Slipknot in 3Arena, Dublin, on Monday 14th January 2020

From the Baltic Coast to Midwestern USA, Gdansk vs. Des Moines, Behemoth and Slipknot head to head in a battle to the end. A battle for our very souls. Okay, maybe not, but if it was our money would be on Behemoth. The 3Arena is stuffed to the ceiling for the headliners, yet despite their early doors support slot it’s a healthy, hell-baiting crowd who have turned up for the Polish extreme metal men.

Occult iconography abounds as the masked quartet go about their routine, lead vocalist Nergal emerging from the wings with two lit torches while flames shoot from the pyro rig at the rear of the stage. The crowd are invited to sing along, and a respectable mosh pit – the first but by no means last of the night – opens up while drummer Inferno pounds the floor toms.

Things go a bit Kiss when Nergal, decked out in the elaborate headgear of a high priest, incites some more audience participation before standing behind Seth for some tandem guitar choreography, but when the band assumes their usual stage positions once more, and the smoke cannons fire skyward and the bass drum triplets fire outward, we’re in Satan’s realm once again. After a lengthy instrumental coda they return, hooded and with a drum each, standing in a line stage front. It brings the set to a tribalistic and ritualistic close with Satan hailed, hard.

It’s the first night of Slipknot’s ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ tour, album number six, and ACDC’s For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) plays over the PA for band and punter alike. Tonight is less a celebration of Slipknot than a call to arms, and magnanimity is the word of the night – no, seriously – as singer Corey Taylor gives Behemoth their dues time and time again and rallies the worldwide ‘family’. “This is one of my favourite fucking cities in the entire world, ‘cause I got you motherfuckers in my blood,” he tells the crowd. At times, it feels like he’s giving the most epic, well-received half-time pep talk of all time.

The band’s touring show is a triumph of chaotic symmetry – the two raised percussion podiums at either side; the three-level stage anchored in the centre by Jay Weinberg’s double kick drum set-up; Jim Root’s patrolling of the upper level behind the drummer; the visual screens that dominate every surface facing the audience. Sid Wilson even has a miniature travellator in front of his turntables on level two to engage in a bit of fancy footwork every so often, a man constantly seen anywhere but behind his musical posting.

Giant, expectant moshpits open in the crowd with sweaty regularity. A space will clear, and remain clear, until the drop collapses everything in on itself and a mass of bodies converge. During the ambient noise breaks where the band depart to switch instruments or detog, the shirtless, unified moshpit runs in a circle, playing its part in keeping the momentum going. That’s the way it works.

Slipknot’s array of ephemera, flames, and torches would probably have more impact if Behemoth hadn’t done it all before them, but Behemoth didn’t have a guitar with a flamethrower attached to the body. Jim Root does, so he wins. “Are you ready for your national fucking anthem?” Taylor shouts, and the night’s most well organised pit clears its circle. Surfacing closes it right back in on itself, engulfing all in its periphery.

Say what you want about Slipknot, chances are they’ll take it in their stride and hit back with soundness. Taylor gives everyone a pass. “It doesn’t matter if you like our music. As long as you got our backs we don’t care.” With that, every fist in the room goes up in the air. As rock shows go, this is right out of the Kiss handbook and that’s no insult. Hail Simmons.

Photo: Down The Barrel Photography