Back with a vengeance: Slipknot. The masked company have been busy lately. They released their seventh album last year and has been traveling the world with it ever since. Last week new work suddenly appeared in the form of the EP Adderall, this week, remarkably enough, the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam opened the gates for the nine musicians. Remarkable because the gentlemen are usually to be found in smaller locations. But look at this: the Netherlands’ largest concert hall only had a few seats left on June 13. In the wake of the Americans the compatriots of Nothing More came along and the emerging Sleep Token hailed from England. Remco Faasen and Mellow took a look on behalf of Zware Metalen. The first held a notebook, the second a camera.
Work and Nothing More‘s early start time competed for your writing editor’s attention. Work won. Fortunately, Mellow was in time to capture the performance on camera.
Mellow was not welcome at Sleep Token. Remarkably, the band did not allow photographers at the concert (while its own Facebook page is full of images of concerts). The star of this orchestra that is put away in the categories of alternative metal, post-rock/metal, progressive metal and indie rock pop is rising. Until a few months ago, the British anonymous collective was only known to intimates, since the release of a series of singles in January things have moved quickly. At Zware Metalen we needed two editors to explain how good the new album is, a headline show at Wembley stadium was sold out within ten minutes. And history repeats itself: once Slipknot was brought along as support act for Slayer and young fans wondered why ‘their’ Slipknot wasn’t the main act instead of those old cocks, now there were fans who didn’t understand why Sleep Token made an early appearance.
So our hearts beat with anticipation as the four masked figures stride onto the stage, while three additional figures take their place behind just as many microphones further on. Photographers are therefore not allowed, contact with the public is not made and so the music remains. A few things stand out. 1. Vocalist Vessel is not a that special. 2. There is a lot of music from the accompanying audio tape. 3. There are certainly heavier elements in the music, but the basis really is synthpop. 4. The stage presence is lousy.
To continue on the last; Vessel walks around on stage as if he is looking for discounts in the supermarket: there is no line in it at all. The nameless bass player is almost in the wings and the drummer does not show himself at all. Only the equally nameless guitarist seems to feel comfortable and tries to make something of it. Of what? Of the limited music. A lot of pre-programmed synthpop with occasional forays into metal and Vessel exchanges his clean vocals that sound like he has been sucking on a balloon filled with helium for a grunt in which he constantly seems to be shouting himself over. Every now and then he walks over to a keyboard to play it, but that can’t hide the fact that a lot of the music isn’t live. It looks like the Eurovision Songcontest: Vessel even has a harmony vocals with his singing figures in the background while his band members are off stage and the music continues.
Other than that, the performance ripples on like a mountain stream. Sleep Token doesn’t have the music to serve a room of this size and lacks the stage presence to get the audience on board. That doesn’t make the performance dangerous at all: putting on the CD and moving the cover up and down has the same effect. Pop music with distortion. Music for teenage girls who are angry at the world they are just beginning to understand and want to rebel against stupid mom and dad.
When the boys leave and we prepare for the arrival of the men, the curtain with the ever-illustrious Slipknot logo on it appears in front of the stage. Also once a band for unruly teenagers, but 24 years after the release of the impressive debut album, the band is still going strong. Of the classic nine members, a few are gone and a few are dead, but the monster is still untameable. There is a loud bang, the curtain falls and it is instant chaos. A cacophony of sound, light, more fireworks than their was last season in the adjacent Johan Cruijff Arena, bouncing percussionists (Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan was absent at the start of the tour but is now present again), DJ Sid Wilson who has a head on a pole and is swinging it everywhere, the fine guitar work of Jim Root and Mick Thomas and then Corey Taylor on top of that. The sound is very dry but well balanced. New songs are added with The Dying Song (Time to Sing) and Yen, but otherwise it is mainly banging with the golden oldies. Psychosocial provides the first highlight: half the room sings along with the verse. It is therefore a damn groovy piece, made for large crowds. The follow-up The Devil in I gets a very strong performance and with The Heretic Anthem I feel sorry for the people with a seat. What crime against humanity is it if you are not allowed to stand at this number? With Eyeless, the floor jumps far into the back of the room.
Of course the men cleverly take their moments of rest between songs: most see their fiftieth birthday approaching or have already had it, but Slipknot is still able to create an apparent chaos in which it is always a surprise what a band member will do. And that is exactly what makes this band so beautiful; of course a lot has been agreed in advance. Everyone has to know more or less what the other is going to do and no one wants to get a punch of fire in the face at the wrong time, but it’s that appearance of madness when those nine are on stage that makes life complete for a moment.
Corey Taylor says that his voice is not ‘one hundred percent’ and that is why the audience should help him with Wait and Bleed, but that is no problem at all. Unsainted is then welcomed as a lost friend, at the quiet Snuff, hundreds of phone calls illuminate the Ziggo Dome and they have to leave quickly when when we hit it hard again with Purity. Michael ‘Tortilla Man’ Pfaff jumps off the platform where his percussion instruments are and ends the song lying on a speaker. The craziness is not over yet: People = Shit is played with an unprecedented fury as if it hasn’t been played at every concert since 2001 and Surfacing even tops that. After a short break we continue as usual with Duality, with the audience completely drowning out Taylor. For Spit it Out, Clown hits his barrel with a burning baseball bat and moments later, growling like a false pit bull, rouses the audience one last time. The scribbled Tortilla Man directs the audience with a conductor’s baton as if he were a crazy André Rieu and half the room is already crouched waiting to jump up on Taylor’s signal before he has explained to first time visitors what the intention is.
It is breathtaking what and how Slipknot still manages to deliver as a live band par excellence. Judging by the set list, the gentlemen also understand that the musical highlight has been, but that is simply the case with just about every band of this age. Let them release their albums to have a reason to go on tour again. A full Ziggo Dome will have no problem with that.
Date and location
13 juni 2023, Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam
Mell Haas (Mellow Photograhpy Facebook)