Live at Club Nokia
Downtown Los Angeles, California
Review and Photos by Travis Baumann
Iced Earth are a legendary metal band that have stood the test of time. Where as numerous lineup changes would be the death of many a band, each and every vocalist inducted into Iced Earth has repeatedly put out powerful albums. Their last endeavor, “Distopia” adds another mark upon this path with both a phenomenal recording and also an exciting new lead singer.
Stu Brock joins the band, taking over from retiring vocal master, Matt Barlow. Stu brings a powerful energy to the band and also exceptional vocal skill. The new album serves up a heavy dose of everything one loves about Iced Earth but a new edge to it as well, with a different vocal style.
That is not to say that it is night and day different, but Stu does have a slightly growlier edge to the low parts but still can pull off the highs that have long been associated with Iced Earth’s power anthems.
Iced Earth has always centered around the founder and creative force behind the band, Jon Schaffer. He is the primary songwriter both in terms of the music and lyrics so the band has consistently had the same sound, imagery, mood, and attitude throughout the years.
Coming strong off the "Wicked" series of concept albums, "Distopia" offers a fresh start with a change of storyline and singers.
For this tour, Iced Earth were co-headling with Symphony X, another great band of similar styles but a very different approach. They have been swapping closing sets along the tour and for Los Angeles, Iced Earth would be first up.
They opened the set with the title track off of the new album which is a great introduction to the album itself but also Stu on vocals. "Dystopia" tells the tale of a not too distant future and a peril only slightly exaggerated from where we stand now.
They immediately jumped back to one of the all time fan favorites, mine included, with "Angels Holocaust". This song personifies Iced Earth's consistent fascination with things lying in the war for our souls and the violence perpetrated by both sides of the fight.
"Slave to the Dark" falls along these lines of damnation and salvation and borders also on Jon's love for things related to horror and dark mythos. They followed this up with another song from the latest offering, "V".
Continuing to bounce between the old fan-favorites and songs off the new album, they went back to "Stand Alone" and the classic "When the Night Falls" before the song "Dark City", bringing to mind the Sci-Fi film where mentally superior aliens utilize humans to experience emotions that they are no longer capable of feeling.
The next song was one of my absolute favorites, a meandering piece that does the story it is based on justice with its extremes of Gothic melody juxtaposed with hard punching violent evil. "Damien" was superb live and this was the first time I had ever seen it performed.
If there was doubt of Stu's abilities, this removed any shred of doubt as he took to the various parts in the song as if he had written it himself.
This was followed by "Anthem" off the latest release, and is exactly that, an anthem for the those who are downtrodden by the world and society has left them behind. It tells stories of a single mother struggling to survive or a man who had it all but lost it to live in squalor and be less than human.
Going back several releases they did "Declaration Day" which is a historic tale of revolution and war that is one of the most out of character songs subject wise that Iced Earth has ever done but it is a great song and was cool to see live.
Returning to the latest release they gave us "Days of Rage" which lets Stu shine with his own aggressive vocal style maybe more than any other song so far. It was a moving piece of controlled hostility that got the mosh pit moving.
Picking another song from their back catalog that ranks up there with the best of the best, they chose the melancholy yet beautiful "Watching Over Me" about the loss of a best friend way too young and knowing, that although they may be gone from this earth, their spirit lives on and is not far away. I have seen them perform this one live on several occasions and it never fails to move me, it is a very powerful piece.
The night was drawing on and their set could not go on forever. Before they finished up they did the epic "Dante's Inferno". It is a brilliantly crafted song that follows the classic tale and contains many changes and transitions that lead you through the punitive circles of hell.
This song was released online with Stu re-recording the vocals for our first glimpse of the new singer and I loved his take on it from the get-go so I was really glad they included it in the set.
Iced Earth have a tradition of ending the set with their namesake and tonight would be no different. They finished up the amazing concert with "Iced Earth". These guys were as kick ass as they have always been and it was a great show to say the least.
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