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  1. Slipknot

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It may help attract legions of devoted fans and provide welcome anonymity in a celebrity-obsessed world but wearing a horror mask for a living isn't all gravy. Just ask Corey Taylor, vocalist with American metal creeps Slipknot.

Corey Taylor:
"They're very, very uncomfortable," says 34-year-old Taylor of his own Vincent Price-esque stage prop. "They tend to chafe and cut into your face."

Moulded by a professional prosthetics manufacturer and attached with a series of tight buckles "so they don't fly off", Slipknot's evolving series of death masks, including the ghoulish new 'purgatory' designs, have been the Iowan nonet's signature schtick since their inception in the mid-90s. But for Taylor, there's also a theatrical dialogue that runs parallel to them as eerie marketing gimmicks.

Corey Taylor:
"They've always represented more of the artistic side, the expressive side," says the singer who joined the band from Stone Sour in 1997. "Sure there's the shock value at first but then you really get into the mindset and the reality behind it and then you're like 'ok I see it now'.

Corey Taylor:
"I mean we never started wearing them to hide behind in the first place, that was something that kind of came along later that the fans kind of foisted on us. For me, it was more about getting in touch with the person inside that just needs to be heard because we all have different sides to us. I've sat on a lot of anger and a lot of rage for a long time so for me it's the best way to get that out."

Cathartic as ever, Slipknot's recently released fourth album All Hope is Gone unleashes all the blood-thinning sonic rage as you'd expect from their foreboding melange of chainsaw riffs and Halloween aesthetics. This despite sections of the media suggesting the band's metal masquerade is all but over.

Corey Taylor:
"See I think this album is heavier than the last album by far," reasons Taylor at home in Des Moines. "Volume 3 was a lot more melodic and mellow but on this album there's a lot more attitude. I think people wanted this album to be mellower and I don't see where they get that from.

All Hope Is Gone was recorded in Slipknot's home state of Iowa, a first in their 10 million-selling career given much of their back-catalogue was made in Los Angeles, epicentre of extra-curricula distractions, specifically "drugs, booze and women".

Corey Taylor:
"When you're a band like this that takes everything to an extreme you tend to jump wholeheartedly into that stuff," says Taylor, now father to a five-year-old son. "And that city is just built out of that so it's hard to fight it when you're there. But this time around we were able to focus on the music and the recording."

Hunkering down at a remote farmhouse studio outside Des Moines, Slipknot enlisted producer Dave Fortman (Mudvayne) to keep them honest.

Corey Taylor:
"The songs still had the same vibe and the same frenetic energy," says Taylor. "We were able to craft something that, well you know, it's been four months and I'm still listening to it! And I really tried to get more involved on this record, I did a lot of the arrangements and just wanted to step it up and be there for the band. This time I tried to take the reigns and help lead the project and they're probably the best vocal performances and lyrics I've ever laid down."

And it seems the fans agree. All Hope Is Gone and the crossover appeal of its current single Psychosocial propelled Slipknot to the top of the US Billboard charts for their first #1 album.

Corey Taylor:
"It was one of those things you hope for in life but never expect just with the way the industry is," says Taylor. "We were damn near # 1 all over the board and for me that's bigger than any Grammy, it's bigger than any American Music Award, it's the people standing up and saying 'we really like this'. It's one of those accomplishments I'm really proud to say we were able to achieve.

Corey Taylor:
"I mean this band has probably done a lot more for me than I can ever hope for. It's allowed me to put away money for the kids' college funds, it's allowed me to buy and own my own house and buy a house for my mom which is the first thing I ever bought. So it's enabled me to take care of the people I care about."

Following a brief hiatus brought about by drummer Joey Jordison's broken ankle, Slipknot are excited at the prospect of another world tour through 2009.

Corey Taylor:
"I'm trying to take advantage of the time I have because you just never know when this is going to go away. You could make up tomorrow and think I'm not into this anymore - and you'd have to find something else to do. So I don't take any of this for granted."



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