Live Review: Knotfest @ Brisbane RNA Showgrounds

27 March 2023 | 1:30 pm | Tim Price
Originally Appeared In

“I am going to keep going with this set until my voice no longer works.”

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The day was here, and the carnival of crazy had arrived! Without even arriving at the venue, word had spread on social media and text that the entry line was LONG, wrapping around the Bowen Hills bridge to the RBWH and O’Connell Terrace. The PTSD of the entry line for Good Things late last year had definitely gotten to some. But, in superb style, the promoters had learned from that debacle, and gates were open a full hour earlier, and the line moved with purpose, for these weren’t just heavy music fans; this was the Slipknot family, Maggots, if you will. 

As I entered, the main arena was already absolutely heaving to the sounds of Bad Omens. Frontman Noah Sebastian made mention of his vocal blowouts/dilemmas earlier in the week and said he might need help singing some of the following songs. He did not need help. His pipes were in immaculate form today, and there was absolutely no concern to be had here as he transitioned from pristine cleans to aggressive/abrasive screams. From everything I had witnessed online this week (the demand for them and punters asking that their set time be longer), coupled with their song, Just Pretend, going viral, this is a band I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see back.

Pic By Jordan Munns

Void of Vision took to Stage 2 in their sleek leather outfits (gotta give props for having the timeslot they did, in the full blistering sun, and giving it the energy they did) and stormed the stage early on to a big reaction. HELL HELL HELL was a big highlight of the set, and frontman Jack Bergin ended the set, telling the crowd that this one was for his “LONELY PEOPLE”. It was short and sweet, to be sure, but Void of Vision delivered. There was a promise made that after this set, they were taking a little time to reflect, then entering the studio to write what they promised to be their “best record yet”, which is 100% a high bar to set.

If VoV was a party starter, Alpha Wolf was a riot starter. The band have been pretty open this week with their delight at the early crowds' size and enthusiasm for their set. They’ve just returned from the US, and they were MATCH-FIT. This was a cohesive and intent unit of band members, a well-oiled machine, a crack team of mosh warriors. They knew how to push the crowd’s buttons and make them move. It was like watching a puppeteer. Drummer Mitch Fogerty gets a special mention here, as he was TIGHT. They’re not stopping, either. They’re off to Europe next week. Epic.

Pic By Jordan Munns

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Knocked Loose was up next. I had an inkling that my 19-year-old nephew, who had never even heard of Knocked Loose, would be a convert by the end of their set. I did not mention it to him, only alluding that this was more of a punk hardcore set and that they were intense. I had the inkling that he might like them, and sure enough, at the end of the Knocked Loose set (which felt way too short, I might add), he piped up saying he was suitably impressed and that Bryan Garriss gave him whiffs of the same energy of Zack De La Rocha. And rightly so. 

Pic By Jordan Munns

There were absolutely no prizes for guessing who I was there to see today. I have their Eternal Blue album art logo tattooed on my arm, and I had long waited for this moment to arrive. Considering their fairly early set time, I shouldn’t have been surprised at their relatively short set list, but I definitely wanted more. Certainly, with the quickly sold-out nature of their show in Melbourne last Thursday with Make Them Suffer and Reliqa, and the massive turn-outs early on at Melbourne, Sydney, and now Brisbane, Spiritbox’s swift return has to be on the cards. The band took the stage, leaving Courtney to enter alone, garnering a huge cheer. Yesterday’s Sydney set saw her in orange; today, she wore a white Beyonce hoodie and tennis skirt - her presence felt from the front to the back and side-to-side of the RNA showgrounds. Singlaongs, mosh, and awe from the crowd was the vibe - and the setlist rollicked through fan favourites and singles from Eternal Blue, the viral YouTube hit Rule of Nines and two out of three tracks from the Rotoscope 3-track released in 2022. Rotoscope and Holy Roller hit hard, but nothing quite as hard as the final outro screams of Hysteria. Spiritbox = perfection. I got everything I wanted out of their live show and more—incredible presence.

Pic By Jordan Munns

In an unfortunate turn of events, I completely missed both Story of the Year and In Flames due to food taking an excessive amount of time to get, but once that was chowed down, it was time to get back into the main arena for Amon Amarth. I am certainly in the minority here, as their crowd was out in force today and loved every second of their show, but this show wasn’t really for me. There was no doubt that there was an incredible energy there for them, what with the crowd literally sitting on the ground and rowing an imaginary Viking ship for them and a massive portion of the crowd throwing the horns for them in unison and more. They have a special talent for getting their fans and the crowd on their side, proudly proclaiming that everyone in Brisbane were now VIKINGS, and I mean, how can you not have your ego stroked by that? 

