Monday, 13 July 2015

LIVE: Download Festival 2015

*Sorry this review is late. I got a bit behind whilst writing it, and then got stuck in Belgium due to the strikes in Calais meaning I had no time for 2 weeks straight to write anything.*

This year was the 13th Download festival, which is undoubtedly the UK's biggest Rock and Metal festival, taking place at the spiritual home of rock music, Donington Park. Previous years have seen absolute legends of the industry headline, including Metallica, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath. This year saw Download favourite's Slipknot, Muse, and glam-rock icons Kiss headlining. Unfortunately due to volunteering at the festival, I only managed to catch a limited number of bands, but in this post I will recap all that I saw!


Clutch were a band I was unfamiliar with before Download Festival, but are certainly one I will continue to listen to. Clutch brought their good old hard rock to the main stage and owned every second of it. The entire crowd was on their feet, dancing and singing along to their catchy choruses, banging their heads to every bluesy riff. Frontman and guitarist Neil Fallon cycled through an impressive range of psychedelic guitar effects throughout the set, before ending on the brilliant 'One Eye Dollar'. Clutch are definitely a band to see live.

Judas Priest
It became clear to me after watching Judas Priest live exactly why they are consistently in the discussion when talking about the greatest Heavy Metal bands. Halford struts across the stage with confidence, the entire crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. Throughout the set he went through many costume changes, all of which were extremely leather-based. Halfway through the show, he left the stage, returning on an old Harley Davidson motorcycle, much to the delight of the thousands of metalheads, who were loving every single minute. Their set was packed with some insane guitar shreddery and heavy metal anthems, including Hell Bent for Leather, Breaking the Law, and Living After Midnight, which they finished their set with. Being one of the only British metal bands to be high on the line-up, Halford spoke of how proud he was to be flying the flag for Britain - and I felt proud to be represented by Judas Priest. One of the best bands of the weekend.

When you're going to a Slipknot show, you know you're going to have a good time. They always put on an incredible show, with pyrotechnics and theatrics on a level that you won't see at any other concert; rotating drum sets on platforms, fireworks and explosions, not to mention the 9 unhinged men jumping around stage in eerie horror masks. They also have one of the best frontmen in metal - as well as having one of the most diverse vocals in music, Corey Taylor is a true showman; he oozes charisma and commands the stage with ease. As soon as he shouts 'Scream for me, Donington!!!', all the 70,000+ people at that show erupt. Moshpits open up left, right and centre, and feet and fists start flying everywhere.

Slipknot's show at Download this year, unfortunately is very average. It is average by their standard - which by the way, is still very, very good. But having seen them on their UK tour 6 months ago, I was anticipating something special. Instead, we got a bog standard gig, with only one or two differences in their setlist from the one they played on tour earlier in the year. Slipknot have headlined Download 3 times - Download has almost become their British home - so you would have expected them to pull out all the stops, and play a few rarities that don't get played as often as you'd like. There were still an abundance of great songs - Wait and Bleed, Spit it Out, Sic, Eyeless, Surfacing, The Heretic Anthem, Duality, Before I Forget - but there were also songs such as AOV and Killpop, which I felt could have made way for something different. I'm all for them playing songs from the new record - The Negative One, Sarcastrophe, and Custer are all more than welcome into my dream Slipknot setlist - but it would have been awesome if they played something like No Life, Only One, Purity or Me Inside. It's also worth noting that they only played two tracks from arguably their darkest and heaviest album, Iowa (The Heretic Anthem and People = Shit) - My Plague, Left Behind, Disasterpiece, or Gently would fit in perfectly at the countries biggest Metal festival.

