ICED EARTH Gig Review
Support: Fury UK
London / O2 Islington Academy, Friday 4th November 2011
Review by Yiannis (John) Stefanis
My ‘relationship’ with the US Power/Thrash Metal quintet Iced Earth goes a long way back in time. It all began one rainy winter morning in 1992 when, having been tipped by a much older and wiser friend, I found myself in the now sadly closed Athenian record shop Rock City, holding in my hands a newly released copy of the band’s second studio album “Night Of The Stormrider”. My interest continued solidly until Matt Barlow first left the band back in 2001/2. Though not entirely convinced by what was on offer during the Tim “Ripper” Owens era, I continued to follow the band’s progress until the recruitment of the much talented Stu Block led to the release of the truly magnificent “Dystopia” which signalled not only the beginning of a new era for the band but also a true return to form. Still pretty much enthused by the release of the album and my interview with Jon and Stu a couple of months ago, I found myself on the late afternoon of the 4th of November heading towards the O2 Islington Academy for what I was hoping to be a great show.
I deliberately arrived at the venue early on the day in knowledge that here were two support acts on the bill, the Manchester-based Heavy Metal trio Fury UK and the equally old-school sounding Californian quintet White Wizzard – a band that has a very strong following here in the UK as a result of being signed to Earache Records. While getting my entry to the venue sorted I was informed that the club’s curfew was at 20:00, but most importantly that White Wizzard would not be performing on the night – a fact that must have been totally disappointing to all those people sporting t-shirts of albums like “Over The Top” and “Flying Tigers”. Fury UK did their best to fill the gap, performing material from all of their releases but putting the main emphasis on their latest album “A Way Of Life”. Not being at all acquainted with their music prior to tonight’s performance, I found their material to be somewhat predictable but properly executed, presenting their classic Heavy Metal influences (such as Iron Maiden) in a more groovy-orientated way. Chris Appleton (guitars/vocals) was constantly trying to get the crowd going while bassist Luke Appleton was helping on the back vocals and drummer Martin McNee contributed, among other stuff, a three minute solo – something I would personally not have attempted if I was given a support slot. Anyway, the trio gig got a round of applause after the end of their set and I am sure that if you asked them for an opinion about their performance, they would most likely say that they did fine.
During the time between clearing off the stage from the Fury UK equipment and doing the last few sound check arrangements, I heard a lot of people talking in my native language and as I was soon to discover, there were indeed many Greeks and Cypriots in the first few rows. These people, together with the rest of the crowd, created a truly loud noise when the intro of “Dystopia” filled the room and by the time Stu’s screams and Jon’s trademark opening riff were performed, the temperature inside the venue had already reached dangerously high levels. Jon Schaffer positioned himself at the right of the stage and the duet Troy Seele (lead guitar) / Freddie Vidales (bass) were pretty content in operating on the left, leaving all remaining space for the new frontman Stu Block to ‘plow’. Having recently filled the boots of the legendary Matt Barlow, Stu was indeed a man under the microscope, but never once during the show did he seem to be intimidated. On the contrary, he was in constant communication with the audience, asking them to raise their voices or clap their hands at numerous strategic points and there was not one occasion that I remember the crowd not obliging. Compositions like “Angel’s Holocaust” proved that the man truly possesses a remarkable vocal range, while the audience-friendly “Slave To The Dark” and “V” also received a very warm welcome. The band’s belief in “Dystopia” is clearly expressed by the fact that no less than five tracks found their way onto tonight’s set list, with “Dark City” and “Anthem” clearly standing out, however it was when the dark opus “Damien” and the vocally demanding “Declaration Day” were performed that confirmed my theory – that Stu Block really deserved to be Iced Earth’s new frontman. Stu’s announcement that “Tragedy And Triumph” would be the last song to be performed that night was met with displeasure from the crowd, and so the band returned on stage in order to perform “Dantes Inferno” in its entirety before closing this fine show with a rendition of the classic “Iced Earth”. They finally left the stage at 21:35 – the earliest time I have ever left a music venue on a Friday night.
Seeing Iced Earth live after almost a decade would have been a treat anyhow, but the fact that what I witnessed was a really tight band that was full of passion and energy, with a frontman eager to show that a new chapter in the band’s long career is now underway, filled me with real happiness. Sure, it was slightly disappointing that tracks like “Pure Evil”, “Last December” and “Burning Times” never found their way onto the set list and the overall sound was not what you would describe as pitch-perfect, but there wasn’t a single moment throughout the show that I didn’t feel involved with what was happening on stage. Iced Earth deserve to play in a much bigger venue next time they visit London and, based on the passionate and engaging way that the crowd expressed itself tonight, I believe that this is not far from happening. If you know that Iced Earth are playing in a town near you, do not hesitate to buy a ticket – you will be truly entertained and totally rewarded for doing so!
Iced Earth Set List
Slave To The Dark
When The Night Falls
Tragedy And Triumph
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
Power Plays w/c 11 November (Mon-Fri)
MILES NIELSEN AND THE RUSTED HEARTS Hands Up (indie)
THE FARGO RAILROAD COMPANY Something In The Water (indie)
THE DARK ELEMENT If I Had A Heart (Frontiers)
LIBERTY LIES A Thousand People (indie)
DIRTY SHIRLEY Here Comes The King (Frontiers)
CARRY THE CROWN Runaway (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 11 November (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 WORK OF ART Exhibits (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 SIGN X Like A Fire (Pride & Joy Music)
14:00-16:00 JACK BROADBENT Moonshine Blue (Creature Records)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
MAGNUM Sleepwalking (1992)
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