Slipknot Emerges From The Middle Of 'Iowa'

Records publicist says of the label's platinum shock-thrashers Slipknot. For most bands, this much is implied. But most bands aren't like Slipknot. In fact, most groups have nothing in common with th

"They take their music very seriously," a Roadrunner Records publicist says of the label's platinum shock-thrashers Slipknot. For most bands, this much is implied. But most bands aren't like Slipknot.

In fact, most groups have nothing in common with the hardcore nonet, which, in the three years since emerging from the very definition of the middle of nowhere -- Des Moines, Iowa -- has gone on to establish itself as the reigning act of shock rock.

What's helped win Slipknot that title (which it is sure to retain following the highly anticipated Aug. 28 release of its second Roadrunner album, "Iowa") more than anything else, and what distinguishes it from just about every other act, is that each member of the band wears a mask. We're not talking sparkly Mexican wrestling masks or rubbery Dick Nixon mugs. The Slipknot get-ups range from a psychotic clown to a bloody mime.

What's more, when the band members -- some of whom have exchanged their names for numerals -- take the stage in these masks (and matching, sometimes faux-blood-stained jumpsuits), they deliver the stuff of modern-day metal legend: relentlessly full-throttle aggression, chaotic and frightening enough to generate as many nightmares as Gene Simmons' blood-spewing antics did in the '70s.

With Slipknot making Halloween an everyday event, it's understandable that the group's publicist feels compelled to stress that the band also puts care and effort into its songwriting as well. Snicker though you may, commercially, Slipknot is no joke: more than 1 million copies of 1999's self-titled album, its first Roadrunner set and second overall, have been sold in the U.S., according to SoundScan. And if the group's online presence is any indicator, "Iowa" is sure to be an even bigger success.

To help stir excitement for "Iowa," Roadrunner recently posted an MP3 of new track "Heretic Song" on its Web site for free downloading. Label president Jonas Nachsin says that in the first second after its posting, about 1,000 users began downloading the song. He adds that the track has been downloaded about 175,000 times since.

Slipknot's reputation began growing in 1999, when the then-mostly unknown act joined that year's Ozzfest. Playing to metalheads across the U.S. -- from the fest's second stage -- helped Slipknot reach platinum status.

This summer, Slipknot again set up its forthcoming album with a slot on the just-wrapped Ozzfest, this time playing the main stage with Black Sabbath and Marilyn Manson, among others. The band will hit the road again Sept. 14, when it co-headlines the Pledge of Allegiance arena tour with System of a Down. This time around, the band's fans -- which the group refers to as its "maggots" -- are in for a more interactive, less restrictive experience, promises its founder, Shawn Crahan (aka the Clown, aka No. 6).

"We're not f**king around," he says. "When we came out, we told people it was going to be world domination."

Crahan, 31, says that "Iowa" -- which is packaged in a foil booklet with a 12-panel vellum foldout -- features the band at its "most brutal." Slipknot, he says, is like "being a little kid, totally full of anxiety. It's someone who will chew off an ear to get the chance to allow the world to hear it. Well, we still have that [with 'Iowa'], but instead of the ear, now it's the whole body."

Nachsin says Roadrunner was forced to service "Left Behind" to metal and active and modern rock formats earlier this month, after several stations leaked the track. The label has also partnered with MTV for an MTV 360 promotion that will see the album promoted across MTV and MTV2, as well as on

Natalie Waleik, senior buyer for Newbury Comics' 22 stores, says the band's local Ozzfest stop is already making an impact at the Boston-area chain, with Slipknot sales picking up. "Iowa," she says, "will certainly be bigger out of the box. [Slipknot] took a few months to take off and is still selling well two years later. This time, they have radio [support], which they probably don't even need."

Despite the masks, the Satanic images that float through the band's work, and such song titles as "People=Sh*t," Crahan says, there's an uplifting aspect to Slipknot -- an esteem-boosting message of empowerment -- that is often missed."

"We are here to wake you up and kill the part of the brain that tells you that you can't," Crahan says. "It's not about me. It's about what I'm doing for kids. When I walk out onstage, there's 15,000 kids that, to me, represent potential. And I'm here to tell you, to tell them, that no matter what they tell you, no matter what they say, you can be from nowhere and you can break out and become anything you want. Because the bottom line is [that] this is your lifetime. This is your time, here, now, on this planet."