They've shot themselves in the foot in a way by being so good live - they've set the standard so high, that an off day comes across as poor, even when by other standards, its still an amazing gig. Perhaps this is why this review is so much more negative than the one I did of their January shows - they've set the bar so high that they can't top it themselves. It may be worth noting that my opinion of Corey Taylor had soured 3 or 4 hours before the show - a friend of mine queued to meet him, and was forced to buy his new book for £18. After queueing for 3 hours, he was told that Corey wasn't going to see anyone else. This may not be Corey Taylors fault directly, but they still let hundreds of people queue and got £18 each from them when they knew too well that they were never going to get to the front of that queue.

Despite the disappointing setlist, Slipknot still put on an amazing show. Jay Weinberg and Allesandro Venturella have given the band a new life - their shows seem that bit more energy that the shows from 2 years ago or so seemed to lack. The whole band sounded fantastic and there were mosh pits from the front to the back, many of which I got involved in. Regardless of the songs they play, Slipknot could headline Download every year and I would go and I know they'd put on a damn good show.

Due to working at the festival I had to give Saturday a miss, which is unfortunate because there's a few bands we'd have loved to have seen.


Cavalera Conspiracy
Opening the main stage on the Sunday is none other than Cavalera Conspiracy, a band conceived by the same minds who created Brazil's finest gift to the musical world, Sepultura; Max and Igor Cavalera. The crowd is small as it is so early in the day, but the devoted few who show up are enthusiastic for the entire set. They only play 8 songs including 2 Sepultura covers, but the whole show is well met. One of these covers, which is probably the high-point of the set, was Roots Bloody Roots (the other was Refuse/Resist), during which numerous circle pits open up, and hundreds of the Cavelera Conspiracy faithful headbang in unison. The band sound great and guitarist Marc Rizzo in particular impresses, playing some captivating guitar solo's and not hitting a note wrong.

Formed by Mark Tremonti of Creed and Alter Bridge, Tremonti are essentially Alter Bridge cranked up to the max. On record they sound pretty impressive - similar to Alter Bridge, but slightly heavier and with a bit more fret wanking - but live, they are a tad uninspiring. Mark Tremonti isn't a bad vocalist, but he will always be compared to Myles Kennedy and frankly, he isn't even in the same league. The songs are ok and the performance is to a good standard, but Tremonti fail to really engage the crowd, so whilst they are entertaining, their performance doesn't really stick in your head.

They take their name from an Alice in Chains song, and it is clear that this is their biggest influence, with deep, grungy guitar riffs and some Layne Staley/Jerry Cantrell-esque vocal harmonies. Highlights of their short but sweet set include Crying Like a Bitch, I Stand Alone, or Whatever, during which, what has to be the biggest moshpit of the weekend opens up. Godsmack are one of a few big bands who still make Grunge music, and they carry on the legacy of the Grunge pioneers of the 90's successfully. They deserve to be mentioned along with bands like Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, and Alice in Chains. This was my first experience of Godsmack, and it's fair to say they made a very good impression.

Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators
Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the weekend. One of the biggest icons in the world of music paired with arguably the greatest voice in modern rock. Playing the Velvet Revolver song 'Slither', a whole bunch of Guns 'N Roses hits as well as a few tracks from Slash's solo albums ensure a great festival set. Some of the songs they play from Slash's own album are on par with songs from his previous bands, particularly opener 'You're a Lie'. Myles Kennedy's wailing voice compliments the music, the perfect replacement for Axl Rose (he's probably a much better singer these days in all fairness.) The highlight of the set is undoubtedly the final song, 'Paradise City'. In a set packed with classic rock anthems, this one still manages to stand out, as it has one of the greatest singalong choruses of all time. After seeing Slash and Myles Kennedy live, i'm convinced they could do a half decent job of headlining the festival as every single track is brilliant.

