Knotfest Los Angeles Recap: Slipknot’s Dark Carnival of Heavy Metal Precision


Adrian GarroCategories:Latest News

Rock Cellar Magazine

“Welcome to a dream come true, you crazy motherfuckers,” said Corey Taylor, lead singer of Iowa-based metal ensemble Slipknot after his band raged through “Unsainted” and “Disasterpiece” to begin Knotfest Los Angeles, a marathon day and night of hard rock energy on Nov. 5 at Banc of California Stadium. That phrase — “crazy motherfuckers” — was directed by Taylor to the gathered masses many times throughout the evening, eliciting excited shrieks from the thousands in attendance. Truly, no better compliment could be given from the band leader/showman to his adoring fan base.

When Slipknot burst onto the scene in June 1999 with its self-titled album on Roadrunner Records, it revolutionized the heavy metal/hard rock scene of the time, spawned imitators and quickly created a genre all its own — but while many of those similar acts fell off quickly, Slipknot endured, a force of resilience and focus that remains a viable global musical entity more than two decades later.

That status was reaffirmed at Knotfest Los Angeles, a triumphant exercise in the form of an all-day festival atmosphere that felt transplanted from before the pandemic, Slipknot delivering a career-spanning set to its unflinchingly loyal fan base. We’re talking wearing-a-Slipknot-shirt-to-the-show-and-buying-a-stack-of-new-shirts-from-the-merch-stand-level loyalty.

 

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For many fans, Slipknot provided a bridge to heavy metal music, the band’s boundless brutality mixed with some killer hooks (such as on “Wait and Bleed,” from that self-titled 1999 record). Looking around the venue throughout the day, one could appreciate the variety of metal acts that were also represented by t-shirts worn by those in attendance brought together by Slipknot, a list including but not limited to:

Hatebreed
Carnifex
Bullet for My Valentine
System of a Down
Spiritbox
Goatwhore
Metallica
Pantera
Machine Head

The show featured many of the acts that had accompanied the band on the road starting in late September — Killswitch Engage, Fever 333 and Code Orange, with notable additions The Cherry Bombs, Vended and Bring Me The Horizon, the latter of which was well-represented by t-shirted fans throughout the venue.

Opening the show was Vended, a young metal band featuring Griffin Taylor (son of Slipknot vocalist Corey Taylor) and Simon Crahan (son of Slipknot founder/percussionist/”Clown” Shawn Crahan) that put on a crushing show for the smattering of folks who made it inside the venue at 2 in the afternoon.

For Code Orange, the Knotfest Roadshow came after the Pittsburgh, PA.-based metal/experimental band elevated its profile during the pandemic with some visionary live stream events.

Code Orange at Knotfest LA 2021 (Photo: Steve Thrasher)

Code Orange at Knotfest LA 2021 (Photo: Steve Thrasher)

Previously, the band had earned the seal of approval from Taylor and had amassed a strong audience of its own, but the Knotfest stage provided a solid “breakout” opportunity for the outfit.

Early-afternoon sets on stacked bills aren’t the envy of any act, but Code Orange thrived, commanding the audience and even starting up some intense circle pits for songs from 2017’s Forever and 2020’s Underneath (the album at the center of those ambitious live stream events). This is a band on a serious upward trajectory in the metal scene, and Knotfest will no doubt help them on their continued ascent.

Fever 333 turned in a typically energetic set of incendiary punk/metal, front man Jason Butler shouting out his hometown of Inglewood while running, sliding and sprinting around the stage, at one point even stripping down to his underpants and doing a stunt on a skateboard across the stage.

Fever 333 at Knotfest LA 2021 (Photo: Steve Thrasher)

Fever 333 at Knotfest LA 2021 (Photo: Steve Thrasher)

As the sun began to set, the atmosphere in the building became one of palpable anticipation, fans realizing it was drawing even closer to Slipknot’s headlining performance, likely the first many of these fans had seen since before Spring 2020.

But before that could happen, metalcore veterans Killswitch Engage crashed onto the stage for a pounding set of precise anthems of memorable thrash, vocalist Jesse Leach hitting all the notes perfectly with his powerful singing voice.

Killswitch dabbled in songs from throughout its career, dating back to 2002’s Alive or Just Breathing and carrying into 2019’s Atonement, before wrapping the set with the band’s cover of Ronnie James Dio’s “Holy Diver,” which was epic.

