A mask often discloses more than it hides. Erasing one’s identity and selectively presenting a stripped-back, idealised or perverted version of oneself is the ultimate form of both self-censorship and liberation, and by doing so, by limiting the number of visual signs offered and thereby minimising the exposure of those aspects of oneself often vulnerable to value judgements based upon socially accepted ideals of beauty and representation, one can potentially communicate a less-diluted, unambiguous message more powerfully and honestly. In fact, the transfiguring act of reducing oneself to an anonymous numbered entity is one of the most inversely effective ways of inveighing against social and institutionalised forms of disempowerment and homogenisation.

Ten years ago, when nine guys from the wastelands of the Midwest, specifically Des Moines, Iowa, dressed up in matching coveralls, numbered themselves zero through eight, and donned fucked-up masks on their faces, a lot of people didn’t get it. The kneejerk reaction when faced with something beyond the realms of comprehension for many is to criticise it, dismiss it, or patronisingly appreciate what is perceived to be its novelty value, and that’s what many did when Slipknot first burst onto the scene in the late 90s.

A lot of people still don’t get it, but therein lies the charm and genius of the whole idea. Never catering to the lowest common denominator, Slipknot assume their audience have some modicum of intelligence and have never pandered to those requiring explanations at every turn, preferring to allow their fans to self-navigate through the virulently visceral approach to sonic extremity they offer up at the willful exclusion of all the fucktards who diss it.

Whether you’re a fan or not there’s absolutely no questioning the quality and utter conviction demonstrated during Slipknot’s live shows, and one gets the feeling that although the sheer number of Slipknot t-shirts in the audience tonight here in Barcelona is testament to the number of maggots present, many others are here because they just wanna see what the damn fuss is about.

As the hypnotic strains of ‘Iowa’ echo around the empty stage, its backdrop bathed in red light, the combined effect nicely builds tension for a couple of minutes until Joey takes his seat to a rapturous roar from the crowd. The remaining band member’s trickle on stage as ‘742617000027’ loops repetitively like an ominous mantra until hastily cut off by the unsubtle opening blasts of ‘(sic)’. What follows is a ninety minute long ferociously incisive and sublimely chaotic sonic battery, submerging and subjugating all present and delivered with militaristic precision. With ‘Eyeless’ and ‘Wait and Bleed’ coming in at second and third, it isn’t until the fourth song of the set the band diverge from the first album. ‘Before I Forget’ and ‘The Blister Exists’ are interspersed with recent singles ‘Sulfur’ and ‘Dead Memories’ before they tear shreds off everyone present with the violently beautiful carnage that is ‘Disasterpiece’.

The last three songs before the encore run in reverse album chronology, with ‘Psychosocial’ getting all and sundry to behave like a bunch of mentalists before the group sing-along that is ‘Duality’, rounding off with the viciously inspired bile-spitting of ‘People = Shit’. The two-song encore sees the band end the night how they begun, back at the first album, with ‘Surfacing’ and the song the night wouldn’t be complete without, ‘Spit It Out’. Although Corey’s directives to “jump the fuck up” seem to get a little lost in translation for those in my immediate vicinity, most people happily do as they're told and everyone appears satisfied with the resulting mayhem, even Joey, though granted he’s hanging upside down at the time.

Most great art not only encourages but requires its audience to go beyond a superficial reading, an effort rewarded immeasurably but also intangibly. However, all conceptual interpretations aside, the frantic brutality pouring forth from the stage tonight overwhelms, bypassing all cerebral filters and ego and going straight to the very core of primitive urges and id. This is what makes Slipknot so mesmerising live - regardless of all the other shit, their music communicates with that which is most unconscious and instinctive in us all and acts as a transducer of energy, forging a transitory connection between band and audience, and in spite of percussionist Chris Fehn’s absence the remaining eight deliver a captivating performance of inspired mania, proving once again that there are some contagions you just can’t stop.