Motley Crue
Playing what is billed as there last ever UK date (although they announced a UK tour for the end of the year about 3 days before this show), the Glam Rockers play a set filled with hits, including a cover of The Sex Pistol's Anarchy in the UK. The band sound great (although Vince Neil's voice has deteriorated with age), and they look like they are having a great time on stage. They bring with them  the sort of stage show that you'd expect from Motley Crue. Joining them on stage for a lot of the set are two scantily clad women, dancing and singing along to all the hits. Nikki Sixx's microphone hangs from the top of the stage, with a giant metal pentagram about halfway up the wire (which of course, he sets on fire with a flamethrower attached to his bass). Showcasing anthems from their entire career including 'S.O.S', 'Dr. Feelgood', 'Shout at the Devil' and 'Girls, Girls, Girls', Motley Crue provide the perfect opening for Kiss's set.

Download has had some brilliant Sunday night headliners in the past - usually a classic band with a vast array of hits that has the entire download faithful singing along all night - and Kiss are the ideal band for this slot. With countless hits across the years and the best stage show you'll ever see, Kiss are the perfect festival headliner. The wait between Motley Crue and Kiss seems to last forever, but eventually a curtain is slowly raised at the front of the stage, as a prerecorded message from Gene Simmons blares out - 'You wanted the best? You got the best! The hottest band in the world - KISS!' The band begin to play 'Detroit Rock City' and the curtain drops, and the band emerge. There is an explosion on stage about every ten seconds, but this is only the beginning of the ridiculous amounts of theatrics. Throughout the show, various members of the band are raised high in the air on platforms. After 'War Machine', Gene Simmon's spits fire across the stage. Tommy Thayer has a flamethrower attached to the head of his guitar which engulfs the entire stage in flames. After 'Lick It Up', vibrant green lights cover the stage, and Gene Simmon's plays a bass solo whilst spitting fake blood. The best part however, is during 'Love Gun' - Paul Stanley zipwires from the stage, over the pit, and onto a platform 50 metres into the crowd. He then proceeds to play the entire song from there (backed by a firework show, of course). Kiss's stage show is ludicrous, but it doesn't matter as they are without a doubt one of the most entertaining acts of all time. Musically they might not be great but you hardly notice, as you're grossed by the pyrotechnics and the confetti. Some people who we've spoken to since are of the opinion that Kiss were pretty weak - but down at the front, it didn't even matter how they sounded, as you were having a good time. They end the weekend with 'I Wanna Rock n Roll all Nite', and then as the 85,000 fans depart, 'God Gave Rock n Roll To You' plays over the sound system, which feels like the perfect way to end a great weekend of Rock music.



Now that Download 2015 has been and gone, it's time for all the predictions for next year to come in. It's hard to call, but we're going to give it a go and try and predict some of the bands that will appear (and just some that I really hope do).

Download is in danger of getting into the routine of recycling the same headliners. Slipknot seem to headline every other year, and most of their headliners these days have headlined at least once before.  Therefore they should put someone new on the Friday night. They did it in 2014, bumping Avenged Sevenfold to headline status for the first time. Some thought it was a gamble, but they stepped up and put on a hell of a show. There are rumours floating around that Andy Copping wants to bump Bullet For My Valentine to headliners. They're about to release a new album so they'll be able to play songs old and new, so they're definitely in with a shout. However, I also think Bring Me The Horizon are a possibility. Quickly becoming one of the countries biggest young metal bands, it would certainly be a risk putting them as headliners. However, this year they're subheadlining to Metallica at Reading and Leeds festival, so they're obviously ready to make that breakthrough. It could be the case that one of them subheadlines to the other. Either way, it would be good to have an all-british Friday night.

Saturday night in the past 2 years has been headlined by a band more accepted by the mainstream - Linkin Park and Muse are 2 of the biggest bands in the world, not just in the metal scene. Why not carry on this tradition next year? Foo Fighters are a band that have never done Download, and are undoubtedly in the very elite of rock bands. Anyone who has seen them live knows they put on an incredible show, and it doesn't matter what you listen to, everyone loves a bit of Foo Fighters. Another band which could be a possibility, although not quite as big, are Biffy Clyro. They started off as quite a heavy underground band but have evolved and slowly risen to be one of the biggest bands in the country. They have widespread appeal and are an incredible live band. I was unsure about them as festival headliners until I caught their 2013 Leeds Festival set, and they completely converted us.

