Slipknot are the most important band in the world to me. Bar none, there is no other band out there that can impact my mood like them,and no other band that gets to me the way they do, so needless to say when they were announced as a headliner at this years Download Festival I was quite excited indeed.
Having seem them headline this very event in 2009, as well as Sonisphere in 2011, expectations were running high to see how the band could top those performances. Would the band deliver The Dark Knight Rises of performances or would it be Superman III? Well, the answer lies somewhere in the middle I think.
Over the years Slipknot have developed a reputation for being a solid and unpredictable live band, where literally anything can and usually does happen. We’ve all heard the stories and in some cases we have witnessed the insanity with our own eyes up close and personal. However, as time has passed the band has dialled back some of the insanity and pushed their craft into a more mechanised, well oiled machine that whilst spectacular takes away a lot of the unpredictability from the past and replaces it with organised chaos.
One thing that is abundantly clear, and has been for a very long time, is that Slipknot are a world class band, a true game changing force of nature. They have more anthems by the pound than most bands could ever wish to write, they have the ability to turn thousands of people into a twisted mass of dancing, jumping moshing bodies, all coming together as one. This is why it is even harder to stomach the fact that the band has now become repetitive, as much as it pains me to say that, Slipknot have now become somewhat of a band stuck in limbo and for now they seem to be going through the motions, this is Slipknot by the numbers as it were.
As the band takes to the stage adorned in a variety of masks from throughout their career, as well as the “Iowa” era boiler suits as well, which should be an indication of what kind of set we are going to get. Opening with a crushing rendition of ‘Disasterpiece’ that gives way to a bone rattling ‘Liberate’, it’s clear that the 18 legged Iowan hate machine is still capable of sounding like the end of the world. Over the course of their 20 song set, the band delivers a string of classics, from the likes of ‘Wait and Bleed’ and ‘Get this’ all the way through to lesser played tracks like ‘Gently’ and ‘Everything Ends’. You even get the more sing along tracks from the bands most recent album ‘All hope is gone’ with ‘Sulfur’, ‘Dead Memories’ and ‘Psychosocial’ all getting an airing, proving themselves to be newly minted classics as well.
The problem doesn’t lie with the band’s set and with the aforementioned tracks, no one will ever take shots at the bands choice of set, because it would be ridiculous to even try. The problem lies more with the performance, which has sadly become interchangeable, it’s become somewhat choreographed. Now, before everyone jumps on what i’m saying and starts trying to bash that comment, let me explain, Slipknot shows should be chaos, they should be total and utter hell on earth, you should not be able to sit there and predict every beat that happens, and as much as this sounds like a criticism and to a degree it is. I’m trying not to be be disparaging, but imagine if you took a shark and took all its teeth out, it would still be a shark, but only less dangerous, and that’s what the Slipknot stage show has become now. There is still blood in the water, but they’ve forgotten how to hunt, for all the pyro, the rising drum kits and the songs, there is some of that visceral impact of old missing now, and there is something that doesn’t click anymore.
This is the first time I have walked away from a Slipknot show and felt a little empty inside. As much as I enjoyed dancing in the rain and singing my lungs out to the anthems of my youth, there was a little part of me that wished there had been that little bit extra, that extra fire that makes this band so special and so unlike anything else on earth. Still, a Slipknot firing on less than a hundred percent is better than most bands on their best days. Hopefully, a break and some long awaited new material will help reinvigorate the nine and we will see Iowan hate machine rise again and then there truly will be hell to pay.
Photo Credit: Jessica Gilbert Photography