I went to go see Slipknot live last night at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena 22.01.20

I went to go see Slipknot live last night at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena 22.01.20. I almost didn’t get to see them though. I was sat there logged into the site, ready to buy tickets for 30 mins before they went on sale. I counted the seconds and got ready to buy them at the precise second they went on sale. However, disaster struck. They sold out in a single second (except for super expensive VIP meet and greet packages I can’t afford to be shelling out for now that I have a baby to worry about, and even they sold out about a week or two later also). By the time my purchase button was loaded, I was informed tickets were sold out. Sort of annoying. However, when I googled, less than a moment later, there were hundreds of tickets up for re-sale at double and even triple the price. Very annoying. That should be illegal. Think of how many genuine fans would miss out as a bunch of swindlers just bought hundreds of tickets in the hope that they could sell some of them at inflated prices. And the money isn’t even going to the band, or keeping the music industry going, its purely some low life trying to rip off fans. Very annoying indeed.

I learned of a resale site called Twickets, (after writing an online rant about how frustrated I was by this should-be-illegal practice of instant online ticket scalping), when someone else who felt similar told me about a site, where actual fans who can’t go due to financial or medical or work reasons sell the tickets to other fans, face value. I signed up to that and held out hope that a face value standing ticket would come up. I would check it almost every 2-3 days for a few months. There were lots of tickets for other concerts in other cities, but I had the time booked off work for the Cardiff date from the day the dates were announced. One or two Cardiff tickets came up but were snapped up in seconds by other people like me. I also looked at those double or triple price tickets every week or so, but I couldn’t go through with that. Even if I could afford it, it’s the principal.

Then with less than a week to go, somebody on social media said they got a ticket by just phoning up the venue and asking if there were any extras stowed away. I mean, I never thought of that. The ticket website said it was sold out. The band’s social media and official website said it was sold out. The venue’s own website said it was sold out. But screw it, what do I have to lose? So I phoned them, and said, ‘’I know its sold out, but just in case…’’ and the man on the phone was just ‘’Oh no, we still have one or two tickets left’’ and sold me one face value. Needless to say I felt Over. The. Goddamn. Moon.

And so I did get to go after all. This was my fourth time catching Slipknot live. The 2nd concert I ever went to was Slipknot headlining on the Iowa tour at Belfast Odyssey arena very early on in my highschool career (this gig was a few days around the recording of their Disasterpeices DVD, with a similar set list and stage show, so if you wonder what it was like, it was as good as Disasterpieces, minus the bigger touches like the snow and flying drummer).

I also saw them supporting Metallica in Dublin once, around the time of Vol. 3, with a slightly shorter set and stripped down stage show. Finally; I also caught them headlining in Dublin on the Vol. 3 tour, supported by Shadows Fall and Helmet (with Frankie Bello from Anthrax temporarily on bass). It wasn’t included on their 9.0 live album which took material off most shows from that tour however, as Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan had to take the show off for a family emergency and they only included shows with the full band.

I never lived anywhere near where they played in the intervening years. I didn’t drive and was much too anxious to attempt to book public transport and hotels on my own back then. I didn’t really have the mindset until I was in my mid-20s. The idea of catching a train to London makes me dizzy even now, and back then it would have caused full blown panic.

There was once, when I potentially could have seen them once more, when I lived in Manchester, just before The Gray Chapter came out, but I couldn’t afford it at the time due to being a broke student, and it coinciding with exams, while I was also working crazy unpredictable hours including flipping between 14 hour shifts and 12 hour night shifts, or two sets of normal 8 hour shifts, with only a weeks notice of what I’d be doing, all the while also studying. Overall this made it hard to predict when I would be out of work. (I also couldn’t afford it, having blown all my money on a high volume of cheaper concerts at smaller venues beforehand, back when my work shifts were previously more predictable; leaving no cash or time off left for expensive arena shows).

That makes it the case that the last time I saw them was 2005.  15 years and 3 studio albums later I was chomping at the bit to see them again. Especially as their newest album, We Are Not Your Kind is so damn good. I mean, I like every Slipknot album, but WANYK is special. It has grown on me so much it is now my 3rd favourite album of theirs, behind only Iowa and the debut, and that is insanely high praise, as nothing will ever top those two due to such heavy nostalgia-value I have around them due the profound almost religious effect they had on me as a kid and all the happy memories associated with them.

