KNOTFEST – Brisbane 26.02.23 [Live Review + Interviews]

Review: Benjamin Coe and Nev Pearce (Megadeth)
Photography: Dan Maynard 
Interviews: Nev Pearce 

It’s a bright, sunny morning in Brisbane and there is a river of black stretching around the perimeter of the RNA showgrounds from a very early hour, eagerly awaiting the inaugural Australian leg of the famed and revered Slipknot-curated Knotfest. Metalheads across the country have been wondering for years if and when we would get our very own version of Knotfest here at home and that day has finally come. With two shows successfully under their belts, the organisers are ready to open the gates on the final stop of the tour.

As clouds roll over, threatening rain at any moment, the eager crowd begins to trickle into the showgrounds with the VIP and Ultimate ticketholders getting their priority access for which they paid a pretty penny and the anticipation is thick in the air for the day that is to come. And the sky does indeed open up, letting a gradually increasing shower fall over the crowd as the acknowledgement of country takes place followed by “the best didgeridoo player in the country” getting things started with his hilarious tales of Telstra scam calls and the like accompanied by some amazing didgeridoo work.

First up on Stage 2 is UK hardcore act, Malevolence. As the theme song to COPS (you know the one) plays over the multitude of speakers across the arena the band take the stage and then BANG! A blast of noise from the speakers means we’re off running. “Let’s get this fucking party started!” declares front man Alex Taylor and as the rain begins to ease off a bit the crowd really starts to get into it with the dirty breakdowns inspiring the first of many circle pits of the day. Ripping through a set from across their releases including crowd favourite Self Supremacy (which, I might add, inspired the fastest moving and most hectic circle pit I have seen in a long time), Malevolence are a powerhouse and genuinely grateful to be here.

A slow drone over the PA system heralds the arrival of Virginian group Bad Omens. After having a rocky start to their debut Australian tour and having to pull out of the first stop on the Knotfest Australia run, the boys are here to prove that they can more than make up for it. Vocalist Noah Sebastian is in fine from and you would honestly never tell he was struggling with his vocals.

His screams are punishing, his falsettos are a thing of beauty and for a newer band they have quite the commanding stage presence. Opener Concrete Jungle has the fans in awe of their amazing talent and it only gets better from there with Sebastian putting on a hell of show with Like A Villian and the heavy hitting set closer Dethrone. These guys are a tight musical unit and definitely have big things on the horizon.

And now it’s time for the Aussie contingency of the lineup to show what they’re made of. First up on stage 2 is Melbourne’s Void Of Vision. Clad in all black and donning capes, cloaks and goggles the band tear through a set of their electro-tinged hardcore like it’s nobodies business!

The dual harmonies between vocalist Jack Bergin and guitarist James McKendrick are impeccable as Bergin lurches and screams at the front of the crowd, whipping the adoring crowd into a frenzy. Tracks like Hell Hell Hell and Dominatrix incite a plethora of crowd surfers at the singers request and it’s obvious the standard has been set for the day. Despite the heat, it’s high-energy all day.

Next up is Melbourne-based metalcore crew Alpha Wolf whose relentless touring and unflinchingly awesome live show has seen them garner a massive following not only here at home but across the oceans also. And it shows here, the crowd is absolutely here for it.

Their heavy breakdowns and tight AF rhythm section get the crowd really moving for the entirety of their set as they smash out a massive-sounding set borrowing heavily from their 2020 release A Quiet Place To Die. Vocalist Lochie Keogh stomps his way around the stage riling up the crowd to an absolute fever pitch for closing number Akudama. And as they exit the stage to cries for one more song, it’s obvious why these guys are so renowned in the metalcore scene.

There is a short break between sets (and I mean short!) as the crowd is barely given 2 minutes to catch their breath before Knocked Loose are unleashed onto the Knotfest stage.

And not only do the band appear but so does the sun, sending the temperature soaring and quickly turning the mosh pit into a sauna of sweat and excitement. Across the 8 songs on offer throughout the set, the band from Kentucky treat the ever-energetic crowd to a mixture of new and old stretching all the way back to their 2016 single Deadringer which is massively well-received before launching into the set closing one-two punch of Mistakes Like Fractures and Counting Worms from 2016 album Laugh Tracks.

As Knocked Loose exit stage 2, the crowd at stage 1 begins to chant for the much anticipated arrival of Spiritbox. Vocalist Courtney LaPlante enters the stage donning a massive grey hoodie which despite the rising heat, remains on her for the duration of the whole set! Circle With Me opens proceedings with the crowd singing along to every word as LaPlante and her commanding stage presence dance about the place.

Songs like Hurt You and Yellow Jacket sound just as good, if not better live than recorded. The band are extremely grateful and let their love for Slipknot fly high before finishing off the set with a blistering rendition of breakout hit Holy Roller and relatively new tune Hysteria.

