Tonight is the opening night of Slipknot’s Prepare for Hell tour - their first UK outing in over six years - and the collective sense of anticipation in the air is soaring. Even for opening support act and Slipknot’s label-mates King 810, the arena is half-full, which is often rare. However, once main support act Korn take to the stage, the crowd really erupts. The Nu-Metal veterans tear through a set of 90s metal hits including ‘Falling Away From Me’ and ‘Freak On A Leash’, finishing on an awesome rendition of ‘Blind’ from their self-titled debut album. The atmosphere is compelling - the crowd are more alive for Korn than most crowds are for a headline act, which can only be a good omen for Slipknot’s pending set.
The lights drop out, and a thin veil drapes over the stage. Album opener ‘XIX’ is played over the speakers as the band take their place on stage, before exploding into a frightening rendition of ‘Sarcastrophe’. This is the bands first outing with new bass player Allesandro Venturella and new drummer Jay Weinberg (son of Bruce Springsteen’s Max Weinberg), and it’s clear that the addition of these new members has injected new life into the Iowan nine-piece. Weinberg’s pounding kick drums penetrate the ears like an AK-47, whilst Venturella’s deep thundering bass-lines shake you to the core.
That isn’t to take away from the original members. The whole band are animated on the stage for the entire set - along with the giant demon head on the stage and the pyrotechnics, the show feels almost theatrical - and each one of them plays with as much intensity as they did 15 years ago. Corey Taylor’s exceptionally diverse vocal range is constantly displayed throughout the show, whether it’s his raw, gravelly screams in ‘The Negative One’, his fast-paced rapping in ‘Spit it Out’, or his silky smooth vocals in ‘Duality’. The fans are rabid as the band power through a set balanced with both classic songs and ones from their critically acclaimed latest album The Gray Chapter. They end their set with their call to arms - the anthemic ‘Surfacing’.
Slipknot are a band often criticised by elitist head-bangers, with some claiming they’re aimed at angst-ridden teens, and that their horror masks are simply a gimmick. However, tonight they proved exactly why, 20 years from their conception, they are still one of the biggest metal bands in the world.