London WC2 Astoria

The Hellmouth has yawned open tonight....

The Hellmouth has yawned open tonight. There's the sick green glow of escaping grave gases, a dank fog rolling across the floor, an amplified babble of obscenity curdling the air. And out of the darkness they come, the nine lost souls of Slipknot, kicking the Iowa cemetery clay from their feet as they shift into place for the Zombie carnival, looming through the night in hideous masks and red boilersuits...

Oh yes. Red boilersuits. As everyone knows, standard issue wear for The Dark One's own entertainment corps. So meet the gang 'cos the boys are here, the boys to peddle apocalyptic nihilism so absolute even cockroaches are nervous. One step down from Marilyn Manson, making the Insane Clown Posse look like Krusty & Co, Slipknot are the last squall in mindless anomie, a band who hang banners that read 'PEOPLE = SHIT' onstage, who taunt a delirious audience with the true arrogance of self-appointed |bermenschen. Their manifesto, as helpfully bellowed on 'Surfacing': "Don't belong! Don't exist!".

Ah, if only. Because Slipknot really would be better if they weren't made of decomposing flesh and blood. On paper - preferably printed by DC comics - they sound phenomenal, a band of obscure Batman adversaries pushing at the limits of music and society. Sure, you'll never have heard anything quite like this: two junkyard percussionists, a keyboard player and a DJ piled on top of the standard band set-up, sucking down hip-hop, Latin rhythms and drum'n'bass into their voracious metal maw, then regurgitating it as the aorta-ripping 'Purity', or the brutalist anthem 'Wait And Bleed'.

You certainly won't have seen anything quite like it, either, not unless you have a particularly Bohemian set of friends and wipe-clean soft furnishings. And let's be honest, you wouldn't really want Leatherfaced singer Corey Taylor round yours on a Friday night, nor the man in a clown mask rubbing his groin with a length of pipe in a manner way beyond suggestive. Sample master Sid Wilson, leaping off the treacherous Astoria balcony into a throng of adoring arms, probably isn't an ideal house guest, either. For sheer malevolent "whaddya got?" attitude, though, there's been nothing like it since Manson last got busy with the spandex.

Despite their evil, raised-in-a-basement rhetoric - the audience are called maggots, told everyone hates them, including the band - Slipknot still can't surpass Marilyn's accomplished subversions. The only gap that should be visible is the slender one between mankind and the fiery pit: here, the illusion gapes wide. When Corey stops the music because he's "got something to say", you prepare for a stream of obscenity so vile that London will be dragged down into the shades forever. Instead, he tepidly attacks "B*Witched and The Backstreet Idiots". Here are Slipknot, making the most extreme noise this side of a chainsaw massacre, and all they want to say is that pop music is, like, processed and plastic.

It doesn't help, either, that as Corey speaks, the band loom behind him in their customised masks - the gas nozzle, the rubber Balaclava, the long-nosed carnival fool - and you suddenly realise that, hey!, there's something for everyone here. Apart from the fact they're all Scary Slipknot, they've got the boy-band dynamics down to a tight T-shirt, a Village People for spookykids. Listen to the screams, and you know it makes sense.

As the nuclear winter of 'Scissors' freezes to a close, the mannequin-faced drummer starts dismantling his kit, hurling cymbals across the stage. Encores, after all, would be like cracking a cranium with a piledriver, and there's no time to step backwards in the quest for new atrocity. Whether you'll be appalled is between you, your conscience and your sense of the ridiculous, but beware. The noose is tightening.

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