Controversy and rock’n’roll often go hand in hand, whether it’s GG Allin shitting everywhere, Judas Priest allegedly inciting teen suicides or Marilyn Manson sending over-cautious mothers into spasms at the mere sight of his gothy mug.
Of course, one of the most controversial bands to emerge from our world in recent times is a certain nine-headed monster from Iowa. Never ones to stray away from contention, Slipknot were “sort of banned” from playing Ireland for 10 years according to iconic frontman Corey Taylor. But now they’re back and have brought some equally confrontational friends with them.
As the stormy winds pick up outside the 3Arena and blow the growing queues halfway to Belfast, inside the venue Flint’s KING 810  are doing their best to warm up the half-empty crowd. As aggro hip hop blasts over the PA and the pitters throw out their best dance moves, the lights drop and the news report audio kicks in before murder anthem Killem All rattles the synapses of those down front. In contrast to the last time King crossed The Pond, it’s a stripped-back set with no gimmicks of goons in bandanas carrying baseball bats – just a giant banner and a minimal light show. And suddenly it makes more sense. The band can feel it, and there’s a new confidence oozing from the stage that was dormant in their previous Europe jaunt. Frontman David Gunn skulks around the stage like Dick Dastardly’s gangland cousin dragging his mic stand behind him like he’d just killed it with his bare hands.
And while Gunn and co deliver only the ‘heavy ones’ from debut album Memoirs Of A Murderer, something is still missing from the band already dubbed Slipknot Mk II by the internet at large. Hammering through the ode to heroin, Desperate Lovers, and the darker-than-pitch Boogeyman, the majority of Dublin are happy to talk over it in their wait for the bigger boys to turn up. It doesn’t help matters, of course, that Gunn neglects to talk to his would-be fans for any discernible length, thus failing to connect on anything more than a lyrical level. Plus, the real problem here is that King 810 appear swamped by the stage they’re playing. The 3Arena is obnoxiously wide anyway, and when you’re a newbie four-piece trying to make your mark in a 14,000-capacity venue, filling the space is no easy task. There are a few glimmers of something truly special from the streets of Murder Town in the haunting, almost ritualistic nature of Write About Us but the piss and vinegar of closer Fat Around The Heart (with added electronics) is what King 810 do best: bile-filled, jacked-up, violence hymns from the darkest recesses of a mind that no longer fears death.
The shift in momentum from opener to main support is tangible. Whereas King 810’s fame on our shores might still be a fledgling movement, KORN  have been doing this for over two decades. When Korn’s debut self-titled LP dropped in 1994, the world had its first real taste of what went on to be dubbed nu metal. But the Bakersfield five-piece are about so much more than the other names they’d eventually be lumped in with (Staind, Drowning Pool, Adema, P.O.D. et al), which is why they’ve stood the test of time and are still as innovative and relevant as any hype band you care to mention. What other group of metallers could produce a dubstep album and make it work?
As the dreadheaded crew take to the stage, and the swell of sweaty bodies pouring in from the bar and smoking area chokes the air, Jonathan Davis emulates the sound of our collapsing lungs with Twist. It’s not the usual all-guns-blazing opener but nonetheless a classic from the Korn arsenal that now spans 11 albums – which makes for a blistering greatest hits set. Thundering their way through the double-whammy of Here To Stay and Right Now it’s clear to see Korn are loving every second of their hour-long set. Despite being jetlagged to fuck, Jonathan is all smiles and eggs the crowd on like a true showman. But he’s not the only star – the stage production Korn have brought with them is on par with Blackpool illuminations. Not only does the lighting rig look like something from the USS Enterprise, the whole floor lights up like a Michael Jackson video. And as an added bonus, Ray Luzier’s bass drums glow in the dark like a special edition Goosebumps novel; his kit also has more cymbals than most bands have songs.
Even though Korn released_ The Paradigm Shift_ just over a year ago, only two songs air in the guise of Hater and Love & Meth. The majority of the 60 minutes is devoted to the golden oldies, with no mention of The Path Of Totality – which is odd considering the electronic bludgeoning we heard coming from Korn’s dressing room earlier in the evening – but who can deny the sheer force of Right Now and the anthemic Falling Away From Me doing its best to reduce the arena to rubble?
Of course one of the many highlights in the set comes from the inevitable bagpipes sported by Davis himself to the delight of Ireland, before launching full throttle into the world’s most twisted playground singalong in Shoots & Ladders. And if that isn’t enough, it climaxes with a mini-rendition of Metallica’s One complete with signature James Hetfield ‘Yeaaaahaaaaa’ for added measure.
