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REVIEW: Knotfest (Day Two)

The full round-up on Knotfest's climax

The final day of Knotfest brings some bewildering drama along with another dose of blue skies, California sunshine and a fresh lineup of battle-tested scrappers and up-and-coming metallers.

As with yesterday, a number of agonising clashes plague today’s schedule for the four stages behind the main amphitheater. There’s scant time to sort it out however, as Upon A Burning Body [8] kick it off at noon with a deafening deathcore onslaught. Their leaden publicity stunt a few months ago might finally be in the rear view mirror if their rousing reception offers any clues.

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Twenty-one sets go off in the next five hours, with highlights including a seismic bludgeoning from Whitechapel [8] and reliably enthralling sets from veterans DevilDriver [9] and Killswitch Engage [8]. The latter inspire a circle pit of such dizzying momentum that it sends a dark column of dust into the blue desert sky, resembling some sort of primal conjuring ceremony from afar. Texas-based Fire From The Gods [7] and Exmortus [8] each turn in horn-throwing performances, but Sweden’s Avatar [9] deliver the highlight of the smaller stages, marking their California debut with a riveting panoply of melodeath anthems, orchestrated by their maniacal ringmaster, Johannes Eckerström.

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HellYeah [8] open the main stage with a bouncy clutch of elasticky grooves and shout-out choruses, followed by Atreyu [8], whose popularity in the US is hitting an all-time high due in large part to an incendiary live set that tonight includes their irony-free Bon Jovi cover (You Give Love A Bad Name). Next, hip hop collective Tech N9ne [6] start strong but ultimately their sluggish pacing and a plodding dearth of variation inspire a mini-exodus to the beer stands and merch tents. Volbeat [9] restore the venue to proper levels of hysteria with an hour of marauding rockabilly-metal, followed by a loose and swaggering Five Finger Death Punch [8], who storm through a barrage of new and old material that includes fan faves Lift Me Up and The Bleeding.

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As the Big 4 continue their inexorable devolution into genteel elder statesmen status, Slipknot [10] remain as mercurial and unpredictable as they were fifteen years ago, and tonight they administer a bare-knuckled beatdown of uncurbed ferocity, amid all the smoke, shooting flames and fiendish histrionics that one would expect from the hosts. Premiering provocative new tracks like Sarcastrophe and The Devil In I, the band also showcase live rarities like My Plague and Opium Of The People, along with classics like The Heretic Anthem, (sic) and closer Surfacing. We leave exhausted, sore and caked with dust and we’re already counting the days until next year.

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Slipknot Setlist

XIX Sarcastrophe The Heretic Anthem My Plague The Devil in I Psychosocial Liberate Opium of the People Left Behind Vermilion Custer The Blister Exists Before I Forget Duality (sic) Surfacing ‘Til We Die

Joe Daly

Camped out in Southern California, Joe pens features, reviews albums and covers live shows for Metal Hammer and Classic Rock. When he’s not bothering his neighbours with Rammstein, Joe’s typically off playing ice hockey, fumbling around on a bass or letting his dogs guilt him into a nice long walk.