Slipknot Iowa
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When Slipknot arrived on the scene a few years ago, they were quickly labelled as part of the burgeoning "nu-metal" scene. But while they exhibited some of the hip-hop elements of Korn and Limp Bizkit, underneath was a machine that owed more to underground metal than to rap. The gimmick of wearing masks and their intense live shows at OzzFest combined to bring Slipknot into a realm of popularity unknown by other extreme metal bands.

It would have been easy for Slipknot to follow up their debut with a collection of aggressive-but-still-radio-friendly songs, with a few extreme tracks "for the true fan." I suspected that Slipknot would take the easy way out. However, the buzz grew that Iowa was not going to be a sell-out. Within the first few minutes of listening to Iowa, it becomes clear that Slipknot took the least commercial route.

Iowa opens with the bizarre track (515) before ripping into the raging intensity of People=S***. From that song on, the album is a white-knuckle ride that has largely done away with the debut's nu-metal flourishes and replaced them with a death metal sensibility. Along the way, flashes of melody break up the onslaught long enough for the listener to catch his or her breath. Track 8, Left Behind, features the best mix of brutality and melodicism to come from America in years. The album ends with the eerie soundscape of Iowa, a track that will seep into your head.

This may very well be the most brutal album to crack the Billboard Top 10 (Ruthven's comments - obviously we don't know this yet). But it's not for the weekend metal warrior; only seasoned headbangers will get enjoyment out of this album. If you liked the first album because your friends told you to, you might want to sit this one out.

All in all, an excellent album that sidesteps the sophomore slump by going more extreme. And for that, Slipknot should be commended. While I liked the first album, I saw them as more of a gimmick band than anything else. With Iowa, I am fully onboard.

- - Ruthven

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