The Forge Fires Up Local Metal Showcase

I was so wrong.

Normally when I hear about local music showcases, my first thought is that the bands are going to be kind of, you know, “meh.”

I expect them to not be terrible, but nothing exciting to write home about- mediocre, basically. That was how I felt about the local metal showcase at The Forge on March 4. I was expecting to go, get some pictures, listen to stale music, and leave.

Holy crap, I was so wrong.

The bands there absolutely blew me away with their skill, charisma and stage presence. Some are fairly recently formed, while others have been around for years.

The showcase began with a band called Chalk, based out of Bloomington, IL. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t melodic death metal. It was a very welcome surprise. When chalk began playing, they tore it up. Normally smaller bands don’t have the production value of stars, but my goodness they filled the room and then some.

I bet their growls and screams could be heard down the block from the venue. I ended up speaking with the band members later on between acts, and they were some of the most relaxed and down to earth people you could ever possibly meet. I would definitely come see these guys in concert again.

The following act was Vivorum, a fairly new metalcore/deathcore outfit based out of Pontiac, IL. Just as loud and in your face as the previous act, this young group of metalheads blew the audience away with deep, throaty growls and punishing drums. Additionally, watching the group headbang in unison was a treat. Seriously, watching people with very long hair headbang is mesmerizing.

Secrets of Skeletons, a horror-themed rock group from LaSalle, IL. took the stage next, donning skeletal clothing, face paint and face masks. A much softer sound than prior performances, they only did song covers, but performed quite well, with an emphasis on theatrics (obviously, based on their attire.)

According to their lead vocalist, Bunny Syanide, the group plans on releasing some original songs in the near future. I’m interested in seeing what they can come up with on their own.

3 Days from Dying, a heavy metal outfit from Chicago, began their performance with a certain mystique. The lights dimmed throughout the venue, and two large TVs quietly played some unsettling imagery until the band exploded, killing the silence. The group may be comprised of older members, but their sound was as fresh as can be.

The lead vocalist, Z Shackelford, maintained an impressively strong vocal presence throughout their set, not letting his voice be drowned out by the powerful instruments playing beside him. This band has actually released a couple albums and can be found on popular music streaming services such as Spotify.

In another break from the screams and growls of the heavier metal genres, Bareknuckle Bullseye, based out of Rockford, IL., joyously came to the stage. The group’s dialogue between the members was hilarious, and perfectly matched the “in your face,” profanity-laden music they played.

The lead vocalist, Aron Takestar, interestingly described their genre as “Rorschach Rock” because their sound has been described as a little bit of everything. He said that everyone classifies them differently, depending on their personal tastes. I agree with this description- the band really was difficult to place, and they did a little bit of everything.

Coming back to the heavy, ear-pounding sounds of metalcore, Bury Your Past, based out of Gilberts, IL. stormed the stage next. The lead vocalist, Jacek Strumilo, absolutely blew me away. I cannot remember the last time I heard someone growl in a concert as impressively as he did. Many harder metal genre leads can growl, but to hold a note for so long, and so loudly, it takes a special talent to growl like Strumilo.

The backup vocalists surprisingly did just as good a job, too. The whole band played well- it wasn’t carried by any one aspect; it functioned extremely well as a collective. Also impressive was the appearance of what I believe was either a seven or a nine-string guitar, which you don’t often see.

The final act I was able to see was Fools’ Brew, an energetic metal outfit from Lemont, IL. Supported by some impressive drumming and squealing guitar (played by Erik ‘Diggs McNasty’ Noska), the jaw-stopping screaming of lead vocalist Jarrett O’Cooley had the audience screaming along. It was extremely exciting and energizing. The stage presence this group had was impressive. Watching O’Cooley jump around on stage and beat an empty keg with an aluminum baseball bat to the tempo of the music was adrenalizing.

I was at this event to work, and it even had me forgetting to do my job, screaming and headbanging along with everyone else. I regret that I was unable to see the other acts that performed: What Lies Ahead, based out of Elgin; Orinoco, from right here in Joliet; Torn by Tentacles, from Chicago.

I strongly encourage everyone to check out these bands. Well, everyone who’s into metal or interested in trying it. Seriously, they’re all fantastic and deserve the support of those of us in the area. The show was well worth the small cover charge, and I will definitely be attending more shows at The Forge.