Slipknot's domination of the metal world continues apace. Recent album All Hope Is Gone was No 1 in the US, and tonight they settle in for a mini-residency at London's hard rock mecca - or as singer Corey Taylor puts it: "Three nights of serious shit for you vicious sluts."
It is 12 years since the nine-piece emerged from the American mid-west unveiling jagged thrash-metal riffs and sporting horror masks. Even now, their visual impact remains striking. It is hard not to boggle at a man called Dicknose manipulating a phallic proboscis while his colleague, Clown, humps an elevating drum kit while zipping and unzipping his gimp mask. The music remains incendiary, a brutal Metallica-style cacophony of short-arm jab riffs and intricate percussion. Yet something has been lost among the way. Where early Slipknot shows appeared to verge on chaos, with acts of random on-stage violence and, allegedly, defecation, tonight's Rocky Horror extravaganza is slick and choreographed enough to render any boy band envious. This is not true of the audience: the kind of testosterone-soaked mosh pit develops that you watch wincing and awaiting for the crack of broken noses.
But Taylor has weightier matters on his mind. "This one is fucking dark!" he warns, before Slipknot grunt into a song called Prosthetics. Frankly, they are not big on light and shade. At least the masks mean they don't have to keep straight faces. "How many people out there are alive?" inquires Taylor, then Slipknot encore with their traditional closer, People = Shit. If you are 14, angry and alienated, it may sound like an existential call to arms. If you are older, it is a hugely entertaining start to the panto season.