Next up on the night were The Cherry Bombs, the rock and roll dance group featuring Alicia Dove, Corey Taylor’s wife. The group has participated in several Slipknot and Taylor-related events over the past few years, and they were a seamless fit into the evening’s activities at Knotfest, dancing around on stage to a variety of hard rock classics and doing acrobatic stunt work that presented a bit of a stylistic break between bands.

The Cherry Bombs also harkened back to earlier iterations of the Knotfest tour, when Slipknot packed more types of entertainment across multiple stages beyond musical acts.

English outfit Bring Me the Horizon was up next, and the band emerged donning matching gray suits for a Beatles-esque appearance (that the band also wore at the tiny warm-up gig at the Whisky a Go Go earlier in the week). The addition of Bring Me the Horizon to Knotfest Los Angeles was a special treat for ticketholders, as the band was not part of the Roadshow tour overall.

It was also special since Bring Me the Horizon is an arena act all its own in the United States, and even bigger overseas back home in the UK. As a result, the group delivered a stadium-ready set of theatrical hard rock that shied away from the band’s early death metal material, opting instead for tracks from 2020’s POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR EP, including “Obey,” which featured a guest appearance from Yungblud.

Bring Me the Horizon's Oli Sykes and Yungblud at Knotfest LA 2021 (Photo: Steve Thrasher)

Bring Me the Horizon’s Oli Sykes and Yungblud at Knotfest LA 2021 (Photo: Steve Thrasher)

Three tracks from 2013’s Sempiternal (“The House of Wolves,” “Can You Feel My Heart” and “Shadow Moses”) gave old-school fans a chance to let loose a bit more than the newer, more pop-oriented tracks (like new single “Die4u”) allowed, as the group clearly knows it can’t totally abandon its roots.

There was an hourlong break between Bring Me the Horizon and Slipknot, which may seem a bit excessive until the curtain dropped and the headliners’ uniquely elaborate stage design was revealed.

Remember that Slipknot employs nine members: Taylor, Crahan, drummer Jay Weinberg, guitarist Mick Thompson, guitarist Jim Root, keyboardist Craig Jones, DJ Sid Wilson, bassist Alessandro Venturella and touring percussionist Michael Pfaff.

That’s a lot of people on one stage, and most of them move around all corners of the performance space (especially Pfaff and Crahan, who each had their own drum area/walkways flanking each side of the stage) — so the setup has to allow maximum maneuverability. Plus, there was a huge, pulsating light show and backlit LED screen accentuating the visual overstimulation, not to mention occasional bursts of fire (some directly blasted from guitars themselves).

Jay Weinberg of Slipknot at Knotfest LA 2021 (Photo: Steve Thrasher)

Jay Weinberg of Slipknot at Knotfest LA 2021 (Photo: Steve Thrasher)

Lest you think Slipknot is all bombast and grandiose stage antics, though, the band backed up the theatrics with a powerhouse musical performance led, as always, by Taylor, who spoke a few times about how appreciative he and the band were for the fans over the years, as well as the fact that the Knotfest Roadshow tour managed to complete its trek without any COVID-19 related setbacks, which remain an issue across the live music scene at large.

Slipknot’s set list brought together fan favorites and classics from the band’s lengthy catalog, touching on that ’99 LP for a few key tracks, pulling some from 2019’s dark We Are Not Your Kind and even giving a new song, “The Chapeltown Rag,” its live debut.

A frenetic middle finger to social media, the media, and the connections between the two, the song was premiered on streaming platforms prior to Knotfest Los Angeles as a preview of an upcoming studio record.

Slipknot’s set list didn’t vary too much from what the band had performed for most of the tour, and leaving out “Eyeless” (an early song that was used in promotion of the LA show and features the lyric “You can’t see California without Marlon Brando’s eyes”) was an odd choice, but fans were energized throughout.

The band’s performances are all-out sonic assaults, and it’s a testament to the band members’ resilience that they’re still around in the first place. A great deal of behind-the-scenes turmoil has affected the band over the years, but still Slipknot remains, powering through the darkness with the visceral nature of its music, held afloat by a global audience of adoring fans who consider Slipknot a lifestyle far more than “a band.”

It’s that deep connection between artist and fan that makes Slipknot such an engaging musical force, and that energy elevated Knotfest LA from more than “a concert” to “an experience” that none in attendance will forget anytime soon.



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