That is how long Corey Taylor has been fronting the Iowa born, nu-metal nine-piece Slipknot. He has pursued other projects during that time — forming another band and publishing a few novels — but it was as No. 8 in Slipknot that he sharpened his teeth.
And it is in Slipknot, where Taylor still shines. Despite other ventures, his origin remains his best work as a vocalist, as a songwriter and as a performer. Having seen Stone Sour a few times, I thought I had an idea of what to expect Friday night, but Slipknot's performance at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion shattered my expectations and was more than I could have hoped for.
The show was preceded by a video in which an unmasked Clown, also known as No. 6, walked into and through an empty venue, ominously dragging his signature baseball bat behind him. Then the curtains were drawn closed, and Van Halen's "Running with the Devil" echoed through the amphitheater, ushering fans with cold refreshments back into their seats.
When the house lights went down, the collective scream heard from the crowd was deafening. Slipknot began its set with "XIX," a menacing but understated track, before continuing into "Sarcastrophe," which Taylor has described as a war cry for the band and its fans.
Attendees chanted along — "Burn up in your atmosphere! Burn up in your utmost fear! We are kill gods!" — as circle pits formed throughout the lawn while Clown and No. 3 wailed on makeshift drum kits that had been hoisted into the air. Flames shot above them both while Taylor hurriedly walked the length of the stage and flung water onto his adoring fans.
Despite having enjoyed a long career, one that has lasted significantly longer than countless naysayers expected, Slipknot doesn't seem to have lost any of the menace and passion that inspired the band's self-titled debut album back in 1999.
"Corporate cocksuckers have been trying to kill our music for 20 years," Taylor reminded the crowd before the band played "Before I Forget." But judging by the attendance at Saturday night's show, this group is in good standing and has plenty of life left in it, no matter what the record labels initially thought.
Feelings of resentment notwithstanding, Taylor asked the crowd to remember one thing when they left: we are all family. Despite any differences we might have, all we have is one another, and we need to stick together.
And that's kind of the thing about Slipknot. After nearly two decades, a lot of people still can't see past the masks or hear beyond the aggression to notice what this band's music is all about. It has progressed quite a bit since their inception, and what began as an outlet for a group of guys who were angry has become a rallying cry for countless souls desperate for heroes.
Then again, some people just don't like this type of music. But that's their loss.