Knotfest 2024 – Brisbane [Live Review]

Review: Dan Maynard and Christian Stanger
Photography: Luke Petty 

It’s been a year? Surely not! We’ve taken an entire trip around the Sun since Australia’s introduction to Knotfest, one of the world’s newest, and metalliest touring Festivals. The first year went off without a hitch. No viable issues, cruisey day and great bands all accessible on one stage. The day ended with so much hype and a fluster, there was no doubt the Showgrounds would pack out for 2024s lineup.

The entire morning, all of south-east Queensland has been miserable. Dark, cloudy, raining and getting progressively colder after being starved on sunlight for days. But that hasn’t stopped a swarm of soggy black t-shirts walk the streets from the train station, past the Tivoli, north to the showgrounds. It might be cold and gloomy, but spirits are high and the anticipation for the oncoming chaos is imminent.

King Parrot are one of the most prominent bands in the heavy metal scene in Australia at the moment and have been for quite a while now. A band that’s constantly on the move, playing bigger shows and hitting bigger supports non-stop. Having just finished a run in the states supporting todays headliner (spoiler: it’s Pantera) the fellas are back on Australian soil opening, Knotfest. The crowd have hit the grounds early, making for a solid crowd for the deserving opening act.

King Parrot could easily have slotted higher on the bill. Their energy and intense vocality is incredibly infectious as they set the bar high the rest of the lineup to follow.

What better way to amp up a crowd than pumping the theme track from Pokémon over a massive sound system. Brand Of Sacrifice make their entrance and blast into the opening track, Dawn. This is my first time hearing the Canadian natives and good lord, they sound massive. The opening track from their 2021 album Lifeblood shakes the grounds but there’s one thing missing.. vocals? Kyle “Demon King” Anderson is absent with guitarist Liam Beeson explaining that he’s been extremely ill. It’s a different kind of show but despite the lack of vocals, the band compensate amazingly and work perfectly as an instrumental. I’m blown away by their set and they’ve definitely gained a new fan here.

Melbourne’s Windwaker bring similar energy to the early afternoon timeslot and they brought their vocalist! And man has he got pipes on him! This is metalcore with dance vibes thanks to a handy sampler/ additional percussionist (such is the style). We’re treated to new track The Wall from the week-old EP Enter the Wall, this has a far more melodic focus and features the first call (albeit subdued) for the “wall of death” of the day.

It’s evident that these guys have a heavy following, the crowd are at their every word and the energy is beaming back and forth with the band and fans alike. Once again, Australia is producing incredible music and it’s great to see this showcased on such a prominent worldwide festival.

Sydney hardcore punk band Speed are on before you know it  start dishing out the ferocious brutal hardcore that they are known for. They truly are the definition of hardcore and they take hardcore seriously, embracing all its traditions. The vibe is heavy, the attitude is turned up and by the second song they’ve welcomed three slam dancers to the crowded stage and by the third they’ve emphatically requested that “this pit” be “opened up”. And open up it does. They are unrelenting, limbs are flying up front, this is fucking brutal and I’m all for it. Fuck yes, Speed!

The last time we saw English veterans Skindred in Australia was in 2017 with Max and Iggor Cavalera. They put on an excellent show, proving why they’re at the level they are. And here we are, all these years later and honestly, the Welsh veterans are destined to be festival headliners and are on way too early in the afternoon. Can you imagine this shit at night? The “Old South Wales” natives came out to ABBA, channelled Freddie Mercury and threatened to cover Nelly’s Hot In Here… all in the first 10 minutes.

After a massive, intense half hour, the set draws to an end, not before vocalist Benji requests everyone to raise their shirts in the air, whipping them about much like a helicopter and I can promise you, it looked so much better than you could possibly imagine. Shirts swinging in unison to heaving slice of heavy metal, trust me, it’s incredible.

Escape the Fate take the stage and kick off with Forgive Me and at about the three minute mark, we are greeted with one of, if not the, first face melting guitar solo of the day, complete with sweep picking and tapping. They follow up with the fierceness of The Flood and from there it’s a hit parade spanning the band’s entire career and this is a festival set, so the pace barely lets up for a second. The forceful and soaring One For The Money closes the set out and because the crowd can catch it’s breath, it turns to stage 2 for one of Australia’s finest.

Thy Art is Murder; the name has become a staple in death metal community worldwide. Today marks their first home-town show for new vocalist Tyler Millers, a local legend around here, having once fronted Brisbane’s Aversions Crown. The love is certainly there, as when he emerges, the crowd reacts accordingly and it is off the fucking charts. Thy Art produce one of the most intense sets of the day, spending the energy reserves some in the crowd were likely saving for later on that night.

Playing through half an hour of old and new tracks, starting with Destroyer of Dreams, the epic opening track from their latest album Godlike, it’s the perfect festival set that they have curated. Going even as far to create the biggest wall of death of the day, there was no hesitations. Now we wait patiently for the Godlike tour to finally hit our shores.

The persistent rain prior during Thy Art Is Murder produced a sodden, but no less enthusiastic crowd as Wage War took the stage. The Americans made use of their sampler before getting stuck into s set full of equal parts metal breakdowns and melodic choruses. Many retreated to the relative dryness of the stands but the super-keen (or just drunk) fist pumped and head-banged up front.