Damn do I love Slipknot’s first two albums. I don’t think any other band has ever had such a big affect on me. I wouldn’t have had the friends I did in highschool without a shared love of Slipknot. I wouldn’t have been so into concerts if it wasn’t for Slipknot. I wouldn’t have fallen in love with music and had it overpower all other hobbies and interests without Slipknot. I wouldn’t love band biographies so much if it wasn’t for Slipknot. I wouldn’t have learned to play the drums if it wasn’t for Slipknot. Some people may write them off as a gimmick due to the masks. Some people may complain they aren’t true metal due to the DJs and Samples. Some people may think of them as an embarrassment due to the adolescent sweary violent lyrics. But to much more people they are a generation defining band, the next in the chain of succession that starts at Sabbath, runs through the likes of Priest and Maiden, to Metallica and Slayer, to Pantera. Above all though, they have the tunes. Just some of the best songs I ever have or likely ever will hear.  I’ve said it before, but I imagine that if I had a way to tell (as LastFM didn’t exist back then) I am almost sure that Slipknot’s debut album would be the album I have listened to most in my entire life. Iowa may be close by, but has some catching up to do as it came out after the debut got a head-start, and the younger you are and fewer albums you own, the more you tend to listen to an album over and over again.


Anyway; on to the night in question. I decided to work late, and get there well after doors open, so as to not have to que up. I knew Slipknot were more popular than most gigs I go to so there’s no chance I could get anywhere near the front, so I wasn’t even going to try. However, I forgot just how popular Slipknot are, and even arriving there at least an hour later than I ever have, I still had to que up. I have never had to que in Cardiff before. But Slipknot are just that gigantic.

I managed to get in just as opening act, satanic extreme metal legends, Behemoth, were starting their first song. I had to miss it to go to the bathroom, visit the merch stand etc, but was ready by the time of their 2nd song. Loveable frontman Nergel was dressed up like a mixture of Dani Filth and the pope, with creepy serpentine stands and big banners up. They had a respectable amount of pyro for an opening band, and basically had a show worthy of a headliner. The music from the two new albums is so accessible live. ‘Bartzebel’ in particular was banging live. It seemed like a bizarre choice of opening act at first glance, but it worked well. Better than Slayer supported by Obituary. And when you think about it, Slipknot do mix in death growls, blast beats and Deicide/Morbid Angel influences riffs every so often, so extreme metal bands supporting Slipknot isn’t as strange as it first appears.

Behemoth were very entertaining. A big show, good sound, surprisingly accessible material and a lot of charisma. When they played their little cinematic drum laiden outro, I made a mental note to buy the two newest Behemoth albums as soon as it was financially reasonable to do so.

Nergal Pope
Behemoth Live
Drumkit on fire
Drum laiden climax

Then after the usual wait between bands, it was finally time for Slipknot again. Last time I saw them three members were different. Iconic drummer Joey Jordinson was now gone, late bassist Paul Gray is no-longer with us, and additional percussionist/background vocalist Chris Fehn has recently been sacked due to legal issues, much discussed already in the press.

Paul is deceased so no one can resent his replacement Alex anyway, and although I like him in documentaries and interviews, I never had strong enough feelings about Chris’ musical contributions to think it would change the band notably when he left. However; Joey is gone. That is a big deal. Man, when Slipknot first lost Joey Jordinson, I thought the band should break up. That’s like Mastodon without Brann Dailor. Its like Pantera without Vinnie Paul. So much of why Slipknot feel like they do is in Joey’s work. There is probably no other band I am as emotionally invested in line up changes with.

What must kids who knew them in the ’70s have thought when Peter Chris or Ace Frehley left Kiss? What must kids who liked Motley Crue in the ’80s have felt when Vince Neil or Tommy Lee left the band? It’s such a unit of a band, who capture a young fan’s imagination so hard, that its hard to imagine any change. I did eventually come around though after their recent ‘Gusano DVD showed me that replacement drummer Jay Weinberg was more than equal to the task, and if that didn’t already 100% do the trick, then their new album certainly cemented it. I was actually excited to see them with the new line up.