The Sunday night is for the most part headlined by an older band, one that can finish the weekend with plenty of anthems and draw fans from all over the world. Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Kiss have all taken the slot in the past. Next year, our money is on one of two bands - Black Sabbath once again, as they are widely believed to be calling it quits very soon - or Iron Maiden, who have announced a new album and are probably going to be playing some massive shows soon.

Other than that, who knows who could play. I would love Tool to headline again and with rumours circulating that they're currently in the studio, it could happen. Disturbed have recently announced their return and i'd be surprised if they didn't have a fairly big slot next year. System of a Down have headlined before, although I think they may drop down to a sub-headline slot if they appear (again, they're working on a new album so they could likely be doing the festival circuit next year.) A couple of bands who haven't appeared in a couple of years who I would love to see (who are also both in the studio) are Deftones and Alice in Chains. Alice in Chains could headline the second stage one night, and a Saturday of Tool, System of a Down and Deftones would make for a brilliant weekend.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

REVIEW: Blayne Flint - Angry, Young and Bored

'Angry, Young and Bored' is the first release from Yorkshire-based rockers Blayne Flint. Their debut EP is an awesome throwback to the 90s, taking influence from Pop-Punk giants such as Green Day and Blink-182. All 5 tracks sound exactly as Punk should - 3 lads just plugging in and playing, no over production, just guitar, bass, drums and vocals. As clear as it is that this is tribute from the 1990s Punk scene, it isn't just a band doing a Blink-182 impression. Frontman Myles Doran's vocals aren't just someone doing their best Tom Delonge voice - he sings in his native Yorkshire accent, which is welcomed in a band like this where the scene is dominated by Englishmen whining with a heavy American twang. Blayne Flint's sound also contains elements of bands such as Weezer, and even alt-rock legends Pixies.

Each track is a short burst of raw punk energy, each one having tinges of different punk bands - the opening riff from 'Major Charles' sounds like it's taken straight from a Sum 41 track; 'Oh Huhne, You Set Me Off' sounds like an early Green Day song - but the highlight is the track four, 'Virtuoso'. This track has a contagious chorus that you find yourself humming constantly throughout the day.

Overall, 'Angry, Young and Bored' is a great debut from the Yorkshireman, filled with catchy choruses and great feel-good Punk songs, and anyone who was a fan of Pop-Punk as a teen will definitely love it.

Stream 'Angry, Young and Bored' below:


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

LIVE: Fizzy Blood/Big Nothing/Simmer - Santiago Bar, Leeds, 9th May 2015

Fizzy Blood are one of Leeds' hottest new bands. Despite having formed just over a year ago, they have already performed at one of the world's biggest rock festivals, Download, and have shared the stage with punk icons The Dead Kennedy's on their most recent UK tour. Tonight, they play Leeds' finest rock bar, Santiago's. 

Opening the show is Cheshire Alt-Rockers Simmer, followed by Liverpudlian Grunge band Big Nothing. Both draw great influence from 1990's rock music - Simmer from Shoegazers such as Ride, Big Nothing more from the 'Bleach' era of Nirvana.

Fizzy Blood are yet to release their debut EP, 'Feast'', but a few of its tracks are already available to listen to online. One of these is the night's opener, 'Queen of Hearts', an ode to 'a perfect mess of dress and hair', a song filled to the brim with riffage. They continue to blitz through a set packed with beefy riffs and hard-hitting drums, boasting a sound so big they wouldn't sound out of place sharing a stage with any rock giants. Imagine a combination of Queens of the Stone Age, Pulled Apart by Horses and a smidgen of Arctic Monkeys, all tied together by frontman Benji Inkley's brilliant vocals, which are complimented perfectly by lead guitarist Paul Howells' harmonies.

