When Slipknot first emerged like a chip pan fire in 1995, they had clearly set their stall out to shock the world into submission. Fast-forward over twenty years, and their success in that mission is brazen; they are making a fiercely anticipated return to Motorpoint Arena following the release of their sixth studio album We Are Not Your Kind last year – an album which tore its way to Number One on the Billboard Album Chart…
In the noughties Slipknot were one of those bands that your parents dreaded you discovering. Songs about death, decay and depravity can’t be good for your kids, right? It seems the parents of Notts do not agree in 2020 – I spot countless dads with Slipknot hoody-clad teenagers among the gaggles of fanatics, or Maggots, to use to technical term. Tonight is the sixth date of their first UK tour in five years, so the fever is dizzyingly palpable. Cue AC/DC’s For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) and the rising of the gargantuan Slipknot flag which has been shielding the sound checks and stage preparation, and the crowd embark on a wild journey that does not waver once.
Nine-strong and masked, Slipknot launch forcefully into Unsainted, the choral-laced masterpiece first single from We Are Not Your Kind. It’s only once I’ve recovered from the whiplash of their opener that I fully absorb the stage setup; it’s as considered and commanding as a theatre set, their signature pair of raised percussion platforms framing the central drum kit, duo of synth-laden mixing decks and trio of guitarists, all with sublime symmetry. As frontman phenomenon Corey Taylor roams frenetically, what strikes me the most is the cohesion of it all – sure it’s of a dystopian kind, but it feels far more like a metal symphony than a chaotic frenzy, particularly when tracks from 2004’s Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses are unveiled – Before I Forget and Vermillion summon moments of surprising light.
That’s not to say that Slipknot have softened – far from it. If you were unfamiliar with the band’s brand of furious heavy metal – or ‘metal metal’ – you would definitely feel like your senses were being assaulted tonight. But as far as my first experience of Slipknot’s live show goes, I’m struck by the strength of each individual’s musicianship and its vibrant translation into the live realm; every chord shredded by guitarist Jim Root and every growl from Taylor is discernible. I am similarly beguiled by how glam their performance feels; they are performers through and through, pushing the fervent lights and outrageous pyrotechnics into psychedelic thrash theatre - Alessandro Venturella’s headless bass actually starts spurting flames during Birth of the Cruel.
“We’ve been doing this for twenty years, and we’ll give you twenty f**king more; you keep us going”, Taylor bellows in just one of many moments in which he acknowledges the unwavering fan support they’ve experienced as a band. It is heavily reflected in the set list tonight; plenty of tracks from 1999 debut Slipknot and 2001’s follow-up Iowa rear their ugly heads, including New Abortion - which they’ve apparently not played live in years. Their emblematic whacking of metal bins is equally as present tonight, much to everyone’s delight.
Messages of unity permeate Taylor’s narrative between tracks: “Sh*t has got out of control, and the best thing we can all do is stick together”, he declares before the ennead flee and remerge for a blistering encore, drawn to a close on Surfacing. The irony isn’t lost on anyone tonight that nine explosive masked marauders are spreading messages of unity and hope. It is impossible to watch passively during a Slipknot show, and it’s a half decent metaphor for current times.
Slipknot played Motorpoint Arena on Tuesday 21 January 2020