GIG REVIEW: Ensiferum, Septicflesh & Arsis Live at The Forge, Joliet, IL
Winter time in the United States tends to be a bit dull when it comes to concert announcements. The summer and fall are seemingly back to back with great shows, when driving conditions across North America are fine (albeit long and dull). Most bands are content holding off touring in the winter time, not wanting to drive these long and treacherous stretches of highway, dodging snow and ice storms in large vans and busses. For Finland’s folk metal veterans Ensiferum, not even a blizzard could stop them from making a stop with Septicflesh with support from Arsis at The Forge in Joliet, IL (just a bit south of Chicago).
Saturday, January 12th, The Forge was packed despite the blizzard. And although I am still a newbie to the Chicago metal scene, I am continuously blown away by the amount of people that come out and support these shows. The local supporting act was a very young and new progressive, black metal band called Dismalimerence. Although there was a long delay from song to song, and I couldn’t tell if it was purposeful or for tuning purposes, these guys were phenomenal and blew everyone away. The crowd went nuts when they announced it was their first show as a band, and they nearly sold out of all of their merch in a single night, so do yourselves a favor and check this band out!
Arsis was up next, and while this was the second time I’ve seen these guys, it was the first time I was sober enough to remember it! They were a later addition to this tour, but with their hard-hitting extreme metal style, they fit right in. Especially so with the release of their latest album ‘Visitant’, released November of last year, that has been well-received for its perfect blend of melodic death, thrash, and a bit of black metal. A new face, Taylor Washington (of Paladin), a young up-and-coming guitarist joined the stage with the band as a live guitarist. Unfortunately, their set was cut short by a song or two. I was near the back (by the bar, as usual) when the band suddenly stopped playing and announced that someone was down in the center of the pit. The crowd cleared a circle around the man down, and murmured for a few minutes while people did what they could to help. It was announced that they would have to call an ambulance and the show paused for a bit. The Forge has hard tile floor, and word spread around that a very drunk man in the mosh pit fell and cracked his head open on the tiles, blood and all. I hope this man is okay, but word to the wise, if you’re going to mosh, stay safe kids!
Septicflesh is never just a boring old concert, they really do put on a SHOW. From the outfits, to the perfectly mixed blend of their live instruments and fantastic vocals with their atmospheric, symphonic backing tracks – damn these guys have it down. They’ve been doing this for nearly 30 years, and it seems like they just get better and better each release. Half of their set was songs from their latest album ‘Codex Omega’ but the highlight of the show was when they played “Anubis” and the sound of that chorus just cut me straight to the bone. I still get chills thinking about it.
Ensiferum closed off the night with a long set from a wide variety of albums. If you’re reading and thinking “Oh, did they play Twilight Tavern?” or “I wonder if they played Lai Lai Hei” well of course they did! They even threw in a nice homage to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns n’ Roses of all things – which was a total shock. What I really loved about these guys is they looked like they really wanted to be on that stage, performing. Arsis looked a bit stiff on stage, Septicflesh always looks angry despite the vocalist constantly calling the crowd “my friends” and being super friendly, but the men of Ensiferum were so animated – smiling, growling, sticking their tongues out, I mean it was a total blast for them. Stuff like that is what really gets the crowd connected to you, and I felt like everyone in the venue was glued to the stage.
All in all, it was a fantastic night that had a stressful pause in the middle, but ended on a high note with Ensiferum’s encore of “Guardians of Fate”, “In My Sword I Trust”, and “Iron”. This tour is still going on through the end of January where it ends in Tampa, FL, so if it coming through your neck of the woods – be sure to make time for it!
Check out our photo gallery of the night here!