REVIEW/PHOTOS: We are your kind – Slipknot celebrates 20 years with Scranton
When Slipknot first broke out as national artists in 1999, many dismissed the nine masked maniacs as a gimmicky novelty act whose popularity would soon fade along with the nu metal genre of the early 2000s. But 20 years later, as they top Billboard with the No. 1 album in the United States and the U.K. at a time when even mainstream rock struggles to hit the Top 10, it’s clear that this crazy multi-platinum group isn’t going anywhere.
Neither is their audience. When they returned to The Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton on Saturday, Aug. 24, the venue was much more packed than their 2015 visit, possibly due to the recent release of “We Are Not Your Kind,” their best album in years, but also because they brought a stronger lineup with them. The Knotfest Roadshow, a scaled-down touring version of their music festival, features three bands from around the world – Behemoth from Poland, Gojira from France, and Volbeat from Denmark, each bringing a different kind of metal or rock to the stage.
Like other music fans, metalheads can be picky about what bands and subgenres they’ll support, but putting death metal, progressive metal, and hard rock with a dash of rockabilly on the same bill as Slipknot’s own unique brand of heavy metal is just great for headbangers all around, bringing a variety of bands to cities and amphitheaters that they probably wouldn’t be able to play otherwise. Those who can forgo the public posturing about who is cool to like and not like in front of their “true” metal friends will have the best time with this show.
First up was Behemoth, who completely stole the show from the other openers, beginning with “Wolves ov Siberia” from their latest album, “I Loved You at Your Darkest,” and leaving a lasting impression with only seven songs. Long before Ghost haunted stages with black pope outfits and Satanic theatrics, Behemoth was on the front lines of blasphemous controversy fighting for freedom of speech, and even with a banner featuring an inverted cross looming over the U.S., massive flames shooting up from the stage, and singer Adam “Nergal” Darski swinging fireballs over his corpse-painted head, the real draw was the brutally dark music enhanced by their veteran performance art.
“It is a massive privilege to be here with you today because we are part of this family called Knotfest. Four bands, four different planets, yet the same motherfucking goal. And the goal is to conquer motherfucking all!” Nergal yelled as they dove into “Conquer All,” which they certainly did.
Next up was Gojira, backed by a much more subdued stage lined with shifting colored lights and mirrors in front of a banner of geometric shapes. While they didn’t have the stage presence of Behemoth, their technical prowess kept people mesmerized for eight songs, starting with “Toxic Garbage Island” and closing with “The Gift of Guilt.” A heavy, steady groove ran throughout this set of progressive guitar work, double bass drumming, and floor-shaking breakdowns, followed by the promise to come back to Pennsylvania soon with “new shit.”
Volbeat had the difficult task of winning over the diehard metalheads who knew their sound wasn’t nearly as hard as the rest of the show, but they faced it head-on with jokes and smiles. At one point, vocalist Michael Poulsen gave the audience a choice between “the rock ‘n’ roll song or the heavy song,” and when they of course chose the latter, he admitted that they “don’t have any heavy songs” before easing into one of their hardest, “The Everlasting.” With the cheering drunk moms already on their side, they eventually seemed to win the pit crowd over, having to stop mid-song at one point to break up a fight, and their love of American music certainly helped.
“This is our first time here,” Poulsen said. “It is an honor. Thank you very much. By the way, we’re Volbeat from Denmark and we like Johnny Cash.” He then played a bit of “Ring of Fire” on an acoustic guitar, which led into “Sad Man’s Tongue,” their own song inspired by Cash.
Teasing the opening of Slayer’s “Raining Blood” before saying, “Yeah, you wish,” with a laugh, Poulsen played with Knotfest expectations and was able to “Seal the Deal” with the audience with some catchy rock ‘n’ roll, but admittedly Volbeat should have opened the show to ease people into the more brutal bands. Bringing a young kid up on stage, the “next generation of heavy metal and rock ‘n’ roll,” for closer “Still Counting” was a good move, though, and another way to leave a lasting impression.
“Coming all the way from Denmark, a very small country, to get a crowd like this is amazing,” Poulsen said with gratitude.
Nighttime descended along with a huge black banner adorned with a bright red Slipknot logo, covering the stage as the crowd sang along to songs like Pantera’s “Walk” over the PA system in anticipation. Finally, the curtain was ripped away as Slipknot burst in with “People = Shit,” revealing a massive set with huge rectangular screens hanging from the ceiling as flames shot out between them. It’s a lot to take in all at once, but this band is all about sensory overload.
Blasting through “(sic)” and the surprise addition of old B-side “Get This,” singer Corey Taylor addressed the crowd with a grin big enough to be visible through his new transparent mask.
“It is so fucking good to be back in Scranton fucking Pennsylvania tonight. And, as always, some of the craziest motherfuckers in the state are right here under my fuckin’ roof,” he shouted as he asked for the lights to come up.
“Have you had a good time with all our fucking friends today? That’s all well and good, but guess what? Your fuckin’ asses are mine now you crazy motherfuckers.”
The nine band members dressed in their white jumpsuits were determined to be just as crazy – even crazier than their dry cleaning bills. While they’re not diving into crowds (and each other) and breaking bones as much these days, they still have the same energy, thrashing around and running from platform to platform, including the huge keg drum risers on either side of the stage. DJ Sid Wilson danced across a running treadmill on the upper level while the mysterious new member fans affectionately call “Tortilla Man” due to the texture of his mask headbanged and screamed backup vocals like he has been there for decades.
Backed by a nearly perfect setlist that included more songs from their debut self-titled album than any other, including the welcome addition of “Prosthetics,” it seems that Slipknot is feeling just as nostalgic these days as many in the audience who grew up listening to their six studio albums.
“We’ve been coming here for a very, very, very long time. 20 years we’ve been coming to this motherfucker,” Taylor said of the venue they’ve frequented since the Tattoo the Earth tour in 2000.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve been with us 20 minutes or 20 years. I’ve got something right now that’s going to bring us all together.” All he had to say was, “If you’re 555…” and thousands chanted the rest as “The Heretic Anthem” began.
Taylor continues to be the quintessential frontman, balancing melodic vocals and harsh screams perfectly while always engaging the crowd and hyping people up for the next song. The pace was relentless, barely slowing down as they played through singles old (“Before I Forget,” “Psychosocial”) and new (“Unsainted,” “Solway Firth,” “All Out Life”) like a “Best Of” album and sounding just as crisp. Combined with Shawn “Clown” Crahan beating a hanging keg with a flaming torch and screens flashing disturbing images throughout the hour and a half set, it’s a show that simply can’t disappoint even casual fans.
“It’s a fuckin’ crazy time for us right now because 20 years later and this shit is bigger than it’s ever been and that is because of you,” Taylor added thankfully before the big sing-along of their breakout single “Wait and Bleed.”
Their encore brought out two more 1999 hits, “Spit It Out” and “Surfacing,” complete with Taylor asking everyone to get down on the ground and then “jump the fuck up” on his cue, a move he noted that many other bands stole over the last two decades, though this time it was done with camera in hand so the audience could see themselves projected on the screens. Praising his “heavy metal family,” he said what Slipknot proved again that night as well as with their latest album.
“Rock and metal will never fucking die, even when they try to kill us.”
Slipknot setlist, Aug. 24, 2019, The Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Scranton:
People = Shit
Before I Forget
The Heretic Anthem
The Devil in I
Wait and Bleed
All Out Life
Spit It Out
Photos by Scott Kucharski Photography
by Rich Howells
Rich is an award-winning journalist, longtime blogger, adequate photographer, podcast co-host, and practicing poet. He is the founder and editor of NEPA Scene.