The metal fest known as Knotfest hit the desert plains of San Bernardino, California for two days of non-stop metal devastation! Someof the biggest names in metal were in attendance as well as some newer band and the Coldcock Whisky winners. I was fortunate enough to get access to both days of the festival and photograph bands to my metal heart’s desire with the exception of both day’s headliners Judas Priest and Slipknot. The festival also saw many attractions besides bands which included people on stilts, thunderdome, Slipknot museum, carnival games, and carnival rides. I arrived early on to catch many of the bands that I’ll either be seeing for the first time or for the second or more time.
Inquisition is a two-man black metal band from Colombia. As most black metal bands perform, they had corpse painting and all black outfits. For many fans, this was their first time seeing Inquisition. Inquisition started the show with Force of the Floating Tomb. Frontman Dagon has an interesting voice when singing as it sounds almost robotic, yet still has that black metal feel. While their music isn’t relatively fast as most black metal bands, Inquisition prefers a calmer style. Still, with their style of music they pulled in the crowd with plenty of horns thrown in the air and headbangers seen on the rail.
Swedish melodic death metal lords At the Gates were one of the main attractions of side stage 2. Plenty of fans were seen screaming their name and singing along as they started the show with Death and the Labyrinth from their newest album At War With Reality which is their first album in 19 years. The mosh pits commenced and helped At the Gates start off strong. At the Gates continued the slaughter with Slaughter of the Soul from their 1995 landmark album, Slaughter of the Soul. Being their biggest hit, fans went absolutely crazy as the mosh pits got more violent and huge clouds of dust were lifted from the ground and people could be seen covering their mouths and coughing. Some fans were seen waving the flag from Sweden as a thank you for At the Gates performing this one off USA show. Other songs in their setlist included: Cold, Under A Serpent Sun, Suicide Nation, and Blinded by Fear. At the Gates have proven themselves to be one of Sweden’s biggest bands and fans are very grateful to have them return after a very long hiatus.
Body Count is a heavy metal band formed by and fronted by legendary rapper Ice-T. Most people would think it’s odd to have an almost all black band perform heavy metal music. Some are for it, some are against it, some really don’t care. Body Count started the show with Body Count’s in the House and were welcomed with open arms as fans went wild and the mosh pits continued. After their performance of Masters of Revenge, guitarist Ernie C started experiencing technical difficulties and in the meantime, Ice-T entertained the audience by telling dirty jokes to which the crowd loved and laughed at them. The show continued and they played songs like Manslaughter and There Goes the Neighborhood. Body Count finished their set with their most controversial song, Cop Killer. Fans moshed and raised their fists and horns as they sang along, “Fuck the police! Fuck the Police!”. Body Count definitely knew how to get the crowd going and left the fans wanting more.
Belphegor is a blackened death metal band from Austria and along with stage-mates Kataklysm, have made the first stop of their tour at Knotfest. Belphegor have an intimidating stage presence with two microphone stands covered by bones and the band members have their faces painted white and covered with makeup that resembles blood. Plenty of fans could be seen anxiously waiting as Belphegor started the show with Feast Upon the Dead. Frontman Helmuth would unleash his demon-like vocals on the crowd while shedding on the guitar. Quite often he would make these evil faces while rolling his eyes to the back of his head giving him a truly demonic look. Other songs in their setlist included: Belphegor – Hell’s Ambassador, Lucifer Incestus, and Bondage Goat Zombie. Belphegor has just started their US tour and hopefully will make another Southern California stop to truly experience a full set instead of a cut-down set.
The scumdogs of the universe Gwar are no strangers to the metal world. Infamously known for their stage theatrics, props, costumes, and of course their heavy use of blood (red food coloring) and other bodily fluids. Even with the death of Oderus Urungus, Gwar lives on and continues to spread their shenanigans to the masses. A human with an overly-sized head came out to greet the fans only to be held down by Bonesnapper and decapitated by a huge sword in which the body started spraying a stream of blood to the crowd as Gwar started the show with Crush, Kill, Destroy. Fans were overly joyed at the thought of being covered in blood and happily puts themselves in the path of the stream and soon lots of fans looked like they got a tan from the blood turning orange on them. An alien monster with a snail-shaped penis came out on stage to intimidate the fans and address since Urungus is dead, Gwar belonged to him now. Gwar would have none of that and proceeded to have an on-stage battle with Bonesnapper using an axe to beat down the alien monster as the band started to play Vlad the Impaler. The alien monster would then proceed to piss on the fans with his yellow liquid giving the human filth another chance to be soaked in alien piss. Other songs they played were: Saddam a Go-Go, The Salaminizer, and Sick of You. Gwar was one of the best side stage bands and were the final band on stage 2 as fans that were in the pit were seen leaving soaked in blood.
