While he can't claim to be a true fan, Judge Bill Gibron truly appreciated the talent on display here.
Makes Marilyn Manson look like a poseur.
Slipknot are an anomaly. They're a metal mash-up that shouldn't work but does, magnificently. Their music is an aggressive drone, the psychologically disturbed sounds of every misunderstood teen filtered through the fury of growing up in a disconnected, uncaring society. It's rage, not just against a machine or against self, but against anger itself. It's chaos for the sake of common ground, the sour stink of suburbia allowing the powerless to piss off the Establishment with anthems of death, depression, and disregard. By taking the most extreme forms of the genre—hardcore, thrash, speed, horror, nu, etc.—and blending them together in a musical maelstrom, they turn pain into passion, aggression into acceptance. They speak so clearly and succinctly to their beloved "maggots" that concerts become a combination of love-in and lashing out. You can literally see the crowd come together, mosh pits and other ancillary diversions never once breaking their spirit or stride. These are literal fans, short for "fanatics," and they can't get enough of the band's slasher-meets-fetishism dynamic…and frankly, the band can't get enough of them.
Mentioned as a lifelong dream of lead singer Corey "8" Taylor (the band refers to its members with numbers—and symbolic nicknames—almost exclusively), this astonishing headlining gig at the 2009 Download Festival proves one thing unequivocally: Slipknot are a mighty, mighty, mighty live act. They have the stage show spectacle, the pyrotechnics, and the rebel iconography. With nine members (three percussionists, three guitars, a sampler/keyboardist, a DJ, and a vocalist), they fill the platform with controlled bedlam. Heads are banged. Riffs ricochet off the speakers and out across the 80,000 strong human landscape. At regular intervals, "Clown"/"6"/Michael Shawn Crahan and Chris "3" Fehn take to their rotating (and elevating) drum kits to pound out additional lockstep beats. As the set-up spins, carefully placed cameras capture images projected onto the flatscreens affixed to the front. If Saw: The Musical were ever made, it might look like a Slipknot show. In fact, it's safe to say that this otherwise outstanding showcase is like experiencing a fright flick from an iPod-wearing killer's point of view.
Starting with "74261700027" from their 1999 debut and running through selections from their entire catalog, Slipknot: (sic)nesses is sensational. It's like a steamroller flattening conformity and easy listening lameness. From "Wait and Bleed" to the brilliant "People = Shit," the band bludgeons the devoted, firing fierce canons of cacophony out across the English countryside. Taylor is a terrific vocalists, able to capture both melody and mania in his clever intertwining of styles. Any song can go from guttural growl to soft somber singing to stripped down rap, and the frontman in the fright mask handles it all with dexterity and skill. As for the rest of the band, they are equally amazing. Guitars are treated like raw ore in a machine shop, tripwire fingering leading to recognizable leads. Even more impressive are the moments when the group grind out a blistering barrage of sound, the brutality of the noise knocking you back into your chair. Like many acts who have received both commercial and critical praise, Slipknot know that they are in control. They work the audience like specialists, never allowing them to feel unappreciated or undervalued.
Indeed, what's most arresting about Slipknot's Download concert is how uniform and uniting it is. Even a dyed-in-the-wool non-fan like yours truly couldn't help but be carried away by the spirit of discord and sensory assault. Questioning the devotion they experience is pointless. You can see why they are beloved from the moment they take the stage. Slipknot speaks to its core constituency like no other band before or since. Sure, they play "metal," but it's not the instantly recognizable type that has you throwing hand signs and wearing your rock t-shirt. Instead, it's the voice of isolation and alienation amped to far beyond 11. You may not appreciate Slipknot: (sic)nesses or what Slipknot seems to stand for, but this is an undeniably talented combo that makes the most of its mind-blowing mainstream success.
Sadly, bassist and founding member Paul "2" Gray passed away in 2010, about a year after the Download festival. Everything about this release is dedicated to his memory and provides an aura of sadness. From a technical standpoint, this Blu-ray is beyond belief. You would expect a group like Slipknot to suffer in the concert to home video transformation, but nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, the terrific 1.78:1/1080i image is exacting, delivering brilliant colors and amazing detail, especially when you consider the band's use of potentially pixelating video screens and beyond-bright lighting throughout their stage set-up. Never once do we see anything out of place or unpolished. Even the direction avoids most of the MTV-style video variables to keep out attention on the playing. Sonically, the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio mix is stunning. It's so loud and aggressive that, even with the volume turned down significantly, the songs just explode. While there is an LPCM stereo alternative, stick with the multichannel choice. One caveat, however: make sure to warn the neighbors.
As for added content, we are treated to music videos for "PsychoSocial," "Dead Memories," "Sulfur," and "Snuff." There's even a making-of for that latter short (featuring guest star Malcolm McDowell). The biggest boon for fans, however, will be the 20-minute "collage," made up of backstage moments from the previous tour. There, we get to see the group without their patented look. They hang out. They joke. They eat at restaurants and prepare for the next night's aural assault. Without a strong frame of reference as to who we are watching, it goes by in a blur. Those in the know will love it, however. In fact, it's safe to say that the maggots who made Slipknot will find this all too great to not appreciate. The ill-informed can argue otherwise, but this is one group that earns its honors every time it takes the stage. Understand them or don't but they are a great live act.
Not Guilty. Too good to dismiss.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
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