American mask-donning metal gods Slipknot announced their Prepare For Hell tour in October 2014, with their nu metal brothers in Korn supporting. Their very lengthy UK tour ended rather fittingly in Birmingham at the Barclaycard Arena, and on the night the masses flocked the streets of the city centre; there was always at least one gig-goer in eyesight at any point, which was to be expected for a sell-out show that promised to be everything you’d hope for and more.
After spending a good five minutes revelling at how much the Arena had changed since its days as the NIA, we trotted into the standing section just as Korn [9/10] started up their set. Now, I’m not a Korn fanatic and haven’t listened to them anywhere near as much as I should have in my time, but their 11-song support set was more than enough to convince me that I was wrong not to. Belting out classics such as ‘Here To Stay’ and ‘Love and Meth’, the accompanying light show was blinding and the bass from the music skull-rattling. The music was heavy-hitting and sounded just like the records, if not better, which is down in part to the great sound mixing on the night – especially Munky’s overbearing slap bass which was sublime. As the band wound up the song ‘Shoots and Ladders’, they transitioned into playing a short clip from Metallica’s ‘One’ (unfortunately ending just before the solo). The only tiny complaint I would have about Korn’s set is a personal one, which is a lack of some of my favourite songs such as ‘A.D.I.D.A.S’ and ‘Twisted Transistor’ on their set list, but hey ho. To the Korn purists, the performance would have been simply perfect.
A rush to the bar to buy more beer and a sly slither nearer to the stage later and we were set for Slipknot [10/10] to take to the stage. The lights dropped as ‘XIX’ played through the PA before the 9-piece took to the stage and jumped into ‘Sarcastrophe’, the first two tracks off their new album .5 – The Gray Chapter. It was an absolute joy to witness, especially for the first time, the stage setup that the band has, with both custom percussionists atop giant hydraulically-lifted platforms that span all over the place, as well as the keyboardist and DJ platforms on hydraulics. Pyrotechnics constantly the shot from the back of the stage in front of a giant severed lamb’s head with devilishly red eyes.
It was during the next song, ‘The Heretic Anthem’, that the crowd were able to truly open their lungs, chanting in full voice along to “If you’re 555 then I’m 666”, and from here on out it was a wild ride to the finish. They played an equal mix of songs from each of their albums (except All Hope Is Gone which only birthed ‘Psychosocial’), during an impeccable setlist which had no weak spots. The band have been switching a few of their songs up in their setlist throughout their lengthy UK tour, and so I was absolutely ecstatic to hear the marching beat to ‘Three Nil’ echo out around the arena as it meant that ‘Eyeless’ and ‘Vermilion’ followed, with the former being the stand-out track of the night. A duel between tracks from Vol. 3 and Slipknot led up to the final song of the main set, Custer, which Corey Taylor introduced by getting the crowd to chant along to the opening beat.
The encore opened with ‘(Sic)’ and slid effortlessly into ‘People = Sh*t’; at this point mosh pits were opening all around us, picking up in ferocity as the pent up anger was released. The pyrotechnics really seemed to pick up as it went on as there was wave after wave of hot air shooting from the stage. Slipknot signed off with ‘Surfacing’, squeezing out every last drop of energy they had to put on a spectacle for the last song of the last show of their UK tour.
As I walked out of the Barclaycard Arena after the show, I spent some time contemplating whether Slipknot’s performance was the best I had ever witnessed. It was everything that my 12-year-old self had dreamed it would be, and it ended up being everything that my now 20-year-old self had dreamed it would be too. From the stage antics to the perfection of every note of every song, as well as a kick-ass support act too, every piece of the metal scene veterans’ puzzle fell into place in a show that completely blew me away. Their next forage in the UK is for a headline show at Download Festival, and to those of you going: you’re in for a hell of a treat.