Forest Hills Lodge, Machesney Park, IL - 10/14/05

by Dr. Abner Mality

You wanna know the worst way to start your evening? Try locking your only set of keys in the car...with the car running! Yeah, laugh it up, ha ha...this is exactly what happened to me after I pulled into the parking lot at Forest Hills Lodge. Well, I guess I deserve the humiliation...of all the stupid things to do! Fortunately, the security folks were able to help me sort it out without paying to have it done. They must think I’m an idiot, but thanks anyway, I appreciate the help!!!

The result of all this bullshit? I miss the first band Self-Fulfilled Prophecy while I am struggling to regain control of my vehicle. For that, I apologize. The sounds I heard coming out of the Lodge sounded as heavy as hell, though...maybe next time!

I was able to catch most of Kaos Rising’s set. These guys never let me down. SEVERELY brutal groove metal mixing seamlessly into death metal is the best way to describe their punishing style. If you are looking for a bone breaking pit, you will never go wrong with Kaos Rising. Their singer is not only a maniac on stage, but he goes nuts on the floor for every other band that plays as well. Will somebody PLEASE sign these guys?

Man Made Man was back in action after a long layoff. I was hoping they would demonstrate some new material but no such luck. They desperately need new songs to keep things fresh. I would make this top priority now that their line-up seems to have stabilized. Speaking of which, new drummer Tommy is an excellent addition and hits every bit as hard as old drummer Jack Holmes did but with more dexterity. It looks like DJ Evil has left the building, leaving Spydur in sole charge of samples and turntables. This makes sense, as I could never figure out why the band needed two guys for those duties. Spydur has really advanced as far as his stage personality goes, leading the crowd in chants and jumping on top of the monitors. It’s still Sean Virgin’s show, though, and he puts as much energy into it as he always does. MMM sounded really heavy tonight but I could tell they’ve been off for a while. Main thing to do: get some new fuckin’ songs in there!

Between sets, I got to hang out with a lot of cool folks who were there to check things out. I made the
acquaintenance of Scott, who is apparently the right-hand man of our own Joe Who? We rapped about metal in general for a while and Scott made my eyes bug out with tales of all the concerts he and Joe have attended over the years. Apparently Mr. Who will have quite a few surprises coming our way in the future. I also bumped into Scotty and Chaz from Mofoka, Brian from RS Theory and several other reprobates from the Rockford scene. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of going to these shows.

The Dream Is Dead came all the way from Indianapolis to play a brutal set in front of an indifferent crowd that didn’t seem to care too much about them. I thought these guys would be metalcore, and there were traces of that style, but they were gut-punchingly heavy, with an almost Napalm Death approach at times mixed with furious OLDSCHOOL hardcore. The singer pretty much just yelled in anger at the mike and was not the most skilled guy I have heard, especially on between song banter, but it was kind of a relief to hear a vocal style different from the norm. The guitarist here was excellent, playing some really technical stuff with great ease. The Dream Is Dead have got a very interesting sound, a mish-mash of all the "cores" I can think of...grind, hard, metal. Not the most polished band but well worth checking out and they deserved a better response than they got here.

Halo of Locusts was up next and this was the band most had come to see, due to one factor: the presence of Lamb of God frontman D. Randall Blythe as the lead singer. If folks were planning on seeing a Lamb redux, they were disappointed. Halo of Locusts is a different proposition that is much more intense and technical. I was often reminded of Soilent Green and The Red Chord when listening to this insanely churning blast of riffs, rhythms and guitar torture. Mr. Blythe is surely one of the most dynamic and capable frontmen in heavy music today. The guy is a beast! There is something about his physical movements and the crazed look in his eye that tells you this is someone working on a higher plane of insanity. He really commands the stage completely and transmits the intensity of his performance to YOU in the audience.

I didn’t catch too many song titles during Halo’s set ("Weed Helmet" was one) but what I did catch was a lot of great riffs. Wow, these guys are tight and the guitarists play some exceedingly strange solos amidst all the rifferama. There was one really cool tune where Blythe did a kind of spoken word rant on the verse, in his most hate-filled worked perfectly. There were a couple of points where they got lost a bit in some tech-metal Dillinger-type wankery, but usually a catchy mosh part or a blast of thrash came to the rescue. D. Randall Blythe is one of the very best voices in extreme metal today, both figuratively and literally, and I look forward with great anticipation to more from Halo of Locusts.

During Halo’s set, Blythe beseeched the crowd to stick around and watch Byzantine, saying "you’re a fucking idiot if you miss these guys, they will kick your ass". He was exactly on the money. Byzantine is indeed amazing, but I wish more people would have heeded Blythe’s advice, as this mind-blowing band wound up playing to a crowd of maybe 30 people tops. I myself felt like hitting the road early, since I had to work the next day, but from the very first note, this band had me entranced with their strong stage presence, incredible songcraft and almost inhuman technical abilities. Living up to their name, Byzantine does indeed wander through various corridors of metal but they never get lost. The music is such a well-integrated barrage of riffs, fills and rhythms designed with only one purpose: to kick your ass.

This is extreme metal done with the fan of the classics in mind. Great melodic guitar solos (including a jaw dropping twin harmony attack in a couple of spots) mix with catchy high speed thrash, technical brutality and even a bit of Sevendust-style hooks. The bald frontman guitarist was faultless in his job and possessed of a wicked sense of humor. In one exchange with the bassplayer, he asks "What’s the difference between Michael Jackson and acne?" "I don’t know, James, what’s the difference?" comes the reply. The answer: "Acne waits until you’re 13 to come on your face!" Ha, good one! The smiling long haired bassplayer reminded me of Cliff Burton, may God rest his soul,and easily kept up with the rest of the band. Drumming was also tight. I can’t really say enough about the way these guys played and the total professionalism they showed in front of a sparse crowd. There should be a fuckin’ HUGE future for Byzantine and I am going to pick up their new LP "And They Shall Take Up Serpents" as soon as I am done here.

For a night that started with a disaster, things wound up going pretty well. I got introduced to some killer new bands, met some new friends and even managed to drive home without incident!

Not too shabby...