HomeMusicKnotfest 2019 Roadshow: Slipknot, Volbeat, Gojira, Behemoth Rock at PNC Bank Arts...

Knotfest 2019 Roadshow: Slipknot, Volbeat, Gojira, Behemoth Rock at PNC Bank Arts Center

“Turn the lights on, take a look around. This is your metal fucking family! We’re all family because of this music we love! Do you fucking feel it? You’ve got family all over the world. As far as I can see, there’s people who have your back. Can you feel that,” Corey Taylor passionately stated with such a motivational sense of embracement, confidence, and enthusiasm as 18,000 people packed out the PNC Bank Arts Center on a gorgeous summer night in Holmdel, New Jersey.  

We’re at the turning point of starting a new decade in a matter of months, and the overall health of modern metal has never felt stronger at any point in the 2010s, such as it currently stands at the tail end of summer 2019. On the most optimistic note, the modern torchbearers of this genre like Slipknot continue to push their artistic pedigree to its utmost limits of unrelenting self-expression and recently achieved another monumental feat by debuting at Number One on the Billboard Top 200 for their latest LP, We Are Not Your Kind

In years past, traveling festivals at their absolute best such as Ozzfest were crucial cornerstones of the record industry, featured extremely diverse lineups regardless of their sub-genre classification, and captured the mythological, unified essence of metal’s spirit. 

And moving forward into the next decade, Knotfest has picked up the torch and should be looked upon for years to come as one of the most impressive accomplishments in this genre’s present-day history, especially in the United States, as a moment of strength and unity where four cornerstone bands (three of which lean towards the heaviest side of the genre) united for an unforgettable tour and shunned aside the notion that metal has reached its mainstream deathbed. 


Highly regarded as one of the most influential bands in the history of death and black metal, Behemoth speaks to the core of acknowledging the darkest side of humanity and providing an authentic soundtrack that captures the grim reality of this world’s self-inflicted pain.

Touring behind their critically-acclaimed 11th studio LP, 2018’s I Loved You at Your Darkest, Behemoth has truly bled their hearts out for over twenty-five-years and without question, earned this opportunity to be featured on a cornerstone tour package of this size and scope. 

One of the most riveting elements of Knotfest, each band was allowed to bring their full stage production and there was equal opportunity to mesmerize audiences with blistering pyrotechnics, CO2 blasts, and immaculate stage lighting. Behemoth played around 5:15pm on the sunniest of sunny days, and the sheer velocity, brutality, and haunting aura of their set was dramatically heightened by the synchronized flames bursting across the stage.

As the opening band of the festival, there would be no sense of compromise in terms of their relentless pursuit to win over potential new listeners, especially as frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski inspired the crowd to give their full, undivided attention through perfectly timed crowd chants. 

With a setlist of material highlighting their past few albums and a few classics like “Conquer All,” Behemoth truly maximized the moniker of that beloved song title with their highly-intricate musicality, tremolo-infused guitar riffs, and blast beat drum patterns that pulsed the heart during the emotional peak of each song. As the set came to a final close, the stage turned dark red as Nergal passionately yelled, “Hail Satan!” and in this moment, it felt like the gates of hell were officially opened to Knotfest.


When the lineup for Knotfest was initially announced, Gojira’s presence on the bill heightened the must-see element of this tour, especially for the die-hard, ears-to-the-ground metalheads in-attendance. As one of the world’s most cutting-edge bands, they could effortlessly shift from playing gorgeous chord progressions of melodic ambiance into chest-shattering riffs that hit the listener with each chug and syncopated drumbeat. 

Over the past 15 years, I’ve attended so many concerts at PNC Banks Arts Center and their set was mixed to absolute perfection; seriously, their sound engineer deserves to be commended for maximizing the full spectrum of the group’s musical intensity, especially in an outdoor venue.  

