Can Slipknot really be said to be the same kind of band in 2015 that they were in 1999 when the released that visceral debut album? Or 2001 when they released the obtuse, dark, dense and oddly goat obsessed “Iowa”? Or even 2004 when they returned from nowhere with the brave and creatively diverse “Vol 3: (The Subliminal Verses)”?
Not so much. They’re probably not even the same band that broke the assumptions of all their doubters when they headlined Download Festival in 2009 and defined what a contemporary headline set should be.
Which to some is a shame. The band that were dangerous, compelling and entirely unpredictable no longer are any of those things. Their stage-show involves so much production that is inevitably partially choreographed, Corey Taylor’s rock star banter, though totally convincing in the moment, is laughably clichéd in the harsh light of morning and those last two records stink more of vehicles for touring and singles, which circa “All Hope Is Gone” sounded increasingly like Stone Sour singles, than they do any kind of deep artistic statement.
I saw a acquaintance in the Glasgow music scene, whose opinion I respect immensely, draw comparisons between the Slipknot show in Glasgow on Sunday and a KISS concert. All production and spectacle but none of that danger, spontaneity or edge that once defined the band. Which on reflection, I’m totally ok with. It holds a lot of weight, and not just because Slipknot are waiting on their membership cards to the “middle aged men dressing up club” landing on the door mat alongside their latest royalty cheques.
The years have eroded their mystique somewhat. The loss of Paul Gray took the wind from their sails and the dismissal of Joey Jordinson, and the pantomime like back and forth over the identities of their new rhythm section, opened the curtain on the dark world of Slipknot. And even if these hadn’t, Corey Taylor’s inability to sit still, or shut up (and not write books), certainly has. Any sense of danger and mystery surrounding Slipknot’s totemic mouthpiece has been lost in the light of his good natured grin. The masks are at worst a gimmick and at best a performance aide. The flashes of magazine shoots have dissolved their artistic menace.
What we’re left with in 2015 is a powerful touring outfit who put on colossal shows to huge numbers of people and take them, often instantaneously, back to their youth. Or in the case of the younger generation, drag them through the quagmire of uncertainty and hormones by using universal angst and gratuitous swearing as life rafts. And they do all this with a pretty devastating back catalogue of tunes at their disposal. Even their latest record, devoid as it was of over half the band’s key song-writers, delivered a few ferocious cuts in the form of “Sarcastrophe”, “Custer” and the slow burn of “The Devil in I”. And they’re all less wet than “Snuff” or “Dead Memories”.
As a mid twenties middle class wooly liberal I can’t say I endorse “Fuck this world, fuck it all, fuck everything that you stand for” in the same way I did at 16 but when I see Slipknot this summer I’ll have the time of my life venting my frustration through my bellowing along to “People =Shit” and losing my voice to “Duality” in a field with thousands of other people. I can’t wait, but I also can’t pretend that I lost any sleep over missing their Glasgow the other night. Slipknot aren’t vital any more. But for my money (which I saved by not going to the gig) , they’re still all sorts of fun, whether its tongue in cheek fun, pure nostalgia or the cathartic release of old is really down to yourself.
People change. Even Slipknot. Despite their promises that they wouldn’t. Somehow, I find that comforting.
But we might as well make the most of a band who can unite so many people by playing such aggressive music for as long as we can. I’m not sure another band like this is going to come along. Here’s to Download this year.