While in the studio earlier this year, the pressure for Slipknot to craft their greatest album yet was so great that it became physically painful for singer and principal songwriter Corey Taylor.
When Slipknot exploded on the scene in 1999, the band's breathtaking visual presence — nine masked, uniformed members who played instruments that included a beer keg and garbage pail — was as fascinating as the music. The resulting combination helped Slipknot's self-titled album reach sales of more than 1.6 million copies. But the follow-up, 2001's Iowa, sold roughly half as many copies as its predecessor, indicating that Slipknot might have been a novelty act on the wane.
So Taylor had to make a choice. He could take the easy way out, abandon Slipknot, and focus on his successful other band, Stone Sour. Or he could push himself and his bandmates to create the masterpiece they, if not their detractors, always knew they could. Playing it safe was not an option.
"I asked myself, 'Am I going to go down in history, or am I going to go down in flames?' " Taylor recalled. "There's no middle of the road. You can't be that guy. If you're going to be that guy, you might as well throw on a suit and become an accountant in Britain. I'd rather live life as fast and as full as I can."
And the best way to do that was to make his cynics eat crow by creating the expectedly viscous — but unexpectedly melodic — Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses), which debuted this week on the Billboard albums chart at #2.
"With a band like us, you really run the risk of getting painted into a corner," Taylor said. "People assumed that we can be only heavy, that we can only be sick and crazy and brutal all the time. This album shows so many different levels of this band. We have the soft, brooding melodic; we have the brutal groove. This album ... really shows the reinvention of this band" (see "Slipknot Album Preview: More Structured, But Still Programmed To Kill").
Taylor explained the story behind the album's first single, "Duality," which features the repeated line "I push my fingers into my eyes."
"Did you ever get that headache that is just not going to go away, and you end up sticking your thumb and middle finger so far into your eyes, just to stop the pain?" he explained. "It usually has to do with making a choice. You get to that point in everyday life when you have to make a decision that you may not want to, but you're kind of pushed into that position.
" 'Duality' is about standing at the crossroads of your life, looking down both paths, and going, 'Now what am I going to do?' "
Slipknot's fans didn't need to ask that question when they stood before the house they were poised to wreck during filming of the "Duality" video. They knew that when the director yelled "Action!," their job was simply to destroy. From the kid who fell through the ceiling to the ones that smashed through the sliding-glass doors, all the carnage actually happened, and Slipknot have the bill to prove it (see "Slipknot's Maggots Destroy Iowa Home").
"All the stuff in that video happened for real," bassist Paul Grey said. "Those kids busted through those walls, they were just going at it."
"We had no idea of the laundry list of stuff that was destroyed," Taylor added. "People were going through real pane-glass windows. Ripping chandeliers off the ceiling. It was so astronomical. I was like, 'All this stuff happened!? Are you kidding me?' "
For a full-length feature on Slipknot, check out "Slipknot: The Ties That Bind."