There is a compelling argument that is made in the 2000 film High Fidelity that makes a great people about how we as people evaluate one another. The film's lead, John Cusack, works as a disenchanted record store owner who fancies himself as an under appreciated critic. He, along with his eccentric music snob employee, Barry, played hilariously by Jack Black, come to a very simple, albeit poignant conclusion...
"What really matters is what you like, not, what you are like. Books, records, films, these things matter. Call me shallow. It's the fucking truth."
Operating with that in mind, the editorial staff here at Knotfest has opted to not wait until the end of the year to give you a cram session of the best the year had to offer, but rather, curate a monthly conversation that presents a snapshot of some of the best we have come across in the last four weeks. With the notion that books, films, and records matter, on a fundamentally human level, the aim is to share with you the stuff we love enough to shine a light on and function less like critics, and more like the fans we all are.
Here is a quick recap of the best September had to offer from the world of contemporary pop culture.
Counterparts - Whispers To Your Death
Counterparts are absolutely nailing the melodic hardcore genre (surprising to few) and this single is absolutely stunning. The lead guitar work is masterful and stole the spotlight on this track. Beyond the stunning instrumentals, it's a beautiful ode to Brendan's beloved cat that passed away and the unconditional love of a furry companion. Anyone who has lost a pet will resonate with the emotional nature of the lyrics. This track is refreshing, emotive, and an awesome progression in their discography. I'm really looking forward to seeing what else they have in store on their album A Eulogy For Those Still Here
Riot Fest 2022
I had the pleasure of attending my first Riot Fest this month. Running from September 16-18 in Chicago, IL, it's a wonderful weekend for the emos to take over the Chicago underground, for my taste buds to indulge in gluttonous fair foods, and for my ears to relish in some of the best rock acts the scene has to offer. The standout bands of the weekend were Boston Manor, Pale Waves, Wargasm (UK), The Original Misfits, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Nine Inch Nails. The only letdown was Placebo's last-minute pull from the lineup due to a tour cancellation but despite my mild heartbreak, it was a weekend jam-packed with incredible memories. The diversity of artists and genres made it a special treat and I finally understand the hype around this iconic festival staple.
Slipknot - The End, So Far
Whatever your thoughts are it's easy to see the band have yet again experimented with their sound. For a band the size of Slipknot to evolve, change and lets be honest rock the boat, it shows that they still have that passion and drive to experiment with their sound and challenge the genre. But I won't lie, I am bias. As soon as I get to reward my ears with any new, yet comfortingly familiar tracks from Slipknot, it's like Christmas.
Depending on your age, the title alone may be a huge turn off. However, this show is a stark and yet warm and entertaining look at the life of high school students. I chose this show because as someone who hasn't been in high school for longer than I care to admit, it acted as a reminder of the issues high school kids face. It's all the same stuff I faced at school but for us it was shameful topics shrouded in secrecy. It's a powerful reflection on how different generations can be completely out of touch and in trying to impart 'wisdom' we often fall short.
Megadeth - The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead!
As a longtime Megadeth fan and someone who lost a parent to cancer since the band’s previous album, Dystopia (2016), the highly anticipated The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead! is an album that represents resilience for me. Frontman Dave Mustaine annihilated cancer in his own one-on-one battle with the big C and maintained to make a killer album afterward — and it doesn’t get any more metal than that. Aside from its backstory, there’s so much to love about this album that merges the old and the new from Megadeth. This fiery album is filled with energy, callbacks and wisdom. (Also, I truly didn’t know I needed to hear Megadeth and Ice-T on the same track until I heard “Night Stalkers.”) The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead! further cements Megadeth’s position as thrash metal legends.
The 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time
Who doesn’t love a frighteningly fun countdown? This Shudder original series features filmmakers, actors, special effects artists and film scholars who weigh in on downright terrifying moments in horror film history, ranging from widely loved favorites to lesser known masterpieces. Whether you’re interested in seeing if your favorites made the list or searching for new films to add to your never-ending watchlist, this is an entertaining and educational series to officially welcome spooky season.
Sumerlands - Dreamkiller
September may have brought us the first Razor record in 25 years but I gotta give some serious props to Sumerlands for what might be my fav trad metal release of the year. ‘Dreamkiller’ is their second full length (& first with vocalist Brendan Radigan of Magic Circle fame) and has all the vibes of early 80’s heavy metal majesty compliments of nonstop epic moody-n-doomy melodic riffing. Facemelting leads, hooky songwriting, and healthy doses of Ozzy sensibility all come together to make this one a must listen.
Willytown - Ansonia, Ohio
Last month I attended a homegrown Hippie Metal music & arts camping festival in Ansonia, Ohio called Willytown. A band I met during the virtual concert season of 2020 (shoutout Twitch!) called Glostik Willy throws this 4 day party every year which features chilled out jam bands, total heavy metal meltdown, & everything in between. It’s a total BYOB, sharing is caring, & freeform musical jam vibe in the middle of a cornfield where the stage is graced by everyone from budding new musicians and international legends. The music starts early and goes until VERY late – but once that’s done, perhaps the most memorable event of the whole experience begins: the talent show. I can’t stress enough – if you live for music and good times, get on down to Willytown 2023.
