Knotfest Melbourne – Review & Photo Gallery 24th March @ Flemington Racecourse, Melb VIC
Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne VIC
March 24, 2023
Lineup: Slipknot, Parkway Drive, Megadeth, Trivium, Northlane, Amon Amarth, In Flames, Knocked Loose, Spiritbox, Story Of The Year, Alpha Wolf, Void Of Vision,
Bad Omens & Malevolence
The entry queue was packed early as thousands of maggots poured into Flemington Racecourse for the inaugural Knotfest in Australia. The weather was very Melbourne, a promise of blue skies thwarted by a dreary drizzle.
We arrived to the news that Bad Omens was a late withdrawal due to vocal concerns, pushing back the music by half an hour. This gave me plenty of time to check out the Knotfest Museum. It’s a lovingly curated collection of Slipknot memorabilia that speaks to the super fan. There are several collections of masks, boiler suits and the chance to pick up an instrument and have a jam. It’s a cool atmosphere with pumping music that got me out of the rain for a bit.
The merch booths were massive but came with enormous wait times, fair to say a few punters missed bands while they queued for a t-shirt.
Finally we started with some hardcore from Malevolence. The early crowd were enthusiastic for the Brits, with plenty surging forward to get among the mosh. ‘Still Waters Run Deep’ had some groovy leads and much head banging. ‘Self Supremacy’ was the first full circle pit of the day. ‘Higher Place’ slowed things right down, with guitarist Konan Hall on clean vocals. ‘On Broken Glass’ closed the set out with the combo of hardcore beat down and melodic chorus that left everyone satisfied that the day had started right.
One thing immediately noticeable – So many mums and dads had brought their kids to the big metal show. It was nice to see.
The two stages being side by side meant there was a lot of movement from one side to the next between bands. Up stepped Void of Vision with their distinctly non-metalcore attire. Glad in black they launched into ‘Into the Dark’, causing much jumping, swaying arms, and generally just good times. The Melbourne band had a heap of fans and made a bunch of new ones with the likes of ‘Hell Hell Hell’ getting a rousing reception. ‘Dominatrix’ went off, and the pit opened up with the improved weather for ‘Altar’.
It was straight into Alpha Wolf, another Melbourne/Tassie band that pulled a huge early crowd. Their nu-metalcore style went over well, with the front of the pit particularly vocal. ‘Hotel Underground’ was a highlight. There was a good bit of comradery between the early bands, each giving the others a shoutout. Members of Void of Vision actually ran on stage to distribute beach balls and for a moment it felt like summer again.
Not being a particularly big fan of Knocked Loose, I wandered around for a bit to see what else was on offer. Over on the Dark Stage were Jackass-style stunt tricks (bed of nails, bowling ball hanging from a piercing, etc.) and pro wrestling. Yes, my friends, Renegades of Wrestling set up a ring under the big top and put on a full card of matches. It was a nice distraction and the athletic performances were very polished. The cultural portion of the festival amounted to a number of local business stalls, some of which were excellent and totally on theme. But they were positioned at the opposite end of the venue, as far away from the stages as possible. I wonder how many ventured to check them out.
I headed back to the stage to catch Spiritbox but the gathering crowd was so dense it was hard work pushing through to an acceptable view. No doubt word had spread since their headline sideshow earlier in the week because this was highly anticipated. As the sole female vocalist of the day, Courtney LePlante took control of the stage and was warmly rewarded by the audience who popped for every tune. ‘Rotoscope’ with its mostly clean vocals was a set highlight as Courtney strutted and shook across the stage. ‘Holy Roller’ went off with a ton of positive energy in the crowd. Like a lot of the sets during the afternoon it was a little too short and their return will be a hot ticket.
Story of the Year are not my thing but someone liked it. I heard a cheer.
In Flames is a little more my thing, having enjoyed their new album Foregone. They were just absurdly awesome from the get-go. They mixed newer stuff with old stuff and had the older members of the crowd moving. ‘Only for the Weak’ from Clayman had a huge jumping pit. A couple of dudes started rowing, perhaps not realising this wasn’t Amon Amarth, so for ‘Foregone Pt1’, Anders Friden asked for a circle pit around them. It was a brutal set, proving they still have a lot to show on a lineup this stacked. Anders actually suggested people should move over to prepare for Amon Amarth. They finished with ‘Take This Life’ and caused some serious neck pain.
Along with Spiritbox, Amon Amarth was also high on many fans’ must-see lists. They kicked off with a ferocious version of ‘Guardians of Asgard’. The title track from their latest album, The Great Heathen Army, went up a notch as cardboard shields and swords started flying over the crowd. And a shoe. In what was a bit of a theme for the international bands, this was the only track from their latest release. Of course, they played ‘Put Your Back into the Oar’ and had everyone sit down and row. For many, it’ll be a last memory. ‘Raise your Horns’ got the reaction implied by the title. The set was a riot, some smirking faces in the crowd but you’d been trying pretty hard if you didn’t enjoy it. They returned for an encore, Mjolnir in hand, for an enormous pit to the sound of ‘Twilight of the Thunder God’. Epic.
