Slipknot, Killswitch Engage, Unearth: Live In Vancouver Jan. 16/05

Spread the metal:

Slipknot/Killswitch Engage/Unearth
Sunday, January 16th, 2005
PNE Forum
Vancouver, BC, Canada


**Live Review & All Photography By Lord of the Wasteland

About five and a half years ago, I won a pair of tickets to a Coal Chamber concert (don?t ask).  That band was still riding high on the success of its debut release and their second CD, CHAMBER MUSIC, was still fresh on store shelves.  While many people were hyped to see the headliner, my interest laid in the opening act?a brand new band from Iowa called Slipknot.  At the time, no one had heard of them and my exposure to Slipknot first came about through ANOTHER contest I had won as an advance promo copy of their self-titled major label debut was part of the prize package.  What a bizarre gimmick they had with the use of numbers rather than names, matching red boiler suits and crazy masks!  I was a bit leery of what the music would be like but I?ll be damned if Slipknot didn?t tear me a new one as soon as I pressed play.  SLIPKNOT is still one of the best metal albums of the last five years, in my opinion, and as the band took the stage to warm up the crowd for Coal Chamber, the Croatian Cultural Center audience (300-400 people at best) literally stood there, mouths agape, unsure of what to make of these masked mysteries.  The venue?s stage is quite compact and with nine guys and all their instruments crowded up front, it was quite a sight.  The two percussionists beat the hell out of each other and the singer spewed rage that I have only heard reserved for child murderers and pedophiles.  They proceeded to simultaneously shock, sicken, amuse and titillate the crowd with a thirty-minute set of tracks drawn from the SLIPKNOT release and I was instantly hooked.

Fast forward to January 2005 and the band is now headlining 5,000 seat arenas, riding the wave of their third Roadrunner release, VOL. 3: THE SUBLIMINAL VERSES.  My enthusiasm for the band?s music has gone down with each release as they just have not been able to recapture the raw, ugly sound of the debut but they are selling more than ever and undoubtedly make a hell of a lot more money than I do doing what they love.  This was my third time seeing Slipknot (they headlined the second stage of the 2004 run of Ozzfest?see review here) and while the thrill has worn off a bit, they still deliver an unbeatable show.  For this leg, opening acts were labelmates (and personal fave) Killswitch Engage and Metal Blade?s Unearth.  Having seen Killswitch three times prior and Unearth at Ozzfest, I knew this show was going to be a great start to the 2005 concert year.

Unearth created incredible buzz at this year?s Ozzfest as their sophomore release, THE ONCOMING STORM, was one of the metalcore highlights of 2004.  Since this was an all-ages show, the band hit the stage at precisely 7:30 for a raucous 30-minute set.  Vocalist Trevor Phipps is an extremely energetic frontman and his voice is perfectly suited for the band?s music.  The tandem guitar team of Buzz McGrath and Ken Susi drop solos and memorable riffs galore while the rhythm section of John ?Slo? Maggard and Mike Justain hold up the bottom end nicely.  McGrath (the one with the long hair) is not exactly the liveliest person on stage (especially next to Susi) but what he lacks in charisma is more than made up for in talent.  Like their Ozzfest appearance, Unearth trotted out six tracks including the punishing ?Black Hearts Now Reign,? ?The Great Dividers? and ?Zombie Autopilot? from THE ONCOMING STORM and ?One Step Away? from 2001?s indie release, THE STINGS OF CONSCIENCE.  Unearth should rise above third-bill status soon enough and their endless touring is building up a solid fanbase to allow the eagerly anticipated follow-up to THE ONCOMING STORM to take the band to the next level.

