Iowa is the second studio album by American heavy metal band Slipknot. Released by Roadrunner Records on August 28, 2001, it was produced by Ross Robinson and Slipknot. The title derives from the band's home state, Iowa, which members have stated is one of their biggest sources of inspiration.
With much anticipation for the band's second album following on the success of their 1999 self-titled debut, pressures on the band were high. Their relationships with each other suffered and was later described as the darkest time of their career. It was also the first time that guitarist Jim Root had been significantly involved in a Slipknot album due to his joining very late in recording of their debut album, as Root was only featured on two songs from that release. Despite troubles within the band and with Iowa's development, Slipknot promoted it for almost a year.
Iowa was a major success, it premiered in the top ten album sales charts in nine countries. Generally positively received, it includes some of their notable songs, such as "Disasterpiece", "The Heretic Anthem", "People = Shit" and the two Grammy-nominated songs "Left Behind" and the remix of "My Plague." Critic John Mulvey proclaimed the album, as the "absolute triumph of nu metal." While more technical than their debut album, Iowa is considered to be the band's heaviest. It has been certified platinum in the United States and Canada.
Iowa was recorded and produced at Sound City and Sound Image studios in Los Angeles, California with producer Ross Robinson, who had produced their debut album. Drummer Joey Jordison and bassist Paul Gray began working on new music together in October 2000 and together they wrote material for most of the tracks on the album. During this time other band members wanted a break following the extensive touring which followed their self-titled debut album. However, on January 17, 2001, Slipknot entered the studio to begin recording Iowa. This period in the band's career has became known as one of their worst for several reasons. Jordison stated retrospectively, "that's where we got into a war" citing the lack of a break for himself and Gray. While other factors, including: vocalist Corey Taylor's alcohol addiction, several other members' drug addictions, management issues and more, affected relations in the band.
Despite being a member of Slipknot since 1999, it was the first album where guitarist Jim Root had been significantly involved. He had joined them during the later recording stages of Slipknot and subsequently became more involved with this album.
During an interview with Guitar magazine in November 2001 he explained, "it was so exciting as well as scary to be part of this whole huge process", adding that there was a lot of pressure from fellow guitarist Mick Thomson to perform well on the record. In an interview with FHM in December 2001, vocalist Corey Taylor revealed that he put himself in specific situations to achieve his performance on the album. While recording vocals for the final song "Iowa" he was completely naked, vomiting all over himself and cutting himself with broken glass. Explaining this, he said, "that's where the best stuff comes from. You've got to break yourself down before you can build something great." While producing the album, Ross Robinson broke his back in a dirt-biking accident, he returned to the studio after a day, reportedly "putting all of his pain into the album", much to the admiration of the band.
There was speculation over the title before its announcement with Nine Men, One Mission as the expected title in some sources. Iowa was later announced as its title and was named after the band's home state of Iowa. Band members have claimed that Iowa is the source of their energy and they consciously made the decision to stay in the area, partly due to the fear of losing their creative direction. The opening track "(515)" is also a reference to their home state, named after the telephone area code for central Iowa. Initially the album was scheduled for release on June 19, 2001, and was to be preceded by a five-date warm-up tour. However, the mixing of the album took longer than anticipated, causing the album's release to be delayed and the cancellation of the tour. The album was officially released on August 28, 2001. In support of the album, Slipknot began touring on their Iowa World Tour. This included: a spot on Ozzfest in 2001, an American co-headlining tour with System of a Down, as well as tours in Japan, Europe and elsewhere.
Prior to the album's release, Slipknot gave away "The Heretic Anthem" as a single limited to 666 copies and a free downloadable track on their website. The first official single from the album was "Left Behind". In 2002, the band made a special appearance in the film Rollerball in which they performed "I Am Hated". Following this, a second single from the album was released, "My Plague", which appeared on the soundtrack for the film Resident Evil.
