Iced Earth, 4/24/04

Being one of my favorite bands, I had anticipated seeing Iced Earth for quite a while. I caught about the last 10 minutes of one of their shows when they opened up for Megadeth at St. Andrews a while back, and that 10 minutes planted the seed that made me want to look into them more. I did, and the rest is history. I went to the show with Jon, Matt, and Alex. We did the fasionably late thing, and missed the great majority of the first band's set. That's fine, because they didn't sound that great.

I'm not sure what the second band's name was, but when they said it, I couldn't hear exactly what they said. Chalk that one up to metal-show-ears. We think it's something like Bound or Mound or Pound. Whatever it is, they were pretty sweet. I don't know if they were local or were on the whole tour, because they're not listed on the Iced Earth site. Oh well. They kinda made us nervous for their first song… the singer came out and just started belting out the ball-grabbing shrieks that can turn your ears to jelly in no time, but that was the only song he did that in. They sported the 5-man power lineup – a singer, two guitarists, bass player, and a drummer. The drummer kinda looked like the main guy from Radiohead, which was kinda funny. They had a really heavy sound, and were very tight and crisp, which caught our attention right away. They did a decent amount of traded leads between the two guitarists, and they did some cool harmonies as well. There were also a few songs with really cool off-beat rhythms, which is always neat when you can pull it off, and they did. I'd like to find out exactly who they were, because they were really solid, and I'd definitely check them out further. Grade: B+

The third band was Evergrey. From what they said and what I saw on their website, they're from Sweden. The first thing we noticed was how freakin tall the frontman was… the dude had to be at least 6'5″. The guitar looked like a freaking toy in his hands. They had a really cool sound. They could thrash with the best of them, but they also had a very melodic side, which is very cool. There were a few songs where they would combine both aspects – opening up with a insanely fast sequence, then calming down and doing some really cool melodic stuff. They also had a good amount of dual lead responsibilities between their two guitarists, with a lot of harmonies. Since I know who they are, I'll definitely give these guys some further attention. Grade: B+

The last in a long series of opening bands was Children of Bodom. They were pretty sweet musically, but their singer/lead guitarist had a vocal style that grated on me pretty heavily. It just sounded like a bark, and he didn't vary it at all. He should definitely stick to his guitar playing, which was very sweet. He did tons of crazy lead stuff, and in most of their songs, did some awesome harmonized lead lines with their keyboard player, who was also pretty damn good. I may check these guys out further, but the constant barking vocals kinda turned me off. These guys had a pretty large following in attendance, which kinda surprised me. A good portion of the crowd was chanting for them before they came out. It must be pretty cool to be a Finnish band having people chant your name in Detroit before you come out on stage. Grade: B

After 4 opening bands, Iced Earth came out, probably around 11:00pm. They opened up with Declaration Day from The Glorious Burden. Following that (in no particular order) were Angels Holocaust, Violate, Vengeance is Mine, Burning Times, Melancholy, Dracula, When the Eagle Cries, Greenface, and Red Baron. They closed out the 'main' portion of their show with the Something Wicked This Way Comes trilogy (Prophecy, Birth of the Wicked, and The Coming Curse). They finished that portion of the show and said goodnight at about 12:15, so we knew there was more in store. We weren't disappointed. They came back out shortly after, with Jon Schaffer in a Confederate soldier's jacket, holding a Les Paul with a Confederate flag painted on it. Ralph Santolla (I assume it's him) had a Union Jacket on, with the US flag of that time painted on his Les Paul. They proceeded to play the entire Gettysburg Trilogy (The Devil to Pay, Hold At All Costs, High Water Mark), which was a treat. They closed out the show with Iced Earth, which is pretty much a staple as far as I know. It was insane though – somewhere during one of the changes between a heavy part and a slower melodic part, Tim Owens belted out one of his trademark ball-grabbing screams, but he held the note for at least 30 seconds. It was insane. Everyone in the band was just standing there looking at him. Jon Shaffer was just staring at him with this awestruck smile, Richard Christy stood up in his drum kit and did the Wayne's World “We're not worthy” thing about half-way through, and the bass player (James MacDonough I assume) brought up a bottle of water and put it next to his mouth after about 20 seconds of the wail. It was great.

Overall, I think Iced Earth played very well, but the mix seemed a bit off from our vantage point. Jon Schaffer's guitar was a tad loud, and Ralph Santolla's guitar was a bit quiet, but only in the higher ranges. When he let a power chord fly, it smacked you in the stomach, but his leads sounded quiet to me. Also, the bass drums on the drum kit seemed too quiet, but the rest of the drums were fine. Tim Owens was at a perfect volume, and he was very clear and discernable, which is a credit to his voice. My suspicions about Jon Schaffer have to be true after seeing him play his triplet-riffing madness style in person – he's either got a bionic right arm or he's superhuman in someway. He played every song flawlessly, nailing every part that would turn the right arms of mere mortals into jelly in 10 seconds flat. Tim Owens sounded awesome. I had my reservations on how well his voice would make the Matt Barlow era songs sound, but he did an excellent job with them. The older songs (pre-Matt Barlow) sound like they were made for him, so there was no problems there. The song selection was really cool, and seeing both the Something Wicked and Gettysburg trilogies played in their entriety was a treat. As sweet as it was, I'm not convinced that the Gettysburg trilogy was a great choice for a live show. They played all of the orchestration and the miscellaneous sound effects as a track, while the band played the rather simple (for the most part) rhythms and leads. Owens nailed the vocal parts for it, but in my opinion, those three songs would be better suited to stay in their CD form, where they're nothing short of excellence. All in all, the show was very sweet, and well worth the 4 opening bands and the 6 hours of standing. Grade: A+

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