Killswitch Engage is always a treat to see live and this show was no exception.  Last year?s THE END OF HEARTACHE is still going strong with no sign of slowing down and vocalist Howard Jones and new drummer Justin Foley seem to be finding their niche within the band.  Jones? hulking, tattooed presence behind the mike has almost left former vocalist Jesse Leach as a distant memory as he is able to nail Leach?s growls and clean vocals flawlessly.  Foley impressed me on the band?s last stop through Vancouver with In Flames and his hard-hitting style continues to provide a concrete backbone to the band?s music.  Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel are quickly becoming one of the most fearsome guitar teams in metalcore.  Well-crafted solos, tight riffs and a fantastic stage presence make these guys a real treat to watch.  Dutkiewicz has left a legacy with his stage banter in Vancouver (last time he invited the female component of the audience to join him on the tour bus for a tryst over rancid Chicken McNuggets) and this time was no different.  ?The End of Heartache? was dedicated to ?baggy pants, whole milk and big boobies? allowing Unearth guitarist Ken Susi came on stage to handle the clean vocal section of the chorus.  Dutkiewicz was more subdued than usual and, frankly, it was a welcome change as he was a bit much during the In Flames tour.  The band seemed quite comfortable on the arena-sized stage, too, so their club days may soon be behind them.  Running through an eight-song, forty-five minute set, the band played a good mix of tracks from 2002?s ALIVE OR JUST BREATHING and THE END OF HEARTACHE including ?Numbered Days,? ?Take This Oath,? Rose of Sharyn? and the always killer ?My Last Serenade,? with full crowd participation during the chorus. 

Once again, Killswitch Engage left an indelible mark on Vancouver.  This band just keeps getting better and better every time I see them and I hope that they continue their successful rise because they are one of the leaders in the metalcore genre right now.

A Bid Farewell
Numbered Days
Take This Oath
Rose of Sharyn
Fixation On The Darkness
Breathe Life
The End of Heartache
When Darkness Falls
My Last Serenade

A swift changeover paved the way for the headliners to exact punishment upon an impatient sold-out crowd of 4,000.  This was the last night of the tour for all three bands and the crowd?s excitement only added to their energy.  Outside, scalpers were getting over $100 for the $35 face value tickets and people were doing anything to get inside despite the horrendous acoustics provided by the Forum.  A few homemade Slipknot masks could be spotted and the average age of the crowd might be in their late teens but the loyalty shown to this band is almost frightening.  The ?maggots,? as they are affectionately referred to by the band, followed every command of vocalist Corey Taylor as if he were the master to their slaves.  Before ?Surfacing,? Taylor ordered everyone to get on the ground (which they did) and upon his word, to stand up and go berserk (which they also did).  This sort of charisma and stage presence is usually held by dictators, not vertically-challenged masked singers from the American Midwest!  Taylor?s leap off the ten-foot high drum riser would be unthinkable to most musicians but for Slipknot, it?s just another night in the trenches.  Percussionist and band founder Shawn Crahan took his aggressions out on his monolithic drum kit with an aluminum baseball bat while guitarists Mick Thompson and Jim Root cast an ominous presence at the sides of the stage.  Joey Jordison is one of the most underrated drummers in metal with his incredibly fast, yet precise, skills.  Even with two other percussionists on stage, Jordison still manages to be heard.  This point is well taken when Jordison, along with Crahan and Chris Fehn, added to the bombastic aggression of ?The Heretic Anthem? creating a barrage of skin bashing like I have never heard. 

All gimmickry aside, even Slipknot?s most vocal detractors cannot deny that the band is one of the most imposing bands that has ever graced a stage.  It is almost impossible to follow everything that is going on with nine bodies swirling around and their energy and fan devotion is unsurpassed.  Like KISS, Slipknot is all about the show and the number one priority for them is that their fans never leave disappointed.  With tracks like ?Sic,? ?Pulse of The Maggots,? ?The Heretic Anthem,? ?People = Shit? and ?Surfacing? among their live assault, that trend should follow for years to come.  Hell, people assumed Slipknot would implode after one album but  despite some ?break-up? rumors in 2003, they seem to be going strong with album number three (well, four technically) firmly entrenched in the metal psyche of 2004. 

Back in June 1999 at the Croatian Cultural Center, I knew these nine guys from Iowa that left 300 people spellbound would become big.  If only they were an IPO?I?d be rich today!!!

Prelude 3.0
The Blister Exists
Three Nil
Left Behind
Pulse of The Maggots
The Heretic Anthem
Spit It Out
People = Shit
Wait and Bleed

**Thanks to Jamie at House of Blues Canada for the ticket, photo pass and all his help at the show.

Official Slipknot website

Official Killswitch Engage website

Official Unearth website