Iced Earth at the Button Factory, Dublin, 13th of January 2014
With a new album – ‘Plagues of Babylon’ – released at the start of the year, Iced Earth had plenty of fresh material to draw on for their recent Button Factory show. But for a band famed for their all-conquering live performances this newer material didn’t quite ring as true as a set of more well-worn, road tested battle-hymns might have.
Nevertheless Dublin Metal Events’ first gig of 2014 had plenty to offer fans, with Iced Earth bringing their supporting acts for the current European tour with them. Australia’s Elm Street and American metallers Warbringer fired things up with their respective batches of unhinged thrash metal.
Iced Earth themselves proved far more theatrical act than the stripped-back rawness of their support, emerging onstage to the tune of an air raid siren, sweeping red spotlights and a machine gun drum fill. The influence of Iron Maiden on Iced Earth’s stage presence remained a constant presence throughout the show – with current lead vocalist Stu Block doing his very best to channel Bruce Dickinson.
And if the opening batch of songs from ‘Plagues of Babylon’ didn’t have quite the same lasting impact as some of Iced Earth’s older material, Block’s impressive vocal range did enough to carry the show along. He soared from deep throaty vocals that never quite became too harsh to dizzying high notes with ease. Even metal bands with alternating vocalists for clean and harsh vocals would have trouble imitating Block.
Following an opening barrage of Plagues of Babylon and Democide, Iced Earth pulled back from the full on onslaught of thrash and segued into a ballad in the form of If I Could See You Now, a song that could easily have come across as cheesy if the band weren’t so genuine about it. And, of course, the obligatory scuzzy guitar solo.
Another new one, Among the Living Dead (sung by Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kürsch on ‘Plagues of Babylon’) had Block stretching himself right to the limits of even his admirable vocal power, with founding guitarist Jon Schaffer letting rip with the intricate power chords. Peacemaker meanwhile proved one of the stranger of the newer songs, and featured an almost country style guitar riff that felt a bit odd for a metal band, even when it was rendered through layers of distortion.
If the main set was primarily a showcase for the new record, the encore provided the pay-off of more familiar songs. The ominous drum build-up of Diamond Head’s Am I Evil and a volley of flashing spotlights heralded the Iced Earth’s return to the stage, before the band burst into the whirlwind of Dystopia, the emotive fan favourite Watching over Me and a riotous finale of Iced Earth.
Even with some ropey newer songs Iced Earth still manage to deliver a hell of a live punch, overloaded but never overburdened with intensity and sheer heavy metal muscle power.
Iced Earth Photo Gallery
Photos: Shaun Neary