REVIEW BY VILLE KRANNILA/ APRIL 2013
“Live In Ancient Kourion” presents Iced Earth’s second official live album and a follow-up to 1999’s “Alive In Athens” 3CD extravanga (still one of the greatest live albums ever released). Besides the audio version we at Steel Mill now have at hand, a DVD, BluRay and 3LP are also available.
With a strong new studio album “Dystopia” behind them and a new vocalist Stu Block bringing in new found energy, it was only natural for the band to forge ahead with plans to film and record their new tour, longest they have done for quite some time. When choosing a perfect place, the band founder and guitarist Jon Schaeffer explains the origins of ancient Kourion Theater in Cyprus provided a perfect setting with its history and culture. Plus there apparently is something special in the audience throughout that part of the world as Iced Earth continues to record live shows there.
The massive double CD clocks at impressive 145 minutes and contains nearly 30 tracks from throughout band’s extensive back catalogue. The new album is obviously heavily represented right from the get-go as title track opens the show. Already one of the best songs band has ever put on tape, “Dystopia” sets the scene brilliantly and the pace never lets up. The former set starter “Burning Times” is up next and gives a good indication on how Block handles the classic material. He succeeds with flying colours, adding his own touch and carried on by excellent crowd, this song and “Angel’s Holocaust” which follows proves he’s the right man for the job.
Stu Block has a voice not only to match his legendary predecessor Matthew Barlow, but to actually surpass it. Some might call this heresy, but such is the power and passion in Block’s delivery (in line with the whole band) the naysayers might just be persuaded to switch their views. For further proof, check out first disc’s impressive “Slave To The Dark” and always emotional “I Died For You.” Also best picks from Ripper Owens-era are handled well, with rip-roaring versions of “Ten Thousand Strong” and “Declaration Day” meeting all expectations.
Beside Block, rest of the band also rises to occasion, Schaeffer handing out his trademark riffs and backing vocals. Troy Seele is again at hand on lead guitar and long-time drummer Brent Smedley provides the rhythm work. New bassist Luke Appleton complements the line-up. It all sounds like the band is re-energized and happy to be back on the road.
Picking up favourites is always hard to do with this kind of release but personally I was pleasantly surprised to see plenty of songs from one of the best Iced Earth releases; “Horror Show” included. From heavy and ripping “Wolf” and powerful “Dracula” to encore’s dramatic “Damien.” Also another eternal favourite and set closer “Melancholy (Holy Martyr)” is given a perfect reading thus adding to the respect this new Iced Earth deserves.
First encore has five full songs and culminates in 18- minute epic “Dante’s Inferno.” Block excels on this difficult number, which has many peaks and valleys. Finally the band’s namesake number “Iced Earth” closes the show; the relentless cheering of the audience however brings them back once more for awesome “The Hunter.” The song provides a victorious ending to an exhausting night.
Even without watching the upcoming DVD, the audio part of “Live In Ancient Kourion” is very positive experience to say the least. Look out for Iced Earth show near you and don’t miss them!
5.Slave To The Dark
7.When The Night Falls
8.I Died For You
10.Motivation Of Man
16.End Of Innocence
18.Ten Thousand Strong
21.Days Of Rage
22.Melancholy (Holy Martyr)
23.In Sacred Flames
26.Watching Over Me