Now, Story Of The Year have been around for quite some time, but over on stage 2 they prove that they have lost none of their trademark energy that they put into their live show.

Opening strong with And The Hero Will Drown off their 2003 album Page Avenue, the band are as electric as ever and quite jovial too. They add a welcome sense of humour to all the seriousness that has preceded them, with front man Dan Marsala and bassist Adam Russell trading jokes and quips between songs. Their set spans the gamut of their catalogue with songs such as The AntidoteIn The Shadows and “Is This My Fate?” inspiring some of the most active crowd participation of the day so far.

An acoustic introduction to Sweden’s In Flames echoes out over the showgrounds right before the band launches themselves headfirst into The Beginning Of All Things That Will End from the brand new album Foregone.

The Swedes are in high spirits despite the heat which vocalist Anders Friden contrasts to the ice on the ground in their motherland. Guitarists Bjorn Gelotte and newcomer Chris Broderick shred their way non-stop through an 8 track set of both new (The Great Deceiver, Foregone pt.1) and old (Cloud Connected and crushing set closer Take This Life). Despite numerous line up changes, these guys remain a formidable force in the global heavy metal market and today’s set is a testament as to why.

As the day pushes on the crowd only gets bigger and more ravenous, which is the perfect entry point for  Viking-metallers Amon Amarth. Smoke billows out across the stage as an orchestral intro welcomes the Swedes to the afternoon crowd.

With an epic stage design comprised of Viking ships and statues looming ominously over the band, vocalist Johan Hegg and his band of warriors smash and purge their way through an epic set that has the hungry crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. Hegg’s guttural vocals soar across the afternoon sky as he belts out songs like The Great Heathen ArmyFirst Kill and Raise Your Horns, the latter of which sees him swigging god-knows-what from his very own horn.

As the sun begins its descent behind the pavilions, Hegg praises the masses for braving the harsh conditions all day. But it’s not too long before the stages are almost completely covered in shade, finally, and as Hegg leads his band through Twilight Of The Thunder God, twilight does indeed approach.

Northlane have come a long way and they have more than paid their dues to be afforded such a high placing on the bill today. The electronic notes of Clarity from their latest album Obsidian begin to beat out of the PA and front man Marcus Bridge takes the stage alone to get this party started.

As the band joins him, the song kicks in and so does the crowd. They sing, they dance, they absolutely love it and so does the band. Guitarist Josh Smith jumps around the stage with the energy of a young boy during Echo Chamber which transforms the mosh pit into a total dance party. The Sydney based quartet have seemingly traded in their signature pyrotechnics for a series of giant LED screens whose effect only amplifies as the sun begins to set. “Finally some shade!” Bridge exclaims, adding “Now there’s no reason for you guys to save your energy” and they proceed to belt out a wild rendition of hit single Bloodline from 2019’s Alien.

The band thank the crowd for their support and Slipknot for having them along to this “surreal” experience before finishing off their energetic set with another blistering track from AlienTalking Heads.

Wasting absolutely no time in getting things underway, the Matt Heafy-led Trivium embark on another sonic adventure across their sprawling catalogue of albums.

Choosing to go old-school and opening with The End Of Everything from their breakout album Ascendancy is a seemingly good choice as the absolutely massive crowd bounce along to every beat and rhythm that the boys throw out there. Heafy informs the crowd that this is the fourteenth tour of our country and it’s obvious that they love coming here as much as we love hosting them.

These guys just get better with age, not only in musical ability but in charisma and stage presence as well. Heafy looks as though he is having the time of his life and the crowd feeds off his energy working themselves into a frenzy for the classic epic closer Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr. It’s sad to see them leave the stage but with their track record they are bound to be back soon!

As nightfall completely sets in a familiar sneering voice is sampled over the speakers and the anticipation for thrash legends Megadeth electrifies the air.

As the opening notes of the classic Hangar 18 drop the mosh pit erupts with insurmountable energy and Dave Mustaine and his guns for hire are off and running. Megadeth have always been a great live act but something in the air tonight is different; Dave is absolutely on fire as he belts out hit after hit including fan favourites Sweating BulletsTornado of Souls and Angry Again from the Last Action Hero soundtrack.

Another group who have faced numerous member changes, the musicians that Mustaine has assembled here are easily the best since the classic Rust In Peace line up. Guitarist Kiko Loureiro has all the trickery of Marty Friedman locked down and quite easily keeps pace with Mustaine  while drummer Dirk Verbeuren (ex-Soilwork) and bassist James LoMenzo keep the heads banging with their thunderous rhythms. Band mascot, Vic Rattlehead, makes a surprise appearance during Peace Sells to the delight of the adoring crowd and as they wrap things up with their massive hit Holy Wars, this set is indeed a moment that many will be cherishing for years to come.

