As team MetalTalk touch down in France, this promises to be a historic day in Heavy Metal as today marks the first time that Knotfest makes its way to Europe.
Words: Kahmel Farahani, Pictures: Aggie Anthimidou
Started by US Metal giants Slipknot back in 2012 as a way to showcase their favourite Metal bands within a festival of their design, the idea has grown from strength to strength since. Now, partnering with Hellfest, Slipknot have brought the full freak show carnival to European shores for the first time.
The sun is shining bright as we enter the grounds and Polish blackened Metal giants Behemoth take the stage. Draped in black and dressed in their death mask makeup, their dark Metal magic show simply shouldn’t work on a sunny afternoon and yet somehow it does.
Stomping out the doomy riffs of ‘Conquer All’ and ‘Sabbath Mater’ before a wall of fire, frontman Nergal cuts an imposing figure and the band finish their eight song set in style having added a little Hades to the day’s heat.
Papa Roach start rolling on the main stage with frontman Jacoby Shaddix strutting his stuff front and centre. You have to give credit to the nu-Metal stalwarts in that they play more songs from their new album, ‘Who Do You Trust’, than any other. However the biggest cheers are still reserved for ‘Last Resort’ and ‘Scars’, while a cover of The Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’, dedicated to the late Keith Flint, is a very nice touch and the band leave a happy crowd behind them.
With the bright sun and gorgeous summer weather, to a UK Metalhead it feels more like a summer holiday than an invitation to mosh and raise your horns to Amon Amarth. While the Vikings didn’t bring stormy weather they definitely brought an unforgettable production. “Merci beaucoup France,” says a beaming Johan Hegg. ‘Guardians Of Asgard’ is gloriously over-the-top melodic death Metal.
Between their Viking shields fighting and the inflatable dragon that appears for ‘Twilight Of The Thunder Gods’, it’s just fantasticto see that the band has grown this big without compromising.
As the sun finally sets at around 10.00pm all eyes shift to the Main Stage. Despite every hardship, tragedy or struggle that the band has faced over the past several years, Slipknot keep coming back stronger and more resilient than before and, more than anything else, tonight feels like a triumph for the band.
Opening with ‘People = Shit’, this many headed Metal monster has never sounded sharper. Whether playing songs like ‘Unsainted’ from the new album, ‘We Are Not Your Kind’, or headbanging classics like ‘Psychosocial’, the band are faultless.
Frontman Corey Taylor, in his new Tom Savini designed mask, is on blistering hot form and repeatedly thanks the crowd for making history with them. Their new stage show is equally impressive. Gone are the old shop of horror vibes and goat heads to be replaced with a clever set of big screens and a spectacular fire show that all helps to shift attention onto the brutal riffs and rhythms of the songs.
The twin guitars of Jim Root and Mick Thomson shred the very air to pieces, while drummer Jay Weinberg plays with the precision of a metronome while retaining the impact of an earthquake.
Ending with an encore of ‘Spit It Out’ and ‘Surfacing’ sends the hardcore fans wild and sets off a mosh pit stretching as far as the eye can see along the hallowed Hellfest ground. Slipknot take their final bows just after 1.00am on Friday morning but Knotfest is still not over yet.
Swedish Metal troopers Sabaton make their jaw dropping entrance onstage, complete with a tank. While energy levels are understandably low after the last six hours of Metal the band still do their best to raise the horns one last time with sonic assaults like ‘Winged Hussars’ and ‘Night Witches’.
“Thank you Knotfest and France!” says a delighted frontman Joakim Broden, “We will be back!”
That turned out to be a prophetic statement and happened much sooner than everyone thought, given events at Hellfest the next day.
Knotfest’s debut in Europe was a Heavy Metal home run of the first order. As team MetalTalk makes its way back to Nantes and our hotel, the fans are looking ahead to the main event – three days of sun, partying and some of the greatest rock and Metal bands on this planet. Hellfest is next.