Since I hadn’t seen them since Vol. 3, there is a lot of material I have never caught live yet. As I said, I like every Slipknot album. (Probably every Slipknot song if you don’t count demos and remixes). Unfortunately, they didn’t play anything off of ‘Gray Chapter this time, which I was a bit gutted by. I really like that album and would have loved to see something like ‘Custer,’ ‘AOV’ or ‘Sarcastrophe’ live. ‘Custer’ especially. From the first time I heard it I said to myself ”that is a song that will be in their setlists forevermore.” They also only played one song from All Hope Is Gone. I guess that’s reason enough to try see them a few more times, as I really want to catch more songs I haven’t heard live before. I’m keen to hear it all.

But given how great the new album is, I was most keen to see material from We Are Not Your Kind live. I was thinking about how much I wanted it on such a regular basis since end of the week that the album was released and it had all started to click with me. Turns out I was in luck, because if you count the 2018 stand-alone single ‘All Out Life’ which technically isn’t on the album (but which features the lyric ‘we are not your kind’ repeatedly chanted and I always mentally count as being part of that album, and have attached to the album in my itunes and on my phone and just pretend it is on the album anyway), then they played 5 new songs. Aforementioned ‘All Out Life.’ Big single ‘Unsainted,’ which opened the show.  The dark, weird, almost formless album closer ‘Solway Firth.’ The groovy ‘Birth Of The Cruel’ and the stompy new single ‘Nero Forte.’  It was great to see this much new material live. It shows you how much confidence the band must have in the new album, and given the audience reaction, this confidence was well placed.

Not counting intros and outros over the speakers, there were 17 tracks. 6 of which I had never seen live before. Pretty great value. No wonder they didn’t have room for much material off All Hope’ or ‘Gray Chapter. The rest of the set featured the big singles from Vol 3; ‘Duality,’ ‘Before I Forget’ and ‘Vermillion’ as well as many classic concert favourites from the debut like ‘(Sic),’ ‘Surfacing’ and ‘Eyeless’ and topped off with a few of the heavier numbers from Iowa, like ‘Disasterpiece’ and ‘People=Shit.’

Slipknot are pretty great at mixing up sets, and not just playing the same thing every tour, swapping in a surprise or two, and dropping a few expected tunes now and again for a deep cut. The (sort of) surprises in the set were first album bonus-track ‘Eeyore’ and Iowa deepish-cut ‘New Abortion’ although I have seen both live before and both have been on official live releases so not super surprising if you want to be pedantic, but I was satisfied. In terms of dropping an expected tune, this time they dropped ‘Spit It Out’ which is almost unfathomable, as therefore they didn’t do the ‘’Jump The Fuck Up’’ moment, (where they make the whole crowd crouch for a few minutes then jump up in unison) but I’ve had that three times and on all their live albums too, so I was glad to lose it if it meant more time for new songs.

In terms of stage show, it was the biggest and best I’d ever seen them. There were videoscreens all over the place (even on the drums). There was pyro and steam. There were fireworks. There was a Nikki Sixx style bass guitar flamethrower like on Motley Crue’s The End DVD. There were treadmills which the more expendable members like the DJ, Sid, would go and play about on when not needed musically. He did the moonwalk on a treadmill at one point. Their setlist didn’t feature many turn-table focused songs this time so I guess he’s got to do something. Clown got a flaming baseball bat out for the keg smashes on ‘Duality.’

Performance and sound wise, it was really good. That’s not always a given. As much as love this band, they aren’t what I’d call consistent. Some bands are just perfect every single time (Hatebreed spring to mind). Slipknot are not one of those bands. I mean, when you have 9 members, complex awkward songs with atypical structures, and a singer inside a mask running around, its hard to get everything sounding perfect…

