Live review: Knotfest Melbourne delivered a monster display by the masters of macabre metal

Subscribe to Forte Magazine


Live review: Knotfest Melbourne delivered a monster display by the masters of macabre metal

Credit: Jordan Munns
Credit: Jordan Munns
Credit: Jordan Munns
Credit: Jordan Munns
Credit: Jordan Munns
Credit: Jordan Munns
Credit: Jordan Munns
Credit: Jordan Munns
Credit: Jordan Munns
1 / 9
Words By Alex Callan

It’s about damn time Australia got its own Knotfest.

For 11 years now, Aussie fans have had to sit and watch Slipknot unveil mammoth lineups for their self-curated headliner festival. And for 11 years now, we’ve been asking for it to come to our shores. 

But for some reason, it never happened. Slipknot kept expanding the festival; editions popped up everywhere from Japan to Colombia, but yet Australia’s ‘bollywood’ sized fan base seemingly always got skipped in the rotation. And then finally, slipped in between the announcements for Knotfest Argentina and Knotfest Japan, Australia scored three dates. The pulse of the maggots wasn’t just real, it was frenzied, with fans going into meltdown mode when the group’s Instagram page announced the stacked 14-act lineup.

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

An array of the world’s premier metal acts, both up and coming and iconic, packed into a one-day event? This is what metal fans had been longing for since the days of Soundwave

But good things come to those that wait, and for the 30-thousand punters who attended Knotfest, it was definitely worth the wait. 

In fact, it was pretty much perfect. From its seamless back-to-back stage setup, to its incredibly spacious wheelchair-accessible viewing platform, Knotfest was more or less the perfect event. Sure, the beers were overpriced and the lines to the merch tents were excessively long, (which is to be expected with any one-day event), but outside of that, Australia’s first-ever Knotfest (Melbourne) went off without a hitch. 

Except for Bad Omens pulling out, which upset a lot of eager fans, but considering frontman Noah Sebastian was suffering from vocal issues, it seemed to be a withdrawal that many graciously accepted. 

Making UK’s Malevolence the opening act of the day. After going too hard in the pit at Knocked Loose’s sideshow the night before, I slept in and missed the first train up to Melbourne, resulting in me missing the group’s 30 minute set. But after speaking to many wired up punters frothing on energy after the group’s set, I felt like I missed out. So I went home and listened to their most recent album Malicious Intent, and now I really wish I saw them. Ah well, we live and we learn. 

I did however make it in time for Void of Vision. Having only seen the group during their more stock- standard metalcore days, I was keen to see how their newly adopted industrial tinged, nü metal sound translated in a live setting. As expected, it hit hard. Performing songs off the Chronicle’s EP series, Void of Vision absolutely tore through their early settime, winning over a wealth of punters previously unacquainted with their newly honed in blend of electronically charged hardcore. After closing with ‘The Lonely People,’ vocalist Jack Bergin stated,  “We are ‘Void of Vision,’ remember that fucking name.”  Based on the crowd’s reaction, they will. 

Credit: Jordan Munns

Up next was fellow hometown heroes Alpha Wolf, who in my eyes have the phattest breakdowns in the Australian metal scene. I know, it’s not linguistically correct to spell ‘fattest’ with a ‘ph’, but honestly, Alpha Wolf’s breakdowns are just that phat that there is no other way to describe it. If you disagree, you can go look up a thesaurus; or better yet, go see them live. Their sets are always so gutsy, it’s hard not to get consumed by it. Their appearance at Knotfest was no exception, with the rising stars’ established brand of high pitched guitar riffs and huge breakdowns feeling so natural on a big stage setting. Opening with 60cm of Steel; Creep and Hotel Underground, Alpha Wolf had the crowd charged from the second they hit the stage, with moshers flooding the pit for the groups brief, but bludgeoning set. As always, Acid Romance’s breakdown stunned the uninitiated, while Akudama gave the group’s loyalists something to shout about. All in all, it was consistent with every Alpha Wolf set I’ve seen, exceptional. Their live shows are just something else. Honestly, if Alpha Wolf weren’t Australia’s next big metal export, it would be a crying shame. 

