It was a great night of Metal at the Corona Theatre last night. Iced Earth’s Worldwide Plagues tour made a stop in Montreal to promote their latest album, Plagues of Babylon, their second with new vocalist Stu Block.
I was surprised at how many people showed up early to catch opening act ReVamp. Fronted by Floor Jansen, who’s now also the singer for Nightwish, the Dutch group played a solid half hour set culled from their two albums. From up front on the floor, the sound was a little muddy, but Jansen’s operatic vocals soared effortlessly over the music. The clarity of the mix improved as the show went on but it was obvious that there was more going on instrumentally than what we heard. Still, the band was very well received by the crowd, and Floor promised that she’d be back next year with Nightwish and with ReVamp. Highlight of the set was Head Up High, and Jansen’s voice was a highlight of the night!
Next up was Sweden’s Sabaton. The crowd had swelled up quite a bit by that time and the band took the stage to a solid chant from the crowd. I’d never heard them until recently, when I checked them out ahead of the show. They burst unto the stage with an energy recalling the glory days of Iron Maiden. Their war-themed classic metal sound with bombastic gang vocals on the choruses was made for the stage, and their enthusiasm won over the crowd instantly, to a point where I feared people were more there for them than the headliners (I didn’t need to worry). Singer Joakim Brodén was all smiles, cracking jokes (he made fun of their camo pants, saying “We pretend to be Vikings, but look at us, we’re really the Village People!”) This band could be terribly corny if they took themselves too seriously, but luckily they don’t, and their enthusiasm is contagious. I know they’ve been around for a quite a while, but I’m glad I finally discovered them. Better late than never, I say!
People sang along to the choruses (Seriously, their melodies are meant for this. Impossible to resist. I sang the words I remembered and made up the rest!), and responded to every request for interaction from the band. They ruled the stage and had a great connection to the audience. At the end of the set, Brodén spotted three kids in the crowd and pulled them up on stage, gave them his glasses, picks, wristband, and let them stay on stage for the last song. The kids were head banging and playing air guitar all along. Very nice thing for him to do.
And then came the main event, Florida’s Iced Earth. The American continent hasn’t contributed that much to metal, which is more often than not a European genre, but I feel that Iced Earth is often overlooked. They are an acquired taste and the revolving door of vocalists (along with an uneven discography) probably doesn’t help, but at their best, this band is definitely an A-List band. Unfortunately, I feel that their latest album is weaker, so having 5 songs from it messed with my appreciation of the show (but most people seemed to enjoy the new material very much, so what do I know). I also very much like Stu Block on vocals (and loved the previous album Dystopia), as did most of the Iced Earth faithfuls present. His biggest shortcoming as a vocalist is that his name isn’t Matt Barlow. Replacing one of the best voices of metal isn’t an easy task, but Block is carving his own place in the Iced Earth family tree (which is a confused affair that requires repeated readings on Wikipedia to figure out).
One of the great things that they do is that from tour to tour they rotate a lot of the classic songs in the setlist so it seems like every year, it’s almost an entirely new show. V and Dystopia (from the album of the same name) have already found their spot among the band’s classics, and more gems from the back catalog were played like A Question of Heaven, Red Baron/Blue Max (from the under appreicated Glorious Burden album) and Blessed Are You, as well as classics like Burning Times, Watching Over Me and My Own Saviour. Stu is left to fill the stage mostly by himself; long time lead guitarist Troy Seele (who’s been in the band for 7 years! A rare feat in this band) pretty much sticks to one spot, and Jon Schaffer was even more somber than usual, only coming to his usual animated state for the last track of the set. I don’t know if there was anything wrong with him, but he didn’t seem to want to be there. He’s never been one to run around the stage, but he’s usually more intense. Still, that did not detract from his playing one bit. Can we mount a case for him being one of the best, if not the best rhythm guitar player in metal? Seriously, that picking hand is unbelievable!
This wasn’t the best show I’ve seen them put on, but it was an excellent end to a great evening of metal. All the fans in attendance left with their ears ringing and a grin on their faces.
(Last FM doesn’t have the setlists for Montreal yet but they seem to be identical to other nights of the tour. Correct me if I get something wrong).
- Plagues of Babylon
- If I Could See You
- The Hunter
- Burning Times
- Red Baron/Blue Max
- Blessed Are You
- Vengeance Is Mine
- My Own Savior
- A Question of Heaven
- Watching Over Me
- Iced Earth
- Ghost Division
- Gott Mit Uns
- Swedish Pagans
- Carolus Rex
- To Hell and Back
- The Art of War
- Primo Victoria
- Metal Crüe
- Wild Card
- The Anatomy of a Nervous Breakdown: The Limbic System
- Head Up High
- The Anatomy of a Nervous Breakdown: Neurasthenia
- In Sickness ‘Till Death Do Us Part: Disdain
- Wolf and Dog