Knot Amused

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Not everyone will understand the appeal of Iowa (Roadrunner), the new CD from Des Moines band Slipknot that's currently No. 3 on the album charts. It helps to think of its lightning-fast heavy metal as a form of country. Merle Haggard never headbanged in a Halloween mask, as Slipknot does, but he sang about feeling trapped in the middle of nowhere. That's exactly what vocalist Corey Taylor is doing when he sings of his home state, "Relax, it's over...You can never leave."

That line is one of the album's appeals to youths with the small-town blues. It's also one of its habitual overstatements. "Everything sucks, and I can prove it," Taylor croaks on I Am Hated. Instead of providing proof, however, he deals mostly in dour, cuss-laden generalizations. With song titles like People = S__t, it's no wonder radio has been slow to embrace the band.

But potty-mouthed lyrics didn't keep Slipknot's eponymous major-label debut from going platinum. In addition to courting publicity by defecating onstage and engaging in mild acts of violence with concertgoers, Slipknot has catered to rap-metal fans by mixing turntables and a sampler into its burlesque of drums and distorted guitar. Cannier still is the band's use of costumes at a time when metal is dominated by average dudes in sweatshirts. The band's macabre looks, like its hyperbolic lyrics, suggest the teenage alienation it sings about is a horror on par with the evils depicted in slasher pics--which is how teenagers see it too. Like it or not, Slipknot isn't likely to slip away.