If you look across all of Slipknot’s official and unofficial live releases, you’ll notice they have been really hit and miss over the years in terms of both vocals and audio mix. Even on just their Voliminal DVD, which features footage from a few different shows, the live stuff goes from amazing to quite poor. The 9.0 live album which I mentioned earlier features material from across a whole tour, and that album has quite poor live vocals and subpar sound mixes. Conversely though the Disasterpeices and (Sic)nesses DVDs have superb live vocals and mixes and are absolutely must-own. The pro shot live stuff from various festivals on the first two album cycles is really mixed also. I remember MTV2 used to have footage of the band on the Iowa cycle in Germany, where Corey’s vocals were really muffled and the kick drums overpowered all the guitars. When I first got into them, on the debut album cycle, the only live stuff available was bootlegs, and they were always pretty rough. You could get pirate CDs from shows like their first time in London or from dates on the US Ozzfest, but you could tell from the CD that Corey was running around, bouncing and going crazy so much, that the vocals would suffer. Even my own live experiences of the band were mixed. When I saw them live myself in Belfast the mix and vocals were brilliant and its still one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. When I saw them headlining on the Vol. 3 cycle, the vocals were poor (he has discussed in interviews over the years that he was drinking heavily in that period) but the mix was great. When I saw them supporting Metallica on that same album cycle, the mix was poor but the vocals were good. As I said, its not a given.

I guess there’s a lot of variables for the soundmen to get right and lots of chances to get it wrong. Depending on how much running and bouncing singer Corey Taylor does, and how his mask affects the microphones, there’s a big gap between his best and his worst shows.

However, tonight it was great. It was pretty close to a perfect show. I mean, if I had to pick pedantic holes in it then I guess the guitar-intro to ‘Surfacing’ sounded a bit weird, and the vocals on the chorus to ‘Nero Forte’ were a bit thin, but otherwise it was magnificent.

The sound mix was perfectly balanced. Even the additional percussion was actually audible and you could tell why they have three drummers. The bass was thick. The guitars were clear and didn’t go muddy. The drum kit was powerful and you could pick every element out individually. The vocals were just right. I couldn’t have asked for a better mix.

The band were energetic and enthusiastic and played like a band on the rise. Drums were absolutely battered. Riffs were practically thrown into the crowd. I guess buoyed by the success of the new album, they are revitalised and fired-up. This was definitely the 2nd-best I ever seen them live; sceond only to that very first time I saw them, back in Belfast in 2002, which boasted many more songs from my favourite album, Iowa, in the set, and featured the classic line-up when they were still mysterious and I was wide-eyed and young. (And to be fair, my memory of that could in fact be a little clouded in a rose-tinted teenage nostalgia).

I always regretted not seeing them live on the last two album cycles, but I would have been heartbroken to miss them this time. Thank goodness for the weird phone/website discrepancy! This was awesome. One of the bands that have meant the most to me in my whole life, playing brilliantly, with a great setlist and sounding great. This is going to be a show I remember for a long time.

Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind Review

I’ve said it before, but I don’t think in my life I have listened to any album more than Slipknot’s 1999 debut. I got into the band my first year of high-school and for my generation they were the biggest and most important band in the world, the way Metallica and Maiden were for people starting school in the ‘80s, or Pantera were for people starting school in the ‘90s,  or Zeppelin and Kiss were for people starting school in the ‘70s.

Slipknot were more than a band; they were so much more in my mind. I can’t count on two hands the number of pictures I drew of them, or discussions I had with school friends about them or magazines I bought just because they were in it. The first time I saw them live, on the Iowa cycle at Belfast Odyssey Arena, is one of the most memorable concerts I have ever been to. I don’t want to throw around terms like life-changing in my old and cynical age, but if I was to apply such an epithet to any band, Slipknot would be the one.

To some extent I like everything they have ever done. I am a bit of a lifer and so this review isn’t exactly going to be impartial or unbiased. But I am not 100% blind and unwilling to think critically either so I’d like to say you can trust what I say. I will admit All Hope Is Gone is not as good as the others. I’ll be happy to admit that there quite a few lyrics I dislike and sometimes Shawn’s video projects are a bit too arty and pretentious and that maybe a straighter take might do the band more favours.  I’ll even admit that some songs I like have choruses I dislike even if the rest of the song is enjoyable. (‘Sulpher’ for example has a chorus I always seem to resent, as it represents the band going a bit too far away from what made me like them in the first place). I did get a bit sceptical when a few too many clean vocals started creeping in and what were amazing and refreshing moments of clean (‘Me Inside’) amongst the heaviness became the norm and it started to seem almost every song had to have a radio chorus.