Northlane is a band who needs no introduction, and they hit the stage running, with Marcus wearing some pretty old-school wraparound sunnies and Josh from the band wearing what looked like Pit Viper sunnies. Marcus hit the set looking like a mosh high priest/extra from The Matrix, and the adrenaline didn’t let up from there. My crew and I all enjoyed this set, but that was almost a pre-determined fact, as Northlane rarely, if ever, disappoint. The setlist was essentially a 2022 album Obsidian and 2019 album Alien 'Best-Of' set, and I think that it goes without saying that anticipation is high for new Northlane tracks! 

Anyone who knows me knows that I am semi-obsessed with the phenomenon of the 'Nightwatchmen band' - the band who takes the festival from day to night mode and makes that transition BEST in lifting the energy and vibe. Tonight it happened to be Northlane, as the sun went down during their set, but I believe it was intended to be Trivium.

Trivium hit Stage 2 following Northlane, and Matt Heafy delivered a masterclass in modern metal. He really does spearhead the band and anchor it in such a way as to translate it to the crowd and the fans, and there is such precision in the delivery. Seeing some colours other than black and darkened blues and greens and reds were a welcome change. The backdrop featured yellow tones that were repeated in Heafy’s jacket. The Heart From Your Hate was an obvious highlight in the set, and they finished up by letting everyone know about their show with Amon Amarth on Tuesday night at Eaton’s Hill, letting everyone know that there will be a different set list and many more tracks. 

Pic by Kane Hibberd

It was so good to see Dave Mustaine back at the front of Megadeth and in what looked like very good health after his cancer scare. He was very proud to tell the crowd not to worry, that he’d “kicked cancer’s ass”, which is awesome. The set kicked off, and the flashing nuclear symbols in their visuals reminded me that Megadeth had, indeed, written the Duke Nukem game theme, and it made me wonder if they’d ever played it in their live set. I will admit to not being super familiar with Megadeth, and in all truthfulness here, I found their set lacked the energy of the rest of the pack here. The crowd was mild for this set, with only flashes of high-energy crowd interaction. I feel that if this were a festival with stages in different areas, Megadeth, as a headliner of a secondary set of stages, would have been perfect, and the people there for Megadeth might’ve had more bang for their buck. But it wasn’t to be tonight. Seeing Mustaine well and smashing it was great, but this set just didn’t blow my mind.

In direct opposition to that, Parkway Drive delivered everything tonight. The spectacle, the drama, the emotions, the passion, the energy, the professionalism, the inspiring perseverance, and more. This was a special night for the band, as it marked essentially their 20th anniversary as a band. They made sure to mention it, with Winston even changing the lyrics in Dedication from "12 years" to "20 years" to honour the milestone. They came out swinging hard, but by the end of Soul Bleach, Winston said some words that chilled me to my bones in a voice that wavered in and out. “I don’t know if anyone heard that, but my voice just exploded. That’s never happened to me in 20 years. We are going to need to have a chat about this.” The band quickly convened, with Winston returning to say, “I am going to keep going with this set until my voice no longer works.” following up with Vice Grip and Dedication. Vice Grip’s catch-cry “One Life, One Shot, Give it all you Got” and Dedication stating that there is “No compromise, no surrender” in the band’s toolkit genuinely had me proud to be an Aussie. The Byron Bay lads did NOT slow down; they didn’t stop and delivered on all fronts. Their pyrotechnics, their sound, everything, was incredible. Winston asked for help on a few songs from the crowd but simply did not give up. As they gathered on the stage to take bows, Ben Gordon grabbed the mic and said, “I’ve never done this in the 20 years we’ve been together as a band”, and began to sing the praises of Winston, who was visibly crying at this point. Overcome with the gravity of the moment and the emotion; it was plain to see that this means everything to the band, and punched through an encore of Crushed and Wild Eyes. 100% worthy of entry into the pantheon of the metal gods.

Pic By Jordan Munns

And with that, all that was left was to see the festival's namesake. Slipknot, indeed, is the heirs-apparent to the Metal Throne as THE G.O.A.T. once Metallica calls it a day. Blasting through tracks that spanned their entire career, this was an experience far more than simply a festival set. The maniacal bashing of beer kegs with flaming baseball bats, the slithering of members of the band over the separate levels of the set, the masks, the pyro, the theatricality of it, Corey Taylor’s purposeful hyping of the crowd that was so intent on the inclusion of everyone into the Slipknot family and more. This show demonstrated exactly why this band has longevity and can have a festival in their name. This is a band that inspires. From the fans right through to the other bands chosen for this lineup - they are the goal, the milestone, and the ones to match. The setlist, while incredible, was almost irrelevant, as the band could have been playing anything on the stage, and they would have the crowd eating it up. Let’s have Slipknot back again real soon, please. 

Pic By Jordan Munns

Knotfest Australia was a RESOUNDING success, all things told. Let’s go for the next one, bring it on!