The closing triple threat of Freak On A Leash, Got The Life and Blind (the song Davis points out that 20 years ago “started this whole motherfucker”) is enough to leave any metaller worth their mettle elated, but there’s one more round to go…
It’s no secret that tonight’s headliners have been through a tough time since 2008’s All Hope Is Gone, with the tragic loss of bassist and founding member Paul Gray and the unceremonious departure of drummer and other co-founder Joey Jordison. These factors would have caused most bands to call it quits but** SLIPKNOT ** aren’t like most bands. They’ve been through Hell and come out the other side screaming with .5: The Gray Chapter, and tonight is the first time Europe has heard the new material in its live setting.
Anticipation is at near-lethal levels as a curtain covers the stage. The odd blasts of fire that are visible as the techs test the pyro instantly shifts the crowd’s gear up a notch as the realisation of Slipknot bringing a full production sets in. Then we’re off. XIX blasts over the PA while the curtain remains down and Dublin sings along as loud as humanly possible before the grand unveiling and Sarcastrophe pummels all holy hell out of the 3Arena. Say what you want about the new album and Slipknot supposedly ‘changing their sound’; once it all kicks off in front of your face you are incapable of holding anything together.
If that isn’t enough, the ’Knot delve deeper into sinister territory with The Heretic Anthem and a breathtaking performance of My Plague that leaves brains dizzy and voices hoarse. While the floor is a beer-drenched scene of pure chaos, the band are going one harder. Chris and Clown (wearing yet another new mask, this time with fluffy white dreadlocks) sit umpteen feet in the air smashing their drums to pieces while Sid plays the jester and runs amok with an Irish flag – and at one point seemingly talking to a goat head… The anonymous new members keep their distance, however, the new bassist rarely taking more than five steps forward – but when you’re a new addition to a family as close as Slipknot, who can blame him?
But tonight isn’t about one member, it’s about the family. The family of outcasts, freaks and friends that make up the Nine and bring their unique, narcissistic, hate-fuelled circus to the masses who feel their pain, anger and people-equals-shit attitude. Of course, the Slipknot live experience isn’t just about the music: it’s an event. No band can compare to the carnival of horrors these masked men can create onstage night after night, and this new production is sensational.
The stage itself is bigger than both Korn and King 810’s set ups, extending to two levels and reaching much further back to accommodate the extra bodies and the energy they produce. This, coupled with the firebursts and the fact that both Craig and Sid are now both on moveable risers, means your eyes don’t know where to look as a war is waged in front of you.
Ominously placed at the back and centre of the set is a demonic horned figure who oversees the night, while underneath him sits a mirror emulating the entrance to a ghost train. As Slipknot deliver a chilling performance of sick love song Vermilion, Corey stares deeply into his own reflection before unleashing the fury lurking within. Which doesn’t stop.
Before I Forget followed by Duality and Wait And Bleed is enough to rupture anyone’s fun glands. Three choruses bigger than King Kong’s first dump of the day enrapture the Dublin audience into an almost catatonic state. Of course, there’s only one song that could top it all off – the one that goes down in history – Spit It Out. As any maggot will tell you, this is when shit gets real. And when ‘that moment’ comes before the final chorus, the crowd are already sitting down just waiting for the battle lines to be drawn by the leader of the army – Mr Corey Taylor. And when Ireland jumps the fuck up, nobody is safe. The floor has been drenched in lager, whiskey, water, coke, spit, sweat and Satan knows what else for the past three-and-a-half hours and Dublin is getting messy. Bodies slip, slide and crash into each other like flesh dodgems but it doesn’t matter because this is what people came for: carnage.
The new anthem of the people, Custer, is mightier than Mjölnir and what fans of .5 have craved all night. The ‘Dat-dat-da, dat-dat-da, dat-dat-da-da-da’ has been screamed from various corners of the room all night and, once their calls are heeded, nothing is stopping Ireland from adopting attack formation. It’s an instant live classic and undoubtedly a staple for every Slipknot gig ad infinitum. Few moments in life are as cathartic as shouting “Fuck!” in unison with thousands of people just like you. Which is probably why “your new national fucking anthem” Surfacing rounds off the Cirque Du Melee with thousands of middle fingers in the air, thousands of voices screaming as one and nine men giving their everything for their art as the curtain falls.
This is about more than just music: there’s a mythos, a sense of fantasy and uncertainty here that other bands just can’t replicate, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever see anything like Slipknot again. But we will see Slipknot again because metal needs them. We need them. They are the definition of and antidote to heavy metal. They are the pulse of the maggots.