Live Review: Knight & Day Festival, Ballarat 31/12/21

Alex Lahey. Credit: Britt Andrews
(Image credit: Britt Andrews)


WHERE: Kryal Castle, Ballarat VIC
WHEN: Thursday December 30th and Friday 31st, 2021
REVIEW: Bragg and Britt Andrews
PHOTOS: Britt Andrews

It was hard not to feel excited as Kryal Castle came into view, with authentically styled red and blue banners hanging from its dual turrets. This festival has the best metal and hardcore bands Australia has to offer, and it’s being held inside a full-size replica of a medieval castle in the middle of country Victoria. A castle. This author cannot stress enough how metal it is to walk across a drawbridge to enter a festival – even if the moat was an off-putting, murky green (and probably contained at least 400 unique varieties of bacteria).

With the mercury high and the mood even higher, both Windwaker and The Beautiful Monument were able to hype up those who braved the heat early. The thrill returning to a music festival was palpable, and the crowd was almost buzzing. Throwing a curveball to the crowd, Windwaker’s cover of Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ was an early highlight. There were a few tech issues with the mixing, though, so even though the early bands were killing it, it was hard to hear the vocals or lead guitars, which took a bit away from the experience.

As the sun began to set on day one, Alex Lahey served up the performance of the weekend. She was definitely a bit out of left field for the lineup, certainly not being as heavy as the rest of the cohort, but she delivered a strong, chilled-out set that was not only well-placed, but incredibly well-received. Lahey’s set gave everyone a chance to sit back and appreciate the fact that they were at a damn music festival, despite the world falling apart around us. Her supporting band also had a strong stage presence that instantly inspired good vibes.

Polaris closed out the night with a set that was fit for a king. It cannot be stressed enough how phenomenal this band is to see live – from Jamie Hails’ captivating, intense presence, to Ryan Siew’s absolutely insane and seemingly effortless shredding, there was nothing to fault about their set. It comes as no surprise that Polaris are one of the fastest-rising heavy bands in Australia.

While the temperature continued to soar on day two, punters had more knowledge of the castle, and were able to pick out spots to rest and grab shade. With all the nooks and crannies the castle offered, we later heard rumour of an air-conditioned room, complete with a vending machine that had $2 cans of soft drink. These whispers were unable to be verified by this reviewer, with the castle not deeming us worthy enough to reveal its secrets. It should be noted, however, that the castle’s torture dungeon became of much interest, with the wooden stocks being in a nice, shaded area, and the torture rack becoming a prime spot for naps.

The Chats pulled a surprisingly decent crowd, though their set could, at best, be described as “whelming”. While ‘Smoko’ went off, the rest was neither here nor there, and as each song rolled into the next, the droning, repetitive beats started to lose some audience attention. Fitting for the location, Void Of Vision frontman Jack Bergin hit the stage in a chainmail suit, definitely winning the outfit of the festival. He and his crew were tight, heavy and dirty – though that could be attributed to the metric tonne of dust kicked up by the numerous circle pits in the gravel-floored jousting arena.

Hellions opened their set with an eruption of confetti, and kept the excitement up throughout by performing their acclaimed 2016 album, Opera Oblivia, in full – in spite of a strange miscommunication with a stagehand trying to cut time from their set. Closing out the festival – and the year that was 2021 – were the kings of Australian heavy music, Parkway Drive. With a throwback to high school, and frontman Winston McCall telling us to “report to the f***ing pit”, ‘Boneyards’ threw the crowd into a frenzy, before the epic Reverence closer ‘Chronos’ sent the year out with a bang.

It was heartwarming to see a heavy music festival go down so smoothly in 2021. The mood was high throughout the weekend, after what can only be described as a truly hellish year. It’s no secret that COVID-19 has decimated both the music and tourism industries, so for the tight-knit fanbase of Australian heavy music, having the ability to bring tourism back to rural Australia – literally booking out every hotel in Ballarat – was an absolute honour.

Tears were shed over the weekend, not only for what’s been lost over the past two years, but in sheer anticipation of what’s to come... Also, Kryal Castle is really cool.

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