Slipknot’s Knotfest bring international flavors of metal to Pittsburgh

When Slipknot created their very own festival in 2012 with the likes of Deftones, Lamb of God, and Cannibal Corpse there was a ton of people who wish they could afford the trip to Iowa to see the inaugural bash. The tradition continued and grew to be held in Japan in 2014, and California in 2014 and 2015. Ozzfest meets Knotfest came about in 2016 and 2017, along with a Mexico outing in 2016 as just Knotfest and a 2018 lineup in Columbia. There was also a Knotfest meets Hellfest in 2019 which finally brought us to the Knotfest Roadshow in 2019.

With a fantastic line-up of Behemoth from Poland, Gojira from France, and Volbeat from Denmark, Slipknot brought an international flavor to be combined with their own brand of American metal. It’s not surprising that Knotfest Roadshow has been selling out wherever it goes.

Friday, August 23, 2019, was no exception at Key Bank Pavillion just west of Pittsburgh. With a 5:30 start time many people were cutting work early or altogether to get some tailgating in before showtime. Behemoth opened up the festivities with their dark brand of metal. Visually and audibly Behemoth had to be the most stunning of all the acts. Though some may have been familiar with them when they opened for Slayer, some in the crowd were newly initiated to the satanic/anti-religion element of Nergal, Orion, Inferno, and Seth. Appearing on stage wearing masks, spitting blood, and billowing smoke like the old US Steel stacks, Behemoth did not come to screw around. Lead singer and guitar player Nergal was absolutely brilliant as he used his eyes, makeup, and clothing to convey the darkness of his music to the masses. Orion was an imposing figure with his blacked-out eyes, muscular frame, and pounding bass. Seth with a pentagram in black marked on his neck, played riff after riff of heavy downbeats as his long hair blew about. And Inferno, hidden mainly behind his drum kit, showed a precise mastery of percussion from the dais. The pyro was engulfing, Nergal’s black miter hat and upsidedown crucifix were transfixing, and the music was as good as dark metal gets. The band is so good at delivering a show it would be incredible to have them come back and do a smaller stage and not play in daytime hours.

setlist: Solve, Wolves ov Siberia, Daimonos, Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, Bartzabel, Conquer All, Sabbath Mater, Chant for Eschaton 2000

Gojira from France is one of the most exciting acts to come to the metal scene in a long time. Having started in Bayonne as far back as 1996, Joe and Mario Duplantier along with Christian Andreu and Jean-Michel Labadie have managed to bring a very unique and signature sound to the scene. No strangers to Pittsburgh as a support act and headliner, Gojira put on an intense set filled with that whale-like guitar sound that permeates many of their songs. Although not as visually intense as Behemoth, the band brought the fire through their music and stage presence. Joe Duplantier sings with ferocity and fervor as well as plays incredible guitar crunches and riffs. Jean-Michel always keeps the low end down but manages to stomp, twirl, and gesture a heaviness that blends with the music. Joe’s brother Mario is one of the elite drummers in music today and his fills and cymbal work are beyond top-notch. Last, but certainly not least, Andreu is a wizard technically and emotionally with his lead guitar work. Combined, the four create a palpable force to be reckoned with. Still touring off of their last release, Magma, the socially conscious band should hopefully be wrapping up and setting sights on new material. setlist: Toxic Garbage Island, Backbone, The Heaviest Matter of the Universe, Stranded, LoveThe Cell, Silvera, The Gift of Guilt

It what many may seem as a surprise for the bill, Volbeat from Denmark filled the third spot by bringing a more toned-down style of metal. Many of the concert-goers thought Volbeat a strange choice as their sound is created through a fusion of metal. straight-up rock n roll, and rockabilly. Volbeat has enjoyed success since 2001 and is touring on their seventh album, Rewind, Replay, Rebound. Singer/guitarist/main songwriter Michael Poulson has a very distinct voice that falls somewhere in the love it or hate it category. Former Anthrax guitar player, Rob Caggiano, has been an excellent addition since 2013 with his own distinct style not showcased in his former band. Bassist Kaspar Boye Larsen cuts a low key figure along with drummer Jon Larsen as they both keep the rhythm section going strong. A highlight was definitely Poulson doing a snippet of Cash’s “Ring of Dire” before “Sad Man’s Tongue” as he wielded both an acoustic and an electric guitar. Volbeat is somewhat of an acquired taste like yogurt, it may be good to ingest it, but not everybody cares for its taste. Many of the more heavy loving fans took the opportunity to grab some beers and warm-up for Slipknot, but there were far more who were appreciative of the change in tempo and variety of metal representation. Setlist: The Devil’s Bleeding Crown, Lola Montez, Sad Man’s Tongue, Black RosePelvis on Fire, Slaytan, Dead but Rising, A Warrior’s Call / I Only Want to Be With You, Last Day Under the Sun, The Everlasting, Seal the Deal, Still Counting

The anticipation for Slipknot was like a panic attack, it was imminent but you weren’t quite sure how intense it was going to be. It had been too long for Pittsburgh to see Slipknot, especially due to the fact the last time in the ‘Burgh at the same venue, much of the show was shut down due to a wicked thunderstorm that saw the whole place losing electricity and seeing not one ounce of Slipknot. Needless to say Live Nation and the crowd was ecstatic over the great weather and the return of one of the wildest stage shows today.

Slipknot is a real treat whether you dig them or not, their visuals and chaotic stage show is so much ear and eye candy that it is hard not to lose yourself in their performance. One can actually become physically drained attempting to take in all that is happening. Corey Taylor, of course, takes command of the entire situation like a circus ringmaster, keeping the tone, piecing the songs together, and keeping the crowd interest peaked. Opening with “People=Shit” and “(sic)” was downright pummeling as Clown (Shawn Crahan)and ‘Tortilla Face’ were atop their perches pounding on drums and kegs along with the absolutely incredible Jay Weinberg on a massive drum kit pounded away. Mick Thomson and Jim Root attacked their guitars and made the unique Slipknot sound as crushing and ominous as possible. If you were close enough, the booming sound could actually make your teeth hurt. Allesandro Venturella is a formidable replacement for Paul Grey (RIP) on bass and Sid Wilson and Craig Jones add the DJ flavor to the music.

As members use conveyor belts on the upper stage, that resembled a burned-out warehouse, to enhance their antics, Corey sings with the ability to growl like a werewolf and hit melodies like an angel. His voice is extraordinary in its ability to jostle back and forth between melody and mayhem. Someone in the massive member band is always moving and keeping the vibe going no matter what, it is impossible to actually see all that is happening. Mixing solid and true tunes from their past with new ones from the just-released We Are Not Your Kind gave fans new experiences along with hearing their faves. Huge highlights had to be the traditional sing along to the “Heretic Anthem” of ‘if your 555 then I’m 666’, “Wait and Bleed” which they played for the first time on the tour, “The Devil In I”, “Solway Firth”, “Spit It Out” and the aforementioned “(sic)” and “People=Shit”. All in all, it was a memorable show that gave one more than their money’s worth. Now that festival-type outings such as Mayhem and Warped are defunct it would be nice to see Slipknot put together a larger version of Knotfest with more bands and various merchants coming in along with some diverse acts to give back metalheads a much-needed gathering every summer. Time will tell if they take up the Ozzfest mantle, but they certainly have a winning formula for now.