Day #3 (Sunday 11/5): Knotfest (review by Harry Walia)
November 5 was a beautiful day to be just anywhere in San Bernardino, as the weather was just perfect. For metalheads, there was no place to be other than Knotfest. Fans were lined up waiting for main gates to open up and they rushed in enthusiastically right at 11 AM when the GA gates opened up.
Nuclear Blast Extreme Stage was the place to be to see Zombie Eating Horse start right on time at 11:15. It was obviously not the best band for the day but a great band to start with. Zombie Eating Horse played songs from their new album ‘Don’t Follow Me’. The vocalist was moving his eyes in weird ways and was enthusiastically trying to wake up the crowd that was still recovering from the Ozzfest hangover. Mosh pit started eventually on their last song and that was a good enough feat for this band.
Zombie Eating Horse photos:
Nuclear Blast Extreme Stage eventually became extreme when Warbringer came on stage right at 12:00. Metalheads cheered enthusiastically and the mosh pit started the moment the band started playing. Vocalist John Kevill was very interactive with the crowd and the fans were very responsive. Things went nuts in metal terms when the band played ‘Woe to the Vanquished’ and bodies started flying around with multiple crowd surfers all over the front side. Security was just pushing down on crowd surfers rather than carrying them off stage safely, which seemed like a weird new practice. John Kevill and Adam Carroll (guitarist) of Warbringer are still holding the baton for this thrash metal band while the founding guitarist left. They drove the crowd insane with songs like ‘Remain Violent’, ‘Shellfire’ and the classic ‘Living in a Whirlwind’ from their 2009 album ‘Waking into Nightmares ‘. Warbringer played only 30 minutes, but fans were longing for more.
Second Stage B progressed as ONI came on stage. ONI is a Canadian progressive metal band that is worth listening to live. This band brought about a change in sound from all else happening around them, as band members used synth guitars and xylophone synth to create a mix of heaviness with melodic synthesized sounds that definitely pleased the crowds. ONI was a band to sit back, relax and enjoy, and fans were head-banging to guitar riffs that sounded well-balanced. Mosh pits eventually started and metalheads were running around in the puddle of mud caused from the rain. The weather was turning gloomy, but that did not deter attendees from enjoying the fest.
Next on Second Stage A was Code Orange, an upcoming metallic hardcore band holding great promises. The band eventually started after a long sound check and rechecks but it was worth the wait. Fans were eagerly waiting and went wild on their first song. Code Orange’s sound was diverse with every song as Reba Meyers (guitarist), Eric Balderose (Guitar) and Jami Morgan (drums) took turns on lead vocals. The band sounded heavy, and they used synthesizers that blended perfectly into their song structures. A band definitely worth checking out.
Code Orange photos:
While you thought it couldn’t get any better, Exhumed took over the Nuclear Blast Extreme Stage at around 1 PM and brought back scary stage acts live. Texas Chainsaw Massacre leather face lookalike came on stage with a chainsaw and chopped heads and blood spewing everywhere. Matt Harvey, the band’s main vocalist and guitarist, is carrying on the death metal scene and mixing Slayer-like sound with Alice Cooper-type stage acts. The band’s current line up has been making music for more than 5 years now and they sounded great. Exhumed played songs from their 2017 album ‘Death Revenge’ and finished up with song ‘Coins Upon the Eyes’, proving gore metal is alive and kicking.
Death Angel carried on this classic metal sound on Second Stage B at 13:25 and it finally felt like being at Knotfest. The band’s lead vocalist Mark Oseguda greeted the crowd metal style, and started thrashing with the first song ‘Father Of Lies’. By the time the band moved over to the second song ‘The Dream Calls For Blood’ with Mark saying “I have seen you move, now I want to feel you move”, I was questioning why this band stopped making music in 1991 and disbanded. Well, the 2001 comeback has clearly been worth it, and they finished with ‘The Moth’ from the new album ‘The Evil Divide’. Thrash metal is alive as long as Death Angel is alive, and they’re working on another album due soon, which will surely come out before the next Tool album, I promise.
Death Angel photos:
Knotfest did offer a break, although unofficially, by bringing in Slipknot’s Sid Wilson as a solo artist under the moniker SID on the Nuclear Blast Extreme Stage, as he was playing music from his laptop while rapping. Meanwhile, Second Stage B had Upon A Burning Body, a band that brought in some Latino influences mixed with metal. The sound was too generic when they played ‘You Don’t Own Me’ and a bit heavier with ‘Intermission’. Suicidal Tendencies is not getting replaced any sooner, nice effort though. Knotfest unofficially gave a break with some of these bands playing anything but metal.
I thanked god or Lucifer (whichever you like more) when The Black Dahlia Murder started on Second Stage A and brought back the death metal sound. Even though they play a completely different sub-genre of metal, it felt as if Pantera was back on stage as all band members combined together brilliantly to present a tight, cohesive sound and a very energetic performance that had the crowd going full-speed. An A-plus set, overall.
The Black Dahlia Murder photos:
The Black Dahlia Murder finished around 4 PM and it started getting cold and the sun was nowhere to be seen. Life of Agony started right after on Second Stage B, and Mina Caputo, vocalist of Life of Agony put on a good show. Mina Caputo’s voice has obviously changed for good after sex change and she sounded more like Janis Joplin. I totally feel for those who felt they should have brought in a raincoat while Life of Agony was playing. Hats off to Joey Z who was playing his Gibson V like crazy, the band’s nothing without the guitarist. Life of Agony played their hits like ‘Weeds’ and ‘River Runs Red’, and it was well received by old and new fans alike.
Life Of Agony photos:
Testament took over Second Stage A at 4:50 PM and there was hardly any place to stand. Metalheads were all lined up and moshers and crowd surfers went nuts when Testament opened up with the title track from their latest album ‘Brotherhood of Snake’. It’s worth checking out this new album and they still sound as heavy as always. Chuck Billy sounded amazing with growling vocals on ‘Into the Pit’, ‘More Than Meets the Eye’, ‘Rise Up’, ‘Practice What You Preach’ and his signature sound on ‘Electric Crown’. Testament played a full hour set but the bigger question is how come Testament ended up on the second stage and not main stage. While Testament played until nearly 6 PM, main stage started with the band Prayers at 4:40 followed by Eighteen Visions at 5:45 with a major chunk of the crowd who had no idea Testament was still playing on the second stage. Although Testament gathered huge crowds while headlining Second Stage A, they deserved to be on the main stage before Marilyn Manson or Rob Zombie. Alex Skolnick, guitarist of Testament, proved again that he is still capable of shredding while maintaining Testament’s classic thrash metal sound, and he is much more than just an instrumentalist. Who could have imagined Alex Skolnick fronted a Jazz band as a side project? A great guitarist, and indeed a great band that once again lived up to their reputation with their performance here at Knotfest.
Check out Page 5 for review and photo coverage of the Knotfest main stage …