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Best Slipknot Songs: 20 Iconic Tracks From The Masked Metallers
Photo: Alexander Gay/Cosa Nostra PR
List & Guides

Best Slipknot Songs: 20 Iconic Tracks From The Masked Metallers

As the best Slipknot songs prove, the extreme metalheads are, hands down, the most brutal band ever to trouble the mainstream.

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Breaking onto the metal scene in 1999 with a mix of death metal, rap and industrial, Slipknot were lazily labelled “nu-metal”. But they were always more brutal than the confines of that genre allowed – not that their unrelenting ferocity ever harmed their mainstream appeal. The Iowan nonet have evolved and grown with every triumph, tragedy and tribulation that they’ve faced throughout their 27-year existence. And yet they’ve never lost their savage charm. Here are 20 of the best Slipknot songs.

Listen to the best Slipknot songs here.

20: Custer (from ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’, 2014)

.5: The Gray Chapter was the first album from a Paul Gray- and Joey Jordison-less Slipknot. One of the record’s more aggressive tracks, Custer is a direct response to anyone who believed the band’s heyday was over without bassist Gray (who died in 2010) or drummer Jordison (who’d been fired in 2013) as key songwriters. Named for Civil War hero George Armstrong Custer, the song was, frontman Corey Taylor explained to Kerrang!, a blast of “anger towards the outside world – the people who on one hand want to make us martyrs, but at the same time want to make us bastards”.

19: The Chapeltown Rag (from ‘The End, So Far’, 2022)

Dark themes of war and murder have long been a fuel for heavy metal’s fire. And the speed-metal thump of The Chapeltown Rag is driven by a documentary Taylor watched on Netflix about The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe. But behind the mayhem lies a new-found experimentalism in the frontman’s vocal approach. He said, “I just love the way that the chord progression lent itself this weird, chromatic, minor vibe to it, which I had never really done before.”

18: Nero Forte (from ‘We Are Not Your Kind’, 2019)

Slipknot have never been a band to shy away from experimenting with their sound. One of the best Slipknot songs of recent years, the pounding Nero Forte is driven by percussion behemoth Shawn Crahan and is layered with the chuggingly brutal input of his bandmates. A contrasting vocal melody – yes, melody – from Taylor adds an extra dimension and serves to highlight how the band’s songwriting mastery had grown over six albums.

17: Dead Memories (from ‘All Hope Is Gone’, 2008)

The second single from 2008’s All Hope Is Gone, Dead Memories sees the Iowan metallers wholeheartedly embracing tunefulness. Yes, really. It proved to be a purgative moment for Taylor: “I had gone through a pretty brutal divorce at that point,” he said. “This [song] was me letting go of a lot of regret and cynical feelings. It was very cathartic… I got a lot out on that album.” Melodic, maybe, but still chillingly macabre.

16: Left Behind (from ‘Iowa’, 2001)

Though it can barely be described as melodic, Left Behind is one of the lighter moments on Slipknot’s otherwise relentlessly brutal second album, Iowa. As Taylor said, it was “an old song that we’d been playing around with before the first album. We ripped it apart and rebuilt it. We wanted to have a melodic element in there somewhere, and Left Behind had a darkness that meant it sat well with the other songs.”

15: Vermilion (from ‘Vol.3: The Subliminal Verses’, 2004)

Many of the best Slipknot songs are like min movies in themselves. That Vermilion features on the soundtrack to the 2004 horror flick Resident Evil: Apocalypse tells you everything you need to know. Taylor said of its stripped-back, sinister brooding, “For some reason, as soon as I heard it, all I could see was the colour red. I love the idea of creating a world from the standpoint of a stalker. I was trying to recreate that dark urgency and desperate need. Anyone who’s ever had that jealous rage knows what that feeling is.”

14: Hive Mind (from ‘The End, So Far’, 2022)

Like a scattergun of blast beats, Hive Mind serves as a reminder that, seven albums and three decades deep into their career, Slipknot weren’t about to mellow any time soon. But, though it sounds like all-out war, Hive Mind stands as a song of unity. Taylor wrote the lyrics about the connection felt by audiences at a concert, and has said the song is about “people coming together for one beautiful moment, but then they scatter like fucking roaches once the house lights come on!”

13: The Heretic Anthem (from ‘Iowa’, 2001)

Slipknot’s knee-jerk response to the phenomenal success of their self-titled debut album was to head in a more extreme direction for its follow-up, Iowa. This wasn’t a band who were about to compromise their sound for the sake of marketability. The Heretic Anthem is a product of that defiance and, with its “if you’re 555 then I’m 666” lyric, it doubled as a unifying anthem for fans who felt isolated from mainstream culture.

12: Spit It Out (from ‘Slipknot’, 1999)

With its buzzsaw riffs and frenetic grooves, Spit It Out ensured its place among the best Slipknot songs after bringing the group to the attention of Roadrunner Records. If this was nu metal – which DJ Sid Wilson’s scratching and samples and Taylor’s rap-like vocals would suggest – it also flirted with the peripheries of death metal in a way no one had heard before. The rest, as they say, is history.

11: Snuff (from ‘All Hope Is Gone’, 2008)

A ballad, Slipknot-style. That’s to say Snuff is slower in tempo than their typical fare, but no less full of venom and rage. As Taylor once explained to Kerrang!, “It’s about someone who helped me through a lot and I thought she felt the same way that I did and then she really let me down. At the same time, it was good that she did, because it was that final push to me figuring out myself.”