Knocked Loose fit 80 breakdowns into their 30 minute set. Having caught their turbulent, no-barrier show at the Colonial Hotel the night before I knew that we would be in for a chaotic set, but wow, I wasn’t ready for the sub drop at the start of Where Light Divides The Holler. Entering the stage with a resounding boom, the Oldham County hardcore outfit proceeded to unapologetically annihilate the crowd with their signature brand of beatdown hardcore. With a pouncing nature to their set, the group tore through hits like Trapped in the Grasp of a Memory; God Knows and Billy No Mates, with each song gaining an even greater crowd reception than the last. When lead vocalist Brian Garris told the crowd, “Australia you can do fucking better,” before dropping Deadringer, people went absolutely raucous, giving way to one of the most intense pits seen for the day. Being the only hardcore act on the lineup, Knocked Loose may have come across as an anomaly for some, but undoubtedly came out a favourite for many.  

Spiritbox slayed. Opening with Circle With You, the Canadian based metalcore outfit donned the stage as if they were headliners, with Courtney LaPlante adorning the crowd with her sassy stage presence and brutal live gutturals. Rotoscope’s hazy, club heavy rhythms got everyone dancing, while Holy Roller and Yellowjacket upped the ante for the moshers, with the latter bearing itself more impressive than the it’s record version (which feature guest vocals from Architect’s Sam Carter), with LaPlante delivering Carter’s feature with sinister conviction.

Story Of The Year provided a hit of nostalgia, delivering classics such as And A Hero Will Drown, Anthem Of Our Dying Day and In The Shadows, alongside newer hits such as Tear Me To Pieces. Being significantly softer than the acts before them, it did feel like a change of pace, but it was a fun set that undoubtedly got the older rockers in the crowd excited. 

I’d never looked into In Flames much before Knotfest. I knew that they are an iconic Swedish death-metal band, and that’s about it. After seeing their set, I can confirm that they have gained a massive fan in me. With their sound blending huge riffs; unrelenting solos and massive breakdowns all in one, In Flames’ phenomenal set proved why they are legends of the game.

Credit: Jordan Munns

Similarly to In Flames, I’d never been too into Amon Amarth in the past, but their live display was nothing short of spectacular. From the massive Nordic statues that stood alongside the band, to masses of fans seated down to row in unison, it was a show like no other. Closing with Raise Your Horns and the riotous Twilight of the Thunder God, Amon Amarth’s powerful display of viking metal left punters in awe. 

Unfortunately Northlane had a very muddled audio mix, leaving their sound subdued, muffled and largely bass-less. But while their sound didn’t hit as hard as normal, the group still played with precision, showcasing the elegant dark-wave simplicity of their newest release Obsidian alongside their cryptic, industrial inspired stage presence.

Trivium came out swinging, opening with 2004’s Rain, before blasting through classics such as Down From The Sky and In Waves. With some newer songs like Among The Shadows and Stone thrown in for good measure, Trivium delivered a set that left fans young and old ecstatic. Matt Heafy’s guitarmanship was a masterclass to watch; Alex Bents percussion were thunderous and technical in their approach; all round Trivium’s 45 minute set showcased melodic heavy metal at it’s finest. 

I saw Megadeth’s 2 hour set at No Sleep Til Melbourne (2010) and it wasn’t for me, so I decided to bail on their set and grab some food. From a distance I could hear Hangar 18; Tornado of Souls, Symphony of Destruction and all the classics that Megadeth fans love, so I’m sure it was a memorable experience for many. Especially considering the sheer amount of Megadeth tee’s being donned by festival goers.

Up as the second headliner for the night was Aussie icons Parkway Drive, who at this point, are undoubtedly the most beloved act to ever stem from our homegrown metal scene. But whilst the band has maintained a career now spanning a whopping twenty years, many longtime fans still like to vocalise their love for the bands older material, whilst simultaneously expressing their disdain for the group’s newer more anthemic, arena-focused sound. 

Admittedly, I am one of those fans. Whilst I’ve never expressed a clear disliking to the group’s new sound, I’ve never hidden that my preference lies in their earlier metalcore/deathcore material. So much so that the last time I interviewed the group’s lead singer Winston McCall, I commented that newer single Soul Bleach has a heavier sound that’ll resonate with older fans. He immediately laughed and said, “So it’s your favourite on the album?”

He was right. 

Credit: Jordan Munns

But after seeing the group’s spectacular new live display, I feel like the lead singer of Smash Mouth. ‘I’m a believer’ baby. It’s beyond impressive. From the Survivor-esque torch bearers that walked the group out onto the stage, to the delicate inclusion of string quartets, Parkway’s newly adopted arena spectacle is an unprecedented live display for the Australian heavy scene.

