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"Slipknot aren't experimental." So huffed several snarky haters in the comments of this prompt, and they aren't entirely wrong. The Iowa nu-metal miscreants are one of the biggest bands in metal history, and while their music has always been heavy, it's also always been catchy; brutal but anthemic, dark but relatable.
After seven albums, the Nine do have a recognizable fastball, but they're also never afraid to throw a curve or two into the mix: songs where the band switch up their approach, fiddle with some new production approaches, fuck with the tempo and/or simply throw something at the wall just to see if sticks.
These songs, of which there are many throughout the band's catalog, are indeed the very definition of "experimental," and we asked our readers to pick the best of the bunch. The top five vote-getters are ranked accordingly below.
After Iowa doubled-down on the heaviness of their pulverizing debut, Slipknot went the other way on Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, writing some of their catchiest songs ("Duality, "Before I Forget"), and also some of their weirdest. The album's penultimate track, "Virus of Life," is a fucking haunting creeper filled with claustrophobic guitar noise and moaning vocals that sound like they were recorded while Taylor was trapped in some psycho's sweatbox. It's not fast, but it's still massively heavy.
Diehard Maggots know that Slipknot have an unreleased album, recorded during the All Hope is Gone sessions, that Taylor has described as having a "Radiohead vibe." Until now, it was difficult to imagine what that might sound like coming through the Slipknot lens, but the opening track on THE END, SO FAR gets there. "Adderall" is highly melodic and unusually bright-sounding for the Nine, with twirling strings, a Brit-pop bounce and cooing harmonies that're the furthest thing from metal. If it weren't for Taylor's unmistakable voice, you might not even know it was the 'Knot.
If there's one criticism of Slipknot's 1999 debut that still rings true, it's that it does sound pretty samey. The band had a unique sound right off the bat, but it'd take them a few more years to learn how to fuck with it. "Purity" has the seeds of something different, though. The record's ninth cut has a Korn-like structure, with muttery verses and mangled choruses that explode in emotional fury. It flows differently than every other track on the self-titled record, with heavy-lidded clean vocals that don't even arrive until the song's halfway mark. It's a little perplexing, and also intriguing.
"Iowa" might be the single scariest song in Slipknot's discography. The 15-minute grand finale to their second record is a harrowing sonic journey through the psychotic mind of a necrophiliac, and Taylor delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as the song's groaning, caterwauling, deeply disturbed lead character. The rest of the band take the liberty to go full-on noise-sludge, as rippling currents of sooty guitars wash over pounding drums, then pull back to near-silence, then return at full volume before self-destructing into violent feedback.
Slipknot have always gone hand-in-hand with horror movies — from their masks inspired by fright flicks, to Taylor's lyrical fascination with serial killers. However, "Spiders" is the first song of theirs that could genuinely soundtrack a horror film. The deep cut from We Are Not Your Kind has an eerie piano dribble that sounds straight out of a John Carpenter production, the percussion is stark like a quiet October night, and Taylor's soulful vocal delivery is flanked by spooky samples and off-kilter handclaps that build suspense. Like the villain might appear behind to slash his throat at any moment.