival. He played the role of "The Tamer."
To encapsulate their career to date, Slipknot issued "Antennas From Hell" in '12. Shortly after the set was out, Taylor explained that it was dedicated to Gray. "To us, [the album] was just a compilation to celebrate the fact that our fans have been with us since day one, and to basically celebrate what we call the Paul years."
Moving forward, Slipknot's first-ever Knotfest took place in August, '12. The first day, of the two day event, was in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Day two was in Minneapolis, MN. Deftones and Lamb Of God were also on the bill.
"We make a day devoted to our mindset, our ideas, the people that we want to play with, the people that we think our fans want to be around," Crahan told Rolling Stone.
But there were still issues. Following the '13 announcement that Jordison had left Slipknot for "personal reasons" the drummer countered with a statement. "I want to make it very clear that I DID NOT QUIT SLIPKNOT. This band has been my life for the last 18 years, and I would never abandon it, or my fans."
Months passed before a lawsuit filed against Daniel Baldi, the doctor who prescribed drugs to Gray, was dismissed. A judge ruled that Brenna had waited too long and the statute of limitations had passed on her chance to file suit. In an earlier proceeding, Baldi's legal team successfully argued that at the time of Gray's death no drugs which Baldi had prescribed were found in his system.
Days later, Slipknot issued the video for their first single in six years, "The Negative One." It was the band's first release without Jordison and Gray.
Meanwhile, Slipknot desperately tried to conceal the identities of Jordison and Gray's replacements. But word slipped out that Jay Weinberg, son of Bruce Springsteen's drummer, Max had played the kit on the group's next album "5. The Gray Chapter" (named after Gray).
Though wearing a mask during rehearsals/sessions, photos led fans to identify bassist Alessandro "Vman" Venturella by his tattoos.
Taylor neither confirmed nor denied the speculation but said the pair would have to prove themselves before full-membership would be granted.
"We're not saying who the new drummer is," Taylor added later. "Even if people find out beyond a shadow of a doubt who he is, I think we're always going to deny it."
2004 Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)
2008 All Hope Is Gone
2012 Antennas From Hell (a 'Best Of' compilation)
2014 5. The Gray Chapter
Slipknot attacks songs with nihilistic brutality. The guitars, bass and percussion create an incendiary blast that is aided and abetted by Corey (8) Taylor's guttural vocals.