Prey’s rolling breakdown hit with thunderous effect, as did the early inclusion of Carrion, which saw punters flooding from the back straight into the pit from the second the opening riff kicked in. As predicted, Soul Bleach got the crowd pumping, with Jeff Ling’s impressive use of wah effects creating so much depth behind Luke Kilpatrick and Jia O’Connor’s pounding rhythms. Dedicated hit home, with McCall changing the song’s lyrics from “12” to “20” to represent the band’s 20th anniversary.

Karma felt incredibly nostalgic, with it being the first time I’d seen McCall actually enter the pit since the group’s Deep Blue tour in 2010. Ushering in a circle pit, with himself in the middle of it, McCall got the crowd absolutely frenetic, truly epitomising why he is regarded as one of Australia’s best frontmen. Dark Still dazzled, with Luke Kilpatrick’s rapidfire guitar changes between acoustic and electric providing such an anthemic shine alongside the inclusion of a string quartet.

Which was an amazing addition in itself, with the strings giving the group’s newer material a powerfully performative nature. In future, I’d love to see the inclusion of strings become a more stapled part of the group’s set, with forgotten gems from their back catalog such as Deliver Me; Home is for the Heartless, and the trumpet charged The Blue and the Grey, feeling absolutely primed for orchestrally based live renditions.

Maintaining the earnesty that has continued to win over legions of fans over the years, McCall briefly stopped to thank the crowd, humbly stating that “We’ve been doing this shit for 20 years and I can honestly say it would never get to this.” And considering a lot of the crowd had seen the group cutting their teeth playing intimate club shows and regional basketball courts around the country for the better part of two decades, it was a statement that resonated with many. Closing with the chant-inducing Wild Eyes, Parkway had the crowd in absolute awe, with their triumphant homecoming headliner set silencing any naysayers of the group’s new sound. 

Credit: Jordan Munns

And now onto the day’s main headliner, Slipknot. The moment we’d all been waiting for.

Now, I’m going to have to drop my ‘journalist’ voice for a second here, because holy fucking shit, Slipknot’s live display was next to none. 

From the incredibly planned out stage design, to the unparalleled energy that the group’s live sound possessed, it was a live display that any aspiring or working artist should be studying up on and taking notes. Opening with Disasterpiece, before blasting straight into Wait and Bleed, Slipknot had punters going crazy. People were trying to race into the pit, but with 30 thousand maggots (Slipknot fans) all watching in awe, the crowd was almost impenetrable. But that didn’t matter, with a crowd that size it was hard not to feel the energy, no matter where you were positioned.

Stopping to chat to the crowd, vocalist Corey Taylor remarked, “It’s been seven fucking years Melbourne. I know there was a certain global issue that kept us apart from some of our craziest fans in the fucking world, but goddammit, Slipknot are back in Australia tonight.” If there was ever any doubt about the intensity of Slipknot’s pits, that one statement put any doubt to rest, with fans going absolutely manic as Taylor’s speech bled out into the opening riff of Sulphur

Having listened to the group for the better part of 15 years now, I almost felt like I was hearing Slipknot for the first time. With it now seeming like there’s not a single recording out there that displays the earth shaking ferocity and unfaltering intensity that the group’s live sound possesses. It’s truly a live spectacle that needs to be seen to be believed. 

Credit: Jordan Munns

Mick Thompson’s opening riff to Before I Forget, scored an upheaval of applause, as did Taylor teasing The Heretic Anthem, by asking the crowd “if you’re 5,5,5, then I’m?” Psychosocial hit hard, with the group’s trio of percussionists all banging in unison to the punching chorus, whilst Duality unsurprisingly scored the loudest singalong of the night. 

Having never really been a fan of the group’s fifth album ‘.5 The Grey Chapter’, the grunt of Custer’s riff blew me away; as did Taylor’s live vocal cadence for the rap/metal Spit It Out, which was delivered perfectly compared to some of the group’s earlier live recordings.

Closing with People = Shit and Surfacing as their encore, Slipknot left the crowd of 30 thousand absolutely stunned, proving once and for all why they are regarded as God’s amongst the modern day metal scene. 

As stated by Taylor, “I knew tonight would be fucking amazing but I didn’t know it would be this amazing”. Me either Corey, me either. I don’t think anyone did. Sure, everyone knew that Slipknot are an incredibly well-oiled live outfit, but their Knotfest appearance was unparalleled. Truly a monster display by the masters of macabre metal.