As the set goes on, it soon becomes evident that Fizzy Blood are very credible songwriters, with no two songs sounding the same, each song surprising you as it showcases even more of their talent. They finish with 'January Sun', the lead track from their upcoming EP, which lulls you into a false sense of security with it's cowbell and clean vocals, before launching into a distorted onslaught on the ears, Inkley's vocal transforming into a bloodcurdling scream. The studio version is ruthless enough, but live, they somehow manage to play it with even more anger and aggression.

Fizzy Blood have a very bright future ahead of them. They have their own unique sound, and their energy when performing live is rivalled by few. Once their debut EP is released, Fizzy Blood are destined for great things.

View Fizzy Blood's new music video for January Sun below.





Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Stream Blur's new album 'The Magic Whip'

Blur's first album for 12 years, 'The Magic Whip', is now available to stream via iTunes.

The album, which is the bands eighth studio album, is released on 27th April, but the band have made it available to listen to now, a week prior to it's release. It is their first album since 2003's 'Think Tank'.

Work began on the album in 2013, when a cancelled show in Japan meant they had 5 days spare, but Damon Albarn has previously stated he was unsure if the work would ever be released. "There are about 15 songs...the annoying thing is, if I'd been able to write the lyrics there and then about being there, we'd have finished the record. But sometimes, if you can't do it all at once, it dissipates really and I don't know what I'd sing about now with that record. There's some great tunes on there, but it may just be one of those records that never comes out."

Sunday, 19 April 2015

'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not' - Revisited

Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys released their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not on the 23rd of January 2006 to critical acclaim, and in it’s first week alone it sold over 360,000 copies, making it the fastest-selling debut album by a British band of all time. WPSIATWIN is an album that has inspired a generation of new songwriters, and the modern classic is now approaching it’s tenth birthday.

The album is somewhat of a concept album, as it chronicles a typical night out in the North of England. It takes both it’s name and it’s theme from Alan Sillitoe’s novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which documents a night out and it’s fallout. On relistening, I came to the realisation that not much has changed on a night out up North in ten years - arguments with a cabbie, everybody’s ulterior motive of trying to pull, being turned down by (and subsequently arguing with) bouncers - these subject matters are very relevant even now. The teenage population of the country instantly took to Arctic Monkeys because their words are all too relatable - in ‘Riot Van’, Turner spits a story of an encounter with a Police Officer, which sounds word for word exactly like an experience a group of friends and I had at sixteen years old. 

One track that stands out to me is fan-favourite ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’. There’s a certain irony listening to the song nowadays. The song pokes fun at a local band for acting like they are from the United States - seen in lyrics such as ‘Yeah i’d love to tell you all my problem/You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham’  - but arguably, this is exactly what Alex Turner et al. have evolved into. They were once four cheeky working class teenagers from the North of England, but in recent times they have become Elvis Presley lookalikes laden with leather and hair grease, complete with faux American accents. It’s sad to see what they have become - that they have forgotten where they come from, even though it was such a defining characteristic of their early work that helped them become the superstars they now are. 

As disappointing as it is that the indie-rock heroes have become the American wannabe’s that they are now, they still have a very intriguing style of writing lyrics. It’s interesting to compare how Alex Turner has developed as a songwriter, and how he describes similar situations ten years apart. In ’Still Take You Home’, he sings ’I can’t see through your fake tan/and you know it for a fact that everybody’s eating out of your hands’. Eight years on, in ‘Arabella’ on the latest album AM, he stresses the same sentiment but in a much less obvious way - ‘Arabella’s got some interstellar-gator skin boots/And a helter-skelter round her little finger/And I ride it endlessly’ - you can’t help but think that if this was 2006, he’d have just said ‘You’re wrapped ‘round her little finger, mate’. Turner’s current persona is often criticised, but you have to admit that his songs are still brilliant - whether he’s bluntly barking tales of a taxi queue with his dry northern wit, or crooning about a love interest in psychedelic, near-undecipherable terms, backed by the deep sultry voice of Nick O’Malley and the sharp falsetto of Matt Helders. 

