Iron Maiden. Metallica. Guns N Roses. Rammstein. Rock’s rabble rousing behemoths have always been a natural fit for huge arenas with their bellowing anthems and stunning stage shows and Slipknot, like their eye-catching peers, are a band conceived for entertainment on a vast scale.
No strangers to excess, the mysterious nine-strong troupe of masked marauders marry angst-ridden metal with wildly creative performance art on a par with Lady Gaga. Slipknot must be seen to be believed and yet frontman Corey Taylor insists the music always comes first.
“That’s one of the reasons that we’ve been able to continue at this level for so long,” he says. “I think you only have to look at the reaction to the new album to realise that our music is still relevant and is what makes us the band we are.
“The chips were definitely down when we went into the studio to record .5: The Gray Chapter and we didn’t know which way the wind was going to blow for us.
“When we saw that people were digging the new music and the reaction was so positive, we could continue with what we were planning.”
What Slipknot were planning was a gutsy response to the death of founding member Paul Gray. The bass player passed away in 2010 following an accidental drug overdose and the album recorded in his name will act as the catalyst for the band’s biggest and best shows to date.
“We try to put on the best show because that still really matters to us – but only after we have the music,” adds Taylor. “It’s not a pay check to us. It’s real life. Even if we started to rest on our laurels where the entertainment was concerned the music would always have to be at peak performance. Otherwise there’d be no point.”
When Taylor talks about there being a ‘point’ to Slipknot the shadow of his friend and colleague Gray is never too far away. However, a healing hiatus was never allowed to drift into a permanent disbandment despite initial fears and insecurities in the immediate aftermath of the 38-year-old’s death.
“There have definitely been some difficult times,” says Taylor. “The hardest time was, absolutely, when we lost Paul. That was as close as it ever got to us calling time on Slipknot and naturally so.
“That was like standing in the batters’ box at a baseball match and waiting for the pitch to come only for someone to hit you on the back of your head with a bat. It knocks the breath out of you. Without warning. We struggled to work out what we wanted to do next.
“I wasn’t sure if it all made sense without Paul. Now we realise this band is his legacy. Once we decided to go for it – with the Sonisphere shows three years ago – we knew we were going to be able to write a new album. We sensed a groundswell of positivity from the audience at those festival shows and that’s when it felt real again. It took a long time to move on from what happened but I don’t think we ever really gave up.”
Slipknot’s renewed sense of focus and the band’s trademark fighting spirit will guarantee an incendiary show at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle before the band headlines this summer’s Download festival in June. “We have so many more opportunities than we’ve had in the past,” says Taylor. “It just feels like everything is coming our way again. I don’t know if that makes me more happy or if it scares me. I’m equal parts pragmatic and optimistic.
“I don’t want to look too far ahead. But it definitely feels like we’re a few steps ahead in our career from where we were. Of course there’s a bittersweet taste in my mouth when I say that because Paul isn’t a part of it anymore. That’s what makes me hold back from going all ‘hip hip hooray’. But it is a good situation right now.”
* Slipknot play the Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle on January 19. For tickets call 0844 493 6666 or visit www.metroradioarena.co.uk .