Knotfest, a two-day heavy music festival, featuring some of the most prominent musical acts of the genre, invaded the grounds of the San Manuel Amphitheater in San Bernardino this past weekend. Knotfest, created by one of the most successful bands in the history of metal, truly captures the apocalyptic spirit of their music and culture. Despite the shrinking attendance numbers of the Mayhem Festival this summer, Knotfest, on the contrary, seems to be doing better with age. When the event was first launched in 2012, it only featured two stages and the same headliners both nights.
This year Knotfest offered a special treat for attendees who purchased camping – an invitation-only event Friday night. Motor breath, Khaotika, The Faceless, Rings of Saturn, and the mighty Sepultura kicked off the weekend. Currently with five stages and over a hundred musical acts (none of them played two days) to choose from, Knotfest can be easily called THE EVENT for heavy metal music devotees. It is well on its’ way to replacing Ozzfest.
Saturday, notable appearances included Body Count lead by Ice-T, not only an acclaimed rapper but also an impressive heavy metal front man. The band took the crowd by storm, and despite technical difficulties at the beginning of the set, the jokes Ice-T cracked on stage didn’t take anything away from the show, on the contrary, it added some fuel and humor to an already exceptionally hot and sweaty performance.
Right before the finale, Ice-T spotted a little fan in the crowd and blasted out an anti bullying speech that was met with a roar of approval from the audience. The band wrapped up their set with the explosive “Talk Shit, Get Shot” from their latest album “Manslaughter”, and the controversial and now classic single “Cop Killer.” After Body Count left Stage 2, many of the attendees stuck around to watch the stage spin and got their fix of shock rock from heavy metal entertainers GWAR. If you have never been to their show and accidentally find yourself stuck in the front row, the chances of you getting real wet and dirty are 100%.
Famous for spraying the audience with fluids and starting off their shows with a decapitation, the band did not disappoint. They made sure that everybody, even those hiding behind the side of the stage, was covered in “blood and piss.” After all, if you are at GWAR show, it is almost a sin to leave the event without some sort of stain.
Among other notable acts that played early Saturday afternoon were Kataklysm, Belphegor, Inquisition, Abysmal Dawn, Khaotika, and Goatwhore. Fans of the extreme sound will definitely enjoy some of those bands, especially Goatwhore, who seems to be gaining a solid and dedicated fan-base.
Main Stage opener Corrosion Of Conformity went on at 5:20 p.m. sharp and played a thundering forty-minute set that featured “Wiseblood,” Seven Day”, “Vote With A Bullet,” and of course “Clean My Wounds.”
A changeover transformed the stage into the usual visually striking set up for Trivium. The band’s most dedicated fans, sporting signature t-shirts and other merch, were patiently waiting in at the barricades ready to rock and rage. If you were there and paid close attention, at that point you could notice a wave of people rushing to get closer to the main stage to witness the brilliance of Trivium. As the fluorescent blue lights dimmed, the band members took their spots, and the crowd welcomed them with a loud roar of excitement.
For a band that has produced seven studio albums, it is definitely a challenge to pick and choose what material to include into a forty-minute set. However, with the “Silence In The Snow” out this month, Trivium had a chance to showcase new music to thousands of new fans as well as the long-term faithful followers. Among other songs performed were “Strife”, “Dying In Your Arms”, and “In Waves.” With their killer guitar riffs, fearless drumming and Matt Heafy’s soaring vocals, Trivium was definitely the most dominating melodic metal act of the weekend. They concluded with the Black Sabbath cover “Heaven and Hell” as they exited to a satisfied ovation.
The crowd, well prepared by Trivium, was next in for a treat when Mastodon took the stage. Known for its experimental approach, the band wowed the audience with such gems as “Tread Lightly”, “The Motherload”, “High Road”, and “Blood and Thunder.”
What really reflects the uniqueness of their sound is the distribution of the vocal responsibilities. They are one of a few bands featuring the drummer on lead vocals. Brann Dailor pulled off the double duty effortlessly. For those who are interested in learning guitar techniques from a professional rock star, Mastodon rhythm guitarist Bill Kelliher offers lessons while on tour. All you have to do is go to the band’s Facebook page, send an email to BUTTERSLAX@HOTMAIL.COM, and you can become one of the lucky students.
Now, if you were there and still needed more metal in your system, the pioneers of the nu metal genre Korn were up next to meet your needs. The band stormed on stage around 8:30 p.m. and to the joy of the crowds presented their debut self-titled album in its entirety. It was a nice trip down the memory lane hearing and included several songs that aren’t usually on their typical setlist. Korn reintroduced the audience to everything that was somewhat forgotten. The passion and thrill Jonathan Davis still exhibited after two decades was undeniable. Ray Luzier, who replaced the original drummer David Silveria in 2007, was the greatest addition to the band; he completely embodied the style, the character and the spirit of what Korn has been representing for years. If the long lines during his signing session were any indication, the fans seem to agree.
