Revisiting Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) by Slipknot

Slipknot albums typically enjoy the same review cycle. Some reviewers aren’t keen but they average out at seven or eight out of ten before eventually finding their rightful place in the band’s pantheon.

In the case of their third album, Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses), that rightful place is often said to be at the very top of the pile. Yet, through no fault of its own, it’s comfortably the one of the first three official albums with which I initially connected least.

Seduced by the chaos of Slipknot and then happily walloped right in the face by Iowa, by 2004 I was no position to properly absorb a record like this – and that’s putting it mildly. I bought Vol. 3 on release day. Loving it took a little longer.

Vol. 3 is, by any measure, an astounding work. Corey Taylor’s problems at the time led to a new vocal approach and some lessons were learned about working with producer Rick Rubin along the way. If friction begets great art, Slipknot friction creates genius.

Their third record proper burns like a fire. In places it’s explosive with the archetypal frenzied Slipknot rage. In others it just crackles away, always dark but more introspective, slower and more expansive. In ‘Circle’, ‘Danger (Keep Away)’ and the phenomenal ‘Vermilion Pt. 2’ this album boasts what was, in effect, a whole new ‘knot.

‘Prelude 3.0’ is one of the most effective opening tracks in metal, almost four minutes of intro constructed around mood and mood alone. It tees up the monolithic combination of ‘The Blister Exists’ and ‘Three Nil’ and, even now, I’m hooked all over again.

Their powerful groove is indicative of what’s to follow. Vol. 3 is a riffing masterclass topped off with Taylor’s typically excellent vocals – he doesn’t agree – and a bottlerocket of a performance from drummer Joey Jordison and Slipknot’s percussion duo.

Embed from Getty Images

The quality of the songs on this record is out of this world even if we set aside the big singles for the sake of argument. ‘Opium Of The People’ is a storming, stomping singalong, ‘Welcome’ its mosh-ready bedfellow. ‘Pulse Of The Maggots’ is a call to arms and a tribute to Slipknot’s fans, and it’s hard as fuck.

Every Slipknot album has its big hitters, in this case ‘Before I Forget’ and ‘Duality’. The former is a personal favourite, not least because I can remember the video premiere like it happened yesterday.

And then, of course, there’s ‘Duality’, which might be Slipknot’s best chorus, sharpest song-writing and chunkiest sound all rolled into one vicious song that somehow made a dent in the mainstream like a baseball bat to a beer barrel.

Perhaps the creative highlight of Vol. 3 is found not in its commercial behemoths but in ‘Vermilion’ and ‘Vermilion Pt.2’. As a piece of artistic storytelling, sliced twice and served up in a manner that’s sonically disparate but emotionally one, they’re a world away from the band that recorded Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. all those years ago.

What Slipknot achieved on this record is remarkable. It is utterly bleak and yet it makes me want to sing, headbang, play air guitar and smash out Joey’s rhythms on my steering wheel all at once. Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) is a masterpiece.

Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses came out in 2004 on Roadrunner Records.

Chris Nee on InstagramChris Nee on Twitter
Chris Nee
Editor