Slipknot, Machine Head, Sydonia @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne (27/10/2008)

You can always rely on Melbourne metal fans to lock shoulders for an event like Slipknot’s All Hopes Gone tour. No matter how little hope there is in anyone’s daily grind, you can be sure hope exists when metal brings the throes of a city’s extreme music community together.

Melbourne’s “intelligent metal” quartet Sydonia was a bonus to tonight’s running list and it was so satisfying to experience one of the city’s reigning bands to deliver their goods alongside some of the biggest names in metal. And I’m sure the band was just as chuffed to be playing one of the biggest hometown stages in its life. It was kudos for Sydonia to be invited back to the States to support Lamb of God some time ago and the top support opportunities just keep being flung the band’s way. There’s no doubt that such an experience has afforded Sydonia the weight in which to rise in prominence on the live circuit.

Obviously, Sydonia wasn’t fazed by supporting Slipknot and Machine Head, judging by the crushing bass/drum crunches being hurled into the crowd. The bottom-end heaviness of Rubber Bullets rolled over the ecstatic crowd like an uncompromised tidal wave; Dana Roskvist’s vocals taking a bi-polar approach from melodic echoes to guttural snarls. It was even just as gratifying to hear Sydonia granted a generous portion of the sound-desk so they could sound so exceedingly massive. Eerie screams from Roskvist launched Sam Haycroft’s string-work into the wild air, giving more seasoned fans an early adrenaline rush. Even the attention of younger punters was snared by Sydonia’s full force, reinstating my faith that the kids do in fact dig our local supports. Tongues and Bateria pounded hearts into new rhythms, as some of Sydonia’s local art mates joined the band on stage for a seven-man drumming onslaught, which included Mammal’s Zane Rosanoski and Nick Adams. It was enough to send shivers across your skin. Any moshpit kid who was unfamiliar with Sydonia’s work answered the call in metal’s universal language – head-banging and horns. Pity that Sydonia’s quick stage time didn’t match their art.

“Machine f—kin’ Head, Machine f—kin’ Head!” chorused the crowd as the lights dimmed for one relentless set. Machine Head greeted the intense crowd for a fret-netic lesson in metal. Duelling fretwork courtesy of Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel alighted as thousands of fists punched the Rod Laver air. Imperium later emerged to reveal Dave McClain’s drumming prowess to get the moshpit energised. Yet, it sounded a little rough around the edges due to a shonky mix. Still, Machine Head regained its composure, clawing back for Beautiful Mourning from The Blackening. Flynn’s demands for circle pits didn’t go unanswered but the crowd was more content with moshing up a sea of flaying limbs and screams.

Aesthetics Of Hate rose to get the “lazy motherf—kers” off their laurels and bouncing into the pit. “This isn’t the Melbourne I remember?” Flynn questioned; staggered energy from the crowd obviously giving him something to cry about. In stubborn form, Melbourne flexed its muscle to meet his expectations during moments like Old and it worked – “I f—kin’ love it!” As reward he threw his drinks into the crowd and a select couple of metalheads impressed Machine Head with catches and subsequent sculling action. Halo and Davidian pulverised the air to bring fans to their knees and restored Flynn’s trust in Melbourne fans. What an experience to witness Machine Head in an arena set-up – double kicks to charge your mind and riffs to rip your earlobes apart.

As to be expected, the camaraderie in the moshpit was running at an all-time high once Slipknot entered the stage. And fans were immediately psyched once the black curtain dropped to the depths of the pit. It’s quintessentially compulsory for many metal shows to call on a massive light show, banners and pyrotechnics so Slipknot’s ambition to deliver one unforgettable show didn’t leave any stone unturned. The atmosphere became painfully eerie as members 0 through to 8 gradually took their places centre-stage. Drummer Joey Jordison donned branches as hands which caressed the skins of his weapon of choice.

The mosh screamed in worship of its heroes; “maggots” who were either die-hard fans from as far back as Slipknot’s first appearance in at Festival Hall or had arrived to pay homage for the very first time. Whether fans were there to experience a throwback to their younger years or to witness a world-class arena performance, you couldn’t argue that Slipknot was ready to shit all over their mediocre Palace appearance from a few years back. The band’s erratic anthems plummeted their way into the pit – The Blister Exists eventually ripping out eardrums as Corey Taylor climbed Chris Fehn’s percussion stack. The band’s outfits were toned down (albeit Sid Wilson hobbling around the stage with a cane) and masks weren’t as secretive but Slipknot’s presence held no boundaries as Taylor repeatedly tried to throw up a lung every time he regurgitated his subliminal verses.

“We’re back in the craziest fíƒÂ¢í¢â€šÂ¬”kin’ town in Australia!” Taylor declared. The crowd erupted in engulfing, shrill cries. “I can’t believe the cops let you in the place!!” Dead Memories from All Hopes Gone proved to be more radio friendly than the band’s back-catalogue but managed to grip Rod Laver through melodically charged vocals and riff-ridden moments courtesy of James Root and Mick Thomson. Before I Forget accelerated the crowd’s drive with tuned down moments of thick grooves. Psychosocial surged from the speaker stacks and Duality had the crowd lapping up the spectacle laid out before it. “I wanna see you jumping up and down to shake the roof off!” Taylor demanded. His voice was so abrasive; it could rip the skin off your face at any moment. Shawn Crahan’s drums, complete with converted beer kegs, spun and rose above the crowd via a hydraulic riser and kept the barrier worshippers begging for more.

There were moments where, collectively, Slipknot’s energy levels waned yet all nine members would reach into the darkness of their bellies to rip out a little bit more for their fans, ensuring that aggression wasn’t compromised. The Heretic Anthem and Spit It Out sent the girls in aisles screaming in ecstasy. The murderous sounds of Prosthetics was a welcomed gift from Slipknot, in recognition of the band’s ten-year existence since the release of their self-titled album and the band’s monumental album sales in Australia. Australia is obviously a goldmine for Slipknot, but Slipknot were no means complacent or up themselves by the honours bestowed upon them; Taylor delivered a sincere thank you to those who have supported the band since its rise to international stardom. Only One underscored the band’s brutal objective and Taylor commando-rolled across the stage while Crahan played phallic games with his custom baseball bat.

Ultimately, this wasn’t a tour hell-bent on prostituting a band’s latest album to the masses. It was a tour drenched in commitment to a band’s true aesthetic and an opportunity for a band to prop its fans up on the highest pedestal it could muster. So, were Slipknot “worth the fíƒÂ¢í¢â€šÂ¬”kin’ wait”? F—kin’ yes Taylor, f—kin’ yes.