Whilst half of its plot is buried in the midst of an industrial-era Brummie council estate, half of Arena Birmingham is nestled at the centre of the second city’s canal network. Lit by flickering fairy lights, concert goers can harken back to days of old as the chitter-chatter of weekend-weary punters putting back pre-gig pints whistles through the winter winds. Riverboats drift along into the wilderness of the night whilst a bridge or two transports you to a world of market stall-shouting security guards and pirate merchandise sellers. It isn’t until you clock the queuing crowd’s uniform black that you even realise you’re heading into a metal concert…even if this IS the birthplace of heavy metal.

Once inside the warm confines of Arena Birmingham, the hustle and bustle thicken as the only support act of the night – the almighty blackened death metal giants Behemoth – take to the stage. With two-pint cups in hand, the Birmingham metal massive witness one of metal’s ultimate underdogs prove they’ve got more bite than bark once more. Behemoth’s booking is testament to their frontman Nergal’s perfectionism, a trait which shines all too well throughout tonight’s set. The instrumental interlude that opens their last album welcomes the hooded figures to the stage, before Wolves Ov Siberia erupts in time with the smoke cannons, giving way to rhythmic bursts of pyro, in time with the band’s pummelling and pulverising blast-beat’s.

Picking mostly from their most recent two albums – 2018’s gear-shifting I Loved You At Your Darkest and 2014’s critically-acclaimed genre-defining masterpiece The Satanist – the set shows Behemoth’s sheer strength as musicians, proving definitively and defiantly that the classic cliché of anything remotely underground in metal should sound rough and raw is ridiculous; this is a band at the peak of their powers as masters of their craft.

The incendiary Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel and new single Rom 5:8 are highlights of the set that come off as nothing short of what you’d see from a Behemoth headline set. It’s safe to say that as the band pummel the percussion marching-band style in their exit from the stage that however different in sound to tonight’s headliners, Behemoth were the perfect match in terms of on-stage entertainment.

If the sea of shirts wasn’t a giveaway, the stage-covering super-curtain brandishing Slipknot’s iconic logo reveals why there’s a sold-out capacity crowd of 15,000 packing out Arena Birmingham up to its rafters like sardines in a tin. The Iowan nu-metal legends are finally bringing their We Are Not Your Kind tour to the UK following last year’s sole appearance as Download’s resident house-band, and the excitement is palpable to say the least.

Wetting the appetite with a word-for-word sing-along to AC/DC’s For Those About The Rock, the curtain drops to reveal Slipknot’s most sophisticated stage set-up in their double-decade tenure as a touring band; Clown and New Guy’s (AKA Tortilla Man) percussion-kits are attached to walkways whilst the stage is like a snake-and-ladders board, multi-layered and ready to get messy.

Opening with We Are Not Your Kind’s opener and standout single Unsainted, the crowd sings patiently along to the choir-led chorus before all chaos erupts when the full-band arrives on stage and the track kicks into gear, courtesy of frontman Corey Taylor. Mosh-pits breakout like acne on a teenager’s face left, right and centre whilst the standing area represents a tidal wave, jumping up and down in motion, lost in a sea of sing-along screams and devil horns. The rapid-fire pace intensifies as they follow-up with the fan-favourite live-show staple Disasterpiece before all hell breaks loss when they dust off their self-titled debut’s maniacal closer Eeyore.

Tonight’s set is built on Slipknot’s discographies book-ending albums, the self-titled debut and their latest, We Are Not Your Kind, and peppered with fan-favourites and rarities from the rest. Iowa’s New Abortion is given a sweat-inducing airing following Corey Taylor’s welcome to the family speech to all the new Maggots in the crowd whilst the breakdown-of-all-breakdowns returns to the set in the shape of Eyeless; it’s a set peppered with presents throughout, often nestled away between the newer cuts. Admittedly, with the exception of Devil In I and Custer, the omission of any material from .5: The Grey Chapter is unnoticeable and somewhat understandable.

Guitarists Jim Root and Mick Thomson bring their signature headbanging to whole new levels as their percussion counterparts destroy their surroundings. Turntablist Sid Wilson is Slipknot’s answer to Bez, showing up unexpectedly throughout the heaviest moments, taunting the crowd as the chaos ensues on stage, even going as far to sit down and fold his legs over as Corey Taylor delivers impassioned speech after impassioned speech. Whilst Clown’s flaming baseball bat was last year’s new-set highlight, bassist Alessandro ‘V-Man’ Venturella’s flame-thrower bass is the big-boy’s toy of the year. 21 years on from their first UK show on our shores and Slipknot’s stage-show is still as surprising and as shocking and as sensational as it always has been.

There are moments where the wonder wanders off, often due to the band’s reliance on over-using psychedelically psychotic visuals and interludes to take tea-breaks, which wrongfoots the shows otherwise perfect pace. There are sections of the setlist that don’t sit right with some of the fans; the sluggish trio of Solway Firth, Vermillion and Birth of the Cruel is almost enough to send you home early, however the nu-metal masters redeem themselves and duly reward the die-hards with the anthemic Wait & Bleed.

The main set closes with the one-two punch of All Out Life and Duality, the closer causing an earthquake-shaking movement of the ground as the crowd nearly caves the Arena in with sing-alongs so loud and mosh-pits so mental the very structures of the building begin to be tested. Returning to the stage, the whole crowd chimes along with the infamous ‘the whole thing I think is sick,’ mere moments before they rip into [Sic]. People = Shit is as heavy as it gets, punters hurling themselves in every direction as the live-show staple possesses every person who’s ears it touches whilst Surfacing, the official National Anthem of the Maggots, closes proceedings with middle fingers waving in the air like all 15,000 of us just don’t care, shouting ‘fuck this world, fuck everything that you stand for’ at the top of our lungs defiantly.

Drummer Jay Weinberg is the last to leave the stage, bringing along with him Caleb, the five-year old drumming sensation who took the world by storm with his beat-perfect air-drumming (as well as his actual drumming cover of Slipknot’s Before I Forget). It’s a heart-warming moment which highlights how Slipknot separate themselves from other bands; they’re simply one of a kind.

As everyone shuffles out of the venue and into the night, piling into bars and down the canal, there’s a shared connection between us all – no matter where you’re from, what you look like, or what you do, a Slipknot gig will always be a safe space and one of the most special live moments you’ll ever witness.

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