Bands like Gojira only come around once-in-a-generation and the heart of their genre-defying chemistry can be found in the brotherhood dynamic of frontman/rhythm guitarist Joe Duplantier and drummer Mario Duplantier. There were a few points during the set where Joe and Mario gave each other some subtle cues, the unspoken language between musicians who are on the same wavelength before they effortlessly transitioned into a ridiculous time change. 

The same compliment applies to lead guitarist Christian Andreu and bassist Jean-Michel Labadie; their commanding stage presence and progressive musical chops were crucial to the band’s lethal combination of rhythmic virtuosity. 

Gojira’s light show is simply unmatched; green and white strobe lights blinked to the tempo of “Toxic Garbage Island” as soon as their set began and on a cool sidenote, Robb Flynn from Machine Head could be seen headbanging towards the left side of the stage, especially as the band unleashed one doom riff after another.

As it pertains to the audience reception, I’ve never seen the lower or upper bowls so captivated by an opening band this early in the night at this specific venue. One look at the crowd, there was synchronized headbanging and thousands of fist-pumping devil horns before the clock even struck 7:00pm. In my opinion, that notion speaks volumes about Gojira’s musical accomplishments (Terra Icognita through Magma) and ability to engage with both longtime fans and new listeners who were captivated by their sound. 

When Joe Duplantier played the tapping patterns of “The Gift of Guilt,” one look into his eyes revealed someone who tapped into the zenith of his artistry; each note on the fretboard was pulled from the core of his soul. Once their set came to a close, his gratitude captured the immense magnitude and spirit of Knotfest, “Thank you so much for showing up and supporting live music!”


As I mentioned earlier, festivals reach their peak potential when they feature extremely diverse lineups that bridge the gap between fans of different genres. Knotfest featured four bands with completely opposite sounds, including three of which hailed from Europe: Behemoth from Poland, Gojira from France, and Volbeat from Denmark.

For the past eighteen-years, Volbeat has honed their sound by channeling the thrash-infused attack of early Metallica, the feel-good chord progressions of AC/DC, and the rebellious spirit of vintage Johnny Cash. With no sense of fear or hesitation to perform alongside such distinctly heavy bands, Volbeat walked onto the stage with the utmost confidence to answer the “Warrior’s Call.” Throughout their set, they just simply brought the house down with their groove-heavy guitar riffs, soaring baritone vocals, and a superb-level of melodic intuition. 

Aside from earning the respect of bands like Metallica and Slipknot, these guys are one of the very few groups on FM rock radio who actually infuse metal into their sound. And their lead guitarist Rob Caggiano grew up nearby in New York and played with Anthrax for many years, including most recently on their modern classic, 2011’s Worship Music, and during their iconic Big 4 shows. On the topic of the Big 4, frontman Michael Poulsen demonstrated his trademark humor when he played the intro to Slayer’s “South of Heaven,” and suddenly stopped to say, “You wish!” before he kicked into “Slaytan.”

Volbeat truly possesses a stacked lineup of hits in their back pocket such as “Lola Montez,” which immediately lit up the venue and inspired the crowd to sing along to every word. Plus, Poulsen paid homage to Johnny Cash with a snippet of “Ring of Fire” before the band kicked into a metallic attack of uptempo riffs and double bass galore on “Sad Man’s Tongue.” 

On the topic of guitar playing, Caggiano’s guitar solos echoed across the venue, especially with the accentuated bends in his high notes that screamed melodic virtuosity. The rhythm section made their presence felt, as bassist Kaspar Boye Larsen’s fingers rumbled across the fretboard alongside the anthemic drum patterns of Jon Larsen who shifted between what best suited the song and unleashing nasty fills.

And one of the peak highlights of the night, Poulsen invited about 15 kids on stage, ranging anywhere in age between 6-14, to rock out with Volbeat and sing “Still Counting” in front of a sold-out crowd. Major props belong to the kid in the middle who rocked a Venom shirt (I believe) and headbanged like Corey Taylor. 