A lot of people aren’t so keen on the band’s last two albums, All Hope Is Gone and .5 The Gray Chapter, so you can expect the reviews for this will all certainly feature some kind of ‘return to form’ or ‘best since’ line or two. Now; as I said, I like every album Slipknot have ever made (and probably every song too, its just some parts I am not keen on)… but I both can and can’t see why this ‘return to form’ thing is going to be so prevalent.

Now; I think The Gray Chapter is brilliant. I’ve been reading a lot of negative things about it online in the build up to We Are Not Your Kind’s release. I don’t agree with the narrative that it was a rushed or undercooked or too much like Corey’s other band Stone Sour. Tracks like ‘Custer,’ ‘Sarcastrophe’ and ‘The Negative One’ are rabid and savage, and even though I sort of resent them, I can’t deny the radio moments like ‘The Devil In I’ are damn catchy… However; In the same way I initially hated ‘Psychosocial’ when I first heard it for the big clean radio chorus that felt like a change in what the band was trying to be and what they represented, I can see how the cleaner moments on the Gray Chapter would put people off. I mean in isolation I like almost every one of them anyway, but I just wish on principal that on the last three albums there were a few more ‘Disasterpeice’ and ‘Metabolic’ style choruses and a few less ones like those of ‘Dead Memories’ and ‘Before I Forget.’ I reckon a lot of other older fans feel the same way.

We Are Not Your Kind seems to be blowing a lot of people’s skirts up for its heaviness and brutality. There is plenty of it on here. ‘Orphan,’ ‘Red Flag’ and ‘Nero Forte’ all connect like a haymaker to the face. Corey did say in interviews while it was being written that it reminded him of Iowa and on these songs you can sort of see why he might have thought that if they were the ones he was working on at the time.

But this album has plenty of clean moments too. Hell; the first real song (track 2) on every other Slipknot album is always one of the fastest, heaviest, most brutal ones on the record, and yet here, track two is the big single ‘Unsainted’ with its absolutely huge radio chorus and festival sing-along intro. So the public’s different reaction to ‘Gray Chapter and We Are Not Your Kind can’t just be about heavy vs. clean.

One thing that is clear is that the songs on this, their sixth official studio, album are just really good. It might be that simple. The first distorted verse to ‘Unsainted’ is fierce as honey badger and the drums throughout are really impressive and energetic. The way Jay flails sideways into the china cymbal at unexpected times reminds me of what made the band’s debut so damn exciting.

You know what else makes this album so good? (Now; I’m not saying it wasn’t there on the last two albums, but…) on this album the amount of time given over to the band’s extra members and how high they are in the mix seems to be higher on this record. Lots of Sid’s DJ scratches. Lots of additional percussion from the two extra percussionists. Lots of samples and sounds from the mysterious Craig. It feels like this album really goes out of its way to justify having all nine members and revels in what makes Slipknot unique… After the massive success of Vol. 3 and its radio singles and ballads, it felt like on the follow up, All Hope Is Gone that the band were trying to be more of a ‘normal’ band instead of celebrating their uniqueness. Here they seem to shine a spotlight on them more often.

What else is great is that the band aren’t afraid to do new things. ‘Birth Of The Cruel’ for example sees the band discover ‘90s Groove Metal, and lean into the sort of riffs and drum beats that would fit on Burn My Eyes or Chaos Ad at times, with bendy riffs, and stomping jarring rhythms. Obviously through a Slipknot filter, but still…

I think the best thing about the album though might well be the fact that Corey isn’t holding back with his vocals so much. On the first album he screamed his head off so much that we were told he wasn’t allowed to talk between shows so he could rest his voice. By the time Vol. 3 came around he had to find a way to scream without damaging his voicebox and came up with the new voices that he has been using on that and all subsequent albums. It feels at times though that on this album (and maybe ‘Custer’ off of the last album… because as I said, I don’t get the hate for that one) that Corey is back to shredding his throat to pieces like back in the glory days. Some of the vocals on ‘Red Flag’ and the start of ‘Orphan’ could be straight out of ‘People = Shit’ or ‘The Heretic Anthem’ and that is the sound I fell in love with all those years ago. That was a big part of the initial magic that hooked me in and made me such a lifer for this generation defining band. Corey howling himself hoarse is just one of the best noises in all of heavy music and its nice to hear it so much again.

