When we left off with Part 1 of my Knotfest coverage, my 11 year-old son Jesse and I were crashed at the local Days Inn, worn out by a jam-packed day of killer heavy metal featuring stellar performances by Carcass, Hatebreed, Anthrax, Danzig, and live debut of the new lineup from Slipknot themselves.
Day two commenced around 11:00AM with a quick swing through the Taco Bell next door for some much-needed (and way cheaper than venue prices) grub to fuel the first part of the day. Then we were off to the ten minute drive to the parking lot and a reprise of the 20 minute climb to the actual venue itself. Conspicuously absent were the “salvation by any means necessary” religious protestors from day one. It was Sunday, after all. Or maybe they just heard all of the killer metal wafting out on day one and saw the light, threw down their signs and came to the dark side. I’m choosing to believe the latter.
The first order of business was to head over to stage 5 for an absolutely inspiring set by Los Angeles thrash unit Exmortus. This band features two of the sickest guitar players that I have seen in a long time. They were absolutely electrifying and even showed off a bit by shredding the face off of a Beethoven piece. If you like old-school thrash/speed metal, you NEED to acquaint yourself with these guys!
Up next, over on stage 3, was the pride of Knoxville, the mighty Whitechapel. These guys play a brutally crushing form of metal known as deathcore. Just like the name says, it’s death metal with a hardcore sensibility. These dudes are renowned for their intense live shows and today was no exception. Their most recent album, 2014’s Our Endless War is an absolute essential for any fan of the genre.
Then it was time for Devil Driver. This is a high energy band that I have seen several times before and much like those previous times they were excellent on this day. This was their last gig before an extended hiatus. Lead singer Dez Ferrara is preparing to reunite with his original band Coal Chamber for a new album and tour. Unfortunately it was also the very last gig with the band for a couple of members. Ferrara explained in a press release a couple of days later:
“Hey everyone. What a blast Knotfest was. No better way to end the Winter Kills cycle. With the end of this cycle comes some other endings. John Boecklin, Jeff Kendrick and DevilDriver have parted ways. Nothing dramatic, no drag down fights, just time to move on. As I have said previously, DevilDriver is on hiatus while I re join Coal Chamber for a new record release and tour. DevilDriver will be back, make no mistake of that, in 2016 with a new record which we are already writing, tours around the world and the massive pits you have all gotten used to. All in DevilDriver wish John and Jeff the best.”
That news is a bit of a bummer, but I hope we will see more of Devil Driver with new members sooner than later, as they are a great asset to the metal world.
At least 51 percent of the reason that Jesse and I were even at this festival was for what happened next. Killswitch Engage came out and absolutely leveled the place with a high energy, hits-laden set. They had the whole place headbanging and the band themselves seemed to be having the time of their lives.
Jesse Headbanging To Killswitch!
It was by far the largest crowd for the side stages that I witnessed the entire weekend. This was just a couple of dates before the conclusion of their extensive world tour for the album that I picked as the very best of 2013, Disarm The Descent. The band is now back at work on the follow-up album and I, for one, can not wait to hear it!
Killswitch Engage Knotfest Set Part 1
Killswitch Engage Knotfest Set Part 2
On our way back to the main amphitheater, we stopped by stage 5 where metal institution Napalm Death were holding court. They probably generated the most rabid moshpit of the entire weekend. They were on top of their game and the small but loyal crowd ate it up. It’s great to see these guys still out there giving it all they’ve got.
We found our way up to our seats at the main stage and settled in for what we expected to be a very boring wait through the five bands before Slipknot; two of which we were completely indifferent to, two more that we knew little about, and one that we downright despise.
Up first was the metal “supergroup” Hellyeah. This band consists of members and former members of Mudvayne, Nothingface, and Pantera. I’ve never really thought very much of this band either way even though I did like some Mudvayne and loved Pantera. Vinnie Paul is still one of metal’s most powerhouse drummers. These guys delivered a good, high-energy set. Not enough to make a convert out of me, but I can see why people dig them.