Plus, Jerry Only made a surprise guest appearance in front of his hometown state and briefly sang backup vocals during this Volbeat classic. Poulsen concluded the set by holding up his guitar and walking up to each kid so they could take a turn at strumming the strings. So altogether, Volbeat ended their night with an arsenal of badass riffs, a Misfits guest appearance, and the future of metal. Ask yourself, isn’t this what live music is all about? 


There are very few visuals in this world that conjure such a euphoric buildup of adrenaline quite like seeing the Slipknot logo decked in red across a massive stage banner. 

As the minutes started to wind down and showtime drew near, this moment captured the transcendent aura of live music to its absolute core; thinking about which song the band might open with, what the stage might look like, and what might possibly happen over the course of this night?

The unpredictability within this anticipation alone is one of the most rewarding emotions that a concert goer could possibly ever feel, and eventually, mythology turned into reality once the venue lights went dark and the stage itself became the only source of light that reflected onto the 18,000 fans in attendance.

When the banner dropped, suddenly stood this transcendent brotherhood of eight musicians with an unmatched, awe-inspiring stage presence; donned in matching jumpsuits, and wearing individually crafted masks that wholeheartedly represent the uncompromised authenticity of their musical souls. 

Drummer Jay Weinberg proceeded to play the ridiculously intense, complex drum intro to “People = Shit,” as guitarists Jim Root and Mick Thompson unleashed their blood-boiling, seven-string riffs with an unhinged onslaught of primal rage. As the cheers grew deafening, Corey Taylor walked out with such unforgiving determination in his posture and looked straight into the crowd as he screamed at the top of his lungs, “Here we go again, motherfucker!” Case closed, Slipknot was here to take their thrown without any sense of mercy. 

And this was only the beginning as Slipknot transitioned straight into “(sic).” Twenty-years-ago, this band cut their teeth on the second stage of Ozzfest and that’s where their legend spread like wildfire across the world. Flash forward to 2019, major props belong to the entire group, as they roamed across every square inch of the stage with such visceral aggression and physicality; the no-holds-barred musical and athletic style of combat that has defined their onslaught since the late ‘90s. I’ve attended hundreds of concerts over the years and very few times have I ever felt such an unstoppable force of momentum in the air, especially as fans sang the words, “Fuck this shit, I’m sick of it/ You’re goin’ down, this is a war!”

Never ones to forget their roots or humble beginnings, Taylor took a moment to speak about the band’s return to New Jersey, “This is one of my all-time favorite sheds and we have a fucking ton of history in this shed. You happy to have Slipknot back in New Jersey tonight?” As the crowd responded back with unanimous cheers, Taylor added, “Welcome to Knotfest, motherfuckers!”

Best believe, Slipknot’s musical prime continues to hit peak levels in 2019, and the emotional impact of their transparent view of this world is both socially conscious and vividly captures the harsh reality of surviving in today’s digital age, which could be felt as Corey Taylor sang the words, “I didn’t come this far to sink so low, I’m finally holding on to letting go!” As the band tore through their chaos-infused, melodically gorgeous single, “Unsainted,” witnessing Taylor hovered over his stage riser and screaming, “You’ve killed the saint in me/ How dare you martyr me?,” straight down into the mic at the song’s conclusion; it perfectly captures the soul-bearing essence of Slipknot’s cathartic honesty. This visual is one of the most distinct, iconic, and powerful images that one could possibly ever come across in this genre. 

Much to the band’s credit, this setlist documented their entire discography with multiple tracks from each of their major label releases. And the most rewarding aspect to their genre-defying consistency, there wasn’t any room for breathers. Once Taylor asked the question, “Answer me this? If you’re 555?” the crowd went ballistic and responded back with, “Than I’m 666!”