Kataklysm is a Canadian death metal band and released their twelfth studio album titled Of Ghosts and Gods on July31, 2015. Along with Belphegor, they embarked on the Of Ghosts and Gods USA tour and made Knotfest their first stop. Kataklysm started the show with If I Was God…I’d Burn It All. Frontman Maurizio Iacono displayed his powerful voice and really displayed his technique. It took a few tries for Iacono to get the crowd going into a mosh pit instead of standing around. Kataklysm has a very heavy sound to their music and metalheads will have an easy time headbanging to their music. Sadly, Kataklysm are heavily underrated. They played songs like: The Black Sheep, The Ambassador of Pain, and Crippled & Broken. The whole band has a great stage presence and are more deserving than what they get. If this tour makes a stop in or near your area, they are definitely worth checking out.
The first band on the main stage that I got to check out was Trivium. Trivium released their seventh studio album Silence in the Snow on October 2, 2015. Trivium had plenty of fans in the crowd and some of the crowd up front had signs for them to see. Trivium came out and started the show with Silence in the Snow from the new album. Trivium‘s music can often be described as a blend of metalcore, thrash metal, and heavy metal. Some might refer to them as new age Metallica. Frontman Matt Heafy would shred away track after track and enjoyed interacting with the fans. The other band members did their part in making their music sound just as good live as on album. Trivium played songs from their catalog like: Until the world Goes Cold, Blind Leading the Blind, and In Waves. Trivium has a great stage presence and made a great addition to get the audience warmed up for the other main stage bands.
Progressive/sludge metal band Mastodon is currently one of the biggest bands in metal and on June 24, 2014, released their sixth album, Once More ‘Round the Sun. Mastodon started the show with the first track from the new album, Tread Lightly. As Mastodon does with most tours, it’s no surprise to see that the new album dominated their setlist with as many as 6 tracks of the 10 songs performed were from the new album. Mastodon is one of those bands that sound so well live that they sound just like the album, note for note. In addition to the new songs, they also played older songs like: Aqua Dementia, Bladecatcher, and Black Tongue. During the middle of the set, frontman Troy Sanders made note to the audience that this exact Mastodon show was their 2,000th show. One of the best songs played was High Road, the first single from the new album and the music video for it is the first ever metal music video to contain females twerking. Mastodon ended the show by playing their most popular song and one of the most well-known metal songs, Blood and Thunder from their critically-acclaimed and Moby-Dick inspired Leviathan album. Mastodon is surely on their way of becoming one of the biggest metal bands of all time.
Nu-Metal veterans KoRn are currently celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of their self-titled debut album. KoRn‘s first stop on the 20th anniversary tour was at Knotfest. KoRn started the show with Blind, the first track from the self-titled album. Drummer Ray Luzier started the song by repeatedly hitting his ride cymbal as the song originally starts. Bassist Fieldy would hit the quick funky bass notes. Guitarists James “Munky” Shaffer and Brian “Head” Welch would introduce the song letting the fans know the show was about to start. Frontman Jonathan Davis came center, took ahold of his signature mic stand, screamed into it, “ARE YOU REEAADDYYY!?!?” as the song started in full force with all members headbanging and fans on the floor jumping simultaneously for an impressive sight. For this tour, KoRn was playing their debut album in its entirety. Some songs they haven’t played from that album in years and others they play regularly. Songs like Ball Tongue and Need To have recently been been played for the first time since the anniversary tour of the album that started earlier this year. Other song like Clown and Faget are fan-favorites that are regularly played, but are still welcomed from old and new fans. Being that KoRn has a shorter setlist than their own headlining tour, they couldn’t possibly plays just songs from the debut album. Instead, they played the first seven songs from the debut album. Davis came out with his signature bag pipes and fans knew what song was coming next. Shoots and Ladders is one of KoRn‘s best songs and is played at almost all their shows and is always fun singing along to a mix of nursery rhymes. To mix up the setlist, KoRn played some of their other hits starting with Falling Away From Me. This being a fan-favorite, the crowd was very into it and jumped to the beginning of the song and fans could be seen singing along. Here to Stay and Did My Time were other fan-favorites that made people in the crowd go wild and mosh pits could be seen from anywhere in the venue. KoRn finished the show with their most popular song, Freak on a Leash. Fans could be seen singing along to the song and of course loved with when Davis performed the beat box solo that the song is known for. KoRn finished the show and came out to greet fans and have their kids come out as well as they threw guitar picks and drum heads into the crowd. KoRn left the stage and paved way for the headliner of the night; the gods of heavy metal, Judas Priest!