The production is also good, it keeps the mix clear without losing the frenzied and chaotic feel too much on the heavier tracks. You can hear each beater on the kick drum, you can hear the bass under the vocals, but you can also tune out and just be swept away in the energy of the whole thing. It doesn’t feel like the edges have been sanded down too much.

One little minor niggle against the album is the exclusion of the track ‘All Out Life’ (which was separately released back around Halloween 2018, but it contains the title line ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ repeatedly chanted). Admittedly; There was one bit I didn’t like in it, where they slow down and there is the spoken word ‘‘I will not…’’ section that was a bit similar to the intro of ‘Pulse Of The Maggots.’ Otherwise however, that track was quite a rager. I really love how driving the first verse is and when he sings that ‘’the horizon is coming like a hellbent killing machine’’ you really feel this sense of urgency and momentum. I have just added the track in as number 15 on my iTunes and phone so I get to hear it every time I hear the album (which has been pretty much non-stop since release). If you want it on CD though, you’d have to buy the special Japanese bonus track edition. Bit of a shame though that everyone doesn’t just get it as standard, because it’s a great song that I’ve really grown to love and it fits into the album well.

I feel it’s a bit weird to leave it out, as the biggest complaint I have about The Gray Chapter is that it needs just one more heavy song to balance the album out. It’s a bit frustrating to see them make the same decision again. I mean don’t get me wrong; I like ‘A Liar’s Funeral’ and ‘Not Long For This World’ and their atmospheric build ups. (Slipknot have always been the master of that, with the likes of ‘Gently’ and ‘Skin Ticket’ in the good old days, and ‘If Rain Is What You Want’ recently). But what right-minded metal fan wouldn’t want the majority of a Slipknot album to be flailing double kicks and gnarly riffs?

Now I don’t want it to be exclusively speed and power. Slipknot’s diversity is as big a draw as their ferocity. The band have always had a creepy experimental side (often driven by Shawn) to balance out Joey and Mick’s love of Deicide and Morbid Angel. All the way back to ‘Tattered And Torn,’ ‘Frail Limb Nursery’ and ‘Scissors’ from the debut and evolving into things like ‘The Virus Of Life’ and ‘Danger Keep Away (Extended Version)’ they have been balancing out the aggressive songs with nightmarish moments. They have also been experimenting with clean and subtle moments on recent albums like ‘Killpop’ and ‘Goodbye.’ So you can sort of see the legacy and evolution there and so it isn’t a total bolt out of the blue, when this album takes the cleans and mixes them with the creepy to come up with a new sound. I have read a lot of reviews of this record saying this record is dominated by experimentation. You can sort of see why. The album is full of creepy nursery rhyme-meets-experimental electronic tracks. ‘Death Because Of Death,’ ‘What’s Next,’ ‘My Pain’ and ‘Spiders’ for example come across at the same time as being both something that the band has never done before but also as a continuation in their long line of broadening the scope of their albums by adding in something more esoteric.

This album is certainly diverse; you have the four aforementioned quiet creepy ones, you have the two above-mentioned atmospheric ones, a selection of ragers as discussed prior, the huge big radio single with the surprisingly heavy verses and great drumming to open the proceedings. There’s also ‘Critical Darling’ which toes the line between radio and rager with its chorus reminiscent of Alice In Chains’ track ‘God Smack,’ and then there’s the album closer ‘Soloway Firth,’ which is a sprawling, strangely structured and winding song that goes in many different directions and which requires a good few listens to even pin down and follow what’s going on. Its not prog, but its certainly not three-chord trick, verse-chorus-verse, rock either.

All in all it is a very interesting listen (even without adding in ‘All Out Life’ for heaviness sake). I don’t want to go and say ‘’The best album since…’’ because I am really fond of all their albums, but it is certainly really good. Really, really good in fact. As a bit of an over eager fan it certainly satisfies, but objectively it is a damn fine record with a good flow, a good balance of different directions, a good sound and fantastic vocal performance. It not only meets my high expectations but exceeds them.