On the topic of unification, very few bands possess an Indiana Jones-worthy treasure chest of genre-defying classics quiet like “The Heretic Anthem,” “Before I Forget,” “Psychosocial,” “Wait and Bleed,” “Duality,” and “All Out Life” where the jubilance in the air is infinitely heightened by a non-stop barrage of massive hooks, chaotic grooves, and crushing instrumental dominance with bursts of unmatched speeds. 

The back-and-forth between the band and audience for these signature classics; Slipknot’s charisma made this massive venue feel like a small club, which was blissful, poetic, and breathtaking to see such a tight-knit bond materialize between the band and their fanbase. Let this be acknowledged, Taylor emphasized Slipknot’s commitment to providing a soundtrack of hope for their listeners, and the world at-large, and the burdens they might struggle with every day, and he assured his fans, “No matter what, I will always have your fucking back!” 

For anyone who hasn’t seen Slipknot’s live show, their stage production continues to shine as one of the most cutting-edge spectacles across the entire music landscape. Shawn “Clown” Crahan took his baseball bat and smashed home-run-worthy hits into multiple trash cans, which caused huge flames to burst across the stage. The light show itself was both potent and staggering; decked with the darkest and brightest LED lights that amplified the band’s instrumental prowess in a fashion reminiscent of The Prodigy.

The absolute pinnacle of Slipknot’s live set belonged to “Spit It Out,” especially when Taylor stated, “I need to see every crazy mother fucker here get down to the ground right now.” Imagine the sight of 18,000 fans who had stood throughout the show and suddenly, they were seated on the floor waiting for the band’s instructions. With the utmost command in his voice, Taylor asked, “When I say jump the fuck up, what are you going to do?”

And talk about a moment that should be documented for a live DVD, it was a hot August night and these fans were ready to unleash hell in the most inspiring fashion. Once Taylor screamed, “Jump the fuck up,” there was a tsunami-like, tidal wave of fans with Jordan-esque hangtime throwing their middle fingers in the air and singing at the top of their lungs, “Fuck me! I’m all out of enemies.” This was the pinnacle portrait of unleashing negative energy through a positive outlet.

Once again, history was made between Slipknot and their fanbase in Holmdel, and I would encourage fans from out-of-state to see them perform at the Arts Center in the near future. Some venues just bring out a different aura for some bands, and even though there isn’t a pit area near the front of the stage, there’s an indescribable magic that relies less on mosh pits and more so on crowd participation whenever Slipknot comes to town. Having seen the group headline the Arts Center many times throughout this past decade, this particular night ranks right near the top in terms of their groundbreaking energy and the unmatched sight of their live show.

Plus, this was a hometown performance for Jay Weinberg who grew up nearby as a die-hard Slipknot fan and fulfilled a lifelong dream by joining the band. After the show ended, he walked out on stage with his parents to mass applause. This area now has official ties to the Slipknot mythos and has become a second home for the Iowa legends.

The beauty of this chapter in Slipknot’s career, they clearly understand the immense magnitude of their leadership role in this genre; tour packages that once sold out massive amphitheaters like Knotfest used to be commonplace up until earlier this decade. They are one of the few modern bands that has inherited the torch from Metallica and Iron Maiden with their larger-than-life stage productions and an endless array of unmatched, heart-throttling anthems.

As I mentioned in the beginning, they absolutely refuse to let this genre fall to the waste side. Between the commercial success of We Are Not Your Kind and Knotfest, the music industry will continue to “Step inside, and see the Devil In I” for many years to come. In the words of Corey Taylor, “We’ve been coming here for 20 years and you guys have kept us going. If you stick with us, we’ll give you 20 more years!”

Anthony Toto
Anthony Totohttps://pathbrite.com/AnthonyMToto/profile
Anthony Toto is a senior writer and social media manager for The Pop Break. Works in the music industry and interviews prominent artists, bands, and musicians. Longtime guitarist, Rutgers Graduate, and wholeheartedly believes in the ethereal power of music.

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