Judas Priest is regarded as one of the greatest metal bands of all time and they have every right to be called that. Led by the metal god Rob Halford, Judas Priest has earned their place in the music world as one of the greatest bands in metal. After what seemed to be the end for the band, they came back to release their seventeenth studio album Redeemer of Souls on July 8, 2014. Judas Priest served as the perfect headliner for night 1 with lots of fans waiting for the metal gods. Black Sabbath‘s War Pigs played over the speakers and fans knew that was the cue that Judas Priest was about to start. The lights went out and fans screamed as loud as they could as the intro track Battle Cry played over the speakers. The curtain that was covering the stage came down and revealed Judas Priest on stage as they started the show with the first track from the new album, Dragonaut. Judas Priest kept to their roots by playing classics as the show continued with Metal Gods, a song about robots and technology taking over the world. Victim of Changes was the third song and gave Halford a chance to show that age hasn’t affected his legendary voice as he let out his beautiful high-pitched voice throughout the song. He would send a shiver down your spine as he sang, “VICTIM OF CHAAANGEEESSS!!” and guitarists Richie Faulkner and Glenn Tipton played the song to perfection and showed why they’re two of metal’s greatest guitarists. Halls of Valhalla is another new song that they played followed by The Rage which was a nice treat given that they don’t play that too often. The synth intro to the next song could be heard and fans knew exactly what was coming. The classic song, Turbo Lover. Halford would hold out the mic to fans and let them, “I’m your Turbo Loverrr!” Halford would sing, “Tell me there’s no otherrr”. Halford would hold out the mic again and let fans again sing, “I’m your Turbo Loverrr!” and Halford would finish with, “better run for coverrr!”. The real treat of the night came when they played the next song, Screaming For Vengeance from their album of the same name which itself is a metal masterpiece. That song hasn’t been performed in almost 30 years and many younger fans were overjoyed to finally have the chance to hear it live. Halford was at the top of his game as he sing in high-pitch with little problem as the song requires. Faulkner and Tipton performed the guitar solos to perfection and really brought the song to life after so long. Following that, Judas Priest kept bringing out the classics that made them who they are. The next song was one of the greatest songs in metal, Breaking the Law. Anyone that listens to metal should be familiar with this song. Halford would hold out the mic to the audience as they sang the chorus, “Breaking the Law! Breaking the Law!”. It is a very fun song to sing to live and amazing to experience everyone singing along. The stage went silent as the sound of an engine roaring could be heard. Fans screamed as they knew exactly what was coming next. Halford came out riding a motorcycle and to no surprise, the next song was Hell Bent For Leather. The stage went dark again as the familiar intro of The Hellion started and fans sang along to the intro of, “ooo-ahh-ooo-oh”. The intro ended and Judas Priest jumped right into Electric Eye. Fans all over could be heard singing along to the chorus, “I’m electric, electric spy. I’m protective Electric Eye”. The band took a quick break while Halford engaged with the crowd with some vocal exercises as the crowd followed his lead. Judas Priest was to end the one with another one of their most popular songs, You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’. Fans were loving singing along to this song from start to finish. The show seemed to be over until Jose from SiriusXM Radio came out and asked the crowd if they wanted one more song. The crowd cheered to no surprise and Judas Priest came out to play the final song of the night, Painkiller. What a perfect choice for a show finisher. This song is the definition of heavy metal. Dual guitar leads, fast drumming, and Halford’s legendary voice. Halford finished the song strong with a very long, “Pain…killerrrrrrrrrr!!”. Judas Priest showed off their musicianship one last time in a huge noise of heavy metal music mashup of guitars and drums being played at the same time combined with the screaming of fans. Judas Priest left the stage while leaving the crowd overwhelmed that they just witnessed one of the greatest bands in metal. So was the end to day one of Knotfest.
At the Gates