Alexandra Palace is awash with anticipation.
The West Hall is filled with food stalls and bars like a mini-festival and there’s a buzz in the air as a busy crowd prepares for Slipknot’s first show at this historic venue overlooking London. Openers SIKTH  are immediately off to a good start thanks to the clearer-than-usual sound in the Great Hall, which is notorious for gobbling up details in its high ceiling. Mikee Goodman and Justin Hill’s vocals bounce off each other and the strobe lighting is as relentless as Graham ‘Pin’ Pinney’s breakneck fret-wrangling. New track Philistine Philosophies goes heavy on the reverb and is a rare accessible, melodic moment for those less familiar with the band. The set is more a showcase of technical ability than a live spectacle, but that ability is enough keep it interesting. SUICIDAL TENDENCIES  slow things down a little with their meandering thrash-punk. After a drawn-out, dramatic entrance where brooding synth strings ring out across a dark stage, Mike Muir breaks into Bring Me Down as he charges back and forth. Every song descends into a jam, and Mike’s repeated “S! T!” chant would work the crowd better in a tiny dive bar. London’s maggots don’t seem fussed by punk nostalgia, even though Cycovision has an irresistible groove and ST keep their energy up throughout.
“This is my 15th time seeing them!” a man by the name of Mike declares, as he bounces in anticipation to the house music before SLIPKNOT . The excitement reaches Mike-like levels throughout the hall. The backdrop lights up with a video of naked mannequins burning in a forest, and Corey Taylor launches into Be Prepared For Hell. The crowd obeys his demand to “Scream for me!” as Shawn Crahan and Chris Fehn rise up on wobbly platforms, banging their bins with gusto. They tear through three more songs – Negative One, Disasterpiece and Eyeless – as Shawn waves his arms like a demented conductor, before Corey pauses to exclaim, “London is my favourite city in the world!” and he sounds like he means it. He’s been getting a tad hammier every time he addresses the crowd for the past few years, thanking his “family” for their support, but if the passion is piled on for his stage patter, it’s completely genuine when he and the band play. The latest setlist has done away with a few crowd-pleasers – there’s no People = Shit tonight – and instead mixes new tracks with old classics. Skeptic is followed by I Am Hated, during which Corey strides around the stage, spitting out the lyrics just as menacingly as he did back when Iowa was released. Speaking of which, 2016 marks the 15th anniversary of the release of their breakthrough second album, which Corey reminds the audience of to a huge cheer, before ripping through a frenetic rendition of Everything Ends.
Ally Pally might not have as big a stage as the festivals and arenas Slipknot have become accustomed to, but they make up for whatever fireworks and setpieces they can’t squeeze in with sheer energy, and note-perfect renditions of their tracks. Their set is part log cabin, part Satan’s furnace, and there’s plenty of room for Sid Wilson to cavort over the wood-panelled drum riser. At one point, he climbs onto Chris Fehn’s platform, and the latter appears to beat him about the head with a drumstick in a moment of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it theatre. The soundtrack to his hyperactive burst is Psychosocial, which comes across so well that it could easily have been bumped further up the setlist.
Wait And Bleed gives way to Duality – easily their most karaoke-worthy track – giving the crowd, whose arms have hardly stopped punching the air, a chance to scream along, and the mini drum solo at the end of (sic) is the perfect cliffhanger before the encore. The stage goes dark before a sinister chuckle rings out to say they’re not quite done yet. These moments of theatre are at the heart of what Slipknot do, and after 17 years they’ve truly mastered the art of creating suspense in their set. The room pulses along to closing Spit It Out, uniting diehard Maggots and more casual fans alike. This may be “the classiest venue we’ve ever played” according to Corey, but for almost two hours, it’s their world, and they’ve just blown the big, domed roof off.