10: The Devil In I (from ‘.5: The Gray Chapter’, 2014)

A Jekyll-and-Hyde of a track with clean-sung vocals playing off against Taylor’s growl to reflect an inner struggle. As the frontman explained to Pulse Of Radio, “The Devil In I is really about the war inside yourself. Trying not to give into defeatism, trying not to give into negativity, trying not to give up, basically. It’s a struggle. It’s one of the hardest things you can do – is to give in to that side of yourself.” Enhancing its status among the best Slipknot songs, the accompanying video is the stuff of horror movies, with each band member meeting their gory demise in various gruesome ways.

9: Pulse Of The Maggots (from ‘Vol.3: The Subliminal Verses’, 2004)

A lot of uncertainty surrounded Slipknot throughout 2002 and into 2003. Band members were focused on various side projects, and speculation was rife that the nonet held little interest in recording a third album. But their divergence from the intensity of the Slipknot juggernaut inspired a renewed vigour when they eventually reconvened. Pounding metal anthem Pulse Of The Maggots was written in homage to Slipknot’s fans, without whom, Taylor admits, “We’d be a bunch of jerks from Iowa, picking fights with each other in our basements.”

8: Unsainted (from ‘We Are Not Your Kind’, 2019)

Many of Slipknot’s lyrics come from a place of depression, a condition that Taylor has long struggled with. After a painful third divorce, in 2017, the vocalist tackled his demons head-on. Out of this rose Unsainted, a dichotomy of whirlwind fury and saintly choirs, with Taylor’s own vocals soaring over a maelstrom of buzzing guitars and blast-beat drums. “I wasn’t sold on the choir at first,” the frontman admitted to Loudwire. “But what they did… gave me chills when I first heard it. That song was the perfect punctuation mark for what [We Are Not Your Kind] was going to be. It was that missing element that we needed for the album.”

7: Psychosocial (from ‘All Hope Is Gone’, 2008)

Reining in their typical thrash fare, Psychosocial is a midtempo stomper that reflected Slipknot’s experiments with more varied sounds on their fourth album, All Hope Is Gone. The band themselves have mixed feelings about the record, with guitarist Jim Root saying, “It felt a little bit rushed. And it felt like we were trying to do things just to appease a schedule, which I didn’t really like.” This Grammy-nominated track, however, remains a highlight among the best Slipknot songs

6: Surfacing (from ‘Slipknot’, 1999)

If there was one word to sum up Slipknot when they unleashed their debut album in 1999, that word would be “chaos”. And if there’s one song that encapsulated that chaos it would be Surfacing. As the late bassist Paul Gray once of the song, “Basically, we dedicate it to the kids as their new national anthem. It’s our way of saying don’t worry about everybody else. Just worry about yourself. Don’t worry about the people judging and the people coming down on you and all the fake crap. Stick to what you believe in.”

5: All Out Life (single, 2018)

By 2018, Slipknot hadn’t released a new album in four years. But this interim single (also made available on the Japanese edition of We Are Not Your Kind, a year later) was a furious reminder that, despite line-up changes and public spats, the Iowan metallers were not done yet. A tornado of stomping grooves and barrages of blast beats, All Out Life was, Taylor said, “a song that is trying to do two things: bring everyone together, but also remind everyone that the past is not something to be discarded with disdain”. A late-period entry among the best Slipknot songs, it does just that with a snarling vigour.

4: Before I Forget (from ‘Vol.3: The Subliminal Verses’, 2004)

There’s something to be gained from simplicity, even for a band as belligerent as Slipknot. From the Rick Rubin-produced Vol.3: The Subliminal Verses, Before I Forget pummels into life before its verses build on a machine-gun riff and into a gang-chant chorus. Said Taylor, “Rick Rubin was convinced the chorus wouldn’t work. I told him he was crazy. Lo and behold, it’s one of our biggest songs and we won a Grammy for it.” What would Rick Rubin know?

3: Wait And Bleed (from ‘Slipknot’, 1999)

Slipknot announced their arrival in 1999 with this, their debut single. Anyone who presumed their boiler-suit and mask garb to be mere gimmickry was immediately silenced by this brutal horror-show of a track. Still demanding a place among the best Slipknot songs, Wait And Bleed was written from the perspective of a man who has a recurring dream in which he’s laying in a bathtub filled with blood from his own slashed wrists. Then one day he wakes up to the vision as a stark reality. Slipknot instantly demonstrated that their bark was every bit as vicious as their bite.

2: People = Shit (from ‘Iowa’, 2001)

After such a furious debut, some may have thought the rage was too fierce to keep up. Yet Slipknot kicked off their second album in suitably intense style. The anguished howls of Iowa’s opening song, 515, gave way to the swirling maelstrom of its first track proper, People = Shit, a tumultuous whirlwind of chaotic riffs and pounding percussion that could easily stand as the aural definition of unabated bedlam. But, hey, “What’s the matter with calamity anyway?!”

1: Duality (from ‘Vol.3: The Subliminal Verses’, 2004)

Among the most revered songs from the Slipknot canon, featuring the iconic “I push my fingers into my eeeeeeeyyyyes” lyric, Duality is the sound of a man slowly losing his mind. As Taylor explained: “Did you ever get that headache that is just not going to go away, and you end up sticking your thumb and your middle fingers so far into your eyes just to stop the pain? It usually has to do with making a choice. You get to that point in everyday life that you have to make a decision that you may not want to, but you’re kind of pushed into making that decision.” Topping our list of the best Slipknot songs, Duality finally gave teens the world over the aural equivalent of the adolescent phase of smashing stuff with baseball bats.

Looking for more? Discover the legacy of Slipknot’s late co-founder Joey Jordison.

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