by / February 18th, 2016 /

Slipknot – SSE Arena, Belfast

Arriving just as Suicidal Tendencies (still a thing, apparently) prowl the SSE Arena stage, State takes its notably comfortable seat as the veteran California thrash-funk outfit wind down with some nostalgia in the form of ‘How Will I Laugh Tomorrow’ and an extended version of ‘Pledge Your Allegiance’. Their energy is to be admired but it’s yet another Forgettable Metal or Alt Rock Support Act Turn to file alongside the likes of Vex Red, TRUSTcompany, Puddle of Mudd and horrible Northern Irish act Superskin, who were at seemingly every gig I went to in 2002.

That year saw Slipknot, still inexplicably banned from the Republic of Ireland for Helen Lovejoy reasons (National Parents Council, what’s good?), take to the stage of the Odyssey Arena where they were supported by… Superskin. You hope that their booking agent got an entire cask of fine champagne that year. Anyway, the moral of the story is that they were terrible and Slipknot, riding the Kerrang-approved wave of Iowa at the time, were pretty damn glorious. Almost 14 years later in the same-but-renamed venue and still very much a going concern, they remain an extremely curious proposition.

Though death and departure have dented the band in recent years, they’ve arguably never been in ruder health. That’s odd and makes little sense but where’s the sense in nine dudes in masks and boiler suits surviving the superficial era that birthed them and continuing to thrive commercially, critically and creatively? Corey Taylor and his band of ghouls are disjointed by design. Fittingly, so too is their set this evening. It’s the final night of a two-month European tour and before the logo-covered curtain rises, tribute must be paid. And so it is that the audience is treated to ‘Ashes to Ashes’, a poignant calm before the storm brings a different set of scary monsters in.

The storm hits. The strains of ‘Be Prepared For Hell’ give way to ‘The Negative One’ and it’s on. One of the highlights of 2014’s .5: The Gray Chapter, it’s a whirling dervish given additional oomph in a live setting, though Taylor’s vocals feel a little lost. He saunters off stage briefly and thankfully by the time ‘Disasterpiece’ kicks into gear he’s considerably more impactful in the mix. Much like last year’s visit to Dublin, they pepper the set like it’s a fan-made playlist, boasting interesting cuts from Iowa – ‘Disasterpiece’ and ‘Left Behind’ are expected, ‘Everything Ends’, ‘I Am Hated’ and ‘Metabolic’ are nice, expertly-executed surprises – alongside old standards; has there ever been a Slipknot gig that didn’t feature ‘Surfacing’?

So it’s business as usual  but the business is so very good indeed. Little moments pop big; Jay Weinberg’s hi-hat flourishes during the breakdown of ‘Disasterpiece’, Mick Thompson’s frankly terrifying guitar speed on several occasions, Taylor’s seamless switching from light to dark on the majestic ‘Killpop’, a spirited version of the underrated ‘Dead Memories’. Elsewhere, you’re regularly impressed by intricacy (the bleed between ‘Surfacing’ and ‘Left Behind’, the precision snap-back into ‘Spit It Out’ after, of course, everyone is ordered into crouching position) and reminded that for all the pageantry, for all the imagery, for all the aggression, Slipknot have delivered some of the sharpest, hook-laden songs of any genre.

You know the way people who claim to hate them yet cannot help but enjoy and respect a track like ‘Duality’? Would that they could hear it and ‘Wait and Bleed’ and ‘The Devil in I’ tonight, their brilliant choruses screamed to the heavens, the preacher at the forefront standing taller than the building itself.

That’s what Slipknot are capable of. They simply do not miss.

Slipknot photograph courtesy of Gerry McNally