Saturday, 10 December 2016

Iced Earth headling MTV's Headbanger's Ball

My 30th and final gig of 2016 saw a mixed bill celebrating MTV's legendary old show. Four bands made up this tour which had been in Europe and would return after the London show. The venue was one I had never been to before but I would say it's about as big as the Scala maybe a touch bigger.

As I said four bands made up this bill and they were all very different from each other. First up were Unearth, the American metalcore bruisers, followed by Canadian Death metal stompers, Kataklysm, main support were Vikng metal heroes Ensiferum with the bill being headlined by American power metal vets, Iced Earth. Quite a diverse bill indeed and something for most fans.

As I walked in Unearth were already well into their set. The crowd was sparse and about a 1/3 full but I guess many hadn't bothered with Unearth. I recall liking an album from these yanks many moons ago but now I'm not bothered. It's just metalcore, I have no real interest. They actually sounded ok but they used all the metalcore cliches to the full so I wasn't fussed that I only saw three songs from these guys.

Next up were Canuck heavy bruisers Kataklysm. I think I have liked a few of their songs in passing with their heavy barrage of riffs and double bass but I wouldn't call myself a fan at all. They played solid but their songs don't excite really but they have that heavy, slow headbanging groove thing down to a fine art and when the main man says "Bang your fuckin' heads!" Everyone does more or less. They went down well with the filled out crowd but it wasn't really my cuppa.

Main support Ensiferum is a band I've seen a couple of times at least over the years and they never disappoint live. This year's album didn't really move me but they are a great live act to be sure as the Irish say. They have a much cleaner and more melodic sound and it's easy to be taken in by the sing along tunes like In My Sword I Trust and the general grin inducing music. They got a great response from the pretty packed crowd as they finally left to much applause. Ensiferum is one of those Viking bands that you're always guaranteed a good time with and it was no different on this occasion.

Finally at just about 9.45 the Iced Earth intro begins and it's time to Travel in Stygian! Well we didn't actually get that song of course but you get my drift! Iced Earth sounded very heavy and much louder than the other bands. The bass especially was booming and jarring. I'm gonna sound old here but there's a point when music is so loud it just sounds a bit uncomfortable. Nevertheless the band sounded very good especially on the thumping great Burning Times.

Stu Block does his usual best Barlow impersonation whilst Schaffer gets the riffs pumping and the other guitarist does the leads. Highlights of the night were The Hunter, which never fails with its insistent melodic chorus. Pure Evil was played at breackneck speed and was another huge hihglight. Dystopia was also a rapidfire work out in power/thrash mayhem. The band ended with Watching Over Me which was dedicated to a friend of the band that had died so was quite emotional and was sang by the whole crowd. I missed hearing the band's namesake song Iced Earth which they normally end with but this was a curtailed set due to time constraints. A good if not amazing end to a long gigging year.

Last year I managed 42 gigs which for me was a colossal amount that I couldn't match this year but 30 gigs is still pretty good going. Roll on January and more live action!

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