Sumerlands - Dreamkiller
In a glorious step forward, Sumerlands - the shredtastic heavy metal band inhabited by members of another scene leader Eternal Champion including guitarist Arthur Rizk whose production skills have elevated acts as far removed from this sound as Code Orange and Ghostemane - have moulded themselves into the pop counterpart to Eternal Champion’s obscure fantasy. The introduction of AOR radio sensibility into their already great metal with melodies from new singer Brendan Radigan makes for a concise cut of 1980s style floorfillers, tip-top songwriting in the style that shows how new bands making material that lives up to the glory days of Ozzy Osbourne and the Scorpions are still coming through - you just have to go to underground places like Relapse Records to find them.
Crimes of the Future
Father of body horror David Cronenberg making his first movie that returns to that gooey visceral past since the 20th century ended was always going to make headlines for those return to roots elements in a way any heavy band making a similar album will be familiar with, but it’s the way Crimes of the Future updates and gives these components a distinctly progressive 21st century feel that displays why Cronenberg is as revered as he is. A near-future of rapidly evolving Viggo Mortensen producing extra organs to be removed in live surgery performance art shows is a dark, slyly funny and self-referential set-up for psychosexual gore shenanigans, but instead of horror in losing control over one’s body as his films once traded in, by the sublime final frames of Crimes of the Future you’re just about ready as an act of radical resistance to sign yourself up to the new human race 2.0.
Gaerea - Mirage
This album is haunting, catastrophic and stunning. It is the perfect combination of beauty and brutality with the soaring soundscapes that Gaerea creates. I gravitate to the most emotionally devastating music, and Mirage definitely fits that bill. Gaerea are (hopefully) ushering in a new age of modern black metal, that doesn't shy away from going as all out on their production as they do the raw, visceral emotion.
Handmaid's Tale (Season 5)
While not heavy music, there isn't any arguing that this show is heavy. However, season 5 is showing a new level of terrifying as the extremist views of Gilead expand beyond their borders and gain traction in "free" nations. The precious nature of each characters' life shows that no matter your position, or even your location, nobody is safe from GIlead. It's straight up horrifying.
Alter Bridge - Sin After Sin
I've loved Alter Bridge since I caught them on the 2005 Download Festival TV highlights programme. Despite their success, and the calibre of the musicians in the band, they still feel like a well-kept secret, even a guilty pleasure. This single encapsulates all that makes them interesting. It's crushing and lofty at the same time. But crucially, all the singles from the album Pawns & Kings have seen them slow down and breathe out a bit more. The new music is incredibly confident and could see them cresting a new wave with it.
Beethoven's Funeral March No.1
I'm no Royalist, but there was just something very heavy about the military band playing this piece when they transported the Queen's coffin from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster in central London. Classical music like this has an otherworldly power that amplified music often struggles to reach.
Holy Fawn - Dimensional Bleed
Earning high praise for conjuring creative common ground with the likes of Explosions In the Sky, Slowdive, and My Bloody Valentine, the Arizona outfit craft cinematic, sometimes soul-crushing post rock with elements of shoegaze that assert the artistic scope of seasoned songwriters. Dimensional Bleed is the kind of album that challenges what heavy music is in the conventional sense, with songs like "Empty Vials", "Lift Your Head" and "Sightless" toeing a fine line between the ethereal and the eerie. Adding to the band's concrete catalog in Death Spells and their Black Moon EP, Dimensional Bleed is a prime example of how aggressive music can translate with a sense of sophistication without the pretense.
Nothing Compares (Showtime Documentary)
Director Kathryn Ferguson marks the 30th anniversary of one of the most infamous moments in pop culture history in revisiting the meteoric rise and calamitous fall of Sinead O'Connor. The documentary examines the weight of the 1992 Saturday Night Live episode in which O'Connor, now known as Shuhada Sadaqat, tore a photo of Pope John Paul II in a poignant message in solidarity with the victims of sexual abuse under the veil of the Catholic Church. The film does a masterful job of underscoring Sinead's unrelenting spirit and he reluctance to be a superstar, especially if it meant sacrificing her humanity.
The series is based on comedian Mohammed Amer’s journey through the immigration process. The series really showcases the beauty of Islam as a religion and its people. Recently, television/streaming series have done a great job of teaching folks about other cultures, especially those that get swept under the rug. This show does a great job of erasing any negative assumptions you may have about the religion. On a lighter note, the show is a comedy, Mo comes up in Houston, TX and is often confused with being a Mexican. Ironically enough, he does speak Spanish and has a Mexican girlfriend.
Reservation Dogs (FX/Hulu)
Like Mo, this series really showcases another culture and people who historically have been abandoned. Reservation Dogs follows a group of friends on a reservation in Oklahoma. They want to move out to California to follow the dream of their friend who killed himself. Season 2 just wrapped up at the end of September and both seasons can be found on Hulu.