WPSIATWIN influenced a lot of music in the years following 2006. They were predominantly responsible for making strong regional accents acceptable in pop music - artists like Lily Allen and Kate Nash appeared in the mainstream not too long after it’s release. They also helped start a new wave of indie music that all had a very distinct sound that included dry vocals and trebly guitars, with bands such as The Cribs and The Kooks all enjoying relative success. Just take a listen to the soundtrack to ‘The Inbetweeners’ and you’ll hear the best of the mid-00’s indie that Arctic Monkeys helped become the norm. 

WPSIATWIN has been one of my all time favourite albums since it’s release, cementing itself as a must-have in any indie kid’s record collection, and it helped shape my music taste for years to come. Since I turned eighteen it has become even more relatable than it was on first listening, and has become the soundtrack to many drunken nights on the town. Finally, We all have one thing to be thankful for - had the Arctic Monkeys not released WPSIATWIN when they did, then we might have been stuck with Kaiser Chiefs as the face of British indie music.

INTERVIEW: Quentin's Basement

Leeds is a city known for it’s music scene - there is a vast array of music venues across the city, from little jazz clubs and indie bars, to the brand new First Direct arena. As well as there being hundreds of local bands that frequently play across Leeds, the city has produced many big-name artists over the years, including indie rockers The Pigeon Detectives and The Kaiser Chiefs. Another local band on the same path as these bands are Quentin’s Basement. The indie-rock four piece burst onto the scene in 2010, and have been making a name for themselves across the county ever since, including endorsement from fellow Yorkshireman Matt Bowman of the Pigeon Detectives, as well as both headline and support slots at the city’s most loved and now defunct rock venue, The Cockpit.

Quentin’s Basement are no strangers to the Leeds music scene. “I reckon since we started, we’ve played between 150 and 200 gigs.. I’d say we’ve played in maybe thirty venues, ranging from places that hold about fifty people, to the O2 Academy in Leeds”, Quentin’s Basement’s drummer Tom Hawran tells me. Having formed five years ago, they’ve already got a massive amount of shows under their belt, with plenty of stories to tell, both good and bad. “We supported bands like The View, The Strypes and General Fiasco.. but we played the O2 Academy which was a much bigger crowd, and we even played before the match at the Bradford Bulls stadium to thousands of people! There was probably about seven or eight thousand people there.. the nerves were kicking in beforehand, but luckily it all went well and was a good laugh!

Not all gigs go as smoothly as that though - most bands have a disaster story to tell, and Quentin’s Basement are no different. Hawran tells of one gig that didn’t quite go to plan at Oporto. “Soundcheck went well, and we were ready to play, but as soon as we hit the first note, Ollie’s fuse went on his amp, and my cymbal was loose and falling over.. it was pretty annoying, but you just have to get on with it!

Quentin’s Basement play Oporto once again next week, to promote their first new single in close to a year ‘Remiges’, which will be available to buy on CD at the gig on 22nd of April. (Let’s hope it goes better than last time..) Also on the CD will be another new track, ‘Fluoxetine’, as well as a range of new merchandise. Hawran hints that we could be hearing the Leeds indie-rockers moving in a new musical direction, away from their current sound. “I think we’ve got a slight bit heavier since this time last year. I think it’s down to Callum, who writes the songs.. He’s a fan of Drenge and similar bands like that, and I think it really reflects in our music.”  Anyone who has heard Drenge’s music will know that their signature noisy, grungy, punk sound is a whole world away from that of Quentin’s Basement, so it’s interesting to see what the new songs will sound like.

For those fans who prefer Quentin’s Basement’s older, laddish indie rock sound however, there’s still something for you. Also available to buy at the Oporto show is another CD, featuring an alternative recording of their single ‘Good Books’ (which Hawran admits is probably better than the original), and a few demo’s of previously unrecorded songs only ever heard at live shows, including ‘Wish I Did’ and ‘You’d be a Fool’.