The stage screens go black. Darkness fills the showgrounds and an eerie noise begins to emanate from stage 2. Torchbearers descend upon the multi-tiered set right before Australia’s very own Parkway Drive literally explode onto the stage with Glitch.

The absolutely massive crowd are instantly whipped into a frenzy as flames spew from the stage into the night air. Vocalist Winston McCall commands the crowd with ease as they bounce relentlessly to the aggression pouring off the stage. Bassist Jia O’Connor is perched on an often fiery podium to the right of drummer Ben Gordon and their chemistry is beyond words. Lead guitarist Jeff Ling effortlessly shreds his way through each solo and the band have never been tighter or more energetic.

Right up until the end of Soul Bleach, when things take a turn for the worst. “I’m not sure if you noticed but my voice just fucking exploded” McCall croaks into the microphone. It’s clear something has gone horribly wrong as he asks for “a minute to sort this shit out”. The crowd support is phenomenal. No Boos, no jeers, just adoration and respect as the band huddle to decide where to go from here.

Winston returns to the front of the stage and informs the crowd “I’m gonna go until I can’t fucking speak anymore. Help us out if you know the words!” and he begins to push through whatever damage he has potentially suffered to deliver crushing renditions of DedicatedVice Grip and crowd favourite Bottom Feeder.

The arena once again goes dark as the torchbearers return with a lone violinist to introduce the literally blazing encore of Crushed and Wild Eyes. And as the band stand together at the front of the stage and declare their pride and respect for McCall for persevering through the set it’s an emotional farewell to the boys for now and everyone just prays Winston will recover.

The time has come. The moment we’ve all been waiting for. Having been treated to some of the best live acts that the heavy music scene has to offer the crowd is now ready for the main event. A giant black curtain is lifted across the front of stage 1, emblazoned with one simple word….Slipknot.

And the anticipation is so thick in the air you can taste it. After a brief intro of the AC/DC classic For Those About To Rock… and the old-timey sounds of Satan Get Behind Me the opening guitar riff to Disasterpiece blasts out from the PA and as soon as the song kicks in the curtain drops and away we go.

Corey Taylor is as stoic as ever as he leads the nine through an impressively diverse set. The chorus to Wait & Bleed has the entire showgrounds singing along as new percussionist Michael Pfaff crawls around his drum riser and spills onto the stage below. New songs such as All Out LifeThe Dying Song and Unsainted sound bloody marvelous live and the classics like Sulfur and Heretic Anthem are as good as they ever were.

But then something happens and Heretic Anthem comes to an abrupt halt and the band exit the stage.

“We’ve had to stop the show” an announcer calls out “because some idiot is sitting on top of that tower!” All eyes turn to one of the speaker towers where one insane punter has decided to scale his way to the very top to get what is probably the best view of the night. “We’re not going back on until he gets down.” Somewhat supported, if you could say that, by the crowd, the climber obliges and begins to descend where he is promptly accosted by security and one would presume punished for his act of stupidity. “I can’t take you crazy fuckers anywhere!” Taylor exclaims as Slipknot returns to the stage to kick into Psychosocial.

Taylor asks the crowd if they would like to hear just one more song to which a thunderous response is heard. The band snap into Duality, which sees Clown take a flaming baseball bat to a keg suspended to the side of the stage in a fit of fury and mayhem. As the song draws to a close, Taylor stops his comrades in their tracks. “Wait, wait, wait. I said, do you want to hear one more song?” he asks again before the Iowans kick full force in Custer before stopping and asking the crowd one last time if they want one more song. And it’s a doozy, it’s ferocious, it’s a classic, it is…Spit It Out. Now no performance of this song would be complete without the age old getting down on the ground and then launching to your feet when Corey yells “JUMP THE FUCK UP!” and it honestly never gets tired.

It’s a spectacle every damn time no matter how many times you’ve witnessed it. As flames blast from the roof of the stage the main set comes to a close and to everyone’s surprise a majority of the crowd begin to flood out of the showgrounds making a swift exit. But soon the all familiar sound of (515) starts to play and the inevitable encore slams it way into the showground with People=Shit and Surfacing capping off a most excellent Slipknot show.

The remaining crowd who chose to stay and witness this till the end begin to amble their way into the streets of Fortitude Valley and it’s hard not to feel like this was something special today. Special for the heavy music scene here in Australia, with 3 sell-out shows across the East Coast proving that metalheads from far and wide are most definitely still hungry for a decent festival and that the passion for this genre is well and truly alive in this country. While we may not see another Knotfest any time soon, it’s good to know that the potential for something is there