I can not tell you folks enough. Heavy metal is easily the most under rated music genre in the realm of music genres. I also can not tell you enough about how much I absolutely love doing what I do for Examiner.com. There is nothing like live music. I've been waiting to see Iced Earth for a few years and I finally got to see them last night at The Newport Music Hall. They did not disappoint, but more on that in a moment.
My experience with this band goes back about seven or eight years. I had just started getting really into Iron Maiden and metal in general. Every time I'd go to the local F.Y.E. and add to my Maiden collection, this Iced Earth band would stick out to me since their CD's were next to each other. I was immediately captivated by the Maiden-esque album artwork, but in my younger years I was much more hesitant to try new music. One day, I finally picked up Framing Armageddon and haven't forgiven myself since for waiting so long to check this band out. Heavy. Metal. Thunder.
I honestly wasn't expecting much from either opening act going into last night's show, but I was quickly proven wrong. ReVamp was the first band to hit the stage. This prog-metal act out of The Netherlands brought it hard to the crowd of a few hundred. I'll be the first to admit that I tend to not like female vocalists, but ReVamp's Floor Jansen commanded and earned the crowd's respect with her stage presence and absolutely stunning voice. This is what I've been waiting for from a female metal vocalist for years. Maria Brink and Lzzy Hale have the capabilities but their bands fall just short of the power and overall production that Jansen's group brought. If you dig In This Moment or would if they carried a little more pure metal punch, check these guys (and gal) out!
Sweden's mighty Sabaton followed and about halfway through their set, it really hit me how great of a night of music my brother-in-law and I were in for. I knew of Sabaton but really didn't know a whole lot about them prior to last night. I can tell you that they made a fan out of me. If you put Maiden, Priest, Thin Lizzy, Jethro Tull, and DragonForce into a blender and mixed in some steroids and a grenade; then you would have what Sabaton put on stage last night. Even with a short set, they treated the evening as if they were the headlining band. Lead vocalist Joakim Broden, clearly influenced by Bruce Dickinson's stage presence, worked the crowd while Par Sundstrom, Thobbe Englund, and Chris Rorland ran around on stage in similar Harris/Murray/Smith/Gers style. The highlight though is their drummer. Rarely do you see or hear a band these days where the drums are larger than life. Let's just put it this way; Clive Burr was definitely smiling down from above if he took in Hannes Van Dahl's work last night!
Sabaton Set List (click on the links to hear the songs!)
2. Gott Mit Uns
3. Carolus Rex
8. Metal Crue
After that stellar set it was time for Iced Earth to take the stage. Considering that my favorite era in Iced Earth's long history was the "Ripper" Owens albums, I admittedly went into this show with low expectations; especially since I hadn't seen them live before. After seeing Sabaton, however, and knowing that Iced Earth had to follow that; I became more confident that they would truly bring it. Did they ever! New-ish vocalist Stu Block was the star of the show. The rest of Jon Schaffer's band was spot on, don't get me wrong. The music was precise and featured probably the fastest double bass drumming I think I've ever heard. Block was on another level though, showing no signs of being a relatively new member to the band. Whether it was songs from his two albums with the group or songs from the band's storied past; he made them his own. From the lowest growls to the highest pitched screams, the dude nailed it and had the crowd buying every bit of it. Memories of Owens and Matt Barlow fronting the band are just simply that: memories. Touring on their latest effort, Plagues of Babylon, this underrated metal gem shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
Iced Earth Set List (click the links to hear the songs)
5. The Hunter
11. My Own Savior
14. Watching Over Me
15. Iced Earth