It's hard to believe that Slipknot's self-titled album is over 20 years old, and it's even harder to believe that — after all the chaos, tension and tragedy that's beset the band over the past two decades — they're still together.
We're not complaining, though, especially since the 'Knot continue to release adventurous, forward-thinking, gut-punching albums. At this point, their discography is one of the most imposing and debated in all of metal history, so we took on the task of ranking every project the Iowan juggernaut have ever released — live albums, demos and all.
Original CD pressings of Slipknot's self-released 1996 debut fetch big bucks these days, but the album's more of a collector's item/musicological artifact than a bona-fide classic. Far less focused and way more experimental than the 'Knot's subsequent output, Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. is worth tracking down on YouTube if you want to hear what Joey Jordison, Paul Gray and Clown were up to before Corey Taylor and the rest of the masked maniacs joined up.
Recorded at the band's first-ever Mexican concert performance — the 2015 Knotfest in Toluca — Day of the Gusano was released in 2017 as a dual DVD/CD (or DVD/2-LP) set. Over half of the 17 songs on the audio-only portion previously appeared on 9.0 Live (albeit in earlier recordings), but the track listing is at least freshened up by the presence of one track from All Hope Is Gone ("Psychosocial") and three from .5: The Gray Chapter ("Sarcastrophe," The Devil in I" and "Custer"). The performances are all excellent, but you really need to watch the DVD to get the full effect.
Compiled from performances recorded during seven different stops on the 'Knot's 2004-'05 tour supporting Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses), the ferocious 9.0: Live captures the band's classic lineup at arguably the peak of its live powers. The 24-track album contains crucial recordings of songs rarely included in Slipknot set lists — including "Skin Ticket," "The Nameless" and "Iowa" — and the intensity of the performances is absolutely blinding. However, between the overall lack of nuance and Corey Taylor's mask-muffled vocals, 9.0: Live is ultimately doomed to the fate suffered by most live records. It's awesome to have in your collection, but you probably won't pull it out very often.
In many ways, 2014's .5 – The Gray Chapter is the Slipknot album that had the highest stakes to it. The band had been rattled by the tragic death of founding bassist Paul Gray in 2010, and then co-founding drummer Joey Jordison departed on less-than-great terms in 2013. While it's impressive that Slipknot were able to rally themselves after those tumultuous few years, The Gray Chapter just doesn't meet the band's own high standards, containing a meandering tracklist, unfocused tributes to the record's namesake, and their least visceral batch of songs since Taylor joined the band. Fortunately, they recalibrated.
Slipknot's seventh album inspired mixed reactions, not just from fans who miss the heaviness of the Iowa days, but from the band members themselves, some of whom expressed their disappointment with the final product. It's definitely one of Slipknot's most chin-scratching turns — opening with one of their catchiest and strangest songs yet — but it's still got plenty of power in its tracklist, from the pulverizing "Chapeltown Rag" to the undeniably anthemic "The Dying Song (Time to Sing)." It's not the band's most focused listen, but it defintiely offers fans plenty to chew on.
All Hope Is Gone might be Slipknot's most underrated album. Touted at time as the first 'Knot album to feature serious artistic contributions from all nine band members, the band's 2008 opus offered fans a little bit of everything. "Gematria (The Killing Name)" and the title track are two of the heaviest songs they've ever made, "Snuffed" is Slipknot's most moving power ballad, "Gehenna" successfully dabbles with jazz, prog and falsetto cleans, and the stomping, chant-along single, "Psychosocial," is a career highlight. If you're skeptical, give it another go.
After fumbling on The Gray Chapter, the Nine found their footing again on 2019's We Are Not Your Kind. Everything their loyal Maggots have come to love — gritty guitar riffs, unorthodox percussion and electronics, Corey Taylor's voice — is present and maximized. What takes the album next level, however, are the new tricks up the 'Knot's jumpsuit sleeves, from John Carpenter–esque synths to trip-hop vibes to the choir on "Unsainted." It's the sound of a band comfortable with their new members and in their new masks, unafraid to take risks and reaping great rewards.
The 'Knot's 1999 album caught the metal world by surprise — so much so that it took a while for many listeners to focus on the band's impressive songwriting chops instead of just their freaky masks and pummeling aggression. Though the album reached no higher than No. 98 on the Billboard 200, it left a wicked bruise on the musical landscape. The nu-metal residue in Ross Robinson's production might make the album sound somewhat dated, but tracks like "Wait and Bleed," "Eyeless" and "Surfacing" still rip as powerfully today as they did when first unveiled. It's not as heavy as Iowa, but in some ways it's even rawer and more unrestrained.
The closest thing to a Led Zeppelin IV in Slipknot's discography, 2004's Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses found the band confidently striding out in new directions, adding more musical and conceptual nuance while losing none of their skin-flaying intensity. Tracks like "The Blister Exists," "The Nameless," "Pulse of the Maggots," "Opium of the People," "Duality," "Before I Forget," "Vermillion" and "Vermillion Pt. 2," practically make Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses a "greatest hits" album in its own right.
The band's 2001 breakthrough (which sailed all the way to No. 2 on the Billboard 200) tapped deeper into the well of darkness, anger and despair that fueled 1999's Slipknot, while attaining even more impressive degrees of technical precision and arena-quaking heaviness. "People = Shit," "My Plague," "Disasterpiece," "The Heretic Anthem" and the scarifying title track remain some of the most essential tracks in the band's catalog, and the album as a whole still leaves us blistered and breathless. If we had to pick just one Slipknot album to take with us to that fabled desert island — or if a 'Knot newbie asked us which record they should buy first — Iowa would unquestionably be it.