If there was an award for the hottest pipes at Knotfest 2024, it would got to Lizzy Hales. But Danny Worsopp of Asking Alexandria would give her a run for her money. The band hit the stage like balls of energy and Danny’s voice starts strong and is flawless throughout. Taking no prisoners, the band blast through an 11 song set in their allotted 45 minutes, hitting nearly every release with tracks toward the end standing out like The Violence, A Prophecy and an almighty sing a long for The Final Episode.

The hype surround The Hu is something else and they have definitely generated some serious buzz in the lead up to Knotfest. I missed them the last time they were here, regrettably. But now was my chance. For the first time, I’m not photographing the Mongolian metal act.

Expectations are set impossibly high but this band is nothing short of captivating, standing in their Mongolian get up and playing their cultural Mongolian instruments, it’s hard to take your eyes off the stage. And with the rain intensifying intermittently, the gloomy landscape is possibly the perfect setting for this haunting, atmospheric instrumentation. If this is a direction metal is heading, I want to be part of it.

With the stage empty and the Halestorm banner hanging high behind the drum kit, we hear the familiar strains of frontwoman Lizzy Hales vocal wails as she walks onto the stage. With the band in tow, she continues to scream incredible notes across the grounds like a resurrected Janis Joplin. Goosebumps, man. And like a count in, she sings the opening the line to I Miss the Misery and the band kick-in flawlessly.

The crowd are totally with Lizzy and at her behest, dozens of young girls are raised on shoulders for I Get Off, creating some space for those remaining on the ground. Halestorm know how to put on a show and it wasn’t complete until drummer Arejay Hale got his moment in the spotlight, ripping through a killer drum solo, half of it with oversized sticks. Bravo.

Lamb of God hold a special place in my heart and are possibly my favourite metal band ever. I fucking love this band and I refuse to miss them when they’re here and it’s been seven long years! A lot has happened to the band since then, notably the absence of longtime drummer Chris Adler who left the band in 2018, with Art Cruz filling the chair since 2019.

Multiple albums have been released in that time and opening the set is Memento Mori from their 2020 Self-titled disc. The intro plays across the sound system, building the excitement as the band take their places onstage. As vocalist Randy Blythe screams the opening words “wake up” the band  fire into the set. Insanity seems to overwhelm the crowd. Instant chaos within the pit as fans who have waited years finally get to see the Virginian gods once again.

They lay out a set littered with some massive tracks such as Laid to Rest, Descending, Vigil and Ruin. Ending the day with the circle pit inducing hit Redneck, it’s fucking monstrous. The seven years was long, but worth it.

Talking about bands that haven’t hit Aussie soil in a long time, Disturbed haven’t been to Australia in eight years. An absolute epoch, given the stature of the band. A band that’s constantly pumping out new music and playing massive shows. Australia has missed out for a long long time.

David Draiman is an icon at this stage and he stands tall on stage in his trademark trenchcoat exuding charisma and he’s got the vocal chops to back it up. The set is on the longer side for the day but is a catalogue of their best know tracks like Stupify, Bad Man and their well-received covers of Genesis’ Land of Confusion and Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. Obviously Down With The Sickness makes an appearance toward the close but you already knew that and, yes, it was all I wanted it to be.

It’s time for the holy grail. The pièce de résistance. The numero uno. The stage is shielded by a giant black sheet, waving silently as the night wind picks up. The ever recognisable Pantera logo sits prominently across it, agonisingly teasing the fans that stand anxiously waiting in front. A video plays on the screens that sit either side of the stage playing old clips of the band, showing videos and images of our lost brothers Vinnie Paul and Dimebag.

With a sudden end to the video, David Lynch’s uncomfortable Eraserhead rendition of Peter Ivers ‘In Heaven’ plays across the sound system setting an eerie tone to the end of a massive day as lights illuminate the sheet from behind. Suddenly we’re blasted with the infamous sounds of Zakk Wydle’s wailing guitar and the sheet is ripped from its place and there, standing in front of us is Pantera. For myself, I never had the chance to see Pantera live, only being too young by a couple of years the last time they were out. So this is a moment I won’t forget.

Opening with A New Level, it’s the perfect opener for the bands return. The sound is colossal and the band is in full force. For about 10 seconds. That’s when the sound in the arena cuts out and all that’s left is the stage monitors. Boos and screams fill the void but the band are oblivious onstage. Phil notices in the break and tells the baying masses, that the band will fix the issue and be back. Five minutes pass and the band return with Phil in ‘ultimate mode’ as they tear into my personal favourite Mouth for War, followed by Strength Beyond Strength, a monumental bookend to what will be a massive set.

Becoming is next, ending with the Throes of Rejection outro, that unforgettable bending riff slays across the crowd. The set is plastered with some of the bands biggest hits, I’m Broken, Suicide Note Pt II and This Love to name a few. Walk was an inevitable addition inspiring the entire crowd to scream the word ‘respect’ at a volume that people flying in at Brisbane airport may have caught wind of.

The band leave the stage for a quick breather, leaving the crowd waiting in anticipation for the encore. At this point it could be anything, with a catalogue as big as Panteras, it’s anyone’s guess. Phil tells the crowd “it starts like this….one two three four!” and the band kick into one of Panteras most iconic thrash tracks Fucking Hostile. The song is what it says, it’s fucking loud, it’s fucking aggressive and it’s fucking fast. It’s fucking hostile.

As the band exit the stage, we’ve reached the end our 10 hour long day. One thing’s for certain, Knotfest 2024 was worth the wait. The year came around quickly, so here’s hoping that with Slipknot announcing that they will be back to headline in 2025, the next 12 months does just the same.