Ok. Confession time. I’m not a Slipknot fan. I am standing in a field full of Slipknot fans eagerly awaiting this much anticipated show. Flanked by overall-clad bodies, every face a grotesque mask (some quite obviously homemade), a through-the-ages tour of Slipknot’s style back catalogue, the excitement is palpable. Of course, this UK debut of the bands’ new masks is just a part of it, but the forums and news stories have been filled with ire towards the new choices – with many describing them as boring or thoroughly non-theatrical compared to previous iterations.
Indeed as the giant stage banner drops and the majesty of the stage set up is revealed – all industrial turbines and Mad Max-esque landscaping – frontman Corey Taylor appears in a black trenchcoat in place of a jumpsuit, and gives off a distinctly corpse dragged-from-the-river vibes in his bloated mask. Instantly I am reminded of the terrible ‘dream machine’ mask from the ultimate cheese-fest Bond movie ‘Die Another Day’, which levels on funny rather than creepy for me.
Sporting a more traditional Slipknot look, the rest of the band hit the stage in black boiler suits and their own new masks for an undeniably powerful opening trio of ‘People = Shit’, ‘(Sic)’ and ‘Get This’ with Corey yelling “This is where you fucking scream for me”. New release ‘Unsainted’ is a strong introduction to what we can expect from Slipknot going forward, as Corey screams “…are you happy to see Slipknot back in your beautiful fucking land? It’s amazing to be back HOME” to an almighty roar back from the Download crowd.
I’ll admit, they bring a great show – the pyrotechnics, the crazy percussion podium made of steel industrial hazard drums, the mysterious extra member who still hasn’t been revealed… and it’s clear the crowd are absolutely loving Slipknot’s return to Donington. Growling “…bunch of crazy motherfuckers over here. You feel good?” we head into a brutal assault of ‘Psychosocial’ and ‘The Devil in I’ while Corey muses “…this is the kind of Download I wanna see right”.
‘Duality’ comes with a side of the clown smashing up some of the stage set with a bat, and we’re treated to “something fucking special” which turns out to be a bit of a mishmash of ‘555 to the 666’ and ‘If Rain is What You Want’ at possibly the only time this weekend it isn’t actually raining. It’s kind of a shame to be honest, if there’s any band that the rain would have benefited in terms of atmosphere – it’s Slipknot. Regardless, the entire crowd is singing along in a rowdy chorus before going headlong into ‘Spit it Out’ for an arena-wide bounce… on the floor… before the song breaks and everyone goes absolutely berserk.
Corey leads out with a heartfelt speech on Download/the fans being family and making the statement “We are not their kind”, before heading into closer ‘Surfacing’, and a quick message to ‘take care of each other’ as they exit the stage. There may be thousands of raised horns in the arena, there may be a mass chant of ‘one more song’ but it’s clear as the house lights come up that the band are done for the night. Despite a bit of initial disappointment in the crowd, as the black video screens change to display ‘SLIPKNOT LIVE 2020’ a guttural roar of appreciation begins to ripple. Slipknot are coming back, and the sweaty hordes are abated as they head out into the night.