Slipknot’s Prepare For Hell Tour, featuring Korn, could be seen as a double-headed beast comprised of two of the most enduring, relevant and commercially successful bands from the 1990s and early 2000s “nu metal” boom. But anyone of the roughly 8,500 fans who saw the show at Rupp Arena Saturday night got to witness two very different animals.
Slipknot and Korn’s sets varied drastically in both the speed and style of the music they presented and the spectacle of their productions. But one thing the bands shared was the deep-rooted aggressive sound they gladly unleashed on the voracious crowd.
Aside from a light-up stage floor, massive strobe lights and mic stands that looked extraterrestrial, Korn’s set-up was fairly spartan given the band’s stature as one of the biggest mainstream metal bands of the past two decades. But the band delivered a 45-minute set comprised of some of the its biggest hits, including Here To Stay, Got The Life and Freak on a Leash. Every song, including at least one new song off its latest album The Paradigm Shift, showed what the band does best, lacing hip-hop grooves into mid-tempo metal with the help of Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu’s deep slap bass and guitarists James “Munky” Shaffer and Brian “Head” Welch contributing equal parts creepy, slasher-flick effects and guttural guitar licks. All of this was given some extra flash thanks to drummer Ray Luzier, whose ample energy and frequent toss-and-catch drum stick tricks had a Tommy Lee-esque flare.
Vocalist Jonathan Davis did his signature mix of tortured vocals, maniacal scatting (like on set opener Twist) and wounded animal howl, cracking the occasional smile and head banging in dreadlocked unison along with his fellow guitarists with the audience responding in kind. He also grabbed some bagpipes and got the crowd in a frenzy from the first notes of Shoots and Ladders off its self-titled debut album. Korn closed with its very first hit from that album, Blind, and mentioned it was the song that got it all started 20 years ago. When the songs' groove kicked in and had the floor of Rupp Arena bouncing in unison, a couple of the band members’ young kids also stepped out to head-bang along with their dads and get some stage time. It was a light-hearted moment that tipped Korn’s hand a bit, showing there’s now quite a bit of happiness and contentment behind all that on-stage intensity.
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While Korn’s production was minimal, Slipknot’s allowed for a maximal aural and auditory assault. A curtain drop revealed a giant demon head above a warped funhouse mirror and visual monitor and plenty of pyrotechnics. The nine band members donned their new nightmarish masks and jumpsuits and gave the crowd plenty to look at, particularly percussionists Chris Fehn and Shawn “Clown” Crahan, who stood atop hydraulic lifts banging on giant bass drums and beer kegs, providing background screams and constantly provoking the audience.
The combination of Slipknot’s antics and its effective and pummeling blend of thrash and groove metal ignited the Lexington crowd into cheering, fist-pumping and frequent moshing. The band played a handful of songs off its latest release .5: The Grey Chapter, and the speed, energy and anger of those songs like Custer, The Negative One and the band’s newest single The Devil in I, fit seamlessly along crowd favorites like The Heretic Anthem, Eyeless and Three Nil, providing a relentless barrage that barely gave anyone a chance to catch their breath.
The few times Slipknot did slow down or stop, lead vocalist Corey Taylor was showing his appreciation to the wild crowd (at one point left speechless by their response) and thanking them for hanging in there during the long break from recording the band took due to the death of original bassist Paul Grey in 2010. He had a constant command of the room between rabid screams, even coordinating the audience to crouch and simultaneously jump at the climax of Spit It Out.
He also provided plenty of Slipknot’s not-so-secret weapon: his singing voice. It provided memorable, strongly-executed choruses the crowd sang-along to over low-tuned guitar melodies during Psychosocial, Duality and Before I Forget, which might be one more reason the band is still a arena draw.
Slipknot closed on an a particularly aggressive note with an encore featuring older, fast-paced tracks People = S--- and Surfacing. But on a night where Lexington experienced two very different shades of metal, they also got to see two of the genre’s biggest acts getting plenty of joy out of bringing the pain.