The Sonic Forge Festival

Haiti is a tiny island in the Caribbean with a population of around 10 million. It’s the poorest country in the Americas, and one of the most impoverished nations on the planet. Little could it afford the disaster that befell it earlier this year. On January 12, a massive earthquake – measuring a disastrous 7.0 on the Richter scale – struck the island, causing catastrophic damage. It has been estimated that almost a quarter of a million people lost their lives, approximately 300,000 were injured and over 1,000,000 were made homeless by the disaster.
That same month, Melbourne metal musician and promoter Tim Charles, of the band Ne Obliviscaris and booking agency Welkin Entertainment, was touched by what he saw in the coverage of the disaster and decided to do something about it. This coming Saturday night we get to enjoy the fruits of that charitable labour as one of the biggest local metal festivals ever staged in Melbourne takes over The Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda. Dubbed the ‘Sonic Forge Festival’, this massive metal event features more than 30 excellent bands, across three stages and boasts more than 12 hours of Aussie metal mayhem. And all for one ridiculously low cost, with all of the proceeds going to the ‘Centre Of Hope’ orphanage in Haiti.
Australian metal heads are seemingly notorious for coming out of their deep dark holes when massive overseas heavy bands tour, and being a little more hesitant to do so for the (often just as high quality) local acts. On this occasion, there can be no excuse for sitting on one’s arse on one’s comfy couch on a Saturday night when there’s local metal to be supported. Hell, if there’s one local metal gig to go to – this has almost got to be it; the cost is minimal, most sub genres of metal are well catered for and it supports a very worthy humanitarian cause. Plus, of course, the beer will flow plentifully as well.
Tim was only too happy to chat at length about the coming event and the charity it is supporting. “It’s actually the first time ever that The Espy has held a metal event that’s taken over the entire venue,” he states, with obvious and justifiable pride. “There’s been hip hop and rock that have booked out the whole venue, but never a metal event. So it’s great to have gotten it off the ground.
“The lineup, we’ve got basically a lot of the best Australian metal bands from all across the country,” he nods. “We’ve got half a dozen bands from interstate; we’ve even got one from Singapore. It includes Be’Lakor, Ne Obliviscaris, Dreadnaught, Death Audio, Eye Of The Enemy, all sorts of fantastic bands… Meltgsnow from Singapore; we’ve got Aeon Of Horus from Canberra, Double Dragon and Truth Corroded from Adelaide, the list just goes on and on.
“We’re basically,” he explains, “trying to incorporate it all so that there’s as many great, great bands from all the different genres of metal. Whether people prefer black metal, or melodic metal, or basically anything in between, there’ll be enough on the bill for everyone to have a really great day.
“Further to that,” he adds, “it’s a charity event, so the whole event is based around raising money for an orphanage in Haiti called ‘The Centre Of Hope’. So all of the local bands on the bill are actually playing for free. The bands have been really quite amazing; we’ve got bands that would normally play for well over $1,000, we’ve got headliners playing for nothing for the sake of the event and for helping raise money.
“It’s been really fantastic to see how the Australian metal community has gotten behind this concept.”
So the main thrust of the event was to raise badly needed funds for some of the survivors of the disaster – especially kids who have been left without parents – and so the orphanage was selected as the major recipient of the funds generated from the festival. “In January, when that happened, there was hundreds of thousands of people dead, millions homeless; it’s just something so terrible to even comprehend over here in Australia, a relative paradise,” explains Tim.
“I guess that really touched me quite deeply; so I thought that it would be great to do something centred on that. Because it ended up taking a while to get the event off the ground, there’d already been a lot of events across the world, raising money for general disaster relief in Haiti. So I thought instead of going down that path, I thought I’d try to find a specific organization in Haiti that would really appreciate the help.
“And, after a bit of searching, I found this orphanage in Haiti called the Centre Of Hope… which was actually just opened about one month ago. The money that we raise will go directly towards helping to run this orphanage, which I really thought would make a difference to these people’s lives.”
An event of such magnitude obviously takes massive amounts of time and hard work on the part of the organiser(s), and Tim has been working on getting the event up and running basically since the catastrophe occurred back in January. Getting so many high profile bands into the one place at the one time sounds like an absolute logistical nightmare, but after a false start or two Tim has finally pulled it off, almost a full year later.
“When we first started talking to The Espy,” he explains, “who’d never done something like this for a pure metal show, I guess the first thing is being concerned about people turning up!” he laughs. “With other things you’ve got past history to go on, but this was a bit of a first. But once we spoke to the main bands, and saw that they were interested and would support the concept, then it really started to come together well.
“We’d started work on this in January,” he continues, “and it took a few months before we actually got it green lit. And then we had an original date in August. But then one of the headline bands’ schedule changed not too long after I locked in the date, so I changed it to December to make sure we could get the best lineup possible. Because, when you’re doing something new like this, it’s really important to make the first one really fantastic for people to come along to. Then hopefully you might be able to do it again!”
Headlining the festival are dark, melodic and experimental death metal act Be’Lakor, who have been a profile act on both the Melbourne and Australian metal scene for quite some time now, having released two critically acclaimed albums – they’ve also recently signed a European record deal and toured there earlier this year. Keyboardist Steve Merry was also keen to take time out of their intense rehearsal schedule for the show and discuss his band’s involvement in the festival. “It’s a huge honour,” he states, regarding their headlining status on the bill, “now we just have to try and live up to that billing, I suppose. There’s a lot of other bands on the bill that could have headlined, but we’re very lucky to be in that position.
“It’s one of our first shows since we got back from Europe,” he continues, “and the cause is very important as well, and we’re very passionate about raising money for the Centre Of Hope in Haiti. So the more money we can bring in for that, the better.
“It’s definitely a good gig to be on,” he adds, “and it means a lot to us. I just hope that we can see a lot of Beat readers there at the festival; it’s going to be a really big day. And for just $15 punters get to see 32 bands, so it’s going to be really worthwhile for everyone to head down there.”
Melbourne hasn’t really seen anything quite like this festival before, plus it’s for a fantastic cause, and so we wish the organisers all the success in the world for the event, and urge anyone with even a remote interest in heavy music and helping the less fortunate than ourselves to get down to The Espy on Saturday night. The people of Haiti will thank you.
The SONIC FORGE FESTIVAL takes place at The Espy this Saturday December 4.
Running across the entire venue from 3pm, it features Be’lakor, Ne Obliviscaris, Dreadnaught, Frankenbok, Double Dragon, Arcane, Earth, Embodied, Death Audio, Eye Of The Enemy, Meltgsnow, In Malice’s Wake, Contrive, Five Star Prison Cell, Truth Corroded, Aeon Of Horus, Hatchet Dawn, A Million Dead Birds Laughing, Helm, Synperium, Akaname, Dawn Of Retribution, Divine Ascension, Teramaze, Okera, Internal Nightmare, Insidious Torture, Primordial Space, Elysian, In Exordium, Thrall and Phil Para & Band. For info, check out myspace.com/sonicforgefestival.
Tickets only $15 (that’s under 50c per band!!!) on sale from The Espy bottleshop and espy.com.au. Remember, all this metal is all for charity as well – so make sure you support a worthy cause. For more information about ‘The Center of Hope’ Haiti, go to centerofhope-haiti.org.