Quentin’s Basement are definitely the kind of band you want to see in concert. From the minute they step on stage they have the room in the palm of their hands, bantering with the audience before launching into a set packed with plenty of anthemic songs. As lively as their tracks seem on CD, they are nothing compared to the live performances. Hawran’s energetic rhythms along with frontman Callum Talbot’s roaring vocals, Ollie Grubb’s sleek guitar riffage and Martyn Alderman’s groovy bass lines always promise a real knee’s up.

For anyone unsure about their show next week, Hawran promises a great night. “We’ve been away from the Leeds music scene for a while now, working on our set and getting some new tunes together! We’ve got new songs, new CDs and new t-shirts.. it’s gonna be a top night.. and what else is there better to do on a Wednesday night anyway?!” He has a point. There’s not much better to do on a weeknight then have a few drinks and a dance at one of the cities best venues, listening to one of Yorkshire’s hottest bands, so why not get yourselves down to what is sure to be a brilliant night. Tickets are available from the band themselves, who are contactable on their Facebook page.

The future looks bright for Quentin’s Basement. Tickets are flying for the single release show, and their music will soon be available on music streaming services Spotify and iTunes. Hawran also mentions possible plans for a tour of the country in the coming year, as well as there being “a few exciting things in the pipeline”. Exactly what this means is unclear - a new album, another show, or something even bigger - but it certainly suggests that the band have a very exciting future.

Quentin's Basement play Oporto on Wednesday 22nd April. Support from Lone Guns and Conflare. Tickets are £5. Doors at 7:30.

Twitter: @Quentbasement
Instagram: @quentinsbasement

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

LIVE - Slipknot, Motorpoint Arena, 16th January 2015

Tonight is the opening night of Slipknot’s Prepare for Hell tour - their first UK outing in over six years - and the collective sense of anticipation in the air is soaring. Even for opening support act and Slipknot’s label-mates King 810, the arena is half-full, which is often rare. However, once main support act Korn take to the stage, the crowd really erupts. The Nu-Metal veterans tear through a set of 90s metal hits including ‘Falling Away From Me’ and ‘Freak On A Leash’, finishing on an awesome rendition of ‘Blind’ from their self-titled debut album. The atmosphere is compelling - the crowd are more alive for Korn than most crowds are for a headline act, which can only be a good omen for Slipknot’s pending set.

The lights drop out, and a thin veil drapes over the stage. Album opener ‘XIX’ is played over the speakers as the band take their place on stage, before exploding into a frightening rendition of ‘Sarcastrophe’. This is the bands first outing with new bass player Allesandro Venturella and new drummer Jay Weinberg (son of Bruce Springsteen’s Max Weinberg), and it’s clear that the addition of these new members has injected new life into the Iowan nine-piece. Weinberg’s pounding kick drums penetrate the ears like an AK-47, whilst Venturella’s deep thundering bass-lines shake you to the core. 

That isn’t to take away from the original members. The whole band are animated on the stage for the entire set - along with the giant demon head on the stage and the pyrotechnics, the show feels almost theatrical - and each one of them plays with as much intensity as they did 15 years ago. Corey Taylor’s exceptionally diverse vocal range is constantly displayed throughout the show, whether it’s his raw, gravelly screams in ‘The Negative One’, his fast-paced rapping in ‘Spit it Out’, or his silky smooth vocals in ‘Duality’. The fans are rabid as the band power through a set balanced with both classic songs and ones from their critically acclaimed latest album The Gray Chapter. They end their set with their call to arms - the anthemic ‘Surfacing’. 

Slipknot are a band often criticised by elitist head-bangers, with some claiming they’re aimed at angst-ridden teens, and that their horror masks are simply a gimmick. However, tonight they proved exactly why, 20 years from their conception, they are still one of the biggest metal bands in the world.