Iced Earth drew in a rowdy crowd of ravenous metal fans to The Shelter at Saint Andrews in Detroit. The band has been steam rolling across North America as part of their “Incorruptible” World Tour. To say that audience was excited, would be an understatement. The buzz inside the hall was electric as fans shared stories of past shows while looking forward to the promise of great metal to come.
Getting the action started was Kill Ritual. This San Francisco Bay area band came ready to rage. They played straight-up hard hitting metal with plenty of guitar pyrotechnics. While the band suffered the bane of most openers in a small audience, they cavorted about the stage with maximal intensity. Many thanks for putting on a kick ass show.
When Iced Earth announced that Sanctuary would be coming along for the ride across North America, I was in heaven. Seeing two phenomenal bands packed with so much musical talent sharing the same stage is what every concert goer dreams. Then we received the nightmare news that Sanctuary vocalist Warrel Dane had passed well before his time. He was one of the best vocalists in metal and cherished by fans around the world. Founding members Lenny Rutledge (guitar) and Dave Budbill (drums) decided to pay tribute to their band brother by recruiting vocalist Joseph Michael (of Witherfall) and keeping the tour alive.
You could feel the pressure building inside The Shelter and the audience exploded upon hearing the first notes of “Die For My Sins”. Voices screamed out “Die!!” as Joseph Michael used his amazing voice and bewitching stage presence to engage the fans and make them part of the show. Dave Budbill and George Hernandez (bass) attacked with grimacing faces on “Battle Angels”. Lenny and guitar wizard Joey Concepcion traded super charged guitar solos on “Arise and Purify” and “Frozen”. It was hard not to be haunted by Warrel’s lyrics when Sanctuary played “The Year the Sun Died”. The band performance was superb and provided a fitting tribute to the artistry of Warrel Dane. Let us hope that this band continues to forge a new future.
Having been thoroughly energized, the house was ready to get physical with Iced Earth. “Great Heathen Army” screamed into battle riding the powerful vocals of Stu Block. Stu has one of the best vocal ranges in metal and he used his voice to makes the images within the music of Iced Earth come alive. Fans banged their heads furiously with the band as they ripped into “Dystopia”.
Guitarist Jake Dreyer was mesmerizing to watch and hear as he added dazzling solos to every song with standouts on “Black Flag” and “Brothers”. There was a tightly packed group of fans who were clearly there to see the master of the mighty riff, Jon Schaffer in action. Jon’s piercing eyes patrolled the audience while managing to play blazing riffs in perfect time. The bedrock of the entire performance was the playing of Luke Appleton (bass) and Brent Smedley (drums). Luke was out front and working his side of the stage into a frenzy while Brent was surround by a cage of drums propelling the band in controlled chaos.
Iced Earth journeyed back to the ‘Night of the Stormrider’ to close out their set with “Angels Holocaust” and “Travel in Stygian”. As the audience chants for “Iced Earth!” filled the air, the band came back to for an encore which included “Clear The Way” and “Watching Over Me”. The last song Stu dedicated to everyone who has lost someone and included Warrel Dane as well as Bill Blackmon. Bill was a childhood friend of Jon Schaffer’s and he inspired the band’s name. This heart-felt tribute amplified the genuine feeling of kinship and comradery that everyone felt during this magnificent show.
Iced Earth with special guests Sanctuary and Kill Ritual gave everyone in attendance a phenomenal night of metal music. There was nothing held back as each band sought to put every ounce of themselves into their performance. The fierce determination contained within each note and triumphant beat stoked the fire within each of us to be more than we are today. It may sound cheesy, but witnessing music with this much concentrated solidarity and exuberance was life affirming.