"Music is the soundtrack of our lives."
Dick Clark said that. And while it might be a tad redundant (soundtracks, after all, being music), it does hold a bit of that Yogi Berra/Zen-idiot truth, in that music has the power to shape the way we perceive life: It colors every situation, sometimes becoming hopelessly intertwined in a memory or moment. You might never notice the soft, piped-in music in the doctor's waiting room, but you'd sure as hell notice if your physician was rocking Dokken while you waited for your prostate exam.
In the interest of testing just how great an effect music can have on our everyday lives, one brave soul (hereafter known as "the Subject") volunteered to listen to the pounding nü-metal band Slipknot nearly constantly over a period of a few weeks, attempting to complete a variety of tasks while under the music's influence. The Subject is a reasonably healthy male in his late twenties who entered the test with a limited familiarity with and healthy dislike of the Iowa band. The testing was done mostly with Slipknot's self-titled 1999 release, a grinding, screaming compendium of terrors endlessly cataloged by lead singer Corey Taylor, who alternates between melodic nü-metal crooning and hawk-a-loogie bellows. Slipknot combines elements of rap-metal (a DJ, occasional raps) with the harder, sharper sounds of underground hardcore music, such as rapid-fire drumming, swell outfits and throaty vocals.
Test 1: Cooking Dinner
A stir-fried meal requires lots of chopping, and soon the Subject was slicing chicken in time to Taylor's ranting. "How many times have you wanted to kill/everything and everyone?" he asks on "Eyeless," adding an eerie-if-exhilarating undercurrent to taking a knife to raw flesh. This is probably how serial killers get started. The satisfying hiss of veggies added to hot oil adds another layer to the pulse of "Wait and Bleed," and the Subject stirs the cooking carrots and broccoli with amazing vigor.
The Result: Spicy and sizzling, the dinner is a success. Thanks, Slipknot!
Test 2: Talking to Mom
After putting the fuzzy dirge "Prosthetics" on the stereo, the Subject decides to call home:
Subject: Hey, Mom.
Subject: Mom, it's me. How are you?
Mom: Could you turn the music down, please?
Mom: Turn it down.
The Result: Slipknot is made to piss off parents. If you want to feel fifteen again, go with it. But for people with healthy familial relationships: You better stick with the Norah Jones.
Test 3: Driving
After several days with Slipknot stuck in his car's CD player, the Subject begins reporting symptoms of the Stockholm Syndrome. He even has a favorite driving song: the angry, propulsive "Sic." The Subject begins to question the wisdom of the experiment. But he is getting to work faster.
The Result: Like adding a nitro tank or downing a few shots of Slipknot-approved Jägermeister, the 'knot makes driving fast and fun. Midtown motorists beware!
Test 4: Bonding with the Girlfriend
During a spring-day cruise down 64/40, the Subject turns on a little Slipknot.
Girlfriend: I love death metal.
Subject: You do? (turns music way up so that "Sic" takes over the car) I'm starting to really like this myself. I mean, it kind of sucks, but if you listen to it a lot --
Girlfriend: (violently turning down the stereo and gesturing to the newly sprung flowers dotting the hills along the highway) Daffodils. I said I love daffodils.
Subject: I thought you said death metal.
Girlfriend: No. Daffodils.
Subject: Oh. Well, they're nice too.
The Result: Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, and Slipknot is from Iowa. Mix all three at your own risk.
Test 5: Sleeping
The secret to sleeping while listening to music like Slipknot's isn't to turn it down; the secret is to turn it up (a trick the Subject learned while sleeping to Ice Cube in a crowded dorm). There is a volume at which your subconscious turns everything into white noise, and at that volume Slipknot is better than silence.
The Result: Weird dreams aside, a Slipknot nap works just fine. Also, the phrase "a slipknot nap" should become the new hip slang for hanging yourself.
Test 6: Playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
GTA: Vice City, the wonderfully unstructured video-game homage to Scarface and Miami Vice, allows players to go on murderous rampages with everything from a golf club to a rocket launcher. The all-'80s soundtrack is fun for a while, but slipping on the Slipknot takes the game to a whole new level. This must be how serial killers get started.
The Result: Massive shootout with cops = bad. Massive pretend shootout with cops = pretty cool. Massive pretend shootout with cops while Slipknot eggs you on = way too much fun to be healthy.
The Aftermath: Slipknot is not good music. It's abrasive, repetitive and overwrought. But it is functional; it's a stimulant. After taking a few weeks to reflect and recover to the Softies, the Subject feels it's pretty unlikely that he'll be rocking the Slipknot again. Except when driving.