The headliner of the night, Judas Priest, or should we simply call them “Metal Gods”, one of the most iconic and influential bands in heavy metal history, was the major attraction for thousands of fans Saturday night. The band’s new album “Redeemer Of Souls” has been receiving rave reviews and the updated set list featured much of the fresh material. It was no surprise that many fans already knew the lyrics to the new songs and sang along. If you ever wonder what real heavy metal screaming sounds like, Rob Halford is the perfect example. Richie Faulkner, after proving himself on last year’s initial tour run with the band added some palpable freshness to the band, not that the band needed it. As they have not only established the trends in overall sound but also culture and fashion, Judas Priest has become more than just a band. It is an embodiment of true heavy metal; a band that has no signs of slowing down or taking it easy. The evening concluded with the iconic “Painkiller” and “Beginning Of The End.”
That wrapped up the first day of madness on the grounds of the San Manuel Amphitheater. Yet, another round of music insanity awaited the following day. Knotfest resumed the mayhem on Sunday afternoon. Some rather attention-grabbing acts that are worth checking out were Dying Fetus, Disgorge, Internal Bleeding, Green Death, The Reaktion, Kings of Carnage, and Devour The Day (who will soon be touring with All That Remains).
Stage 3 provided a notable not-for-the-weak-of-heart performance by Cannibal Corpse. Stage 2 featured a very strong line-up. The opener Kyng, a local East L.A. band, has already been making some noise in the metal community. They shared the stage with some impressive acts in the past and recently played a halftime show at an L.A. Kiss game at the Honda Center. The closing acts on stage 2 were heavy hitters All That Remains and fan favorite Suicidal Tendencies.
The Main Stage deviated from the heavy metal festivities and opened up with performances from hip hop artists Ghostface Killah and Mobb Deep. Up next, were Maryland based rockers Clutch who ripped through “X-Ray Visions”, “Firebirds,” “Decapitation Blues” – all from their new album “PSYCHIC WARFARE”. Clutch has been pushing the boundaries of heavy metal since 1991 and shows no signs of taking it easy in the nearest future. They are preparing for an extensive touring cycle in 2016 in support of the new album, and their impressive performance is not something to be missed if they are in a town near you.
The band that was about to go on next probably brought almost as many fans to the grounds as Slipknot. But before we move on the to the last act, it’s worth taking a moment to mention some highlights of Bring Me The Horizon’s performance. First of all, the boys travelled to Knotfest from the U.K. Being a music act from Europe, and not having the advantage to play a greater number of shows in the US, the band obviously drew a huge amount of fans this time around if the noise level was any indication.
Their visually striking stage set up filled with LED panels, spotlights and occasional smoke blasts made the performance stand out from pretty much everything that the audience had seen at Knotfest so far. Their set kicked off with the single “Happy Song” from the new album “That’s The Spirit.” Frontman Oliver Sykes’ vocals abilities were somewhat reminiscent of a young Chester Bennington. The band’s deviation from metal core to a more melodic sound proved that he could handle the softer parts just as good as he had been handling all the heavier parts for years. After “Happy Song” Sykes demanded a larger mosh pit. As the band went on with the performance and the crowd madness quickly escalated, it was obvious that with each song Bring Me The Horizon was earning a greater number of new fans. Those who had never seen the band live were head banging and jumping along with the music.
If some of you are still skeptic about Bring Me The Horizon because of their look ( in the past the band was criticized for wearing clothing too clean cut for metal), you will change your mind after seeing them live. The chant elements, keys, and overall deep and heavy sound will give you chills. Wrapping up their performance with “Drown”, Bring Me The Horizon successfully prepared thousands of people for the highlight of the night – Slipknot.
Slipknot, proven to be the maddest and the wildest band on the metal scene is no longer just a music act; it is simply a lifestyle. Cory Taylor’s vocal abilities, his dominating stage persona, and his power to command and control made him into one of the most interesting, honest and craziest front man to watch. Slipknot is a spectacular show that tells you a story. Everything from the stage lightning to all of the other elements is a part of a bigger picture/puzzle. While you head banged and moshed to the intense beats and screams of “Devil and I”, “Duality”, and even some set list surprise songs, all the bad energy gradually evaporated into the air and dust floating around the grounds of San Manuel Amphitheater.
Knotfest 2015 was definitely a bigger, angrier, scarier, and better then any other heavy metal happening this season.
Knotfest will be back later on this year for one more round in Mexico on December 5. The line up will feature A Day To Remember, Asking Alexandria, Lamb Of God, thrash legends Megadeth with Slipknot concluding that day. The tickets are on sale now.