Musical and Lyrical themes
The musical style of Slipknot is a contested issue due to the variety of genres their music covers. Sources usually group Slipknot within nu metal while also showing influences from other genres, such as heavy metal, rap metal, and alternative metal. Prior to its release, band members promised a much darker and heavier album than Slipknot, and many sources praised the band for achieving this — effectively fulfilling their promises. During an interview in 2008, percussionist Shawn Crahan retrospectively evaluated their time creating the album, proclaiming that they owe their overtly darker sound to their state of mind during that period: "When we did Iowa, we hated each other. We hated the world; the world hated us." Iowa, unlike its predecessor, saw Robinson capturing the band's technicality as opposed to the raw energy for which Slipknot is known. The band was also praised for its use of an extended line-up consisting of additional percussionists and electronics. NME stated that "every possible space is covered in scrawl and cymbals: guitars, percussion, electronic squall, subhuman screaming." Although Iowa is widely regarded as the band's heaviest album to date, some tracks do include melody, most apparent in "Everything Ends" and "Left Behind"; however these tracks are still considered heavy when compared to the likes of "Vermilion" or "Dead Memories".
Melodies have always been a part of the way Slipknot writes music, and shows in this album on songs like "My Plague" and "The Shape".
The title track, "Iowa", is the longest Slipknot song, and the third longest track. Only "Killers are Quiet" (from Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat.) and "Scissors" (from Slipknot) are longer, but both songs feature hidden tracks, with several minutes of silence separating the songs.
Iowa follows the lyrical style that vocalist Corey Taylor established on Slipknot; it includes strong use of metaphors to describe overtly dark themes including misanthropy, solipsism, disgust, anger, disaffection, psychosis and rejection. The album also includes many expletives; David Fricke of the Rolling Stone magazine said "there is not much shock value left in the words fuck and shit, which Taylor uses in some variation more than forty times in Iowa's sixty-six minutes." Fricke went on to praise Taylor's performance on the track "Iowa", comparing it to a "vivid evocation of a makeshift-cornfield grave at midnight."
Following the huge success of their debut album, Slipknot, author Dick Porter wrote that the anticipation for a follow up was intense. Prior to its release, drummer Jordison proclaimed: "Wait till you hear our fuckin' next record. It smokes our first album. The shit's twice as technical, three times as heavy." The College Music Journal reviewed it as "brutal, unrelenting, scorching..." Many reviews noted its heavy themes, the Alternative Press stated, "[it is] like having a plastic bag taped over your head for an hour while Satan uses your scrotum as a speedbag....[It] is over the top...you're going to be left in stitches." NME said that it is "Exhilarating, brutal and good. "Rolling Stone credited the album for its originality, stating that "nearly everything else in modern doom rock sounds banal." Producer Robinson was also praised for his work on the album; Uncut noted, "The barely relenting, tumbling noise attack marshalled by nu metal uber-producer Ross Robinson is expert." Reviewing for Yahoo, John Mulvey said, "They're an evolutionary dead end, the final, absolute triumph of nu metal."
The album's first single, "Left Behind", was nominated for the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance at the 44th Grammy Awards. The second single, "My Plague", was nominated in 2003 for the same award at the 45th Grammy Awards. The single "Left Behind" peaked in the top thirty for single sales the United States and the UK. In addition, "My Plague" reached the 43rd position on the UK charts. Iowa was ranked sixth in the "50 Albums of the year" by NME in 2001. The album peaked at the top position on the UK Albums Chart, in addition to the second spot on the ARIA Charts in Australia. The album reached the third spot on the Billboard 200 and Finnish Charts. On October 10, 2001, the album was certified platinum in the United States. In Canada, the Canadian Recording Industry Association certified the album as Platinum, on September 5, 2001. The British Phonographic Industry has certified the album as gold in the UK. In 2009, Iowa was rated 3rd in UK magazine Kerrang!'s "The 50 Best Albums of the 21st Century" reader poll.