Love them or hate them, you have to respect how Slipknot have refused to bow down to anyone. The masked madmen have resolutely stuck to their guns from day one, and over the last decade, they have evolved from a bunch of anonymous, noisy kids from Iowa to an indisputable force in heavy music. Their self-titled 1999 debut album was groundbreaking in more ways than one; not only did it arrive at the perfect time, right as nu-metal was set to explode, but it also became the biggest selling extreme metal album at the time, becoming so ubiquitous among the kids, that it achieved the unthinkable, and was certified double platinum. 2001’s bitter, misanthropic Iowa was even darker and harsher, highlighted by some spectacular production by Ross Robinson, and was certified platinum. Less than three years later, Vol. 3: Subliminal Verses spat in the faces of the band’s many naysayers, the proving to all that Slipknot were capable of escaping the shackles of the stylistically limiting nu-metal sound, not to mention showing some actual maturity (more controlled anger instead of blind rage), the sharp production by Rick Rubin complementing the band’s increased use of melodies. And yeah, that sucker went platinum, too.
The most important, and impressive aspect of Slipknot is their relationship with their extremely devoted fans, arguably the most fervently loyal bunch since the early days of Metallica two decades ago, as the ‘knot take the whole “us versus them” idea to a new level. While the band and their legions of “Maggots” holler about people equaling shit while forming churning, brutal circle pits, when they talk about each other, it’s like a twisted, fraternal love-in. Sort of the Fight Club of metal. By touring relentlessly, playing practically every corner of North America, the band did things the old-fashioned way, building a strong reputation as an extremely potent live act, and as the audiences grew exponentially, so did the album sales. After three very successful albums and all that insane touring, Slipknot are set to take a well-deserved break, so there’s no better time than now to release a document, or reasonable facsimile thereof, of the definitive live Slipknot experience.
Ten seconds into the double live album 9.0 Live, the band shows just how masterful they are at winding a crowd up, as the set opens with a straight-faced announcement stating, “Due to unforeseen circumstances, Slipknot will not be performing.” For a band who thrives on their fans channeling every ounce of rage in their pubescent bodies, it’s a brilliant move, as a couple moments later, the nine members tear into “The Blister Exists”, the crunching, churning riffs by guitarists Mick “7” Thompson and James “4” Root, coupled with the densely layered percussion, anchored by drummer Joey “1” Jordison making for a blistering combination. You can visualize the hurtling, moshing bodies. Corey Taylor’s raspy snarl shows signs of serious wear, but especially during the more melodic moments of the performance, he manages to sound surprisingly versatile, his charismatic persona translating very well on record, as he commands, exhorts, and thanks the fans throughout the set, the kids hanging on his every word.
The 23-song set is divided neatly between the band’s three albums. Disc One is highlighted by such tracks as the vicious “(sic)” and the psychotic “Eyeless” from the first album, as well as two of the more adventurous Subliminal Verses songs, the catchy “Before I Forget” and the brooding “Vermilion”. However, the real fun is to be had during the second half, as the band kick off a ferocious run of ten songs, including the live rarity “Skin Ticket”, and a searing version of “The Heretic Anthem”, which leads into a decidedly evil performance of their dark masterwork, “Iowa”. The hits (if you could call them hits) are reeled out near the end, led by the excellent recent tune “Duality”, Iowa‘s charming feel-good anthem “People =Shit”, and of course, their calling card, “Wait and Bleed”.
While 9.0 Live is a very worthy live album, Live After Death or No Sleep Till Hammersmith this is not. Instead of putting an entire, complete single concert on disc, the band have culled various performances from a number of undisclosed locales, and while the performances are all good, it gets distracting when Taylor is talking to the kids in Phoenix one minute, Dallas the next, and the fine people of Las Vegas another. Also, while Taylor is in fine form, his vocals sound slightly hindered by his Leatherface mask, and at times the muffled tone lacks the necessary force on some tracks. The album production is punchy and crisp enough, but it lacks a muscular lower end, and while Jordison is an extremely talented drummer, his drum solo becomes tiresome barely a minute into it, proving once again, that no matter how great a drummer is, if the surname is neither Bonham nor Peart, a drum solo is always going to be a snoozefest.
Nonetheless, this is a fine way to close the latest chapter in Slipknot’s career, a heartfelt thank you to all the maggots who help make the live experience so unforgettable. Nu-metal might be on its last legs as we speak, but we all know Slipknot ain’t goin’ nowhere. As long as there are people saying they won’t last, Slipknot will continue to.