Atreyu were the next act to take to the mainstage. I knew little to nothing of them before this point. I have to say, I actually enjoyed their set. They’re a high-octane breed blend of traditional metal and metalcore. Not really reinventing the wheel or anything, but very well-executed. My son really seemed to dig them a lot.
Tech 9 is the self-proclaimed “biggest indepedent rapper in the world.” I’m not going to critique this performance because I am unqualified to do so. I am not a fan of rap in any way, shape, or form. I fail to find any logic in putting a rapper on the main stage of a giant metal festival at all. What I will say about this guy is that he seemed like a genuinely humble and nice dude. He talked about how that day would have been his mom’s 59th birthday, but she had succumbed to Lupus back in June and how he felt her looking down and smiling. It was very touching. I also give him major credit for actually performing with a real live band.
Up next were Volbeat. This Danish band’s stock has been on a steady rise for the last few years. They just wrapped up a hugely successful tour with Trivium and had their act down very tight as a result of all the touring. This is a band that I was really on the fence about, but they made a fan out of me on this night. It may be a weird analogy, but something about their stage show and delivery reminded me of a heavier Muse. Very quality performance in every way.
The final act to appear before Slipknot would take the stage for the second night was the band that I refer to as “the Nickelback of metal.” Five Finger Death Punch make meat head “bro” rock that panders to jocks and knuckle-draggers of the worst variety. They’ve made a career mostly by covering classic rock songs (poorly) and songs about how people who don’t like them can pleasure them orally. Their dick of a singer brought an eight-year-old girl onstage and encouraged her to sing something containing the words “mother fucker.” He then proceeded to bitch and moan about how his band had been promised more space on the stage and verbally refusing to wrap up their set on time. Maybe if your drummer didn’t feel the need for a ten minute drum solo, you wouldn’t be so short on time. What is this the ’70s? His hostility towards Slipknot was rounded out by thanking all of the bands except the hosts. Every other band that I witnessed this weekend sent a shout-out to the festival’s namesake for having them on the bill, but not this band. Seriously classless… fuck this dude!
Slipknot rounded out the festival by headlining the main stage for a second night. Their performance was every bit as electrifying as it had been the first night. The difference being that the band treated fans to a set featuring some songs that had not been performed live in some time and their live debut of two new songs from their excellent new album, .5: The Gray Chapter, including the single “The Devil In I.” Corey Taylor’s mask problems from the first night were sorted out and no one would have ever guessed that this was a band that was just getting it’s legs back under it after the loss of two founding members. By the time “Surfacing” ended and the band took their leave to a recording of their own song “‘Til We Die,” we were worn out from a relentless two days of killer metal. See video of Slipknot’s full performance from the second day here below.
50,000 metalheads congregated in Glen Helen Park this weekend and I am not aware of a single incident of violence occurring. Some people believe that heavy metal breeds a culture of violence. I am not one of those people. I truly believe that metal is the last form of music that brings people from all nations, cultures, and walks of life together, united in a passion for expertly executed musicality and all of the unspoken emotions that it invokes.
I know two individuals for whom it has helped forged a powerful bond. As I look over at Jesse beginning to nod out in the passenger seat of the rental car while Ozzy blasts away on the satellite radio on the hour-long drive home I’m reminded of all of the amazing shows that my old man took me to back in the day. I lost my own father eight years ago almost to the date, but I will never forget those times. Even the shows that weren’t particularly memorable for the artist or performance are indelibly etched in my brain because we were together. I can only hope that this weekend proves to be one of those memories for my own son.
Slipknot Full Set Knotfest Night 2
Sarcastrophe (Live premiere)
The Heretic Anthem
My Plague (First time played since August 29th, 2002)
The Devil in I (Live premiere)
Opium of the People (First time played since March 30th, 2004, Second time played ever)
The Blister Exists
Before I Forget
‘Til We Die
P.S. Fuck you Gene Simmons… Rock ain’t dead by a long shot!