Live Reviews : Iced Earth and Lord in Melbourne
Iced Earth @ Billboard, Melbourne – April 4th, 2012
Iced Earth’s first tour through Australia came obviously with great expectations. Bangers were in line around the Billboard in Melbourne’s CBD since late arvo that day, even though doors were going to open only at 8 PM. All were of course eager to see how the new lead Singer, Stu Block, would perform, considering the enormous shoes he had to fill: this band once had the likes of Matt Barlow and Tim “Ripper” Owens, amongst others, as front men.
Timetables were clearly overwritten, showing that the concerts were all brought forward, for whatever reason. So precisely at 8.30 pm Aussie Power Metal combo Lord took the stage with their high pitched vocals, complex guitar arrangements and classical scales, fast paced guitar chugging and all the good elements of the genre. We’re talking about a band that has been on the road for ten years and has a significant underground following, but the audience had a quite contained reaction, maybe due to the expectations behind the main event… But before they went off the stage, Lord chaps did tell us all that as the great American metal icon they were all waiting for was already backstage, ready to fire, and to warm that up properly, delivered an absolute classic from probably the greatest American metal icon of them all: Creeping Death – now that is what I call a warm up!
The packed venue had me elbowing my way into the ‘photo pit’ in time to witness the brutal entrance of the mighty Iced Earth, greeted by a enthusiastic audience, screaming loudly since the very first drum rolls called the introduction of Dystopia, from the latest album. I must say that I was a mix between a reporter, a fan, and a photographer: didn’t know wether to shoot, head bang, or sing along – decided to do all three at the same time! And right at this very first song I believe Stu Block had us all. Incredible stage presence and performance in such a challenging intro song… what was he doing backstage? Warming up with Painkiller from Judas Priest just for fun? No frills and we’re bashed with Angel’s Holocaust… Stu didn’t seem to have a problem with the classic songs from the bands past either….
Axe holder Troy Seele, and bass player Freddie Vidales (Who by the way sings along all the songs) were basically a tight unit on the right side of the stage, moving wildly, but giving the new front man the well deserved space. As for the axe-wizard, founding member Jon Schaffer, very serious and concentrated, wearing a confederate flag bandana… what can we say? (Note: this is a band from Florida, famous for brilliant Death Metal, yes, but before that home to many great Southern Rock bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd…). Catchy heavy riffs, fast palm-muted chugging, he’s got it all, very precise and technical – and I got to see that from half a meter away!
Still blending one song to the next, we’re hit with Slave to the Dark, the first from the Barlow era, and as it ends, the first interaction…. Stu takes the lead, thanks all “metal warriors”, asks for a loud cheer from the girls (and women, why not), and salutes Australia and Melbourne in particular by saying that he enjoyed not only the landscape and whatnots, but also the warm weather, as he comes from a very cold place… (He is Canadian).
And we’re back on the new album with the exciting V (inspired on the movie V for vengeance), followed by Stand Alone, first out of the seminal Something Wicked This Way Comes. At this stage the audience was more than taken by the band’s might, and by the charismatic and talented chap holding the microphone – wild mosh pits, air guitar, head-banging and all else you can expect from a true metal driven delivery.
But these emotions went even deeper when time came to go all the way back to the first album with When The Night Falls, sending shivers down spines of the veterans in the audience… this one was introduced by the man Jon himself, who apologised for not coming down here earlier… hope it doesn’t take another 20 years to have them here again!
No frills again (the metal way) and The Hunter is delivered… interesting to note that while on the mosh pits we see youngsters really letting out all their energy and emotions, around it we see the not-so-young head banging while respecting each other’s space… eyes crossing, interacting silently, as we’re all there for what we love the most… Jon then quickly references his taste in horror stories, and as a tribute to ‘The Omen’ trilogy, he presents Damien, delivered with all bells and whistles: great live performance from the band, in sync with recorded chanting and orchestrations.
Before we get into the second half of the concert, Stu then says they had to start earlier than planned due to a curfew… and chuckles as he goes ‘but don’t worry, pretty soon we’ll have curfews on the streets’… perhaps referencing the ominous, dark and oppressive future society themed in Dystopia… from which Anthem is then executed with precision (no, it is neither the Rush nor the Deep Purple songs of the same name…).
All brilliant thus far, now what about covering Tim “Ripper” Owen and his high-pitched, make-Al-Atkins-(I mean Rob Halford)-proud, vocals ? Wow, goose bumps ! brilliant, intense, vibrating… apart from a rapid glitch on the PA quickly addressed by the men behind the mixing board… and back again to the new album and Days of Rage.
After a brief stop, Stu then calls the classic Watching Over Me and whoever wasn’t still taken finally surrendered… after all we’re talking about an absolute classic anthem from these alligator-and-swamp surrounded metal heads…
A few technical difficulties with Brent Smedley’s drum kit led to an unexpected stop, discretely mentioned by Jon to Stu, who was just about to dive into the next song. He then had to keep the crowd entertained (with something else other than his brilliant singing)… and off we go, labelled as ‘metal pets’, half of us shouting ‘Heavy’, the other half ‘Metal’ under his coordination…
Ready to go again, Jon invites us on a trip to the past and the classic epic poem from Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, from which Dante’s Inferno was inspired. Long, complex, originally on the Burnt Offerings album, but re-recorded in 2011 by the very same folks we now see on stage.
After an hour and a half of precise and unmerciful metal delivery, off they go, preparing for the encore. Amazingly, as if the concert had just started at that very moment, relentless rendition of Burning Times, also from Something Wicked This Way Comes… Before finishing off, Stu thanks again everyone in the house, promises to come back, and has everyone shouting ‘Iced f***ing Earth’ as the cue for the delivery of the song named after the band (incidentally, the album too. From memory, there aren’t many bands out there that have something like that – Iron Maiden certainly does). Waving goodbye, sincerely thanking us all for our persistent dedication to their music, sweaty, tired and ready for the next metal battle, off they go with a smile in their faces… and off we go with fond memories from this amazing experience.
Slave to the Dark
When the Night Falls
Days of Rage
Watching Over Me