Sound Bites: beast by numbers |

Sound Bites: beast by numbers

Dan Thomas, Lake Tahoe Action

My friend made the point while we were drinking beer one Saturday afternoon after the day job: Ever notice how the really badass bands appear au naturel instead of in leather, makeup and costumes?

Exhibit A was the back cover of “Reign in Blood,” Slayer’s landmark 1986 album: four dudes with a six-pack, looking mean.

(It wasn’t until I bought my own copy a couple of years later ” my Halloween present to myself to drown out the toddler running early-morning laps upstairs ” that I noticed that the beer was Stella Artois. Guess I always figured Slayer more for fans of Old Mil ” you know, the Beast.)

Speed metal’s original Big Four (Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica and those lovable Stella-swilling peaceniks from Huntington Beach) didn’t need the gear because they had the chops. Elaborate costumes and stage shows seem to be mostly the province of ironic badasses like GWAR, badass ironists like Spinal Tap, bands that are neither ironic nor badass, and those that fall in between (Kiss and maybe Venom, depending on how much the latter was kidding).

Slipknot is the exception to that axiom. Sure, early on, the band was as famous for its masks and jumpsuits as for the full frontal assault of its music. But Slipknot’s defense ” that the band members wore the same jumpsuit, identified themselves as the numerals 0-8 instead of by their … uh … Christian names, and wore the masks to shift the focus from them to their music ” would seem to hold water (or blood, ichor or Stella Artois, for that matter).

Whatever points the costumes cost Slipknot in sheer badass cred, the band almost makes up for in nine-piece firepower, and what I’ve seen of Slipknot onstage seems to emphasize the kind of whiplash-grade headbanging that makes chiropractors drool.

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Speaking of drool, the band let the title track slip out for free to promote the release of “All Hope Is Gone,” on Aug. 26, and the single “Psychosocial” is available now to those who pre-order the album. I only got to play “All Hope Is Gone” a couple of times on iTunes, but Slipknot’s evolution ” or devolution ” from turntable-tinged metal to outright thrash continues. The sample of “Psychosocial” alternately echoes Nirvana’s gnarliest, “Negative Creep,” and seems to have a chorus and a semblance of melody.

The latter might scare Slipknot’s devoted maggots more than any clown mask. But keep in mind that Slipknot has proven itself the anti-Linkin Park, anti-Incubus: It just keeps getting rougher and louder, and with nine members, there’s really no limit to the depth of their brutal sound.

Now that’s terrifying.