SLIPKNOT + Killswitch Engage + Unearth @ Stade Uniprix

By Jo Satana - Umlauts and Powerchords - 01/08/2005

So on Saturday night, the 8th of January 2005, Slipknot was courteous enough to pay our meager city (Montreal) a visit. And guess what? They even brought along their friends: Unearth and Killswitch Engage! Seeing that this was an opportunity not to be missed, the boys at Umlauts and Powercordz grabbed their stuff and headed East to the show (actually, both Dangerous “I Don’t Need To Do A Show To Get Credit For It” Dave and Analytical “We’ll Patch It Up In Post Prod” Alex were not able to make it, so it was just me). Now I don’t normally mind going to shows by myself, but this little shindig happened to be at Stade Uniprix: a hangar-style venue that is located in just about the worst part of town. So after trekking across the city in both a snow and ice storm, I had the distinct pleasure of fighting for my life just to find parking in the industrial sector of the East End of Montreal. Ok, so transportation and social issues aside, I was surprised by the number of people who turned out to this thing. I remembered from a previous experience that Slipknot can attract quite a crowd, but mind you this was 4 years ago and the band hadn’t played Montreal since their self-titled “debut”. It is quite obvious that their popularity hasn’t diminished during their absence.

The show kicked off with Unearth hitting the stage. This was the first time I ever heard this band live and I was anxious to see these guys especially because of the buzz that seems to revolve around them in certain circles (Revolve? Circles? It’s imagery, people!). Unearth has been credited as being one of those bands that helped to revive the current hardcore scene. Not caring much for “scenes”, I was more impressed with the way in which they conducted themselves onstage than with their given “title”. From an “auditory” perspective, they sounded great for a hardcore band (you have to excuse me, being old-fashioned and all, I’m not really used to seeing hardcore on the “big stage”). They hammered their way through their 30-minute set like a well-oiled and rehearsed machine and while I was not completely enthralled with their tunes, I can definitely see why the kids love’em.

The second group to take the stage was the buzz worthy Killswitch Engage (say it in one breath, it rhymes!). I could not believe that these were the same Roadrunner guys from many years past. It was like comparing a caterpillar to a butterfly without taking into consideration the cocoon phase; I just could not put the two together. This was my first time seeing the group with its new singer and I was totally impressed. Their set list was solid (minus their lackluster single off of the Resident Evil: Apocalypse soundtrack. Man I hate that song) and they definitely had the audience’s complete attention. Naturally, their show basically consisted of their newer stuff, and I do not necessarily think this to be a bad thing since their current chemistry really seems to be working out for them. My only bone to pick with these guys is the obvious lust for attention that guitarist (and previous drummer) Adam Dutkiewitz seems to be cursed with. On several occasions he went out of his way to overshadow his band mates, and while at times it could have seemed comical, I personally thought that it supported my general impression of a band trying to keep their cool towards the group’s “wild card”. I must mention that ‘Engage is definitely blessed with dedicated fans, as flocks of kiddies actually left the venue as soon as their favorite band left the stage. Now, I’ve been guilty of paying full price for a ticket when I was just interested in the opening band, but I at least stayed to see the whole show! I can never understand people who are willing to pay 40$ for a 30-minute show. So in that respect, Killswitch should really consider itself lucky.

At first, I couldn’t really see the connection between Slipknot and the two bands that they were on tour with. It seemed that they were preaching to two different crowds. However, any doubt that I may have had was quickly erased as soon as Slipknot hit the stage. The sheer energy that these guys are capable of harvesting is reminiscent of old Slayer tapes I’ve seen. The show opened up with the intro to their third major label installment entitled Vol3: The Subliminal Verses. Right there and then, I knew there was going to be a problem. You see, the three last Slipknot albums reflected three distinct stages of the band and each album definitely stands on its own with little common ground. What’s the problem you ask? Simple, its lack of continuity. The show felt like a giant jigsaw puzzle which really hurt the flow of the show, for me anyway. The funky jungle of sound from the first album was met with the brutality of Iowa, which was then superimposed on top of the delicately arranged and extremely fragile Subliminal Verses. If this seems a bit confusing, I feel your pain… because that’s exactly how it sounded like.

Their stage show is exactly what it was 4 years ago: an onstage assault that featured the same old antics. Both percussionists are still relatively useless musically speaking (actually, they were given singing parts this time around) but their continued presence is appreciated because I find them both pretty entertaining. There were a couple of technical problems that took away from the overall experience: halfway through their second song (”SIC”, I believe), the clowns’ drum platform collapsed as both the clown boy and the DJ were trying to knock each other off. This sent them both flying to the floor and what followed was a humorous scrambling of the drum techs to the stage. Following this, the bassist seemed to have some problem of some sort as he disappeared for at least 30 minutes during the show (not that we were able to hear the difference).

Discontinuity and technical problems aside, these guys still managed to put on a really cool show which pretty much enforces the staying power that this band has. What would normally be unforgivable for another band, these guys get away with without a problem and the reason is simple: they work so damn hard! There is not one dull moment with these guys onstage. The fact that they put so much effort into their show just makes you forget about their overall sloppiness. Being someone who loved their new album, it was interesting to see the subtleties of the new songs translated into a live show. Since Subliminal Verses is a studio-heavy release (which does not always translate to a good live experience), I was convinced I was going to hear my favorite songs butchered onstage. Then I figured it all out: the sampling guy! Anyone who knows Slipknot knows that there is a little, previously thought useless, member of the band who wears a spiked mask, who sits at the back of the stage and who doesn’t really do anything except for play previously recorded stuff at opportunistic cue moments. Well, he actually came in handy this time around because the three tracks that they played from the new album came out beautifully and were totally the highlights of the evening (I’d go into set list details, but I’d rather keep people guessing).

Slipknot has shown that it no longer needs to demand respect from its critics or its peers as they have proven that internal conflicts aside, they are not going anywhere anytime soon. There is an accepted convention in the world of loud music: when scantily clad sex kittens outnumber angry self-conscious Goth girls, you’re mainstream baby! The strangest part of this evening was accepting this fact.

Jo “Where Are My Sex Kittens” Satana hosts Umlauts And Powerchordz Sundays from 8pm – 10pm.