Sound Like Slipknot: Iconic Heavy Metal Guitar Tone

Formed in the fly-over state of Iowa in 1995, Slipknot had plenty of gripes to shout about. Donning grotesque masks, the nu metal nine-piece brought a completely new take to a stagnating metal genre. Their mysterious members, crushing chaos and relatable lyrics gripped metalheads in a way no band had done since Metallica almost a decade before.

Cian Hodge

Cian Hodge

Slipknot: High-gain monsters

Slipknot became synonymous with the nu metal trend in the late ’90s and early noughties, spitting out expressive, sometimes grotesque lyrics, accompanied by crushing guitar riffs and powerful percussion. But it would be unfair to categorise them so narrowly when their back catalogue displays moments far more intense than their counterparts, through both sheer heaviness and raw emotion. It certainly caught the attention of million globally. Eventually the original nine-piece rose to an unforgettable status, becoming the poster boys of 21st century metal. They’ve enjoyed continual mainstream success thanks to their ear for a big melody – despite the taboo first impressions.

The arrival of Slipknot’s first self-titled album set the record straight. It was a monster on all fronts. Layers upon layers of tracks, walls of metallic-sounding guitars, industrial drumming clangs mixed in with the technicality of the late, great drummer Joey Jordison. It isn’t a surprise that six albums later they’ve achieved legendary status.

Guitarist duo Jim Root and Mick Thompson incorporate a number of techniques into their dual lead playing in the form of sludgy drop-tuned riffs, the occasional ripping solo and a big dose of hooky melody. At times, their almost percussive feel syncs up sumptuously with the host of drummers to great effect. Have a listen to the playlist below to get a better idea.

Listen To The Original

Guitars

It might surprise some that Jim Root switches between three signature Fender guitars; a Jazzmaster, Telecaster and Strat, all built to similar specs. These aren’t your vintage-inspired Fenders, but radically enhanced guitars built to an incredibly high standard for metal players.

All are equipped with active EMG pickups, usually an 81 in the bridge and 60 in the neck for the aggressive tones Slipknot utilise. They’re as modern as you can get from the Californian-based guitar builders, both aesthetically and in the choice of hardware. All feature solid black or white finishes, ebony fretboards, modern ‘C’ necks, hardtail bridges and a lone volume knob. There’s no better option for nailing the Slipknot sound and look. If you prefer a more colourful look, anything with EMG active pickups from the likes of Ibanez, ESP or Schecter will get you very close.

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Second guitarist Mick Thomson is endorsed by Fender-owned Jackson guitars. He used to play an Ibanez, but now rocks a signature super Strat Soloist designed from the ground up to be a metal machine. Thomson played a big part in crafting the guitar’s extremely high-output signature Seymour Duncan Blackout pickups. Like Jim Root, he keeps the rest of the guitar super simple with just one volume knob and a three-way switch. However, he’s grown accustomed an intriguing fixed Floyd Rose bridge based on the classic floating trem design.

If you’re feeling inspired by Mick and Jim’s sleek instruments, check out our modern “S” style guitars.

Amps

A quality high-gain amp is key to Slipknot’s choppy distortion. Jim Root swears by his big, bold Orange amps. He does have a signature Dark Terror, but he doesn’t always use it in a live setup – he needs something with a bit more oomph to match the size of their shows. Instead he opts for the larger Rockerverb 100 going into a Celestion Vintage 30-loaded Orange 4×12. Its harsh British tones sound sit nicely next to his bandmate’s rig, which gives each Slipknot track a unique tonal character. The foundation to Jim Root’s sound is achievable through a number of different amp brands such as Marshall, Victory and Blackstar.  it’s a classic setup used by many metal players stretching back to the eighties.

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Mick Thomson relies on his signature Rivera KR7 head. It’s a beast of an amp at 120 watts, voiced for tighter low-end and boosted mids to punch through the many layers of Slipknot’s music. The matching cab has massive headroom to keep the sound as pristine as possible. He’s also been seen more recently playing through an Omega Obsidian for the sixth LP We Are Not Your Kind. Mick’s setup is a little more tricky to capture perfectly, as Rivera amps are a small company with a very niche sound, but an EVH 5150, Mesa Boogie Mark V or Synergy amp will get you into the same ballpark.

Find more valve heads on the Andertons site.

Pedals

Both guitarists have relatively simple pedalboards and rackmount setups, as the high-gain amp channels do most of the work. On the rare occasion Slipknot use a clean tone, they’ll accompany it with some ambient effects. Jim Root has two MXR Carbon Copy delays set to different delay times and controlled backstage by his guitar tech. He has another one onstage for any crazy oscillations and a Cry Baby Wah used during solos or passages, such as as the pre chorus on Before I Forget.

Other effects such as the Boss Noise Suppressor stay on the rack as an “always on” effect ensuring silent, sharp staccato. Clean effects like the EHX Holy Grail Reverb, Micro POG and Maxon Phaser and Auto Filter are used more sparingly.

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Jim Root’s counterpart is even more utilitarian. Mick Thomson keeps all his effects rack-mounted. He uses a Carbon Copy delay, a Death By Audio Fuzz War and a custom octave fuzz made by his tech Kevin Allen.

If you’re interested in finding out how to achieve the tones of your favourite artists, check out more of our Sound Like articles.

Cian Hodge
Cian Hodge
Cian is a writer for the Andertons team. He shares his birthday with Muse frontman Matt Bellamy and believes he will one day reach the same level of stardom. Cian is a big prog/modern metal fan so naturally loves Bare Knuckle pickups and pointy guitars.

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