With the onset of February we are getting a little busier. 2nd, Protest The Hero, 6th Del Amitri, 9th Molly Hatchet, 14th Monster Magnet, 15th Dream Theater, 19th, Sons Of Icarus, 20th Skyclad, 25th Soulfly, 26th Cadillac Three

And maybe a couple more to be added.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

ICED EARTH, Warbringer @Birmingham O2 Academy 12/1/14

As RTM has been otherwise engaged this afternoon, we arrive too late to see the Trad Metal stylings of Australia's Elm Street. Instead it falls to California's Warbringer to be the first band we see live in 2014.

Trad themselves, but in a different way, the five piece first emerged in the UK a few years ago as part of the thrash revival. That movement - such as it was - has long since petered out, with the only truly great thrash bands the same ones they always were. Warbringer are a case in point. 

They appear to be angry but they don't seem to have a clear idea of what they are vexed about. Musically they are a foot-on-the- monitor twin guitar attack, but they are, let's be honest about it, entirely derivative.

Songs like "Demonic Ecstasy" and newbie "Iron City" could have come off any thrash record of the last 30 years, while closer "Hunter Killer" is all froth and no substance. In between they try and get a moshpit going for "In A Whirlwind" and when it fails singer John Keevil rather sarcastically says, "well I see you have perfected the art of moshing while standing still, it ain't like back home." Lack of pit notwithstanding they do get a decent reception, and whilst they aren't bad by any means, anyone looking for the next Exodus or Anthrax can continue their search.

A couple of years ago RTM sat in this very spot and watched Iced Earth storm through a set, during which they sneered about being on early due to a "disco". No such issues tonight, they take the opportunity to play a full hour and three quarters of heavy-cum- power metal that has won an army of fans - RTM included - around the globe. 

Since that brilliant, but aborted, attempt we have seen them storm through a set at Bloodstock in support of the magnificent "Dystopia" record. They have toured the world too, and while they were at it, they have nabbed the bass player from Fury UK, Luke Appleton (apparently after he impressed while opening on the aforementioned 2011 tour) and support Volbeat next door just a couple of months ago.

Now they are back - with new album "Plagues Of Babylon" just out. During the Volbeat set, Earth took the opportunity to play a couple of new songs, and excellent they were too. Which makes tonight something of a surprise, because, for the first time Iced Earth proved they were actually fallible.

What stopped this gig being the absolute earth shattering triumph we expected is hard to fathom. Perhaps it was a setlist that included seven new songs from an album that we have heard just once, perhaps it was the lack of spectacle (the band choose to play most songs in shadow bathed in lighting effects and dry ice) or maybe it was a sound that was muddy at best and downright bad at worst. Most likely it was a combination of all three.

It's not that new songs aren't good- they are - more it is difficult to get an audience enthused for a bunch of songs that have only been out six days, especially when the whole thing is as flat as this became - a fact the band have noticed, despite telling us how amazing we are.

Musically the poor sound - Appleton's bass is way too high in the mix - robs them of their legendary power and main man Jon Schaffer's guitar is somewhat lost, as are Stu Block's usually tremendous vocals.

The encore of "Dystopia's" title track, the superb ballad "Someone To Watch Over Me" and the ubiquitous eponymous song that gives the band their name, at least ends things on a high, but you suspect the band will shrug and move on. As Schaffer himself observed during the course of the show "it's not rocket science."

Not a band, despite outward appearances of being totally earnest, to take themselves too seriously (one of the enormous array of shirts on sale tonight contains the legend "poop, even hot chicks do it") instead they do exactly what they want all around the world. Justifiably they could lay claim to being one of, if not the, biggest cult metal band in the world right now. They are Iced Earth and unquestionably they will have better nights than this. Tonight they were mere metal mortals, not metal gods

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