Among the marquee mainstays that bolstered the fanfare of the Iowa edition of Knotfest, included an unlikely trio of some of the biggest names in their respective genres - and a multi-generational statement of the health and versatility of heavy music.
Corraling groove metal powerhouse Lamb of God, with alt hop aggressors $uicideboy$, and completing the trifecta with thrash metal institution Megadeth might have been a tough sell for some fans. However, as some of the most anticipated performances of Knotfest Iowa progressed, the continuity that brought together such contrasting styles became evident.
Whether it was a massive beat drop or a searing guitar solo, the record-breaking crowd's resounding collective response was nothing short of raucous. Feeding off of the energy happening onstage - the common denominator, despite such stylistic contrast, was what all three artists were able to get out of the fans - uninhibited release.
Taking the first of three supporting spots prior to Slipknot's monumental hometown victory lap, Lamb of God powerfully proved they remain at the very top of their game. Showcasing selections from their 2020 self-titled album like "Memento Mori", "Resurrection Man", and "New Colossal Hate", the Virginian veterans arguably saw the biggest circle pits of the evening.
With newer cuts hitting just as hard as the band's time-tested anthems like "Now You've Got Something to Die For," "Walk With Me In Hell", and "Laid To Rest", the action never experienced a dip in pace - with each track only adding gasoline to already raging fire. Scoring one of the most memorable highlights of the entire festival however, Lamb of God's closer in "Redneck" resulted in an absolute frenzy that transformed the circle pit into an all out stampede - a visual spectacle that underscored just how important Lamb of God remains to the identity of heavy music.
Though there may have been some sense that the addition of New Orleans cult rap crew $uicideboy$ was the wildcard on the Knotfest Iowa line-up, there was also a resounding sense that this kind of inclusion was long overdue. For those holding onto any misconception that this was a bit of a gamble - simply refer to the wave of humanity that happened when $crim and Ruby opened the set with "Paris".
Firmly aware of the gravity of the event and the kind of real-time sea change happening as the set progressed, $B flexed their command of the crowd with essential listening like "Kill Yourself (Part III)" and Runnin' Thru the 7th with My Woadies" - both of which it with A-bomb like low end that again sent the throngs of thousands slamming into one another in celebration.
Among the additional highlights of $crim and Ruby's Knotfest debut, included a special appearance from cohort Germ for a beefed up performance of "Slip On A Banana Clip" that sent the fans into hysterics. Heavy hitters like "Carrollton" and the distorted darkness of "Do You Believe In God?" offered a irrefutable example of the intersection of hip hop's bravado and metal's intensity - further reiterated every time the base it and the entire field reached for the Iowan sky.
For whatever lingering hints of skepticism that might have still lived during $uicideboy$' set, even the faintest sense of doubt was officially put to bed when the opening notes of "...And To Those I Love, Thanks for Sticking Around" finally hit. The duo's ominously beautiful swan song struck a chord with the kind of obvious catharsis metal is often championed for. Though the spectacle of watching thousands of fans sing along with the melodically morose lyrics of "I'll be dead by dawn" could have been a chilling experience - tonight, it was a cry of celebration.
Punctuating what was already a landmark day for heavy music, generational mainstay and thrash metal pillars Megadeth reiterated their legacy and their lasting impact with the kind of set that exceeded superlative. Among the most revered, accomplished guitarists to ever do it, Dave Mustaine has the credentials that command respect and yet remains unwilling to rest on his laurels. His enduring drive and commitment to his craft became especially evident in watching him rip through an epic opening in "Hangar 18".
Facing the impossible task of condensing down a classic catalog of work into an hour-long presentation, Mustaine did well in touching on the various eras of the Megadeth lexicon. Fluidly transitioning from tracks like "The Threat is Real" and "Conquer or Die" from the modern era of Megadeth's Dystopia, to more seasoned selections like "Trust" and "She-Wolf" from 1997 offering in Cryptic Writings - literal decades separated some of the songs and yet the continuity of the setlist was never less than concrete.
Regarded as an ambassador of the culture for what he has accomplished and the prolific pace at which he still operates, watching Dave Mustaine work is an affirmation that some people were just simply put on this planet for a very specific reason. That much was especially clear as Mustaine moved into the greatest hits portion of Megadeth's stage time - going back-to-back-to-back with "Symphony of Destruction", "Peace Sells" and arguably one of thrash metal most important additions in the Rust In Peace anthem, "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due". The climatic finale drew adulation from the fans as each track managed to ratchet up the energy despite moving into the late hours of an already very long evening.
Megadeth are no doubt deserving of the legendary preface but tonight, the band reiterated why they remain relevant, contemporary contributors to the culture. Mustaine served as the conductor of a steaming locomotive that on this night, plowed straight through the corn fields Iowa with intention and intensity.