Gig Review: Corey Taylor / Oxymorrons – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton (9th November 2023)

Corey Taylor’s hardly been sitting on his hands the last few years, between the release of his debut solo album and a new album and constant touring with his main squeeze, Slipknot. And somehow, he’s managed to squeeze in time to record a second solo album and make a return to his self-confessed beloved UK before hopping over to mainland Europe for a handful of shows. And it may be a Thursday night but the cult of Corey Taylor is out in force to the point where Wolverhampton’s newly re-opened Civic Hall is full to bursting.

Oxymorrons © SRK Lens
Oxymorrons © SRK Lens

So it’s no surprise that opening act, Oxymorrons (two r’s, not one) take full advantage of a captive audience as they blast through a hearty baker’s dozen songs from their recently released debut album and previous EPs. Describing themselves as “melanin punk”, it’s an apt description for the fourpiece as they’ve got hip hop sensibilities to them yet manage to sound punk as fuck. With two sets of vocals by frontmen with boundless energy, they weave around each other seamlessly both on the stage and to spit their lyrics out. They both know how to work the crowd and work in perfect tandem with each other – for once it’s not the case of one doing the heavy lifting and another just being there as is so often the case with twin vocals. Meanwhile the guitar and drums (along with beats) allow for a wonderful fusion of aggressive, snotty punk and hip hop. Given sonically they’re very different, it’s their ethos and origin stories which allow this fusion to work and it’s made them a band to keep an eye out for in future.

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Now, for the reason everyone is here. The intro tape (and intro track of CMFT2) of “The Box” allows the band to take their place to hearty applauses and cheers as they kick into “Post Traumatic Blues” before the arrival of Corey Taylor himself which sends the crowd into a frenzy. What follows is an eighty-minute thrill ride from one of the best frontmen in the business, showing he doesn’t need a massive stage at Donington or hide behind a mask to deliver an engaging rock show. Indeed, Taylor owns the crowd effortlessly and doesn’t feel the need to bring a different persona to the stage for his solo shows.

Instead, it’s that gratitude, authenticity and dry but sharp sense of humour (so a British one) all resting on an enviable back catalogue and strong second solo album which makes this Thursday night feel like a Friday night. There’s a handful of Stone Sour songs brought out of mothballs (since the band themselves are on indefinite hiatus) in “Tumult”, “Song #3” and especially for this tour, the intense and savage “30-30/150”. But if you really want savage, of course, he brings out Slipknot. Introduced with a winking joke during between-song banter saying “Before I forget…” gets a cheer every time he mentions it before heading into the song itself. However, in this format, the five piece of Taylor’s band takes it in for a more stripped-back spin. Indeed, they could have easily put the extra accoutrements through an SPD with the rest of the band playing their parts and gotten away with it, but this breathes new life into the metal classic. If anything, it sounds even more raw and brutal.

Elsewhere, there’s a healthy dose of songs from the new album such as the hard-charging lead single “Beyond”, the smouldering “Midnight” and the darkly twisted “Talk Sick” (say the words out loud for the double entendre). Sadly, the debut is only represented by “Black Eyes Blue” and whilst it was one of the best tracks on that album, it would have been great to have another couple plucked from there such as “HWY 666” and “Samantha’s Gone”. That niggle aside, it’s hardly worth complaining about because what is played is all excellent and you don’t wish for any of the fifteen numbers to be kicked out in favour of something else.

Corey Taylor © SRK Lens
Corey Taylor © SRK Lens

Likewise, Taylor has surrounded himself with some incredibly proficient band mates with Christian Martucci and Zach Throne handling guitars expertly. Whilst much of it isn’t theirs, they play it all faithfully and manage to bring their own flavour to it, winding around each other and each sharing lead and rhythm duties. There’s also songs where Taylor joins in for an extra layer of guitar and it never oversaturates it, instead adding some more light and shade. Meanwhile drummer Dustin Robert and bassist Eliot Lorango lock in effortlessly for their own parts and hold their own against the guitars.

It’s not all pedal to the metal and Taylor throws in two of his best-known “tamer moments”, both of which are high watermarks for their respective bands with the emotionally-charged “Snuff” and “Through Glass”. The latter closes out the main part of the show and its building crescendo allows the crowd to let loose in tandem with the song. And for a victory lap? Well, you have to push it past ten and what better song to do that with than “Duality”? Much like “Before I Forget”, the bells and whistles have been pulled out to create a chugging interpretation which isn’t quite the wall of sound the original is. It means it becomes too metal for rock but too rock for metal and this interpretation is a reminder of how evergreen that song is. But that’s not all – without a sense of playing to the locals (kind of), Black Sabbath gets an airing and rather than going for the usual “Paranoid”, “Iron Man” or “War Pigs”, Taylor and his band go slightly left-field with “Fairies Wear Boots”. It’d still show up on a greatest hits collection but it’s a far less obvious (and very welcome) choice.

Given his catalogue and pedigree, this was very much a show for fans of Corey Taylor already. Then again, his solo albums likely weren’t going to draw in a new set of fans to begin with. But in this day and age, it’s not often you get a chance to see Taylor in relatively intimate settings as this one and when you have two bands prior to your solo career which have some incredible songs, you’re going to work them in given that those attending probably have their fingers crossed for it. Whilst it would have been good to have a few extra songs in to even bring it up to the ninety minutes, you can’t argue that you didn’t get your money’s worth. But if the band he has with him can continue this level of quality, Taylor’s going to have a rich solo career ahead of him.

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Photos by SRK Lens

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