After back-to-back Swedish death metal bands, Northlane were in a strange spot. Frontman Marcus Bridge came out for the intro to ‘Clarity’ by himself, and the overall theme was a cyber Assassin’s Creed. The sound was a little wonky early and it seemed to me parts of the crowd struggled to get into it. As it has since it came out, Obsidian stuff dominated the set. ‘4D’ though got a bit more out of the broader crowd. The presentation was top-notch, the first band of the day to use LED screens and their more electronic sound stood out between Swedish death metal and American thrash. As a closing combo, it’s hard to go past ‘Bloodline’ into ‘Talking Heads’ and the crowd lit up as the sun came out again.
As Matt Heafy noted, this is Trivium’s fourteenth tour of Australia since 2005 and they demonstrated why they are now one of the premiere metal bands on the planet. It was a thrash-heavy set that showed off their unique live set-up using three vocalists. ‘Rain’ into ‘Between the Shadows and the Stones’ was a fast-paced set opener. ‘Strife’ had the crowd singing along. ‘Feast of Fire’ was electric. Sadly that was it for songs from the 10/10 In The Court of the Dragon, but they made the most of their set time. They emphasised songs with clean choruses and big hooks: ‘Down From the Sky’, ‘The Heart From Your Hate’. ‘In Waves’ was predictably colossal before ‘Pull Harder in the String of Your Martyr’ caused mass circle pits and a lot of hoarse singing.
As the veteran band on the bill, Megadeth certainly had their fans queuing up in anticipation of a thrash fest. Kicking off with perennial favourite ‘Hanger 18’ they sounded terrific. Despite having a full hour, they only played a couple of tracks from the two albums they’ve released since their last tour here. Instead, they popped in deeper cuts like ‘Angry Again’ but still had time for the holy trinity of ‘Symphony of Destruction’, a riotous version of ‘Peace Sells’ and the closing ‘Holy Wars’. By his own admission, Dave Mustaine’s voice isn’t what it was but he’s an engaging personality on stage and the current lineup is shit hot.
What can be said about Parkway Drive that hasn’t been said before? Just wow. From the opening torch bearers bring the band out for ‘Glitch’ to the closing singalong to ‘Wild Eyes’, this is a band well drilled from their recent European and North American tours. They were visibly pumped up by the crowd size and enormous reaction, the likes of which I would argue no local band has ever seen. Winston stopped a few times to acknowledge the reaction, adjusting the lyrics to ‘Dedicated’ to celebrate their now 20 years as a band. Winston jumped into the crowd for ‘Karma’, demanding a circle pit as he sat atop a security guard’s shoulders and then crowd surfed back to the stage.
The string quartet came out for ‘Shadow Boxing’ and stayed for a beautiful rendition of their power ballad ‘Darker Still.’ To be honest I nearly cried at the sheer energy of the performance and audience. The crowd was on board, even if a few called for songs from the first three albums. It was my first time seeing the likes of ‘Bottom Feeder’ and ‘Crushed’ live – and they smoked me. This is the kind of gig that punters will be talking about for years to come.
After a long day of occasional sunshine and showers but mostly cold wind, the headliners took the stage. Slipknot’s unlikely rise to the top of the metal kingdom remains a great story and they left no doubt that they deserve their own festival when they ripped into ‘Disasterpiece’ and ‘Wait and Bleed’. With so many hits the band compromised on featuring newer material, only dropping in lead singles such as ‘Unsainted’ and ‘The Dying Song’. It was packed tightly to the horizon, with some fans taking to the light towers, causing a delay to the next song. The crowd was enraptured with every song, thrashing and singing with whatever was left of their voice. Despite this, I do wonder how much is left in the tank. It’s not quite the same Slipknot as before, as they’ve aged and other bells and whistles take up some of the set time. They paused for some length between nearly every song, often with a sample playing. It’s hard-hitting music no doubt and they’ve done the yards to get to this spot so it’s worth making sure you enjoy every moment as a fan. They have the artillery too: ‘Duality’, ‘Custer’ and ‘Spit It Out’ closed the main set with ‘People = Shit’ and the iconic ‘Surfacing’ saved for the encore. Few would be disappointed by the sheer spectacle of the nine members in sync and causing pit chaos with each movement.
Knotfest’s debut in Australia was a resounding success as it brought together different generations of artists and their fans. Given that all three dates sold out surely there’s enough evidence that not only Knotfest could return, but that other festivals might be viable as well. As today showed, we have local artists who can work alongside international guests and in some cases even outdo them. Surely that combination is great for the scene and an awesome spectacle for punters.
Review by KJ Draven (Twitter and Instagram).
Photo Gallery by Clinton Hatfield. Insta: @ampd.agency.
Please credit Wall of Sound and Clinton Hatfield if you repost photos.
(in order of appearance)
Void of Vision
Story Of The Year
Slipknot – Photos by Bree Vane Insta: @mindtheweathervane
Stay tuned for more in our upcoming Knotfest Digi-Mag!
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