slipknot corey@Newcastle Metro Radio Arena, January 19 2015

Something’s awry where Slipknot is concerned. The ‘we’re back and firing on all cylinders’ refrain doesn’t quite ring true. Assurances of evolution, rebirth and a fitting response to the tragic death of Paul Gray appear to be bold pledges the Des Moines massive are struggling to keep.

And after all they’ve been through, is it any surprise?

The Prepare For Hell Tour looks good, sounds familiar and shook Newcastle to its core but those Maggots who know Slipknot best surely accept these are turbulent times for ‘modern’ metal’s biggest band. Perhaps they came back too soon. Perhaps they never should have come back at all. 

The latter scenario would, of course, have denied a near full house their opportunity to gorge on a lavish feast of deliciously dark anthems – served up against a suitably audacious backdrop with a giant goat’s head at its core. As a seriously appetising live event it delivered in every respect but has the typically tasty production become part of the ruse to mask that missing ingredient?

slipknot drumsNobody could accuse Corey Taylor of giving anything less than 100% as he screamed his way through a brutal opening salvo of Sarcastrophe, The Heretic Anthem and My Plague. If Slipknot’s charismatic frontman is no longer driven by the youthful angst that – he insists – lay at the heart of the band’s early incarnation then his star turn as a bitter and twisted harbinger of doom remains utterly convincing.

Taylor’s stagecraft is the one constant and compensates for so much.

Twenty years down the line and Shaun ‘Clown’ Crahan has seen it, done it and bought the T-Shirt: in 2015 it’s far from clear whether the band’s founder wants to be forever tied to the ‘Knot.

It’s far more obvious that Jim Root deserves more responsibility, a freer reign and the opportunity to develop proven potential. The odd scorching solo – his fret-melting blast on Psychosocial was the pick – is no longer enough and Slipknot must find a more effective way of utilising the ace in their pack or face the prospect of a painful parting of the ways.

If Root is restricted and Crahan unconvinced then Jay Weinberg proved there are reasons for optimism within the Slipknot camp. Much has been made of Joey Jordison’s departure but his touring replacement ripped through a masterful Metro Radio Arena debut.

slipknot rootAnd this wasn’t a bad gig. Far from it. In fact part of the problem where Slipknot is concerned is that their gripping theatrics on an increasingly grand scale are more than a match for Maiden, Rammstein et al. They’re consummate performers and they know it. And right now the entertainment value is providing the band with breathing space as it considers its crucial next move.

That move may well be to admit defeat. It would be a brave call but whatever else their critics can throw at them, nobody can ever accuse Slipknot of lacking courage.

Simon Rushworth

Exclusive images courtesy of John Burrows