I adore Slipknot. If it weren’t for Slipknot I wouldn’t have been encouraged to check out half of the bands whose albums now adorn my shelves. If it weren’t for Slipknot I wouldn’t have been inspired to pick up a guitar and start my own band and, if it weren’t for Slipknot, I certainly wouldn’t be writing reviews for this very site. It’s safe to say that I take their music very seriously.
Which is why it pains me to give them anything less than a stellar review. The Iowan mentalists are one of the few bands who can truly claim to sound like no-one else out there. They have changed and evolved with every release, never compromising their integrity or their vision. On Iowa’s ‘The Heretic Anthem’ they raised their flags against the music industry, singing “All the money in the world can’t buy me,” yet this is a sentiment that seems at odds with releasing a ‘Best of’ album (though granted there are other factors and motivations at play here). For now though, let’s put the gripes aside and get down to the music itself.
As a greatest hits compilation they really have hit the nail on the head. All of their best tunes are here with not a single anthem missing. From their most feral compositions (‘Spit it Out’) to the most tender (‘Snuff’) and the heaviest (‘People=Shit’), all of the fan favourites are here. If this were a setlist then it would be the kind of Slipknot gig that would go down in history; the show that maggots the world over would tell their kids that they were there to witness.
Furthermore, it also works as a great portfolio to showcase their ever diverse songwriting talents. See the unsettling atmosphere on ‘Dead Memories’, the anthemic chorus on ‘Before I Forget’ and the tribal and nu-metal influences on ‘(Sic)’. Listening to Antennas to Hell is like being given a guided tour of metal, from the sampling and breakdowns that characterised Slipknot through to the death metal grind that fuelled Iowa. As we reach the Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses era we’re introduced to the guitar solos that have been a staple piece of all the best metal bands of the past 40 years before the representatives of All Hope is Gone show us why experimentation can only be a good thing. There are even a few live treats – ‘The Heretic Anthem’ and ‘Purity’, taken from their 2002 DVD, Disasterpieces. It is quite possible that no finer set of songs has ever been compiled.
But here’s the problem: in including all of their biggest hits, Antennas to Hell is the most predictable thing Slipknot have ever put out. Each of their albums has sought to challenge the listener, but this contains no curveballs and does exactly what you’d expect it to. There are no new tracks, no B-sides or little-known gems such as ‘Get This’ – even the live tracks are ones that have been widely available for years. For established fans there is absolutely no reason to buy this album, unless you’re a completist. The three disc edition offers some compensation in this respect, featuring the legendary live performance at 2009’s Download festival, but those who have looked hard enough will already have obtained this several years ago. It’s just hard to shake the feeling that diehard fans have been neglected in favour of targeting new audiences.
Of course, there is something that I haven’t mentioned here and that is that Antennas to Hell is a tribute to Slipknot’s late bassist, Paul Gray. It is intended to “celebrate what we call the Paul years,” frontman Corey Taylor told Roadrunner Records and, in this respect, it is a touching memorial to one of metal’s fallen heroes. Which unfortunately makes it even more of a shame that, for the fans that have grown up with Slipknot, it’s hard to justify forking out the cash.